Disney says its sexism is all in your pretty little head

Responding to the furor over the sexist comments made by the head animator of “Frozen,” Disney makes this statement:

Animation is an intricate and complex art form. These comments were recklessly taken out of context. As part of a roundtable discussion, the animator was describing some technical aspects of CG animation and not making a general comment on animating females versus males or other characters.

OK, here’s the comment again:

Historically speaking, animating female characters are really, really difficult, ’cause they have to go through these range of emotions, but they’re very, very — you have to keep them pretty and they’re very sensitive to — you can get them off a model very quickly. So, having a film with two hero female characters was really tough, and having them both in the scene and look very different if they’re echoing the same expression; that Elsa looking angry looks different from Anna (Kristen Bell) being angry.

What context alters the belief that female characters need to be pretty and that it is diffuclt to make two females look different from each other? The “context” that Lino is speaking in is actually a biased and sexist one where the poor guy is stating a common belief in the industry. Lino is a scapegoat only for his honesty. Since Lino’s comments, I’ve put several posts on Reel Girl on the “differences” between drawing female and male characters. There is Christopher Hart who instructs,

With male comic characters, you can mold their bodies into many different shapes, producing a wide range of cool characters. It’s not so easy with women. Women in comics are, by and large, attractive—even the villains.

 

There is Marc Crilley’s video how-to featuring famous female characters and showing how their bodies get distorted. There are also artists who show the sexism in clothing and in pose of male versus female superheroes.

Want a little more context? In animated movies for children, there is a pattern of male protagonists while female characters get stuck in supporting roles. Not only that but females, who are half of the kid population, are presented in movies for children as if they were a minority.

Animator has been commenting on Reel Girl in defense of Disney and Lino. It is from him that I heard today about Disney’s response. After posting a link to Disney’s quote, Animator writes:

So my suspicions are confirmed. This is all controversy for the sake of controversy.

Could Lino have chosen his words more carefully since he’s being interviewed for a website where most of the readers have never animated before and don’t understand the terminology?

Yeah, probably.

Now I’ve learned, if you work for Disney, WATCH WHAT YOU SAY or you’ll be branded and eeevvvviiilll sexist pig if you say something that can even slightly be taken out of context.

Disney is an easy target for some good ‘ol fashioned “outrage” and fabricated controversy after all.

 

First of all, I could not be less interested in controversy for the sake of controversy. I get accused of this all the time, I’m trying to get eyeballs to my blog, making a big deal out of nothing. Sexism in children’s media is a really big deal. Sexism in children’s media is a repeated pattern kids are exposed to that shapes who they are and who they become. There is no good reason for the fantasy world to be sexist. It is a made up world, anything can happen, yet the sexism of the real world, where males star and females support, is echoed here. I wish children’s media were not sexist. I love movies and books and TV. I love stories. Whenever I find examples where females are heroes, protagonists, and celebrated, I blog about it.

As for Animator’s next comment, I am actually glad that Lino did not choose his words more carefully. He spoke honestly, and I’m grateful for that.

Animator is not the only one upset with me. I got this Tweet from Allie Molina:

Your post on how Disney allegedly “Undermines Women” is absolutely idiotic and misleading. Read this:http://akaito.co.vu/post/64020438666/on-frozen-and-misconceptions-floating-around-tumblr

 

I went to Molina’s Tumblr. Here’s what she says:

Frozen got a name change because it is NOT the Snow Queen. It’s loosely based off of it just like Ponyo was loosely based off of the Little Mermaid. Was there secondary thoughts of changing the title to something ‘unisex’ because of little boys? Most likely, yes, but unlike Tangled which had no reason to drop “Rapunzel” as the title at least this name change made sense.

 

Agree! The movie is NOT The Snow Queen, it’s no longer the story of a heroic girl who saves a boy from the evil Snow Queen, and the changed title reflects that. That’s what my whole post is about. Also, glad you brought up “Ponyo” by Miyazaki,  one of the few movies with a female protagonist and female in the title.

So why else am I an idiot?

