Category Archives: pixar

Poll: What’s Your Favorite Pixar Movie?

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There’s no meta this week on account of me getting back from California the night before. But while I was there I was at this place:

pixar

 

It got me thinking about what my favorite Pixar film is. I’ve always thought I didn’t have one since they’re all pretty amazing, but then I realized I do have a favorite. One I’ve watched more than the others, one I own on DVD, one I took with me to Italy and actually watched while I was on vacation. And that film is…

the incredibles logo

The Incredibles!!

I have such a soft spot for it for several reasons.

  1. Superheroes
  2. Family
  3. Violet
  4. Everything

Violet is one of the first characters I remember being told was like me. And um, I’ll take it. I love her so much. I was also really obsessed with forcefields and invisibility when I was younger.

incredibles 2 incredibles 1

 

And then she becomes a bamf.

incredibles 3 Who me? YES, YOU GIRL!

Plus, with moments like this:

incredibles 6 incredibles 5incredibles 8

incredibles 7

 

incredibles wheres my super suit

how can you not adore this film?

So The Incredibles is my favorite Pixar film. Which one is yours? Take the poll below and also tell us in the comments. Or maybe you can’t pick just one?

pixar in concert

Maybe you’re a Pixar super fan and have seen music from the films performed live! I know I have and it was awesome and I cried a lot. NO SHAME.

breakfast club fist pump yes reaction boss peggy sunglasses reaction

Either way, take the poll, leave a comment, and let’s all have a Pixar party together. 🙂

reaction wait fangirling freaking out mind blown

And guess what? HERE’S A BONUS POLL! Which upcoming Pixar movie are you most excited about?


 

Happy Saturday, people!

Back to our regular programming next week.

Cheers,

M&M

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Tackling Depression in Inside Out

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Inside Out is one of those films where you will hear adults sobbing in the audience. Job well done, Pixar. Numerous articles have already come out about the psychology behind the film and why the best character is the one left out of marketing, so I’m not going to talk about those. Instead I want to focus on how the film dealt with mental illness.

We champion Frozen as some pillar of achievement, especially because Elsa is often seen as a symbol of depression and anxiety. Inside Out took this exploration into mental illness a step further. When Riley loses Joy, Sadness, and her core memories, she exhibits symptoms of depression and doesn’t know what to do.

I’m going to start with a quick explanation of Core Memories, something the film makes up for the sake of storytelling. In Inside Out, Riley has about five very strong, powerful memories that supposedly make her who she is. One moment where she’s goofing off with her mom and dad is singled out as the genesis of the ‘goofball’ facet of her personality. Her scoring a goal makes up her love of hockey, another of her walking hand in hand with her best friend to symbolize her love of friendship. You get the point. These memories are stored in their own area and are very, very important.

inside out the accident oops

When Joy and Sadness have an argument and are ejected from Headquarters, it so happens all of Riley’s core memories go with them, hence destroying the facets of her personality. Joy and Sadness are in a race against the clock to restore the memories before Riley loses herself completely.

inside out how are we supposed to be happy

Now, the bulk of the film is spent following Joy (and mostly Joy), as she attempts to get back. But we do see snippets of how Riley is functioning without Joy, Sadness, and her core memories. Spoiler alert: It’s not good. Riley exhibits symptoms of depression, which we’re going to discuss now.

Loss of Interest in Hobbies and Irritability

This is biggest and most obvious one. Riley loves hockey, but when her family moves to San Francisco, she has to leave her team and friends behind. Her mom quickly finds her a new league in their new town, but Riley isn’t excited. She tries out anyway, but it goes poorly and she storms away. Riley ends up turning aggressive when she gets frustrated, and her mom is surprised; clearly this isn’t something that has ever happened before.

Riley’s irritability also comes through when her parents are talking to her and want to know about school in the famous dinner scene that’s been used to promote the film. Riley doesn’t want to talk about it and can’t keep her tone from verging on disrespectful. It ends in a yelling match that has Riley stomping to her room.

