Disney/ Pixar male execs stop movies starring girls

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.

But, no.

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.

Disney bigwigs Ed Catmull and John Lasseterwww.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.”

Disney/ Pixar execs at 82nd Academy Awardswww.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.'”


Executives, Producers and stars of 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?



28 thoughts on “Disney/ Pixar male execs stop movies starring girls

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  2. Princess and the Frog anyone?

    and sheesh. They didnt call it “Tangled” to stop appealing to females, they did it to also appeal to boys. God forbid someone do something intelligent.

    • Yeah, Disney takes its princess seriously. Out of all the princesses in Disney films, only 11 are officially inaugurated with a parade and are featured in the parks.

    • But then why not do the same for little girls? Aid things to appeal to them? Should Aladdin have been called Thief and The Lion King been called The Lion Royalty in case little girls wanted to see them? No, because those films had a male protagonist.

      • Yes! And it kills me how all little kids are TRAINED from movies to books to cereal boxes, stories about boys are important and for everyone, but stories about girls are just for girls.


  3. Perhaps Pixar’s problem is within the ranks…in 25 years there has only been one female producer at Pixar. Is there a gender inequality problem at Pixar? I would love to hear form the females at Pixar to see if they believe they are skipped over for producre/director positions due to thier gender…

    Also the one women who was hired to be a producer was released halfway through the production of Brave…I would like to know why and if I should support this movie…

    • Stephanie,

      Totally agree about behind gender imbalance behind the scenes mirrors the gender representation in the movies! We need more women directors, writers, and producers and more women with $$$ in order to make change. Its not so much that men are sexist but just that they are men and women need to be the ones to tell our own stories.

      I am going to support Brave because I want Hollywood to know girls want movies about girls and I hope parents of boys take them to this movie.

      Thanks for visiting Reel Girl.


      • A studio can’t force women to be directors, writers, or producers. A studio especially shouldn’t hire women as directors, writers, or producers on the sole basis that they’re women if they’re not good at the job.

        • It really confuses me when people say this. If an opening arose at Pixar for a writing job and a man and a women applied equally talented, the women shouldn’t get it because she’s a woman but the man should get it because it is normative? Even when women in that particular industry are represented less? And why should men be the normative? That’s hardly equal?

  4. I rarely watch movies, but I would also be excited to see one with a female lead that was not about getting married (especially in a heteronormative sense). I loved Tangled, but in general I’m a potential audience member you [Pixar] are not getting right now.

  5. I don’t think they do it conscientiously. I think it’s all about the money, the franchise, and the merchandising. Disney has always made movies for the masses. Now with Lasseter pushing his baby-boomer nostalgia on us all – Cars and the poor little town being bypassed by a highway – I can’t hope for anything good for a while.

    Bit I did think Alice rocked it in Tim Burton’s latest version. I agree the ads pushed Johnny on us. But you got to have an audience.

    • Joe,

      I think it’s about money, but the absolutely easiest way to make a buck. Little boys will see movies about girls!!! It’s the parents of boys that freak out with their homophobia, laughing confidently, saying, “Oh, little Bobby would never watch that!” In what other area do we let (or pretend to let) 5 year old boys dictate their schedules and preferences and we blindly appease them? Perhaps we should install some of these kids in corner offices and give them multi-million dollar salaries.


  6. You know what’s ridiculous? The idea that little girls should come into the world and rely on DISNEY (a corporation) to fulfill their dreams and aspirations. That is the tragedy here, if anything, that you peg the self-esteem of little girls to Disney. Even so, Disney aren’t nearly as sttarved of strong female leads as you claim. You complained about Pirates of the Caribbean, but Elizabeth Swan is one of the strongest and most bad-ass characters in the film. You complain about Toy Story, but Jessie could kick both woody and buzz’s ass in a heartbeat. And don’t forget Mulan, who saves the entire Chinese Empire pretty much singlehandedly. Basically you are criticizing them for dropping their worst trash, the princess movies, when you should be celebrating. Especially with Disneys purchase of Marvel, we should be seeing a whole bunch of ass-kicking girls on screen in no time.

    • Max,

      Practically all the roles you list are supporting. There are plenty of strong female parts, but they are almost always secondary to the male parts. Girls need opportunties to see girl in starring roles with boys in supporting roles, helping them along their adventures.

      Mulan is the most feminist of the princesses, but you need to understand sexism to even understand her story. I had to explain to my daughters that some people believe girls can’t fight. The same thing with Ratatouille, I had to explain some people believe girls can’t cook. I’d rather, at age 4, my kids just witness girls doing cool things.

