The Queens of Animation

The Untold Story of the Women Who Transformed the World of Disney and Made Cinematic History


By Nathalia Holt

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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


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When you are six years old and Cinderella arrives at the ball, you might put on a tutu and a tiara. You might dress up your baby sister in elbow-length satin gloves, their feathered ends frayed from constant use, grab her hands, slippery now that they’re encased in the flimsy pink material, and twirl around the room. You won’t keep time with the music but instead wade in a childhood bliss seemingly designed for moments such as this one. At least that’s what it was like at my house while I was researching this book.

There is a scene in Walt Disney’s 1950 animated classic where a long, blue curtain opens, the prince sees Cinderella, and the two begin waltzing under the stars. It is the dance my daughters yearn for, accompanied by a song as familiar as any lullaby, in a film that has become part of the very DNA of their childhood.

A passion for Cinderella is not something I expected from or even sought out for them. I would never have thought a movie made more than fifty years before my children were born would provide such entertainment. Perhaps this is because I have never been a Disney fanatic. Until I began writing this book, I viewed the Disney princesses, with their fluffy dresses and vulnerable demeanors, warily, suspicious that they had been dropped into my life by unknown misogynistic forces that were bent on turning my daughters into boy-crazy women.

Princesses were mostly absent from my childhood. When I was a kid, my dad and I would walk from our apartment on Eighty-Sixth Street and Broadway in Manhattan to the Thalia Theater, a straight shot all the way up to West Ninety-Fifth Street. Every step of that walk was pure delight to me. My toes felt so light, it was as though they were flying over the pavement. Not so with my dad. As a jazz trombonist he had often worked late the night before and so he would stumble, half awake, my hand dragging him as I urged, “Walk faster, Daddy.” The entrance to the theater was shadowed by the buildings surrounding it, with the name Thalia, all lowercase, prominent above its marquee. I knew nothing about Greek muses, and it would be years before a teacher explained to me the lighthearted appeal of Thalia, the goddess of comedy. Yet as the word formed a portion of my own name, it seemed that the theater was a part of me.

The moment you walked in under swelling art moderne arches, you could feel the dark, cool air surround you like a cocoon. We never sat up front in the aging building but instead headed toward the back. Because of the theater’s odd dipping floor, a reverse parabolic design, my dad said the view was better there. As the room became dark and the projector hummed its happy working song, I could feel the excitement building in me. In the summers, the Thalia Theater played cartoon marathons, hours of Walter Lantz, Ub Iwerks, Tex Avery, and Chuck Jones, Friz Freleng’s Warner Brothers classics, Mickey Mouse and Silly Symphony shorts, and even some silent black-and-white Felix the Cat shorts from the 1920s.

They were all made many decades before I or even my dad was born. Yet I never considered their age, as the humor they contained was timeless. All I knew was that I loved Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Porky Pig, and, especially, my dad, who occasionally would doze off next to me, his chest rising and falling in an easy, slow rhythm as the antics of Wile E. Coyote continued on-screen. I might not have loved princesses when I was little or sung along with Ariel, Belle, or Pocahontas, but cartoons meant the world to me.

My dad and I always stayed for the credits. It was a point of pride for him, a refusal to be rushed and a simple act of acknowledgment to the artists who made the movies. For those early cartoons, the credits were brief, so I happily watched the names scroll down the screen. One point quickly became clear: men, and men alone, made the cartoons I loved. I hunted for feminine-sounding names, but they were completely absent.

Years later, while I was researching one of my books, a woman I interviewed told me about a place she used to work in the 1930s and 1940s. The environment, she said, was electric. The artists there cared little for money or fame. Instead they wanted to create something beautiful, something the world had never seen before. The place she was referring to was the Walt Disney Studios. In her memories of this exciting time, I noted one strange fact—there were many women in her stories.

When historians talk about the early contributions of women at the Walt Disney Studios, they often cite the employees of the Ink and Paint department. This female-led group traced the animators’ sketches in ink directly onto sheets of plastic that were destined for the camera lens and then colored them in with bright hues. The position required an inherent artistry, and it wasn’t the only role women occupied at the famed studio. Before my interview in 2013, I’d had no idea that women were responsible for so many of the classic Walt Disney films I love or that their influence had been largely forgotten.