Loss of Appetite

Let’s stay on that same scene a bit longer. It’s dinner and both her parents are eating, but Riley just swirls her fork around the take-out carton, never actually eating anything.

inside out riley not eating

Earlier in the film we see her reject pizza in San Francisco, but that’s because she resents the idea of putting broccoli on pizza.

inside out broccoli pizza

inside out anger pizza ruined

In fact, Riley was the one that suggested to her mom they get food in order to lift the mood. But during dinner, after the fiasco with Joy and Sadness has happened, she’s not eating.

Difficulty Concentrating/Remembering

On Riley’s first day of school in the new town, she has to introduce herself. At this point, Joy and Sadness are still in Headquarters, so she hasn’t gone into a spiral yet.

However, Sadness keeps touching all the memories, turning them from happy to sad, almost as if she can’t help it.

inside out sadness touching core memories

This confused me for a bit, but now I’m going to explain it this way: Riley was already in a negative state of mind because of the move. Riley was already letting Sadness govern her (instead of Joy). She didn’t just fall into a depression because she lost her core memories. She was already struggling emotionally before Joy and Sadness went missing—which is really great since for awhile I was worried Riley’s depression would be magically fixed with Joy and Sadness returning while people actually struggling with depression don’t have such an easy healing process. Riley already struggling to function before the mishap shows that depression sometimes creeps up on a person.

When Riley needs to introduce herself to the class, she can’t focus (partly because Joy and Sadness are squabbling up in Headquarters and her memories keep changing) and ends up crying because she misses her home so much.

inside out core memory turning sad Sadness turning a happy memory being recalled to a sad one.

Feelings of Worthlessness

This one was done subtly, but I saw it in the scene where Riley video chats with her best friend from home. When Riley finds out that her friend has already made a new friend, she angrily ends the call (another sign of irritability) and presumably feels not too great about herself. How come her friend was able to move on so quickly? Doesn’t she miss her?

woe is me reaction

Difficulty Sleeping

This one is more due to Joy and Sadness messing around with Riley’s Dream Production for various reasons, but Riley has a nightmare and wakes up.

Persistent sad, anxious, or “empty” mood

Riley is obviously sad about the move to San Francisco. She left her home, friends, and familiar surroundings all for a rundown house, a new school, and a city that puts broccoli on pizza.

There’s a lot of anxiety around the move. Besides fitting in and trying to make new friends, Riley can also sense her parents’ tension. They moved for her dad and his job and Riley overhears her parents talking about money problems. Worse, the moving van with all their stuff goes missing and no one knows when their stuff will arrive. Having your things to make your new home homey and familiar can help moving go smoother and cause less stress, but they don’t have that luxury.

However, after her initial breakdown in school, she doesn’t cry again, until the end of the film, when equilibrium is finally restored. Riley tried to suppress her feelings of sadness and anxiety because her mom asked her to put on a smile. As a result, Riley seems to numb herself and since she doesn’t have Joy and Sadness, she’s not functioning properly. This made me think of Frozen and the “good girl” Elsa strives to be. Because Riley and Elsa are putting on a face, they’re not processing their emotions. They aren’t allowed to go through a spectrum of emotion and that numbs them, making them feel empty.

frozen strugglebus reactioninside out riley sad

The hardest part of watching Inside Out for me was seeing Riley become more and more numb to everything. She seemed like a shell of her herself.

Riley is for all intents and purposes empty. Her core memories are gone. The glass case that stored them is literally empty. And she embodies that, like I just mentioned.

Does Love Fix Everything?

Long time followers of AM know Mel and I have major beef with Frozen for how they closed Elsa’s story. Love is not the answer to every problem, especially mental illness. Inside Out, thankfully, knows that and did something different.

Riley appears depressed because Joy, Sadness, and her Core Memories are gone. So Fear, Anger, and Disgust have been left in charge of helping her function (spoiler alert: They suck at it).

inside out fear disgust anger fightinginside out fear disgust anger punch

Riley is not clinically depressed since not once are neurotransmitters mentioned—the chemicals in the brain that can get out of whack and cause mental illness or other neurological problems like Parkinson’s Disease. Naturally, Joy and Sadness returning to HQ and restoring her memories should be solution enough.

