Kidsmovies.com posted a link to ReelGirl’s gallery of girls gone missing pics of 2011 movie posters. The banner at the top of the kidsmovies site features its own unintended (I think) same-old-same-old-boy based line up: Curious George, Nemo, Toy Story 3, Tangled, Gnomeo and Juliet, Up, Kung Fu Panda (I’m guessing, the picture is the top of Jack Black’s head) and Horton. The only girl front and center out of 9 movie posters is Rapunzel (typical rescue story- can you see why girls are obsessed with princesses? Without that storyline girls hardly exist in kids movies at all.)
There’s not a single poster that features multiple girls and no boys in this particular montage. If I seem like I’m nitpicking, it’s because this same, repetitive ratio is EVERYWHERE! (See the kidsmovies.com gallery here.)
And here’s the irony. Pixar and Disney head, Ed Catmull, is continually celebrated for his creativity, out of the box thinking, and taking chances. Here’s an excerpt from a typical glowing profile (this one on SFGate):
The president of Pixar and Walt Disney Animation has a low profile outside of industry circles, but he’s one of the main architects behind the studio’s creativity-driven foundation. And he’s intent on keeping things unpredictable, fighting “conservative forces” that have made the golden ages of other cinematic movements all too brief…
But with Lucas, Catmull and later Jobs in charge, creative types at Pixar were encouraged to take chances. And the results changed the animation genre.
“Ed Catmull brought that to the culture of Pixar, in the sense that he wants people to try stuff,” Lasseter says. “If it doesn’t work, fine. In fact, sometimes you get more excited when it doesn’t work. And that’s the total opposite of Hollywood, where people are so scared to try different things. They’re risk-averse.”
The 30-minute speech that follows is filled with Ed-isms. Anybody should be able to talk to anybody else at any time… It’s OK to be surprised in meetings… Don’t be afraid to fail..
“It’s so easy to go to a conservative place. You know something that works, and you don’t want to change,” Catmull says. “We’re always going to have something that is a little chaotic and messy. …As a company we’re just trying to allow unpredictable things to happen.”
Conservative forces? Keeping things unpredictable? If women were running these animation studios, you’d never hear a quote like “unpredictable” to describe the slew of Pixar/ Disney movies where girls are continually relegated to the role of sidekick or princess. Instead of a G Rating, too many Pixar/ Disney movies should get a Triple S for major stereotyping, not suitable for kids. Makes you wonder how many women are in the MPAA? Or have ever headed the MPAA? Stay tuned.
At first it seems like possible good news. Disney/ Pixar announces: no more fairy tales, code for princess movies. Great! No more damsels in distress who end the movie by landing a man. Now we’re going to have a slew of new movies with cool girl heroes who bravely rescue boys from peril, exuding power and beauty by performing all kinds of risk-taking tasks and challenges.
First of all, the reason the fairy tale movies are stopping is because Disney/ Pixar executives have decided that little girls aren’t worth making movies for at all.
The LA Times reports the fairy tale movies “appealed to too narrow an audience: little girls. This prompted the studio to change the name of its Rapunzel movie to the gender-neutral ‘Tangled’ and shift the lens of its marketing to the film’s swashbuckling male costar, Flynn Rider.”
Can you imagine if Disney decided to shut down a genre because it only appealed to little boys? Or if they switched a movie title so it wouldn’t risk highlighting a male star? It’s awful that this kind of radical gender discrimination exists for our smallest people– little kids who come into this world with huge imaginations and aspirations, big dreams that get squashed by a bunch of billionaire guys who run massive entertainment franchises.
www.businessweek.com Disney bigwigs Ed Catmull and John Lasseter
The LA Times reports:
Alas, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, Ariel, Jasmine and the other Disney royals were all born in the 20th century. Now, different kinds of Disney characters are elbowing their way into the megaplexes and toy aisles, including Pixar’s “Toy Story” buddies Buzz Lightyear and Woody, Capt. Jack Sparrow from “Pirates of the Caribbean” and a platoon of superheroes from the recent acquisition of Marvel Entertainment.
Do you notice something about the characters listed above? Because neither the LA Times reporter or the Disney execs mention in the article that we are losing girls (Snow White, Ariel, and Jasmine) and getting boys (Buzz Lightyear, Woody, and Captain Jack Sparrow.) The LA Times goes on to report the current roster of upcoming movies includes, surprise, surprise, three more movies with males in the title roles: “Winnie the Pooh” (along with his all male possy: Eeyore, Tigger, Piglet, and Christopher Robin?) and “Joe Jump.”
www.zimbio.com Disney/ Pixar execs at 82nd Academy Awards
Remarkably, the men who run Disney/ Pixar, Ed Catmull and John Lasseter, go on in this article to congratulate themselves on their originality and creativity. I kid you not! This would be totally hilarious if these guys didn’t have such a hegemony on the kinds of movies– and accompanying toys and accompanying mass-marketing campaigns– our kids are exposed to. But because this boys club completely dominates kidworld, their privileging of males over females with no care at all, their disregard for half the population, is really sad.
Catmull said he and Lasseter have been encouraging filmmakers to break with safe and predictable formulas and push creative boundaries.
