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Animation Writer and Story Editor Anne D. Bernstein Passes Away

A pioneer for women in animation, the trailblazing funny lady began her career in the ‘90s, becoming one of very first women in the writer’s room; she worked on numerous series as a script writer including ‘Daria,’ was senior editor of ‘Nickelodeon Magazine,’ and her illustrations were seen in ‘Redbook’ and ‘The New York Times.’

Comedy/animation writer and story editor Anne D. Bernstein passed away on February 8 after a long illness. Best known for her work on the Daria series, she was, according to Baboon Animation’s Mike de Seve, “… a true pioneer for women in animation writing.”

According to Bernstein’s LinkedIn page, she had a wide reaching and varied career including head writer for MTV Animation Development. She was a script writer for Angelo Rules, Daria, MTV Downtown, Hey Monie, Backyardigans, Viva Pinata, Tutenstein, and Johnny and The Sprites. Additionally, she was a senior editor and comic book editor for Nickelodeon Magazine, and a contributing writer for several publications including SPY, National Lampoon, and Paper. Bernstein also blogged for Channel Frederator and Roadside America, and her Illustrations were seen in Redbook, The New York Times, Good Housekeeping, and others.

Mike de Seve, a close friend, and admirer of Bernstein, shared a tribute with AWN:

"The hilarious animation writer Anne D. Bernstein died last week from the not-hilarious Parkinson’s disease. As one of the very few, very first female writers in animation, she was a trailblazer, and a friend to many of us.

I knew Anne since our days together at MTV Animation and had the great pleasure to have her on my script teams for several series, first at 4Kids and later at Baboon Animation. Anne’s work on the groundbreaking MTV series Daria is probably her most beloved.

In a career beginning in the ‘90s, Anne said that she had never been in a writers’ room where she wasn’t the only woman. But bravely into that room she went, again and again and, in doing so, Anne truly helped change the rules of entry.

As a comedy writer, Anne always brought her A game, digging up humor in places the rest of us weren’t even bothering to look. In one script, she named a retirement home for actors “Sitting Ovations.”

Every day I worked with her, Anne turned that old, ignorant industry belief on its head, that women weren’t funny, by being as funny as anyone else in the room — and so much more professional it made us crazy.

Sadly, her illness hospitalized her before she could ever be part of an actual 50-50 writers’ room, or a room that represents all the voices in our culture. But for those of you who are walking in the door now, you should know that she was one of the very first to open it. And her dedication to quality and craft kept it open for the next folks.

Anne, if you’re out there and you’re wondering what the hell your life meant — writing a bunch of jokes on a bunch of cartoons, then getting taken out way too early — know that you have made a great difference for many to follow, and we’re all better for it.

May Anne’s legacy inspire women writers — all writers — to tune out the ignorance around you and instead try a little harder, go that extra mile to make your work great. And even when the room is stacked against you, don’t be afraid to slay."

Friend and colleague Michael Mennies shared also shared a tribute with AWN:

"I got a letter today from Kevin Strader, who worked together with Anne, myself and Mike de Seve in a writer’s room and he said, 'What a character. What a person. Whenever she was in the room, her qualities made me feel like a poser. But, happily so.'

I couldn’t agree more. At the risk of insulting the other fantastic writers I have had the good fortune of working with, Anne was simply the best, both as a member of a story room where her carefully chosen suggestions always contributed to a better story, and as a writer working on her own. She had a fountain of original ideas for episodes, professional to a point she made the rest of us look like slackers, a writer who could explain her reasoning and keep working through trouble spots until she figured them out, and a someone who was just laugh out loud funny to read. Her writing always had her unique comical voice in it, yet that voice did not go for laughs that went against the integrity of the characters or the show’s tone. 

I was introduced to Anne by Mike DeSeve in 2011. Mike and I were story editing a show called Kikoriki together, and he thought Anne would be a good addition to the team. Anne was not the chattiest in the room, but it was always clear she was paying attention, because when she contributed to a story her ideas moved things in the right direction.

From 2017-2019 I worked with Anne on Kit^n^Kate. The show is pre-school, which was certainly not Anne’s natural place for comedy. But she was just fantastic. She was able to write stories little kids could understand and enjoy that also played at a second level for the parents. Like her story 'The Missing Stink,' about a skunk who had been faking his foul stench his whole life by taping smelly cheese under his armpits. Determined to lead an authentic life, he goes out in search of his inner stink. And, oh yeah, it had a musical number modeled after 'My Shot' from Hamilton. That episode still cracks me up."

Debbie Diamond Sarto's picture

Debbie Diamond Sarto is news editor at Animation World Network.