Maryland Institute College of Art
March 2, 2018
Change is good, as long as you are inspired.
At least, that’s what Ramsey Ann Naito ’92, an Academy Award-nominated producer and advocate of women in the animation industry, believes. The child of a painter mother and sculptor father, Naito spent her Baltimore childhood and young adult life as an artist. She loved to draw, creating her own coloring books instead of buying them from the store. And she loved to sculpt, welding her own materials by age 10.
“I identified with sculpture because I was a feminist,” Naito said. “I wanted to build things and I wanted to be the woman against nature and create architectural experiences for people.”
So it made sense that after graduating from the Baltimore School for the Arts she would attend MICA to pursue a degree in sculpture. She even received a master’s degree in fine arts from California Institute of the Arts (CalArts), where she spent most of her time building sculpture installations with sound.
But in 1996, despite never taking an animation course, she became a production assistant for the adult, animated television show Duckman.
“I was surprised to find an office job where there were 40 to 300 artists employed to draw and paint all day,” she said. “The experience was so creative, not like anything I ever experienced before, and I just got sucked in.”
As a result, her inspiration — and life — changed.
Naito is now one of the animation film industry’s leading female producers. Between 2000 and 2004, she helped produce Nickelodeon films like Rugrats in Paris, The Wild Thornberrys, Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius and The Sponge Bob SquarePants Movie. And in 2014, she joined Director Tom McGrath and produced The Boss Baby, an animated film starring Alec Baldwin that earned her an Oscar nomination for best animated feature film.
In March 2017, the California resident told the Hollywood Foreign Press Association: “I have the best job in the world because I get to go to work every day and be with artists who are always thinking creatively. They have so many different points of view about what they are creating. On The Boss Baby we had over 400 artists working on the film. It’s a very powerful and inspiring work setting.”
Throughout her education and career, women have played a predominant role, Naito said.
“I’ve been very fortunate to work with women and for women and had strong female mentors that have always been there for me and been real role models,” she said.
Among those role models at MICA: Annet Couwenberg, a visual artist, MICA faculty member and former chair of the Fiber Department.
“She introduced to me a much wider range of materials to be used in art,” Naito said. “Fibers really stood out as a strong artistic division.”