I wanted to learn more and so I turned to one of the numerous biographies of Walt Disney that have been written over the years. In my eagerness, I tore through the pages, waiting for the names that I had so recently learned—Bianca, Grace, Sylvia, Retta, and Mary—to show up. They didn’t. I turned to another biography in which two of these women’s names were briefly mentioned, but their accomplishments were not. Worse, the women were referred to in patronizing terms. A famed artist who worked as an art director at the studio for decades was introduced merely in the context of her husband, as “his wife, Mary.” There was no indication of the magnitude of her influence at the studio. I kept hunting for traces of these artists, but despite the multitude of official histories that document the rise of Walt Disney, the contributions of the women he worked with remained unacknowledged. Dejected, I began searching out the women themselves, eager to hear firsthand the experiences that so many biographies had failed to capture.

By 2015, I worried that I had started my search too late. While I had found a few artists who could remember in sparkling detail their lives at the studio, the vast majority of the women I sought had passed away. Had the stories of their experiences and accomplishments died along with them? As I began to pack my notebooks and research materials away, I considered who holds on to our memories after we leave this earth. The answer was suddenly clear: If I wanted answers about these women, I would have to find those they had loved. Tracking down their families and friends was sometimes easier than I expected and sometimes quite challenging, but almost all of those I contacted generously shared with me tender memories, whispered over the phone or in person, along with letters, diaries, love notes, and photographs. The histories I documented represent just a small fraction of the total number of women who worked for the Walt Disney Studios, and yet, because their memories were preserved, I was able to reconstruct their narratives in detail. At last, a story began to take shape, one far more enchanting and yet more heartrending than I had ever expected.

Now when my daughters dance blissfully to the song “So This Is Love,” I can tell them how its sweet refrain and the lush imagery on the screen came to be and how many female artists, though left out of the on-screen credits, worked to create the magical scene they adore. The artistry contained within this classic piece of cinema has lived on for decades and will continue to be passed from one generation to the next, but the stories of the women responsible for it, and their profound struggles, are only now revealed.


Grace Huntington

Bianca Majolie

Retta Scott

Mary Blair

Sylvia Holland

Chapter 1

One Day When We Were Young

When Bianca Majolie stood up at the front of the room, the blood immediately drained from her face, her palms started to sweat, and she could feel her heart pounding. Bianca took a deep breath and opened her mouth to speak, but no sound came out. Her mouth felt dry and gritty, as if her saliva had given up and left to hide in the pit of her stomach. It was January 25, 1937, and Bianca wished she could hide too. She had worked for the Walt Disney Studios for two years and she dreaded nothing more than the story department meetings where the writers pitched their ideas in front of the group. It was not due to a lack of talent on her part. Bianca’s characters and lively plots were destined for the silver screen. Nor was it her shy personality. When necessary, her soft-spoken tone gave way to the loud, booming voice of one passionate about her work. The problem stemmed from the fact that she was born a woman in a world that wanted men.

She skipped as many of the meetings as she could, her excuses ranging from mundane claims of illness to fantastic tales of car accidents complete with shattered glass sprinkled across the highway and the smell of burned rubber. Her alibis were mostly unnecessary—there was no obligation to attend a meeting unless you were the one pitching. When it was her turn to share her ideas with the group, she approached the matter as she would swimming in the chilly Pacific Ocean: better to just get it over with, plunge into the waves headfirst, and let the cold water numb your body.

On this January day, however, the room felt colder than the Arctic. Everyone knew that Snow White was Walt’s darling, and the hapless writer who suggested changes to one of its scenes, even if necessary, was certain to incur the wrath of the room. As Bianca stood there in silence, she could hear lighthearted laughter outside the windows, and for a moment, she imagined she was one of the women on the other side of the glass, relaxing on the lawn without a care in the world. I could be like them, she thought. All I have to do is leave.

At the Walt Disney Studios, it was not enough to simply have an idea or even write a script. In the story department, you had to stand up in front of your colleagues and act it out. As much as Bianca hated dramatizing her ideas at the meeting, she loved watching the other writers perform their material. Dick Lundy could mimic the voice of Donald Duck flawlessly as he pretended to walk across the street, then slip and fall right in front of her seat, his body twisting in contortions worthy of the Three Stooges, before he tittered in Minnie Mouse’s falsetto: “Oh, Donald, have a nice trip? Tee-hee-hee.” The room would roar with laughter, Bianca joining in until tears ran down her face. Sometimes they would don costumes; once, the men applied rouge and lipstick and performed an elaborate cancan, kicking their knobby-kneed legs as high as they could while they belted out tunes. The atmosphere could be boisterous, full of pure joy and childish antics, and it made Bianca proud to be one of them.