It’s not.

Now I cried a lot during Inside Out. I cried the most here.

the floor is my friend reaction

This is where the story cycles back to Riley feeling like she has to put on a brave face because her mom asked her. It also ties us back to Joy and Sadness and their own arcs. I mentioned Sadness had been touching memories, thus making them sad instead of happy. This freaked Joy out because of course you’d rather have happy memories, right? No one wants to be sad. But Joy, who has been trying so hard to be happy all the time, finally sees that being sad is a part of life. Nothing can be wholly happy.

inside out SADNESS SAVES THE DAY WOOOTTTT Sadness saves the day!

Joy gives Sadness control of Riley, finally letting her cry. Letting her feel the pain she was numbing herself to—just like Elsa, unable to experience a full range of emotions. Riley also opens up to her parents, who are there for her.

inside out sad end family hug

Because the good thing about being sad is that usually, happiness will follow. Joy and Sadness are able to join forces and new memories form that are happy and sad, not solely one or the other. It also means a lot to me that Riley’s core memories do become “sad” in the end since they will now carry a tinge of nostalgia and longing for her old home. But they also still make her happy.

my babies 1 reaction

Riley overcomes her depression not just by Joy and Sadness restoring order in her brain, but by Riley talking with her parents, the people who love her, and feeling the sadness she needs to in order to move forward.

If you are suffering from symptoms of depression and don’t know what to do please, please, talk to someone you trust because you and your life matter. 

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 800-273-8255

National Alliance on Mental Illness

Take care and love yourselves. 

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Cheers,

M&M

What’s in a Title? Exploring Gender and Naming Trends of the Disney Princess Movies

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Something that’s always nagged at me is the swap to gender-neutral titles for the later Disney Princess movies. Before then, Disney has always taken pride in naming movies after protagonists, so what changed? Let’s take a trip through titling history and find out.

Thus far, there are twelve Disney Princess movies. They are (in order):

  1. Snow White and the Seven Dwarves (1937)
  2. Cinderella (1957)
  3. Sleeping Beauty (1959)
  4. The Little Mermaid (1989)
  5. Beauty and the Beast (1991)
  6. Aladdin (1992)
  7. Pocahontas (1995)
  8. Mulan (1998)
  9. The Princess and the Frog (2009)
  10. Tangled (2010)
  11. Brave (2012)
  12. Frozen (2013)

Out of these, 7/12 either contain the princess’ name, or a title referring to her (ex: Sleeping Beauty, TLM). Two of these – Beauty and the Beast, and The Princess and Frog – involve a princess sharing a title with their love interest. There are a few reasons for this.

The majority of the Disney princess movies are named after the fairytale/legend they were inspired from. For example, Mulan comes from the Chinese legend of Hua Mulan, while The Little Mermaid was inspired by Hans Christian Anderson’s fairytale The Little Mermaid. (Seeing the similarities here?) Since Disney takes a lot of inspiration from myths and fairytales, they also tend to use the titles (or similarly stylized titles) as well. Makes sense, right?

reaction yes

The movies are also often titled with a name/title related to the protagonist to show 1) who the story is about, and 2) that this is the heart of their journey. For example, to take an example from a non-Princess movie, Hercules is about Hercules trying to discover who he is, and find his place in life. Mulan is about Mulan, who doesn’t feel like she fits into the confines of her society and breaks free of them when she joins the army and finally uncovers her true self. That’s why for #6, Aladdin makes sense as a title despite Jasmine’s heavy involvement in the plot. While Aladdin and Jasmine both get a bulk of the movie’s POV, Aladdin is the one whose journey we follow most. His character arc (proving his worth and showing everyone that he’s more than their assumptions) drives most of the plot. Thus, he inches ahead of Jasmine just a bit, making him the protagonist (main character) and her the deuteragonist (the secondary protagonist/second most important character).

The titles are also common sense: in marketing, you want to have a title that stands out and makes sense for the story you’re presenting to an audience. By naming their movies after the tale that inspired their story, or naming them after the protagonist, Disney makes it easy for an audience to see who and what their story is going to be about. Example: look at the title of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves: it’s pretty obvious that this movie is about Snow White and her seven dwarf friends. The Little Mermaid is about a mermaid. Beauty and the Beast is about a beautiful girl and a beast… You get the picture.

