Full Name:

Lillian Friedman

Occupation / Title:

Date of birth:


Date of death:



New York, United States


Lilian Friedman Astor was the first American female studio animator and worked at Fleischer studios.

Family and early life

She attended Washington Irving High School, and when she graduated, she worked as a fashion designer.

Career outline

Reportedly, Friedman had applied to work at Disney, only to be told that the work is performed entirely by young men. Hired later at Fleischer Studios, known for its more fluid, outrageous and humorous animations, Friedman started in 1930 as an inker. At Fleischer, Friedman was mentored by James “Shamus” Culhane, and worked her way up to assistant, in-betweener and eventually a “secret” animator in 1933. Working under a crew led by Myron Waldman, Friedman worked on various Popeye, Betty Boop, and Color Classic Cartoons, although she was only credited for her work on six cartoon shorts in her lifetime. Shamus writes in his book Talking Animals and Other People that he had to work hard to make Lillian accepted amongst her male colleagues, even though she was paid considerably less than then. Friedman was paid $40 per week for the same work done by her male counterparts who received $125.

Friedman made film history in 1933 when she was promoted to head of the animation department at Fleischer Studios, a job at the time considered unsuitable for woman in such a male-dominated field. During the strike of 1937 at the Fleischer Studio, Lillian unpopularly decided to cross the picket line and continue to work rather than stand with her fellow male animators. This was later held against her when things settled down, and Friedman was harassed by her male colleagues for not standing to strike with them.

Lillian animated in total 13 films within the span of her career, remaining at Fleischer until 1939 when she retired to focus on her family. Fleischer moved their studio to Miami and Friedman stayed in New York until the 80’s.

Honors and awards

In 1988, she was honored by ASIFA, receiving recognition for her work as a pioneering woman animator.

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