If DreamWorks is ‘female driven studio,’ where are female protagonists?

The headline and photo from Hollywood Reporter:

“How DreamWorks Animation Became One of Hollywood’s Most Female-Driven Studios”


DreamWorks Animation's Dream Team

Jeffrey Katzenberg now employs far more women producers than men: “You can have a life and still work here.”

Great photo, nice quote, but I have two questions. How many directors of DreamWorks movies are women? How many protagonists in DreamWorks movies are female?

I think I can answer the second question.

Here’s a list of films from Hollywood’s “most female driven” studio. Out of 21 movies, 2 feature female protagonists. TWO. “Chicken Run” and “Monsters and Aliens.”

That’s great, Jeffrey! Awesome job.

The movies:

Shrek 1, 2, 3, all starring…SHREK!

Puss In Boots (Shrek spin off, giving another male protagonist his own film)

Prince of Egypt (Obvious, right?)

Wallace and Gromit (2 males)

Chicken Run (females in this one)

How to Train Your Dragon (Boy trains male dragon)

Kung Fu Panda 1, 2

Madagascar 1,2,3 (gang of 3 males, 1 female)

Over the Hedge (centers on male raccoon)

Bee Movie (Jerry Seinfeld, need I say more?)

Flushed Away (stars male rat)

Antz (stars Woody Allen)

Shark Tale (centers on a fish voiced by Will Smith)

Monsters versus Aliens (Reese Witherspoon stars in this one!)

Sinbad Legend of the Seven Seas (Obvious?)

Rise of the Guardians (Guardians are 4 males/ 1 female; centers on Jack Frost)

Did I miss something?


16 thoughts on “If DreamWorks is ‘female driven studio,’ where are female protagonists?

  1. I tend to find Dreamworks movies pretty formulaic. But to defend them a little bit…

    The best noninstrumental song in The Prince of Egypt is When You Believe which is sung by two of the female characters and the representation of the female characters is pretty good.

    Shrek is almost just as much about Fiona as it is about Shrek.

    Though I will say that this list has made me realize that Dreamworks films definitely have a type when it comes to a lot of their female characters. They are very feisty, sassy, stubborn, strong-willed, hostile… They almost overcompensate and in that way they begin to fall flat by approaching caricature.

    Examples: Chel (The Road to El Dorado), Fiona (Shrek), Roxanne (Megamind), Ginger (Chicken Run), Kitty Softpaws… I’m assuming (Puss in Boots), Tigress (Kung Fu Panda), Hippo character (Madagascar), Marina (Sinbad Legend of the Seven Seas)

    They all feel like variations on the same theme.

  2. Margot,
    What you are doing is priceless. I am 63 and have been through such a long, long journey/struggle/fight, misunderstood many times by women. There is still such a long way to go. And you are there, at the right spot, fighting. Congratulations.

  3. I think this disparity is not that bad when we see how many of the male centered movies are sequels, it feels odd to change protagonists in them. And to their defense, they had a movie based on this short planned: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=irbFBgI0jhM, I don’t know if they’ll do it now though, it’s been a long time since I last heard of it.

    • Hi Aninha,

      It’s 2 movie out of 21! If that is “not that bad” standards are way to low.

      As far as the sequel excuse, we’ll just be recycling the same male based narratives hundreds of years from now.


      • If you discount the sequels (5) and add Alma, it’s 3 out of 17, it’s definitely low, but dreamworks doesn’t stand out as far as studios go.

        • Well if you think of it as 3 out of 17, and all the other studios do the same, I guess that’s all ticketty-boo then. Seriously, can you tell us why you think girls deserve so much less than boys?

          Incidentally, Astrid totally deserves a spin-off movie. She seems like a Quest type to me.

          • I don’t think girls deserve less, I just don’t think dreamworks is worse than other studios as far as their ratios go. Does that mean that standards are awful? Yes, it does. I don’t see why we should bring attention to dreamworks in particular. So they’re proud they have a lot of female producers, these people love to pat themselves on the back for anything.

            And I agree that Astrid deserves her own spin-off. I wonder what they’d do with her character though, besides being “strong female” schlock she had little going on. What sorts of arcs or conflicts can you think up for her? I’m genuinely curious.

          • [reply to below, not sure it’s nesting properly]
            One thing I was delighted by in the short sequel to HTTYD, called “Gift of the Night Fury” was that Astrid, instead of being Hiccup’s straight man, got to be funny herself. And she was SO funny. Every time I see her say “the eggs explode” I laugh (and we have seen it many, many, many times in our household). So how’s this: Burke is discovered to be on a faultline that is gradually opening, and the whole town is about to fall into the sea. Rumour has it the rift is caused by the curse of a magical glacier dragon. The kids set off to find it, but there is a storm that drives most of them back. Astrid and her dragon (whose name they told us in GOTNF is “Stormfly”) make it through. Adventures ensue. Meanwhile the Elder (female character with no speaking lines in HTTYD) foretells that the rift can only be closed by the heir to the leadership of Burke. Everyone assumes this means Hiccup (comedy ensues), but it turns out to be Astrid, who returns with the appeased glacier dragon.

          • Hm, it sounds pretty interesting, yeah, I’d pay to see that. What do you think the moral arch could be? With Hiccup it was the old “defy tradition” thing.

  4. I think there needs to be a lot more discussion around what happens when women become powerful in ‘the industry’. Who benefits? Yes, those women do! But not necessarily women storytellers, especially if they tell stories about women.

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