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News Release

February 22, 2023

Cinema Instructor to Receive Annie Award

College of the Canyons cinema instructor Mindy Johnson will receive the prestigious June Foray Honor at the 50th Annie Awards, which will be held on Saturday, February 25 at UCLA Royce Hall. 

The juried award is given to individuals who have made a significant and benevolent or charitable impact on the art and industry of animation. 

“I was completely gob smacked,” said Johnson about hearing the news. “I did not expect it at all. When I got the call, I was in complete shock.”

Johnson is being recognized for her expertise, continued research and ground-breaking discoveries into the earliest women and under-represented groups in the animation and film industry. 

“By exposing the past, I try to illuminate the future and cause change,” said Johnson. “Change in the industry is happening, but it’s moving slowly.” 

Her latest discovery is believed to be the earliest surviving hand-drawn animation, animated and directed by a woman: Bessie Mae Kelley, a pioneering animator who worked with Bray Studios in late 1917. Thanks to Kelley’s grandnephew who had stored the film, Johnson was able to restore two of her surviving films. 

“This discovery completely changes our entire cinematic history,” said Johnson. “It challenges the myth that women were not present at the dawn of the animation industry.” 

Johnson’s forthcoming book “The Only Woman Animator: Bessie Mae Kelley & Women at the Dawn of an Industry” introduces Kelley’s work to the world and highlights her early contributions to the animation industry.

Johnson, who has been teaching film studies and film history at COC as an adjunct instructor for 20 years, also teaches animation history at CalArts and Drexel University. 

“The cinema studies program and the School of Humanities are so very proud to count Mindy among our ranks,” said Andy McCutcheon, dean of the college’s School of Humanities. “I can’t think of a more deserving recipient of this prestigious award. Mindy is not only a ground-breaking, recognized scholar in her field, she is also an amazing teacher who inspires our students through her example, especially women who aspire to a career in the fields of cinema studies, animation, or film making.” 

Past recipients of the June Foray Honor include a wide diversity of abilities and talent, including Leonard Maltin, Linda Simensky, Dave Master, and Dr. William Moritz.

“It’s still sinking in,” said Johnson. “To receive that acknowledgement industry-wide is profound. I am deeply honored. It will continue to reverberate for years to come.” 

For more information about the college’s cinema department, click here.