Sexist comment from animator of ‘Frozen’ typical of industry that limits females

The sexist comment by Lino DiSalvo, head animator of “Frozen” is going around the web. Here’s what he said:

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.

DiSalvo’s comment was made as part of a larger interview. It’s pretty clear the animator wasn’t aware he was being offensive. How could he be so clueless? Because DiSalvo’s belief, that males come in all shapes and sizes, whereas females come in one, is so common, most people think it’s a fact.

Here is Christopher Hart teaching the differences on drawing male and female characters via Escher Girls.

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. Especially the villains! The Voluptuous Vixen and the Villainess are much more attractive in cutting-edge comics. So, you have less latitude in altering the body. You can’t draw brutish women or you’ll lose the attractiveness. Therefore, the changes rely less on the body types and more on the pose, costume and attitude.




Here’s another how-to video from Marc Crilley. This video is great because Crilley takes you through the steps of just how artists are trained distort female anatomy. First, Crilley draws a regularly proportioned teenage girl. Then, he demonstrates the typical pattern and process of how artists exaggerate her proportions, drawing three well-known, female animated characters.

Crilley narrates:

It’s troubling, really in a way that artists, maybe many of them male, have this way of reducing the width of the female waist when they’re drawing it to just ridiculously small proportions and you know, you do sort of fear that this contributes to women’s body image, this crazy idea of the super narrow waist, but nevertheless you see it again and again. Finally, the big difference here, the knees, the line of the knees, much, much higher than in real life. So what’s interesting is you see that the whole area of the waist is being raised up here so as to create these incredibly long legs as an exaggerated style. To me, its sort of like Barbie doll style legs…

Here’s the video.

While watching Crilley’s video, I was thinking about the incredible influence of the artist to create reality. When you combine images with narratives, it can be so powerful, like being God. Not to mention repeating and repeating the same sequence to the growing brains of little kids, which is what happens when we all see the same old, same old look in animation. (By the way, another criticism I’ve read of “Frozen” is that the female character looks similar to Rapunzel of “Tangled.”)

On my Facebook feed today, Miss Representation posts on photographer and mom Ashlee Wells Jackson showing what women look like:

“Photographer and mom Ashlee Wells Jackson wants all of us to recognize and appreciate how childbirth, breastfeeding, and motherhood change women’s bodies. I’d love for both my daughter and my son to grow up seeing these images instead of the ones of ‘perfection’ they currently see every time we go to the grocery store.” – Laura Willard, Upworthy


Willard’s photo essay reminds me of the Christopher Hart’s lesson on how to draw men. Guess what, everyone? Females, just like males, come in all shapes and sizes. Females, just like males, are complex creatures with all kinds of hopes and dreams and drives and emotions. Can we please see that on the big screen? Can our children see it?

It’s amusing in a sad way that DiSalvo is so flummoxed by how to make two angry females look different. I wonder if he’s as troubled by making angry females act differently as well. There are so many ways to express and show anger: clam up, punch a wall, flush red, scowl, yell, tear out hair, groan.

The problem here isn’t just that females are supposed to look pretty all the time, but also, that what is considered “pretty” is so cookie-cutter and limited. For a male character, the act of rescuing someone or being heroic makes him attractive. For a female character, being attractive is usually limited to how she looks– her hair, smile, and body.

As I wrote in my last post on “Frozen,” I know I’m supposed to be grateful there’s a movie for children that comes close to centering on a female hero. I actually am. As I blogged, most likely I’ll see it and I’ll take my three daughters because my options are so limited. But I’m pissed that my options, not to mention my children’s options, are this limited. This is the fantasy world, for goodness sake, a place where anything should be possible, so why is the imaginary world so sexist?

See Reel Girl’s Gallery of Girls Gone Missing From Children’s Movies in 2013

Oscar snubs Tintin, rewards foreign animation featuring females

This morning, Academy Award nominations were announced and “Adventures of Tintin” was left out of all categories except for best musical score. The snub is significant and surprising. Not only was “Tintin” directed by Hollywood darling Steven Spielberg, but it won the Golden Globe for best animated feature, usually a strong predictor for an Academy Award nomination if not the Oscar itself.

I couldn’t be more thrilled. I’ve written several posts about Herge, the creator of Tintin, and his disturbing thoughts about women. Herge believed that females had no place in Tintin’s imaginary world. What is so offensive and damaging about this sexism is that Hollywood would never allow an animated movie to be made in 2012 for kids where males were almost completely ignored. Yet, excluding females is just fine, even award-worthy. That’s because the male dominated cast of “Tintin” is consistent with most animated movies made for kids today. Leaving girls out of kids’ movies teaches children a horrible lesson: males are more important than females.

Not only did “Tintin” not get nominated for best animation but two foreign movies did. I haven’t seen either but both look as if they feature females in important roles.

“Chico and Rita” is summarized on

Chico is a young piano player with big dreams. Rita is a beautiful singer with an extraordinary voice. Music and romantic desire unites them, but their journey – in the tradition of the Latin ballad, the bolero – brings heartache and torment.

Just displaying a female so prominently on the poster is rare in animated films. This movie looks great, though I don’t think its for kids.

Here’s the synopsis for “A Cat in Paris” also from

Dino is a cat that leads a double life. By day, he lives with Zoe, a little girl whose mother, Jeanne, is a police officer. By night, he works with Nico, a burglar with a big heart. Zoe has plunged herself into silence following her father’s murder at the hands of gangster Costa. One day, Dino the cat brings Zoe a very valuable bracelet. Lucas, Jeanne’s second-in-command, notices this bracelet is part of a jewelery collection that has been stolen. One night, Zoe decides to follow Dino. On the way, she overhears some gangsters and discovers that her nanny is part of the gangsters’ team.

The cat in the title is a male and he is obviously the star of the film, but the little girl Zoe and her single police officer mom look great from the synopsis. I can’t wait to see this movie!

It’s clear that in order to award some diversity in animation, Oscar had to go outside of Hollywood and its male dominated world of kids cartoons. The other three Oscar nominations for animated features all go to films that star males and are titled for those males: Kung Fu Panda 2, Puss In Boots, and Rango.

This morning’s biggest winner scoring 11 nominations? “Hugo.” Another kids’ movie about a boy and titled for a boy.

But still, the “Tintin” snub is progress, right? Do you think Hollywood is reading Reel Girl? Starting to care about girls and the women they’ll become? Maybe not. Internet chatter suggests “Tintin” was left out because the Academy stipulates that motion-capture is not considered legitimate animation.

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