The other three are our latest Disney Princess installments: Tangled, Brave, and Frozen. Notice the stark difference in titling between the early movies and 10-12. All three of these are one-word titles that detail actions or attributes rather than a name or specific tale. So what changed?

The simple answer: Disney wanted to appeal to boys.

The longer answer: The Princess and the Frog was the last movie with traditional Disney styling: it had 2D animation and the fairytale-based name. However, PatF was considered a failure by Disney, despite its success with critics, because it grossed less than many of the other movies that came out earlier in the Renaissance. Disney’s marketing believed that the word “princess” in the title was part of what caused the failure, because it labeled the movie as being for little girls specifically.

seriously? reaction

Now, let’s talk about this for a second. Why does the word “princess” = only girls want this? Unfortunately, that’s because of a little thing called gender roles, and the gender stereotypes that come with them.

According to Psychology Dictionary, gender roles arethe pattern of behavior, personality traits and attitudes defining masculinity or femininity in a certain culture.” A problem with gender roles is that they can often lead to gender stereotypes: pegging girls as one thing and boys as another when that isn’t always the case.

Some examples of this include: Pink is for girls, blue is for boys. Girls are emotional, boys are stoic. Men are financial providers, women are caretakers of the home and kids. And, according to Disney, “princesses” are for girls.

Looking at it this way helps explain the title change: in trying to avoid losing out on a male audience, Disney does a 180 and decides to use more gender-neutral titles. It’s interesting to point out that before this, Disney hasn’t really focused specifically on appealing to a male audience with their princess movies. While they never used “princess” in their titles before now, that made sense considering they named their movies after the stories themselves. Most of their Disney Princess merchandise and advertising also relates directly to the Princesses themselves. (Our only exception would be Aladdin, because, as I said before, Aladdin is our main protagonist, so most of the promo would naturally focus more on him.) PatF happened to get unlucky, maybe because of “bad marketing” as Disney said, or maybe because Avatar opened just after it and swept the floor with every other movie out there. Whatever the reason, it led Disney to try something new, and this where the new titling began.

I’m going to go through each of the three movies in order and talk about titles, marketing, and why it’s important to note Disney’s approach to each of the movies. All three of these could have had more traditional movie names, but Disney (and Pixar, in the case of Brave) decided to avoid that. So let’s start with Brave.

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As some of you may know, there was a point in time when Brave was going to be called The Bow and the Bear instead.

bear-and-the-bow-preview

However, while some believe this was the initial title, Brave’s producer, Katherine Sarafian, admits that Brave was always the initial title, although they did consider The Bow and the Bear for a while:

Right, first off the title from the very beginning was BRAVE, so BEAR AND THE BOW was actually a later detour and then we came back to BRAVE. (x)

So why Brave? Mic pointed out to me that before Brave, Pixar hadn’t done a female-led movie, so I think that’s part of the name divergence from traditional princess titles. But in a way, Brave’s title tries back to tradition. Unlike Tangled and Frozen, which are more abstract, Brave is a trait, and one that’s at the heart of Merida’s journey. Much like Mulan, Merida’s journey is all about being brave enough to step out of the confines of the role she’s been placed in and change her fate. Early teasers for the movie illustrate this well with her father’s monologue, in which he talks about bravery:

Now, the advertising for Brave is really interesting, because this is where you can see the start of Operation Appeal to Boys. There’s lots of action: darkened forests with dramatic music, Merida on her horse riding quickly through the woods, the scene at the end with the bear and Merida aiming an arrow at it…

brave merida notching arrow

Merida’s face is also concealed for a large chunk of the teaser, which I found interesting. Did the advertisers want to focus less on her gender in fear it would turn away boys?

brave i cant even brave reaction

The later trailers showcase Merida better, but don’t focus much on Merida and her mother’s bond (although it does show them bickering quite a bit):