But other times it could be terrible. The men would yell obscenities and throw wads of balled-up paper at the presenter when they considered an idea unworthy of development. At these moments, Bianca could feel her colleagues’ aggression, the room becoming a pressure cooker for the unlucky person whose only crime was sharing his or her work. Too often, it seemed that the ugliest responses, the ones that could shake the confidence of even the most talented writers, were directed at her. At these moments, Bianca wished she had some special ability to distract her colleagues from her flaws. If only she were a great beauty or could sing or dance or even, more humbly, mimic the happy squeak of Mickey Mouse. Sometimes what she wanted most was to be a man, if only for the few hours a week she spent at story meetings.

Bianca thought about this now as she stood trembling before her peers and resolved to appear confident. With a deep breath, she shoved her natural shyness aside and placed her storyboards—corkboards filled with artwork pinned in sequence—on the wooden easels facing the group. Her sketches showed dancing flowers and animals. Voices of dissent started rising almost immediately and Bianca found herself shouting, trying to get her ideas heard, but her soft voice was drowned out. In the midst of the fray, Walt Disney quietly walked up to the easels and yanked Bianca’s sketches from the corkboards, sending pushpins flying. With hardly a word, he ripped the papers in half. The room went silent as the scraps of Bianca’s work fell to the floor, a smiling flower peeking out from under one page.

The moment represented Bianca’s worst fears realized, and like Snow White scrambling through the forest to escape the huntsman, she instantly fled. She could hear the group of men running after her, the pounding of their feet growing louder as they continued to taunt her. She had never been so thankful to have a private office. She ran into it, turned the lock, then covered her face with her hands and let the tears of embarrassment and shame she had been holding back flow. As she caught her breath she could hear shouts on the other side of the door and then her colleagues’ insistent knocking. The voice of one of the men, “Big Roy” Williams, a firebrand with a famously short temper, suddenly rose clearly from the crowd as he yelled, “This won’t do!” The rapping seemed suddenly to grow angrier. Bianca cowered in the corner, her heart beating wildly, and her panicky gasps for air becoming high-pitched. She felt helpless. It wasn’t enough to have her work rejected by Walt, whom she respected and who was frequently her champion. She knew that the team wanted her to be thoroughly humiliated. Her tears fueled their cruelty.

The wooden door frame began bending now, the plywood and nails no match for the pressure of so many men on the other side. With a loud craack, the wood splintered, the door gave way, and a crowd of men tumbled into Bianca’s sanctuary. She buried her head in her arms, covering her ears to try to block their shouts, but it was no use. She would have to take it like a man. “This is why we can’t use women,” Walt said of the incident, “they can’t take a little criticism.”

Bianca was an awkward seventeen-year-old when she first met Walter Elias Disney. They both attended McKinley High School in Chicago, Illinois. When she saw Walt dressed in the drab fatigues of the American Red Cross ambulance service, she shyly approached and handed him her yearbook. Walt was sixteen but pretending to be seventeen in order to join the war effort; he’d even lied about his birth date on the Red Cross application. He desperately wanted to be like his three older brothers, who would come home on leave looking handsome in their navy uniforms, their sailor caps jauntily tilted on their heads. (Instead, he would find himself in the last days of World War I driving an ambulance through Europe, occasionally doodling on the vehicle’s canvas flaps.) But that day in high school, he scribbled cartoons in Bianca’s yearbook, smiled, and walked away. It was a moment that meant little to either of them at the time, being but the briefest of encounters, yet the memory of the interaction would linger, destined to sway both of their futures.

Bianca was born Bianca Maggioli in Rome on September 13, 1900, and immigrated to Chicago with her family in 1914. Her high-school French teacher soon Americanized her name to Blanche Majolie. She never felt like a Blanche, though. It was the name of a stranger, and it was Walt who, two decades later, ultimately insisted she shake it off.

Bianca studied composition, anatomy, and painting at the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts, then moved to New York City to take further classes in drawing and sculpture; after that, she pursued fashion assignments throughout Europe. She lived in Rome and Paris, but the glamorous life of fashion did little to pay the bills, and in 1929, disappointed in her hopes and a little lonely, she moved back to New York City and took a job as an art director and brochure designer for the J. C. Penney catalog.

