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The Queens of Animation
Cover of The Queens of Animation
The Queens of Animation
The Untold Story of the Women Who Transformed the World of Disney and Made Cinematic History
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A BEST BOOK OF 2019: Library Journal, Christian Science Monitor, and Financial Times



From the bestselling author of Rise of the Rocket Girls, the untold, "richly detailed" story of the women of Walt Disney Studios, who shaped the iconic films that have enthralled generations (Margot Lee Shetterly, New York Times bestselling author of Hidden Figures)


From Snow White to Moana, from Pinocchio to Frozen, the animated films of Walt Disney Studios have moved and entertained millions. But few fans know that behind these groundbreaking features was an incredibly influential group of women who fought for respect in an often ruthless male-dominated industry and who have slipped under the radar for decades.
In The Queens of Animation, bestselling author Nathalia Holt tells their dramatic stories for the first time, showing how these women infiltrated the boys' club of Disney's story and animation departments and used early technologies to create the rich artwork and unforgettable narratives that have become part of the American canon. As the influence of Walt Disney Studios grew—-and while battling sexism, domestic abuse, and workplace intimidation—-these women also fought to transform the way female characters are depicted to young audiences.
With gripping storytelling, and based on extensive interviews and exclusive access to archival and personal documents, The Queens of Animation reveals the vital contributions these women made to Disney's Golden Age and their continued impact on animated filmmaking, culminating in the record-shattering Frozen, Disney's first female-directed full-length feature film.

A BEST BOOK OF 2019: Library Journal, Christian Science Monitor, and Financial Times



From the bestselling author of Rise of the Rocket Girls, the untold, "richly detailed" story of the women of Walt Disney Studios, who shaped the iconic films that have enthralled generations (Margot Lee Shetterly, New York Times bestselling author of Hidden Figures)


From Snow White to Moana, from Pinocchio to Frozen, the animated films of Walt Disney Studios have moved and entertained millions. But few fans know that behind these groundbreaking features was an incredibly influential group of women who fought for respect in an often ruthless male-dominated industry and who have slipped under the radar for decades.
In The Queens of Animation, bestselling author Nathalia Holt tells their dramatic stories for the first time, showing how these women infiltrated the boys' club of Disney's story and animation departments and used early technologies to create the rich artwork and unforgettable narratives that have become part of the American canon. As the influence of Walt Disney Studios grew—-and while battling sexism, domestic abuse, and workplace intimidation—-these women also fought to transform the way female characters are depicted to young audiences.
With gripping storytelling, and based on extensive interviews and exclusive access to archival and personal documents, The Queens of Animation reveals the vital contributions these women made to Disney's Golden Age and their continued impact on animated filmmaking, culminating in the record-shattering Frozen, Disney's first female-directed full-length feature film.

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About the Author-
  • Nathalia Holt, Ph.D. is the New York Times bestselling author of Rise of the Rocket Girls: The Women Who Propelled Us, from Missiles to the Moon to Mars and Cured: The People who Defeated HIV. Her writing has appeared in numerous publications including the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, The Atlantic, Slate, Popular Science, and Time. She is a former Fellow at the Ragon Institute of Massachusetts General Hospital, MIT, and Harvard University. She lives with her husband and their two daughters in Pacific Grove, California.
Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    June 3, 2019
    In this engrossing history, Holt (Rise of the Rocket Girls) highlights Disney’s largely forgotten female writers and animators. Animation aficionados may know of the studio’s largely female-staffed Ink and Paint department, but the contributions discussed here embraced many other areas. Grace Huntington was the second woman ever hired for Disney’s story department, as well as an avid, record-setting pilot. Artist Sylvia Moberly-Holland supervised key Fantasia and Bambi sequences, while designer Mary Blair masterminded Cinderella’s mid-century modern aesthetic, and was later asked personally by Walt Disney to oversee Disneyland’s “It’s a Small World After All” ride. Despite demonstrating their immense talents, Holt’s subjects faced continual workplace slights and hostilities, from sexual harassment to the denial of credit for their accomplishments. While restoring these women to their rightful place in history, Holt also covers the evolution of Disney’s animated features, such as how the studio continually integrated new technological innovations, including the multiplane camera, stop-motion animation, Technicolor, and many others. Going up to the present to highlight how women have continued to play key roles in making films like Brave and Frozen, Holt’s thorough and enchanting account will be a must-read for Disney enthusiasts and champions of women’s artistic contributions. Agent: Laurie Abkemeier, DeFiore and Company

  • Library Journal

    Starred review from July 1, 2019

    Released in 1928, Walt Disney's cartoon Steamboat Willie perfected synchronicity between image and sound and encouraged Disney to continue his technological innovations with the founding of Walt Disney Studios. As a result, viewers were treated to feature-length films such as Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Pinocchio, and Cinderella--many of which would not have been possible without the work of female artists. Holt (Rise of the Rocket Girls; Cured: The People Who Defeated HIV) rectifies a serious wrong committed by authors of books on Disney and his studio as she tells the often-omitted stories of these enormously talented women: shy Bianca Majolie, creator of the cartoon short "Elmer Elephant"; daring and idealistic Grace Huntington, who pushed boundaries both as an animator and test pilot; and the grand dame of animators, Mary Blair, whose artistry mystified her male colleagues and earned her the respect of Disney. VERDICT This eye-opening and empowering title at last places in the spotlight many of the groundbreaking women who worked for Walt Disney Studios.--Leah Huey, Dekalb P.L., IL

    Copyright 2019 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • Kirkus

    September 15, 2019
    Inspiring tale of the women who contributed their creative prowess to Walt Disney's creations. Holt (Rise of the Rocket Girls: The Women Who Propelled Us, From Missiles to the Moon to Mars, 2016, etc.), who writes with a researcher's mind and a storyteller's heart, engagingly chronicles the lives of the women animators at Disney from their humble (and much ill-treated) beginnings breaking into the Ink and Paint Department during the company's rough commencement, through its founder's death in 1966, to the studio's modern age. In the majority of the narrative, the author focuses on five fascinating women who broke into the studio and made significant contributions. The first was Bianca Majolie, who went to high school with Walt Disney. The second, Grace Huntington, is worthy of her own biography. When she wasn't laboring over Snow White or Bambi or dealing with the ingrained chauvinism at the studio, she was breaking aviation records as the highest-flying woman on Earth. There's also Sylvia Holland and Ethel Kulsar, whose vision for Hans Christian Andersen's The Little Mermaid would find its way onto cinema screens nearly 50 years after they wrote its treatment; and Mary Blair, the visionary who became invaluable to Walt, creating the concept art for Cinderella, Alice in Wonderland, Peter Pan, and the Disneyland attraction It's a Small World. Though these women have long since passed--Holt based her portrayals on correspondence, notes, photographs, journals, and interviews with family and friends--the author's resurrection of this lost age is eminently readable and inspiring and will appeal to the many fans of Hidden Figures. Disney-philes will appreciate many of the rarely revealed stories, some of which are painful--e.g., the stars of the racist-leaning Song of the South, among them Academy Award winner Hattie McDaniel, barred from their own premiere. A compelling story of women with talent, artistic vision, and spines of steel.

    COPYRIGHT(2019) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

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The Queens of Animation
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The Untold Story of the Women Who Transformed the World of Disney and Made Cinematic History
Nathalia Holt
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