While this could be in order to avoid showing the twist (which was also part of the reason The Bow and the Bear was nixed as a title option), one might wonder if the mother/daughter bond, a highly important part of the plot, is ignored for fear it wouldn’t appeal to boys. While Brave had some great promos, ignoring Eleanor and Merida’s relationship loses out on a potential alternative way to draw in more viewers. Instead, the relationship comes as a pleasant surprise to those who weren’t expecting it, but is also frustrating at the same time because it gets no promotion.

brave bear mombrave that's my mother

brave merida and mom

There is some good in Brave’s promotion though. I like that the promo doesn’t classify bravery as a gendered trait (the use of “we” throughout the trailer). Brave is about a girl being brave, and the trailers showcase that. To this regard, Pixar does a better job at following Disney Princess tradition than Disney does in their next two Princess movies.

Next up: Tangled, where things get really sticky.

tangled-poster-0

Tangled went through quite a few title changes, as well as a ton of creative changes. (The concept was a lot different, and more of a spiritual successor to Enchanted, with two teenagers traveling to a fairytale world as a sort of reverse to Giselle winding up in the real world. Very, very different from the actual movie we got. Sounds cool though.)

Originally, Tangled was supposed to be called Rapunzel Unbraided, which 1) is a really awesome title, and 2) actually tells a lot more about Rapunzel’s journey. Much like Quasimodo, Rapunzel’s story is all about stepping out of her comfort zone, leaving behind the known safety of her tower and venturing out into the unknown to discover the world and see the lights. For this reason, Rapunzel Unbraided would’ve been so much more of a fitting title than Tangled.

rapunzel unbraided

(Note how different the writing is from how Tangled is written. It’s more glittery and “princess-y” – those elements are removed from the final logo to make it appear more “gender-neutral.”)

The styling was also incredibly different. While there was CGI involved, it was more 2D-based, and meant to look like traditional oil paintings in motion. This can be seen in the animation of Rapunzel’s hair for the title sequence, and in early test footage:

rapunzel unbraided hair flowing 1 rapunzel unbraided hair flowing 2

My reaction upon seeing this was:

this is the best reaction

totally awesome starkid reaction

Promptly followed by disappointment that Disney didn’t go in this direction.

stewart reaction why not just pull out my heart

Because Disney did not go in this cool innovative direction. Instead, we got the CGI style that they then uncreatively reused for Frozen.

come on reaction gif

not impressed reaction

:,( As someone who loves animation, this wounds me. Let me grieve what could’ve been.

waiting reaction

ugly sobbing reaction

Next up was the title change to Rapunzel.

rapunzel title

Not too drastic of a change title-wise; it relates back to the actual fairytale it was inspired by, it’s simple and to the point…so why did they change it? WHY MESS WITH PERFECTION?

It all leads back to Disney’s attempt to appeal to boys. In Disney’s mind, by changing the title to Tangled, it presents a more gender-neutral title. However, it actually ends up relating more to Flynn than it does Rapunzel, since he gets “tangled up” in Rapunzel’s plot. (One of the promos actually has a line that says “it takes two to get tangled,” which proves this point.) The promotion for the movie is also heavily focused on Flynn, making him out as the protagonist and Rapunzel as the Jasmine to his Aladdin, which is definitely not the case in the movie. The promo though, would like you to believe otherwise:

The focus on Flynn and his thieving antics/adventuring are yet another tactic to appeal to boys, and one that, like Brave, leaves out essential plot points like the fact that Rapunzel drives the majority of the movie with her journey. It also leaves out Rapunzel and Mother Gothel’s bond, which is hugely importantly to the plot. Again, we have a relationship between two women not shown to “appeal to boys” and it’s very unsettling. It devalues both women’s bonds and our lead woman herself, who doesn’t show up until halfway through the promo.

u serious right now? reaction

It also paints Rapunzel’s character as more of a tough girl/badass, and lacks the nuiance of who she really is as a character. It’s quite frustrating, but since we still have one last movie to cover, I’ll move on. (And express my frustration via gif.)

quinn's disdain reaction gif

Okay, onto Frozen!

disney frozen pic

Frozen was originally supposed to be The Snow Queen, since it was based off the fairytale of the same name by Hans Christian Anderson. The direction was a bit different initially, where Elsa was the antagonist rather than Hans. (As seen in early character sketches.