Bianca found the heat oppressive that first summer as she rode the streetcar lines that cut Manhattan Island into rectangles, as you would slice a sheet cake. With her bobbed hair and shift dresses, she was the epitome of the stylish flapper and she fit in perfectly with her new, fashionable friends at the department store’s offices. Yet Bianca, like nearly everyone else, was hardly prepared for where the country was headed.

She was sitting at her desk, sketching women in dropped-waist dresses for Penney’s brochure, on October 29, 1929, when she heard a woman shout, “The stock market’s collapsed! Everyone’s in the street!” Bianca rushed to the window overlooking Sixth Avenue and Fifty-Second Street, but there was nothing out of the ordinary below, merely the usual cars and people out walking at that hour. “No, not here,” said one of the women who worked with her. “All the men are at Wall Street, trying to get their money back.” Bianca looked around and realized that, sure enough, their workplace was currently composed entirely of women. For the past week, news of the stock market’s impending collapse had been on everyone’s lips. The tense atmosphere made Bianca nervous, even though she didn’t own any stocks herself and couldn’t imagine that her family in Chicago would be affected by the events in a city nearly eight hundred miles away. A few days earlier, one of the men she worked with had quieted her nerves by telling her things were sure to improve and that the bankers were optimistic about the market’s recovery. Yet even with her incomplete knowledge of the financial system, she could tell, on this day that came to be known as Black Tuesday, that things were different.

In the midst of the largest financial crisis the world had ever seen, a small number of entrepreneurs were able to climb out of the muck and find success. In 1929, one of them was Bianca’s former classmate Walt Disney. The year before, the character Mickey Mouse had made a smash hit in an eight-minute cartoon called Steamboat Willie, the first Mickey Mouse animated short to synchronize movement with sound. In other hands, accompanying the adventures of a hand-drawn mouse with music and sound effects might have been a clumsy endeavor, neither lifelike nor humorous, but Walt had an innate sense of how to integrate the soundtrack with the story. As Mickey and Minnie made music by cranking the tail of a goat, yanking the tails of nursing piglets, and tapping the teeth of a cow, the synchronized sound brought the scenes to life in a way that audiences had never experienced before.

The cartoon was Thomas Edison’s dream realized. In the late 1800s, Edison had imagined integrating the sound of his phonograph with the moving pictures captured by his camera, but the technology eluded him. At the end of his life he would see it finally come to fruition with the advent of the talkies. Yet he was not as impressed with the results as one might expect. “I don’t think the talking moving picture will ever be successful in the United States,” Edison said to the newspaper Film Daily in 1927. “Americans prefer silent drama.” While silent pictures still dominated the box office, the world of movies was on the precipice of monumental change.

The transformation began with the microphone. Before microphones made their appearance, at the end of the nineteenth century, the waves created by sound could travel only as far as a person could shout or an instrument could blare. The energy within those sound waves quickly dissipated. By using a magnetic field, the microphone took the energy created by sound and turned it into something more powerful: an electric current. Now that energy, instead of being lost, could be recorded and stored forever. By the 1920s, an innovative technique to store that energy was to record it on film. The electric current created by the microphone was boosted by an amplifier and then run through a light valve. The valve consisted of a thin piece of metal sitting between the lamp of a camera and a strip of film. The electricity caused the valve to vibrate according to the tempo and volume of the original sound, deflecting the light through the opening and thus converting sound into light. The light was then photographed onto the narrow edge of a filmstrip, giving permanence to what was once fleeting. When Walt Disney gave Mickey Mouse his high falsetto voice, speaking into an RCA 77 microphone in a recording studio in New York City, the sound was transformed into wiggly lines on film.

While Walt had no trouble matching his voice to the action of his troublemaking mouse, the sixteen-piece orchestra hired for Steamboat Willie couldn’t keep up with the pace of the animation. To fix this for Walt, audio engineers developed the click track, a technique to keep the sound and effects timed to the film. Small holes were punched directly into the edge of the film, creating a tiny bouncing ball. The ball bounced to the tempo of the cartoon and served as a metronome that the conductor used to keep the orchestra synchronized with the action. It wasn’t easy to make thousands of hand-punched holes, but the perforations ensured that the music and pictures were coupled as closely as possible. The technique became known as Mickey-Mousing.

Using the sound technology on Steamboat Willie, developed by a company called Powers Cinephone, took all of Walt’s savings and more. To come up with the $4,986.69 it cost, Walt had to mortgage his studio and his home, then sell his car, a 1926 Moon Roadster. The gamble, however, paid off. By the end of 1929, Walt was bringing in five hundred dollars a week and had officially formed Walt Disney Productions Ltd.