“If you say to somebody, ‘You should be doing fairy tales,’ it’s like saying, ‘Don’t be risky,'” Catmull said. “We’re saying, ‘Tell us what’s driving you.'”
www.washingtonpost.com Executives, producers and stars of “Up”
Dude– could you be any more safe and predictable than putting out a line up of kids movies starring males? What’s driving you guys? Gender programming! And you don’t even see it! Or you are just pretending to be that cluless? Don’t you get that you are teaching and training girls starting at the youngest possible age that their roles will be only supporting? You are telling the girls of the world that they exist to make boys look good and to help them along on their cool quests and incredible adventures. How about some real creativity, Lasseter and Catmull? Can you try to imagine a magical world where girls’ stories are valued just as much as boys’ stories are? Where girls and boys are treated equally? Can you make a movie about that?
Disney’s Rapunzel movie changes title and cast to attract boys
The LA Times reports that that after the disappointing box office for “The Princess and the Frog,” Disney is drastically remaking it’s new Rapunzel movie to attract boys. It’s now called “Tangled” and co-stars a “swashbuckling” male in the lead.
Some people are upset. Retired Disney/ Pixar animator, Floyd Norman, says, “The idea of changing the title of a classic like ‘Rapunzel’ to ‘Tangled’ is beyond stupid. I’m still hoping that Disney will eventually regain their sanity and return the title of their movie to what it should be. I’m convinced they’ll gain nothing from this except the public seeing Disney as desperately trying to find an audience.”
But Ed Catmull, president of Pixar and Disney Animation Studios defends the decision. Referring to “The Princess and the Frog,” he says: “Based upon the response from fans and critics, we believe it would have been higher if it wasn’t prejudged by its title.”
Catmull is right about the prejudging. I’m worried that he’s wrong about who and why.
I prejudged “The Princess and the Frog” based on it’s title. I’m the mom of three young girls. I can’t spend any more money to see yet another Disney princess vehicle. (I was kind of intrigued by the first African American Princess, though I heard she spent most of the movie as a frog.) I think it’s great that Rapunzel is getting retooled, because the last thing I want to sit through, or my daughters to sit through, is watching a girl stuck in a tower, waiting around for some guy to rescue her.
But did they change that part? Or just the title?
I can’t tell. It’s ironic because the LA Times article is supposedly about Rapunzel being effaced by a boy but mostly all they report on is that boy, the title, the male executives, the male audience, and the male animators. What about Rapunzel? Here is what the article tells us about her: “The demure princess is transformed into a feisty teen.”
Steve Jobs, Ed Catmull, John Lasseter
A good sign, I suppose. Though I’m not sure about “feisty.” Would one call a boy “feisty”? It seems to imply strong yet cutesy. Maybe the male equivalent is “jaunty.” I’m mincing words here, but this is all the information they’ve given me to go on. And my extensive, past experience with Disney’s treatment of girls, along the reporting here on Disney’s hyper-concern about attracting a male audience, worries me.
Note to Disney executives: your potential female audience is sick of the princess movies too. We’re not sick of girls, just princesses. We represent half the population, and we’d like to see some more variety in your plots, and we’d like to see multiple strong female characters in your movies.
Also, we’d like to know why you bend over backwards to make a movie appeal to boys (market research, plot and title changes, characters added) but don’t preform the same production gymnastics to attract girls. Or even try to figure out what girls want. Do all the male executives, animators, and directors at Disney just assume they know what girls want to see? Or will put up with?
The issue here is not putting “princess” in the title. The more controversial, unmentioned issue is that Disney executives are concerned about putting a girl in the title role at all. It’s prime Hollywood real estate because it means she’s the star of the show. Historically, Disney allows a girl to claim that space only if she’s a princess. It’s kind of like how you can win a scholarship if you compete for the Miss America title, but first you’ve got to parade around in your bikini.
Movies from Pixar/ Disney with strong females including “Monsters and Aliens” or “The Incredibles” usually have the power woman hidden in an ensemble cast. Can you imagine a movie blatantly touting its cool girl star, perhaps called “Fantastic Ms. Fox?” Do you see the gender divide here– it would be considered some crazy feminist art film.
If you’re going to comment that’s it’s in our DNA that girls will see movies about boys but boys won’t see movies about girls, please see my post here from a couple days ago. The basic point being girls don’t have much of a choice, and they’re just expected to suck it up.
Executives, Director, producers, and stars of “Up”
There’s some hope for the future though. Buried at the bottom of the LA Times piece is some incredible news, especially in the wake of Kathryn Bigelow’s Oscar win, making her the first female director to win an Oscar in 82 years.
“Concluding it had too many animated girl flicks in its lineup, Disney has shelved its long-gestating project “The Snow Queen,” based on the Hans Christian Andersen story. “Snow Queen” would have marked the company’s fourth animated film with a female protagonist, following “The Princess and the Frog,” “Tangled” and Pixar’s forthcoming “The Bear and the Bow,” directed by Pixar’s first female director, Brenda Chapman, and starring Reese Witherspoon.”
Director Brenda Chapman
Did you catch that? Brenda Chapman is Pixar’s first female director. Yes, she’s making an androgynously titled movie, but it’s “starring” Reese Witherspoon, and there’s no indication that Witherspoon will be a princess.
I like the title “Tangled.” I have to admit, it’s witty. The LA Times elaborates: “Disney tested a number of titles, finally settling on ‘Tangled’ because people responded to meanings beyond the obvious hair reference: a twisted version of the familiar story and the tangled relationship between the two lead characters.”
And somehow, in spite of everything I know, the reconceived, witty title gives me hope that the movie is also reconceived in a way that could be just as imaginative and special. I mean, really, how much worse could the original plot be?
Disney should be re-imagining these misogynist fairytales. I’m just hoping that Rapunzel doesn’t disappear from her movie the way she has from it’s title and the LA Times article about it all.