Review: The Queens of Animation

I’m not a big fan of Disney animation. It’s not that I dislike it, just that I’m more of a Warner Bros. cartoon and Pixar and Miyazaki long form animation fan. And now Disney owns and promotes all both of the long form choices, so Disney seems to recognize their values. And there’s plenty of Disney animation I love and respect. But I’m not invested in the art to the same level and I don’t know the history in any detail.

For me, Queens of Animation was a snappy and scholarly introduction to Disney creative history through the lens of women’s contributions. That history is remarkable. The depth of creative and editorial investment, as well as the early personal guidance from Walt himself, surprised me. It probably shouldn’t have, though, given the beauty of the animation and the quality of the storytelling.

Nathalia Holt is not the first to publish a Disney history, of course, nor is she the most scholarly or comprehensive. She is the among the first, if not the first, to delve into the contributions of women to that legacy. Considering the quality of those contributions, that’s a terrible gap to have endured this long. This is a worthy bridge over the gap.

Holt illuminates these women and the place completely. Both the humanity and creativity of these people comes through clearly. She also brings the environment alive well, showing the power and pain generated by the studio. It’s gripping reading.

Strongly recommended.

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