Much of the success of Mickey Mouse lay in the character’s optimistic message during a time of despair. In a March 10, 1935, article titled “Mickey Mouse Emerges as an Economist” in the New York Times Magazine, the writer L. H. Robbins declared, “The fresh cheering is for Mickey the Big Business Man, the world’s super-salesman. He finds work for jobless folk. He lifts corporations out of bankruptcy. Wherever he scampers, here or overseas, the sun of prosperity breaks through the clouds.”

One late afternoon in February 1934, Bianca walked along Seventh Avenue, the low winter sun illuminating the street so brightly that it made the Manhattan tenements as dark as silhouettes. As fortunate as she had felt over the past five years, especially when she considered how few people had steady paychecks, she was unsatisfied in her career and in her life. She was supposed to meet friends that evening, but she felt a sudden need for solitude. She ducked into a movie house and sat down to watch the newsreels.

When they ended, people moved in and out of their seats as a cartoon started up. Bianca barely noticed what she was watching until she heard the roar of laughter. It struck her that it had been a while since she had heard an audience laugh with such abandon—certainly the news of the day didn’t inspire merriment. Then she saw a familiar name on the screen: A Walt Disney Comic. She had known about his success, of course, but sitting in the darkened theater, she was filled with awe at what he had created. Admiration and jealousy running together, she felt an urge to bring her own animated character into the world and imagined what it would be like to see her art on the screen, worshipped by millions. She went home and started sketching a comic strip about a young girl named Stella who was constantly on the hunt for a job. Thwarted by the Great Depression, a theme that it seemed no one could escape in either fantasy or reality, Stella found that something always went wrong in her search. Bianca printed the dialogue in speech bubbles, relying heavily on jokes made at Stella’s expense. Underlying the humor, Stella’s struggles had a theme, echoing Bianca’s own need, of finding somewhere to belong in a world gone adrift.

On April 1, 1934, Bianca sent a letter to Walt Disney asking him to visit her in New York, telling him about her comic strip, and joking, “I’m five feet tall and don’t bite.” Although she doubted he would remember her and was not sure exactly what sort of guidance she expected from him, she couldn’t help but count the days before she might hear back. It took ten days for the letter to reach him in Hollywood and three more before he wrote a response. His answer was worth waiting for. It would change the course of her life.

In his playful manner, Walt expressed regret that Bianca didn’t bite and then invited her to send him her comic strips so he could assist her.

A correspondence began between them, and Bianca was touched by his warm, generous personality, even when his attempts to help her comic strip did not pan out. On New Year’s Day 1935, she made a resolution that she would leave Penney’s. She wanted to be an artist again, to rediscover the young, optimistic student she had once been. To spark her creativity, she planned a trip through China, Korea, and Japan, squirreling away her earnings, every dollar representing days of her freedom. By February, though, she had set those plans aside to travel to Los Angeles. She met Walt at one of his favorite spots, the Tam O’Shanter, which sat just outside Hollywood in a Tudor-style building. With its pitched roof, iron chandeliers, and stone fireplace, it looked more like a movie set than a restaurant.

In this atmospheric location, Walt launched into the story of Snow White. He described the wicked queen, the loyal dwarfs, and the handsome prince vividly. The fairy tale was familiar, at least in the blurry way of half-forgotten childhood memories, but his narration was fresh. Walt loved telling the story of Snow White and repeated it often to almost anyone who would listen. Soon, though, he brought the conversation back to what Bianca had traveled across the country for: her art career.

Bianca gingerly placed her portfolio on the table. Neatly organized inside were her sketches and story ideas. In anticipation of Walt’s seeing them, she had rearranged them countless times. She needn’t have worried—when he cracked open the oversize binder, he was instantly overwhelmed by her talent. Her delicate lines forming softly colored flowers were unlike anything he had seen come out of his studio. She had never studied cartooning and had no desire to be an animator, but her story ideas were remarkable. Although his story artists were all men, he believed so strongly in her skill that he offered her a six-month apprenticeship in the story department.

Bianca hesitated. She hadn’t been expecting her life to change so quickly, yet it was what she desperately wanted: to work for her passion, not just for money, and see the result of her hard work reflected in the smiling faces of an audience. She said she’d think about it. The next day was Valentine’s Day, and she decided not to wait any longer to give Walt her answer. She wrote to him in a playful manner, referencing an inside joke between them: “You are everything and much more than I visualized, and the really amazing thing is that you haven’t changed, in spite of the terrifying eyebrow lift, that succeeds only in arousing my merriment.” She accepted his offer and said she would start as soon as possible.