 Anna does NOT go to “save her sister”. Elsa runs off on her own because she doesn’t want to hurt anyone and they discovered her secret. She creates her own castle and lives up in the mountain, happy she is finally free to be herself. Anna decides on her own to go tell Elsa that her magic isn’t a problem and that she wants her to come home and help Anna melt the ice coating her kingdom. In the end there is some shit that goes down, but both sisters save each other. Also, Kai was NOT Gerda’s brother. And here we are again with the idea that Disney has never done a film with “role reversal” of a woman saving a man. Sleeping Beauty (Fairies save Phillip from Maleficent), Little Mermaid (Ariel saves Eric TWICE), Mulan (even when facing some serious misogyny she pulls through and saves not only Shang and her fellow soldiers but also all of China), Pocahontas (saves John Smith and stops a war), Hercules (Meg saves Herc from being killed) etc etc

Kai is not Gerda’s brother, as I wrote in my post, but her male friend. That is the only thing that makes sense to me. I didn’t write females never save males, but it is rare, and “Sleeping Beauty,” “Little Mermaid,” and “Hercules” are the best examples you can come up with? “Pocahontas,” I agree, is cool.

Reason #3 I am an idiot:

Kristoff just takes on the role of the Robber Girl from the original story, complete with Reindeer.

So according to Molina, Kristoff is not completely made up, but replaces the robber girl from the original. Do you see that’s the same thing– strong girl replaced by love interest/costar? Flynn Ryder from Rapunzel/ Tangled is based on the prince. His role was expanded to give him screen time and he is marketed in the PR as a star in the movie as well. That’s the problem here: a female in children’s media is rarely allowed to carry her own movie.

Reason #4:

What the fuck is going on here. That poster is not being used what so ever, in fact I have never seen it before. Aside from the posters featuring Olaf, every poster for Frozen has the girls on it. In fact, here they are on the fancy versions, like the older Disney posters

When I did my annual post analyzing PR for kids’ movies, the poster of the Snow Queen with a shadow of a female is all I could find. I believe that image was the first one released, but not knowing that for certain, I wrote “early” instead of “first” in my post. I was really bummed out that this pathetic image was being used. I collect cool movie posters that highlight female protagonists. I buy them and frame them and put them up in my children’s room. I hoped “Frozen” would give me that opportunity but it didn’t, and isn’t it interesting that I can no longer find that original image either, yet there it is, on my blog.

Still part of reason #4, Molina goes on:

as for the Olaf/Sven trailer. It’s a fucking teaser aimed at children with the “funny sidekicks”. This would be more telling if the teaser had been Kristoff and Hans, except it featured no humans at all.

The funny sidekicks are male! This is a movie that is supposed to be about at least two powerful females, and it is introduced with no females. The lack of females in animated movies for kids is part of a repetitive pattern where females go missing.

Moving on, still part of #4:

Secondly, I’ve also seen the quote from Lino DeSalvo about “animating women” and Tumblr doing it’s thing of twisting that for something else. He is NOT responsible for Anna or Elsa’s designs, their models and nor is that the reason most of the female characters were dropped from the film. We were never given a reason for the latter besides a small interview with John Lasseter from D23 on why they expanded Elsa’s role. Should Disney have differentiated more with Anna or Elsa’s faces to avoid Tangled comparisons? Yes and all they needed to do was change the shape of their eyes to match the 2D versions. (mediocre edit below by myself)

Lino is not the bad guy here. Lino is speaking honestly about a sexist industry.

Commenters on Jezebel are also upset with me, mostly for my statement that it’s become extremely rare for a female to be referenced in the title of an animated movie for children. One commenter makes this list:

Shrek was 2001, so let’s start around there (and we’ll include Disney tv and dvd movies since they are the company in question). In addition we’ll include female gender specific title like girl and princess, since that was the original argument about “Snow Queen” getting changed to “Frozen”

The Princess Diaries
The Princess Diaries II
Cadet Kelly
Lilo & Stitch
My Fair Madeline
Powerpuff Girls the Movie
Kim Possible the Movie
Mulan II
The Lizzie McGuire Movie
Ella Enchanted
Sharkboy and Lavagirl
Ice Princess
Charlotte’s Web
Nanny McPhee
Wendy Wu: Homecoming Warrior
Aquamarine

Miss Potter
Cinderella III
Kitt Kettridge
Hannah Montana
Little Mermaid: Ariel’s Beginning
Nim’s Island
Ponyo
Tinkerbell
Coraline
Princess and the Frog
Alice in Wonderland
Ramona and Beezus
Gnomeo and Juliet
Mars Needs Moms
My Little Pony: Equestria Girls

 

I am referring to MOVIES, not straight to DVD or made for TV which is where girl protagonists are allowed to go. I have been tracking titles on Reel Girl for the past three years. Try making a list of animated movies for kids– and you can include Pixar, Sony etc, that feature a male protag in the title and then make a list of titles with females. And speaking of Disney and Pixar, lots of commenters also write, it’s not just Disney. Agree! It’s not just Disney. It’s a sexist industry where girls go missing.