      It’s nice to say kids shouldn’t be influenced by all the imagery out there, but its not reality. That’s like saying gay people shouldn’t feel left out by all the heterosexuality imagery. When one story dominates and is ubiquitous, its challenging to find your own path.

      Thanks for visiting ReelGirl.


      • Thanks for your cordial reply Margot,

        You bring up some good points, I agree that there should be more female leads in kids movies, but like I was saying, this could be an opportunity for Disney to break out of the fairy tale mold that has held them back from doing so.
        I disagree with you on several points though, for example that men can’t make stories empowering for girls. If that’s the case then you would have to ensure that women had a fair representation in Hollywood for any positive movies to be made, which is never going to happen.

        I don’t understand why you would have to explain to your daughter that some people think girls can’t cook, I thought the stereotype was that boys can’t cook, or that for them to cook in unmasculine.

        And women are not a minority in the same way as LGBT persons are, they may be misrepresented by they are by no means underrepresented in media.

        When and if I ever choose to have kids, I would be sure to educate them that gender roles have only the meaning you place on them, that just because it’s a boy or girl doing it on screen doesn’t mean they can’t do it too. We are all human beings, and that entitles us to do whatever we can imagine, as long as we obey the golden rule.

      • Max,

        In response to your second comment:

        I do think men are capable of making empowering movies for girls. “Spirited Away” and “Ponyo” are great films by a male Japanese animator. But women bring their own life experience, perspectives and stories to filmmaking. When its mostly men making films, girls/ women often get the role of girlfriend not because men are sexist, but its the dominance of one perspective. Males would be stuck in a similar position if 99% of filmmakers were women. That’s why we need diversity and more women writers, producers, and directors. I don’t know why you think that will never happen.

        It’s true that cooking is looked at as female unless its awarded high status. Then males take over as is the case with most ‘great’ French restaurants. Waiters in France are also mostly male because its a higher status position than in America.

        Strong women are underrepresented in the media. Objectified women are everywhere.

        Agree with the golden rule 100%. I think when you have kids you’ll find its much easier to teach them when you have allies in the stories that are marketed to them.

        Thank you for visiting ReelGirl and for your comments.


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  8. This post is a put-on, right? Disney executives should disregard one of the most sophisticated marketing machines in the history of entertainment to appease someone’s gender politicized notions of kid-film equality? You are kidding, right?

    • Actually, no. Not kidding at all.

      It’s a myth that boys refuse to see movies about girls. And even if it were true, when do you let your five year old dictate anything? Kindergartners are dictating to franchises? The truth is parents freak out if their boys don’t conform to gender norms. Parents of boys encourage and reinforce trains and trucks, and often get nervous if their kids pick up dolls. Girls, on the other hand, are given princess toys and encouraged to spend hours dressing them and combing their hair.

      No one wants to see more movies about girls getting married. We want to see adventure movies starring girls, where girls go on magical quests and exciting adventures. We will happily pay our $10 for this.


      • Funny, as a child, I was given Legos and played with my brothers old Rescure Force toys. I do remember those thing had like 3/12 as girls… Well, I also dressed up as Cinderella tha year for Halloween, I was and still am lucky enough tha both my parents feel that men and women are equal. I’m eleven.:)

  9. The thing that gets me is that the Japanese can do animated shows with girls on adventures but the US (and Canada) is resistant to them.

    Consider Spirited Away which won an Oscar and is not only about a ten year old girl dealing with a rough situation but was made for ten year old girls, well actually one specific ten year old. And then there is a pile of TV animated series for ages from grad schoolers to adults with strong female characters.

    Often the shows are based on works written by women for girls and women. Disney needs to expand it’s horizons not narrow them.

    • Gilles,

      I absolutely love “Spirited Away” and practically anything he does; most recently, “Ponyo,” which was like a feminist version of the Disney/ American “The Little Mermaid.”


  10. Per Disney’s link on Facebook

    A headline in today’s LA Times erroneously reported that the Disney fairy tale is a thing of the past, but I feel it is important to set the record straight that they are alive and well at Disney and continue this week with Tangled, a contemporary retelling of a much loved story. We have a number of projects in development with new twists that audiences will be able to enjoy for many years to come. – Ed Catmull

    • Message to Ed Catmull:

      How many of these “projects in development” highlight girl characters in the movie’s title? What is the ratio of male characters to female characters?

      Ed, we’re all sick of princess movies! We’d love to see some movies with girls going on exciting adventures, that don’t mention marriage at all. We will pay to see these movies.

      Maybe you could hire some more female directors, animators, producers, and actresses? No offense, but I don’t think your current employees are the best pool for the kind of creativity and new directions you claim to be looking for.

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