  • "Nathalia Holt's richly detailed group biographyshines a welcome light on Disney's true heroines--not the princesses on the screen, but the talented female artists and writers working hard behind the scenes.The Queens of Animation is also a crisp reflection on Hollywood's charged and changing relationship with beauty, race and fame."—Margot Lee Shetterly, New York Times bestselling author of Hidden Figures
  • "Nathalia Holt has a deeper, more important motive for revisiting classics...Marshaling scrupulous research, the author makes the case for the role played by female studio employees in bringing to life those classic films...This book scores for telling us something new about the films we thought we knew so well."—Peter Tonguette, Wall Street Journal
  • "Gripping, galvanizing reading... A beautifully sculpted narrative of hurtlingly fast pace... A bolt of pure reading delight that outdoes even Holt's utterly winning earlier book Rise of the Rocket Girls."Steve Donoghue, Christian Science Monitor
  • "A gripping corrective... Few know of the company's female virtuosi, who from the 1930s on injected nuance into characters from Bambi to a panoply of princesses."—Barbara Kiser, Nature
  • "A remarkable true story, unforgettably told...Holt has unearthed a vivid, soaring, vitally important untold story of women's contribution to technology, entertainment, and art."—Lisa Mundy, New York Times bestselling author of Code Girls
  • "Sprightly...Holt, a science journalist and a popular historian, introduces us to a handful of women who worked on some of the classic Disney Studios films, spins them around, sprinkles some pixie dust, and has them take a bow."—Margaret Talbot, The New Yorker
  • "Holt's dedication to telling these women's stories is palpable, narrating their personal histories as if the animators were characters themselves... if it weren't for this book, their work might have gone ignored and overlooked forever."—Rachel King, Fortune
  • "Readers who loved Nathalia Holt's Rise of the Rocket Girls will find so much to enjoy in this deeply researched, loving celebration of Disney's long-overlooked female pioneers. Holt evocatively blends social history, technological advances and the personal livesof these forgotten artists to champion their achievements and their extraordinary legacy."—Kate Moore, New York Times bestselling author of The Radium Girls
  • "Marvelous...The Queens of Animation grips from the first page...As Holt shows so masterfully, the bright colors and curved lines that become those fairy tale figures are the results of realwomen's brains, strength, and passion."—Mary Gabriel, author of Ninth Street Women
  • "Disney's female artists and writers have finally been receiving long overdue recognition. Holt's heartfelt, deeply researched tome, however, is the first to truly highlight the sexism they experienced at the studio."—Biz Hyzy, Booklist (starred review)
  • "Disney fans will go wild over The Queens of Animation... Nathalia Holt digs deep and exposes some of the talented women who finally get some recognition."—Sophie Matthews,
  • "This is one you don't want to miss--and won't want to put down. Holt brings her empathy, smart writing, and knack for research to the story of another group of extraordinary, unsung women heroes."—Brian Jay Jones,author of Becoming Dr. Seuss and George Lucas: A Life
  • "Eye-opening and empowering...Holt rectifies a serious she tells the often-omitted stories of these enormously talented women."—Leah Huey, Library Journal (starred review)
  • "Think of this book as if Hidden Figures were about Walt Disney Studios instead of NASA. The Queens of Animation pulls back the curtain on a handful of influential, and largely under-recognized, women writers and animators who helped shape the early aesthetic of Disney during a time when the industry was largely a boy's club...Holt goes from Snow White up to Frozen in this essential read ahead of the launch of Disney+ this fall."—Jeva Lange, The Week, 25 Books to Read in the Second Half of 2019
  • "The Queens of Animation draws on the revealing and engagingly personal stories of many talented women who had a hand in the creation of the animated Disney films we all love--a long overdue recognition for their contributions. It's time to resuscitate and honor all that women have clandestinely molded and shaped."—Kara Cooney, author of When Women Ruled the World
  • "A riveting and essential read about the women who helped create many of the most famous Walt Disney films. Like Hidden Figures and Rise of the Rocket Girls, The Queens of Animation tells us a story we need to hear, one that was lost to history until now."—Charlotte Gordon, author of Romantic Outlaws
  • "Engrossing...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."Publishers Weekly

On Sale
Oct 27, 2020
Page Count
400 pages
Back Bay Books

Nathalia Holt

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.

Learn more about this author