Sadie Friedlander Bodin
Filed under: People, Animation Supervisor, Animator, Background Artist, Colorist, Inker, Union Activist, 1930s, 1940s, 1950s, 1960s, 1970s, Color, Inkwell / Fleischer Studios, U.S.A., Van Beuren Corporation,
Sadie BodinOccupation / Title:
Sadie Bodin was an extremely influential animator, being the first to picket an animation studio during the fight for animation workers’ rights in the 1930s. Bodin was also one of the few women animators to move up into managerial positions, becoming Animation Coordinator for several New York studios.
Sadie Bodin was born and raised in New York, and studied art at Washington Irving High School. She had several jobs after school, including as an assistant working on the manufacture of scarves. On the recommendation of a friend, she was hired as a worker for Fleischer Studios, and was tasked with opaquing and inking. She worked with Fleischer Studios for four years, then worked at The Bronx House (a settlement house) as a librarian. Soon after, she joined the Van Beuren Studio.
During the 1930s, the Van Beuren Studio was falling behind other studios in terms of popularity. As a first attempt to boost the studio’s production quality and catch up to the other major studios, Van Beuren began to hire several new directors and producers. However, this just created rapid and inefficient turnover instead of the newer, stronger team that Van Beuren desired. The ultimate result was that the majority of the animation staff began to be forced into much longer and harder hours. Soon, Burt Gillett, an extremely well known animator from Disney, was brought in to run the Van Beuren studio. He demanded high quality from his animators, yet maintained the much longer hours and uncompensated overtime practices.
Sadie Bodin, along with other animators at the studio, began to meet with members from the Animated Motion Picture Workers Union (AMPWU) to discuss joining, union activities, and fighting for fair labour and pay conditions. Indeed, Bodin even became the Recording Secretary of the union. The artists also began to hold informal meetings, and discuss with their coworkers, options for making changes to their employment situation. Burt Gillett, however, was informed of these talks and began to take action on the main employees involved. Sadie Bodin was immediately fired when Gillett found out about her activities. When she confronted him about the illegality of firing someone for wanting a union (as declared under the Wagner Act), he remained adamant, claiming other reasons for his decision.
With that, on April 17 1935, Sade Bodin and her husband began to picket the Van Beuren studio – being the first people ever to do so. Her co-workers were too afraid to stand with her, so for several days she and her husband picketed the studio alone. The union filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board regarding her dismissal by Gillett, but the Board was put out of business before a decision could be reached. The incident influenced several animators, including Hicks Lokey, who felt ashamed for having not stood up for Bodin and thus became a lifelong and important union member and advocate.
Bodin was not rehired by the Van Beuren studio. After the incident, she took a break from animation. After World War II, having divorced her husband, Bodin returned to the animation industry – this time intent on (and successful in) taking managerial positions at several studios in New York. She was intent on joining the Background Department at a studio, and so interviewed with Joe Oriolo to work at his studio. Oriolo had worked at Fleischer previously, and remembered Bodin – so he gave her a job as Assistant Background Artist. Despite some skepticism from her coworkers about how competent a woman could be in a role such as that of background artist, she rose through several levels in the studio. Bodin ended up becoming Animation Coordinator, a title particularly difficult for women to attain at the time. She soon began to expand into further managerial positions, opening several small studios of her own, being in charge of and involved with every aspect of studio production work.
Bodin ended up working at several different studios after finding such success in her own creative pursuits and at Joe Oriolo’s studio, including Zander, Hal Seegar, IF Studios, Phoscine, Film Graphics, Cinefffects, Tripix and Famous. She retired in the 70s, and moved to Florida where she lived until her death in 1995.
Tom Sito. Drawing the Line: The Untold Story of the Animation Unions from Bosko to Bart Simpson. University Press of Kentucky, 2006.