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.
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:
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?