Disney's__The_Snow_Queen_

Thus, the title suggests an Elsa-heavy movie, considering well, she’s the Snow Queen.

seems legit reaction

Obviously over time, the direction changed, and Elsa became more sympathetic in nature. The title also changed to Frozen, which is kind of boring, but also like Brave makes sense in a way, considering how central Elsa and her powers are to the plot. Despite Anna being our protagonist, Elsa’s character arc has more depth and more of an impact on the plot, so the title being more related to her makes a lot of sense. What doesn’t make sense is the promotion.

The teaser for Frozen contains neither of the female leads and instead focuses on Olaf and Sven.

frozen wait what

That’s right! It focuses on a snowman and a reindeer, both of whom are minor characters. This is so insultingly “let’s avoid mentioning the women” that it makes me angry.

the lord is testing me reaction

It gets worse. The official promo is so insulting in so many ways that it makes me angry.

First, while the trailer focuses on Anna, Kristoff, Hans and Olaf, there’s a certain important character who is extremely neglected: Elsa. Like I said earlier, Elsa is our second protagonist, and drives quite a bit of the plot. But you wouldn’t know that, based on the five seconds we see her. She’s barely even in the trailer, even though she plays a huge part in the movie. It’s ridiculous.

rude copy reaction

Anna and Elsa’s relationship is also noticeably absent. For a movie that prides itself on being built on a sisterly bond, we really don’t see any of that promoted in the trailer. The only indication we get that Elsa and Anna are even related is when Anna says “that’s no a blizzard, that’s my sister!”

tmz 7 reaction

Just like Merida and her mother, and Rapunzel and Mother Gothel, Elsa and Anna’s relationship gets absolutely no focus whatsoever. Again, this gives me uncomfortable vibes that it was excluded in order to appeal more to boys.

Speaking of boys…we get a lot of focus on Kristoff, Hans and Olaf, especially in what I like to call “the most offensive trailer montage ever.”

frozen who 1

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frozen who 5

rejection reaction

This is such a messy promotional moment. First of all, these three guys are focused on before we even focus on Anna, which is insulting considering she is our protagonist – not Kristoff, not Hans, not Olaf, but ANNA.

Second, calling Anna “no man” is incredibly offensive. By having a category of guys/men and then saying “no man” Anna is being Othered based on her gender, which is really gross.

This whole promo is just not great. It’s misleading, focuses more on the guys in the movie than it does the two main characters, and worse, it has weird sexist undercurrents. By trying to appeal to boys, the advertising shuns girls and worse, Others them. We as a society already have a huge problem with women not being valued and viewed as unimportant, and the dismissive early promotion for Frozen does exactly that. What makes this sadder is that The Snow Queen (the original fairytale) has a lot of crucial female characters. Seeing only two women in the cast – and worse, undermining them and their roles – is spitting on the original tale in an awful way.

star vs. evil sad face

Conclusion

A title says a lot about a story. For Disney, their drastic 180 in titling shows their attempt to hook a male audience by hiding crucial female relationships as well as their female characters. Disney’s titles used to have merit and tell a lot about the story. Now, they feel flat and lack depth. Disney’s next princess movie is Moana. Since the title is reminiscent of older (/more awesome) titles like Pocahontas and Mulan, this could be a sign that they will 180 back and show more respect to their female audience. However, Disney has a lot to prove, and considering how poor their previous promotions have been, I won’t get my hopes up just yet. We’ll have to wait and see what the future brings, and hope it’s a lot less rage-inducing.

What do you guys think? Let us know in the comments!

Animated Meta can be followed on Twitter and Tumblr. Have a great weekend!

