Defining Tracy Campbell of Santa Clarita isn’t easy. But if an artist took pen to paper to capture her image, it would reveal someone with super strength, speed and invulnerability. Add the patriotic costume and she’d look a lot like DC Comics’ Wonder Woman.
But her strongest resemblance to an animated character is that Campbell believes in using power for good.
She’s the kind of superhero who doesn’t need to be on everyone’s radar. She’s part wife, mom and grandma (“Mimi,” actually), part leader in the workplace and, whatever else she is, she’s fully engaged.
From her first job working in the Universal Studios theme park as a teen, Campbell has enjoyed the ride (pun intended).
“I worked in restaurants and later in the live shows and worked my way into the planning and developing group that designed all the attractions worldwide,” she said.
She worked in studio management at Universal—never in front of the curtain, like her husband Chip, who she met at the theme park. Campbell was the stage manager for a wild west show where he performed as a stuntman.
When the group she worked for at Universal moved to Florida, Campbell went back to finish a degree in English at California State University, Northridge. She and Chip settled in Santa Clarita in 1991, where their son and daughter attended Santa Clarita Elementary School, Arroyo Seco Junior High and Saugus High.
Career-wise, Campbell was hired by her former boss to work for an experiential design company in Pasadena that created museum attractions. Twelve years ago, she took a job at Walt Disney Animation Studios.
“A former colleague of mine was working there and came across a job that was very appealing to me,” Campbell said.
It was also very familiar.
“Sometimes it feels like I’ve spent the whole time (at Disney),” Campbell said. “There’s a familiarity in the structure of creative development. Even though we make films, we are really bringing concepts to execution; it’s not different. At Universal, I was involved on the business side, but now it’s ‘What kinds of skills and knowledge do we need to do a film?’”
As the director of production training at Disney Animation for almost 10 years, Campbell’s work involves pulling teams together to create animated films and television, which can take five years from the idea phase to delivery.
“The best thing is that I learn something new, literally, every day. There’s never, ever a dull moment,” Campbell said.
She loves the entertainment industry for the diversity of people she meets who come from all parts of the world. When working on Disney’s “Moana,” an animated musical fantasy adventure film, the filmmaking team worked with a creative trust made up of experts from the Pacific Islands.
“We always focus on great research,” Campbell said. “It enriched ‘Moana’s’ storytelling and opened up even more about diversity and authenticity.”
Toward that end, for Disney’s adventure film “Zootopia,” design, technology, and animation teams spent time at the Natural History Museum, in part, to study animal pelts.
“The most challenging thing is juggling all of it,” Campbell said. “It’s working to keep all the different teams inspired and finding the time in a production schedule to highlight learning.”
Somehow, she and her boss, the head of production, carved out time in the schedule to do good. In part, by becoming active members of Women in Animation, a non-profit organization promoting safe and equitable work environments in the industry by providing resources and connections to advance women in the field.
“Today, the majority of leaders and production management are women, while the majority of leaders in creative development are men,” Campbell explained. “That’s part of what Women in Animation is trying to do—address that imbalance—‘50-50 by 2025.’”
The goal is for women to hold 50 percent of creative leadership by the year 2025. It has been a consistent total of about 20 percent for a long time, Campbell said.
Part of the power to do good comes from the fact that Women in Animation has a totally volunteer board, she added. And there is strong support from the powers that be.
“All of us have big day jobs, which means our studios are supporting this as well,” Campbell said. “It’s not only happening from 8 to 12 at night. Studios are using their power for good.”
Animation studios supporting live action—sounds ironic.
“It’s the right thing to do for humanity,” Campbell said, “but it’s also about fostering a diverse artistic community.”
Like last year’s film release made Wonder Woman a symbol for cultural relevance once again, Campbell has joined the live action engagement of women in Hollywood promoting equality and inclusion and fighting unconscious bias. Like the peace-loving Amazons against Ares, god of war, she’s joined forces with the Time’s Up movement.
“I’m happy and privileged to be a part of it,” Campbell said, referring to it as a community of sisterhood.
Monthly meetings of the organization are held in relatively private locations such as film studio lots, mostly because of the star power in attendance. Speakers have included Gloria Steinem and Anita Hill, while Hollywood heavy-hitters such as Gwyneth Paltrow and Shonda Rhimes appear in modest, unglorified fashion, sometimes taking a spot on the floor when there’s standing room only. Some of those hundreds of seats are filled by animation’s star power.
“Some of the most senior women in the company come to the meetings,” Campbell said.
Most people think of the legal defense fund established by Time’s Up founders, but the group is much more than A-listers like Reese Witherspoon and Nicole Kidman putting some cash together. At Time’s Up meetings, members have heard from the Alliance of Female Farmworkers, the Southern Law Poverty Center and from one of the women who created “The Board List,” a compilation of about 2,000 women qualified to sit on high-powered corporate boards. It was created when companies claimed they couldn’t find women to take open seats on their board of directors. It’s a talent marketplace sometimes referred to as “LinkedIn for female board candidates.” Ebay got a couple of board members through The Board List, said Campbell.
Expect more from Time’s Up in the future, including words like “inclusion” and “intersectionality.”
“They’re looking at how to be a movement, not just a hashtag,” Campbell said.
The parallel worlds of Tracy Campbell and her superhero sister are limited. She isn’t an Amazon princess, and she doesn’t need to kick butt to use her power for good. She doesn’t even need the armaments of a javelin, bow or metallic bracelets. But there’s one weapon she does find useful in the push for greater equality in the world: That’s the lasso of truth.
Martha Michael is a contributing writer for The Signal and serves as editor for three local publications. She has been writing professionally for decades and is the author of “Canyon Country” by Arcadia Publishing.