 

9 thoughts on “Disney says its sexism is all in your pretty little head

  1. Pingback: Why Were People & Critics So Infatuated With Frozen? | Idea Channel | PBS Digital Studios | YouTube Most Popular

  2. Pingback: Why Were People & Critics So Infatuated With Frozen? | Idea Channel | PBS Digital Studios | Just Bullshittin'

  3. Pingback: Post #10: Sexism in Animation | Caitlin Siessel

  4. This is a very sexist movie. It is positively misandric. The men are portrayed as stupid, weak or evil or a variation thereof. Whereas, the women are portrayed as strong, compassionate, intelligent and complex. It’s disgusting that young boys will see this and be influenced in such a way. Also, this is yet another movie which deems violence by females against males as humorous. It’s a terrible movie, it’s a shame there isn’t an outcry against it.

  5. I saw the discussion around this and I was flummoxed. I felt like you were articulating some very real, clear, and obvious problems with children’s media and that Lino was stating the clear biases of his industry. I think Animator needs to read all of Finally Feminism101 before wading back into this discussion. There is appalling gender bias in the movies, especially in children’s movies. Frozen may not have been intended to be sexist — I odn’t htink anyone wakes up in the morning and says “I’m going to be a sexist asshat today!” But it IS part of a larger pattern of sexism, exclusion, and bias that informs our American media. Lino deserves every therm of heat he’s taken for his comments and the entire industry deserves a hell of a lot more.

  6. Lol just to be clear I don’t think you’re an idiot.

    I *understand* why you and other bloggers are upset, and why the quote was taken the way it was, but being an animator and knowing what Lino is talking about from THAT perspective, I don’t think the outrage justified and I think some people (not saying you personally are doing this btw) are using it as an excuse to get angry at Disney… again.

    Also, just a side note… Christopher Hart IS an idiot (he doesn’t even draw his own books, he gets other better artists to do it for him). His books are fairly notorious among cartoonists and animators for being, well… awful on just about every level. I wouldn’t taken anything he has to say seriously.

    • (I posted this on the other post, you should check it out anyway)

      Now, taking a complete left turn, Joanna Quinn (an amazing British female animator) makes some pretty good points as well about animating *convincing* (rather then “pretty”) female characters (calling Lino’s comments “complete rubbish”):

      http://www.cartoonbrew.com/ideas-commentary/joanna-quinn-says-disney-animators-comments-are-complete-rubbish-animating-women-with-emotions-is-easy-89627.html

      Here’s her website, I think you’ll enjoy her work:

      http://www.berylproductions.co.uk/

      I wish I lived in Europe. Their animation industry seems to be a lot more sophisticated (and the movies feature A LOT of female protags). It’s not treated so much as a “kiddie genre” but rather as an artform… thus, lots of diversity.

    • I Agree with you in that Lino does not desserve all the heat he has taken, it is not really his fault that the industry is that way, i mean, if he didnt make his female characters all “Pretty”, he would not keep his job, and since disney’s definition of pretty is very, very, very, narrow (look at what they did to Merida) it must indeed be hard to make female characters that look different from one another, the problem is, ¿why is it that way? why do all female characters have to fall within the same narrow definition of pretty, why do all of them have to be pretty, generally useless and one dimensional?, i also understand what you say about controversy for the sake of controversy, but i think that mostly stems from incorrect beliefs about the ideologies of feminists and other similar people, there are indeed a lot of “Feminazis” that spew bullshit at the smallest oportunity, and there are of course a lot of them who seem to think having a penis is an unforgivable crime, but that is neither the mayority nor an adecuate representation of the group as a whole, it would be like thinking that all muslims are plane crashing suicide bombers, no, there were a couple of crazy terrorists who did crazy terrorist things, the same way here, there are groups that create controversy for any conceivable reason but that does not mean any similar complaint is false or stupid

Leave a Reply