Cheers,

M&M

 

Works Cited

Pam. (n.d.). What is Gender Role? Retrieved May 29, 2015, from Psychology Dictionary: http://psychologydictionary.org/gender-role/

Sarafian, K. (2012, April 13). Exclusive: Katherine Sarafian, Producer of Pixar’s ‘Brave,’ Talks Director Controversy, Pixar’s Reaction to the Chilly ‘Cars 2′ Reception And More. Retrieved May 29, 2015, from SlashFilm: http://www.slashfilm.com/film-interview-katherine-sarafian-producer-pixars-brave-talks-controversy-marketing-cars-2-reactions/

 

 

 

Princesses Need Friends Too: The Problematic Lack of Positive Female Interactions (and Friends) in Disney Princess Movies

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Disney only has two sets of female friendship in the Disney princess movies. I repeat: only two sets of female friends. That’s really, really bad. Come to think of it, Disney Princess movies in general are lacking in positive female interactions. Either we get a lack of women present, or their relationships are antagonistic in nature. There are a few proud exceptions, but not many.

Don’t believe me? Let’s take a quick trip through the halls of Disney Princess history and explore the nature of female relationships.

 

Snow White and the Seven Dwarves

The only two women in this movie are Snow White and her stepmother, the Evil Queen. And Snow White’s stepmother spends the majority of the movie trying to kill her because of her beauty, which doesn’t make for a healthy relationship. It’s interesting that the only two women we have in this film have an antagonistic relationship relating to beauty and power; it says a lot about women in society, who are often set up as competitors rather than coworkers. It’s a no for Snow.

mary margaret says no

Cinderella

Good news: Cinderella has a stepmother and stepsisters, which is a step up from Snow White. Bad news: her stepmother is the worst, and her stepsisters aren’t much better.

cinderella and stepmother

Instead of being treated like family, Cinderella is made into a servant by her stepfamily and constantly put down/ridiculed by them. There’s another antagonistic set-up here, with Cinderella’s stepsisters seeking marriage to the prince, and Cinderella inadvertedly coming into competition with them when she meets Prince Charming and falls for him.

There are also a few female mice, but Cinderella doesn’t seem particularly close to them. 😦 So no.

Sleeping Beauty

Our first sign of positive interaction: Sleeping Beauty gives us Briar Rose (aka Aurora) and the three fairies that raise her in seclusion to protect her from Maleficent. While the fairies tend to be a little oblivious, they mean well, and they take good care of Briar Rose. From the few interactions we see of theirs, it’s evident they care a lot about her, and want her to be happy. The surprise party for her birthday is a great example. Despite their no magic rule, they’re willing to go around it to make her present and her cake the absolute best. Nothing but the best for their Briar Rose!

sleeping beautiy cake candles life copy

They also play a key role in getting Prince Phillip free and giving him the tools he needs to defeat Maleficent, so that they can save Aurora. And then there’s that sweet scene when they tuck Aurora in under the sleeping curse, much like a parent tucking their child in.

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While Aurora doesn’t have female friends, since she’s secluded in the woods, the fairies are maternal figures to her, so I’m going to fill this one under “sort of.” It could be better, but it’s progress.

The Little Mermaid

Ariel falls into the start of the “daughters with missing mothers and great relationships with their fathers” trend. Guys, I think Ariel’s relationship with Triton is awesome. And I think it’s important that Disney conveys so many great father-daughter relationships in their films. However, the lack of mother figures is really depressing, and I think it’s sad that like in most of the Disney princess movies, Ariel has a mother who isn’t around. It’s also sad that Ariel is one of seven sisters, and barely even interacts with her sisters throughout the movie. A woman she does interact with a lot is Ursula, the female antagonist, who spends the movie plotting against Ariel, steals her voice, and attempts to sabotage her relationship with Eric. No for Ariel.

little mermaid crying

Beauty and the Beast

B&TB doesn’t have a lot of women. The three most prominent ladies in Belle’s village are a set of blonde triplets who aren’t displayed in the best light. They fawn over Gaston and basically exist to be his fangirls.

beauty anf the beast fangirling  copy

In the castle, we have Belle’s wardrobe, who is nice, and we have Mrs. Potts, who is awesome, but she doesn’t interact with either of them a lot. So no.

