Photo1As part of a national initiative to raise awareness of gender stereotypes in media, students at Small Factory Productions were invited to create original characters for an animated cartoon short film. Among the contest winners in grades 1-5 were Quinn DeNunzio of Navesink (front row, far right), Paige Jaenicke of Fair Haven (back row, second from left), Stephen Makin of Rumson (front row, second from left), and Isabella Scott of Sea Bright (back row, far right).

Press release from Small Factory Productions 

“Children constantly amaze me…they see the world with a neutral eye,” explains Christopher Dudick. “Superheroes come in wheelchairs. Girls explore the universe in rocket ships. The shy boy stands up to the bully. These are the characters our young artists dream up.”

As the owner and founder of Small Factory Productions explains, it was only natural for the students of the local animation school to to submit their original drawings and stories into the “If You Can See It, You Can Be It!” contest — a project designed to bring awareness to gender stereotypes in children’s media and entertainment. Small Factory developed the contest in partnership with the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media, sponsored by the Friendship Train Foundation.

Nine winners were selected to participate in a workshop that was held in March at the Small Factory studio in Fair Haven, where they drew and wrote their original animated cartoon short and song. The finished productions will be posted to the websites and social media platforms for Small Factory and for the Geena Davis Institute, the nonprofit founded by the Academy Award winning actor/ advocate (and Olympic semifinalist archer) best known for her roles in Thelma & Louise, Beetlejuice and A League of Their Own.

Photo4Ten year old Stephen Makin of Rumson draws his character and scene for the “If You Can See It, You Can Be It!” cartoon.

“We’re thrilled to inspire children and the next generation of content creators to develop these animated videos with Small Factory’s support,” said Madeline Di Nonno, CEO of the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media. According to the Institute’s research, Children’s programming is one of the most imbalanced media, with less than a third of all on screen speaking characters depicted as girls or women. Negative gender stereotypes can greatly influence the choices and opinions children make in their lives. Organizers believe that this project and the work of the children who enter will show them the possibilities of a more diverse media landscape with different characters that can exist not only our imaginary worlds, but in their real lives.

Winners included Julian Mattioli, 10, from Colts Neck; Stephen Makin, 10, from Rumson; Adele MacGregor, 7, from Oceanport; Quinn DeNunzio, 10, from Navesink; Gianna Cofone, 10, from Atlantic Highlands; Paige Jaenicke, 9, from Fair Haven; Emma Belletier, 10, from Avon-by-the-Sea; Ginger Felumero, 9, from Morganville, and Isabella Scott, 11, from Sea Bright.

Contact Chris Dudick at chris@mysmallfactory.com if your school or organization is interested in participating in the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media “If You Can See It, You Can Be It” Create-a-Cartoon initiative. Curriculum will also be available for download from Small Factory, for educators and parents across the country to share the cartoon’s message and inspire creativity blind to gender stereotypes.