Oscars: Female Animation Directors Reflect Change With Nominations

Bao Still - Publicity - H 2019
Courtesy of Disney Pixar

In a sign that the animation world is evolving, three of this year's nominated shorts — 'Bao,' Late Afternoon,' 'Animal Behaviour' — are directed by women.

Female directors of animated features remain few and far between, but that could change if some of the creators of this year's Oscar-nominated animated shorts are given a chance. Consider Pixar's Bao: It was written and directed by Domee Shi — the first woman to helm a Pixar short — and follows an aging Chinese mom suffering from empty nest syndrome who gets another chance at motherhood when one of her dumplings springs to life. "I feel honored and humbled to be first, but hopefully not the last of many more female filmmakers," Shi says.

Late Afternoon, a hand-drawn short about an elderly woman with dementia who drifts in and out of her memories, marks the first Oscar nomination for writer-director Louise Bagnall. The short was produced out of Ireland's Cartoon Saloon (The Breadwinner). "We are about 50-50," Bagnall says of the Cartoon Saloon team's gender breakdown. "And every time I go to a college for a talk, there are so many women in the classes now."

This year's race also includes Animal Behaviour, helmed by the husband-and-wife team Alison Snowden and David Fine, which follows a group therapy session for animals grappling with very human issues. Rounding out the category are One Small Step, directed by Andrew Chesworth and Bobby Pontillas, which centers on a young Chinese-American girl who dreams of becoming an astronaut, and Pixar story artist Trevor Jimenez's Weekends, which tells of a young boy shuffling between the homes of his recently divorced parents.

This story first appeared in the Feb. 13 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.