Aladdin

Jasmine is our only prominent female character, which is really sad, because I would’ve loved if Jasmine had a friend. Poor girl is lonely in that castle with only her tiger to keep her company. Nope.

aladdin done w your shit

Pocahontas

YES. Pocahontas is one of our few Disney princesses with a female best friend, who happens to be awesome. Nakoma and Pocahontas’ friendship is fantastic. They squabble like sisters, gossip about everything (including cute boys), and just hang out like most girls do.

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Out of the two, Nakoma is the more level-headed and reasonable one, who tries to keep Pocahontas from doing anything too insane. But she’s also loyal, and tries to trust her friend’s judgment, even when she’s a bit unsure of Pocahontas sneaking around with John Smith.

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And while Pocahontas’ mother isn’t around, she does have a grandmother figure around in Grandmother Willow. She’s the one that Pocahontas goes to when she’s in need of guidance, a good listening ear, or just for comfort in times of strife. While Grandmother Willow never tells her what she should doing, she instead teaches Pocahontas to trust her intuition and follow her heart, allowing her to become a stronger leader and have more faith in herself and her decisions.

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Mulan

Mulan has won the parental lottery, guys, because she not only has a father and a mother, but she also has a grandmother! Sadly, like a lot of the princesses, Mulan’s bond with her father gets more focus than her bonds with her mother and grandmother. Mulan also doesn’t have any female friends, although in her case, it’s slightly more forgivable considering she’s posing as a man in the army and ends up surrounded by dudes. So no, but one that’s slightly more forgivable than other films due to the circumstances involved.

mulan horse

The Princess and the Frog

Heck yes. This movie is the jackpot of female relationships in my opinion. There is this really awesome close-knit relationship between Tiana and her mother. There’s a years-long friendship between Charlotte and Tiana. There’s even a powerful woman named Mama Odie who assists our heroine on her adventure. But since Mama Odie is more supernatural assistance than friend, I’m going to focus on Tiana and her mom, and Charlotte and Tiana.

Tiana and her mom are awesome and close. We don’t get to see a lot of their interactions, but we get a nice glimpse of them when we see little Tiana, and we get a great scene where Tiana shows her mom the restaurant she wants to lease, which leads into “Almost There.” Unfortunately, after that, we don’t get much interaction from them, since Tiana is a frog for a majority of the movie.

Tiana/Charlotte we do get a lot of. We get a glimpse of little Tiana and little Lottie at the beginning of the movie, showing how long they’ve been friends, and they’re still close when we see them again.

princess and the frog ickle besties

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Despite differing social class and race, Tiana and Lottie have a really strong friendship. Lottie knows Tiana well enough to know she can’t give her bestie any handouts, so she does things like hiring Tiana’s catering services so she can pay her and give her the remaining funds she needs to achieve her dream. She also lends Tiana a new outfit when hers gets ruined at the party, which is total best friend behavior.

princess and the frog

Lottie also cares a lot about Tiana and her happiness. Like Tiana has her restaurant dream, Lottie’s dream is to be a princess. (Which I’m pretty sure a lot of us dreamed of, once upon a time.) When Naveen and Tiana fall in love while they’re stuck as frogs, Lottie offers to kiss him and forgo her dream of marrying into royalty, because she can see how much the two of them care for each other and there’s no way she’s getting in the way of that.

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These two are fantastic. The whole movie could’ve just been about them being awesome and I would’ve been content.

princess and frog lottie catches the bouquet

Tangled

Tangled has Rapunzel, Mother Gothel, and Rapunzel’s mother. Rapunzel doesn’t get a ton of time with her mother, but we see her with baby Rapunzel at the start, we see her and her husband’s grief after losing their daughter, and we see her at the end when she reunites with Rapunzel. It’s sad we don’t get a ton to go on, but the end of the movie establishes what should be the start of a prosperous mother-daughter relationship, so at least that’s something.

tangled hug

Mother Gothel and Rapunzel have a painfully abusive relationship. Mother Gothel berates and terrifies Rapunzel into submission to break her spirit and keep her in the tower. She wants Rapunzel to be dependent on her, so that she can harass the power of her hair and stay alive. Not exactly a healthy relationship.

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She may have a budding relationship forming with her mother, but sadly, Rapunzel doesn’t really have any female friends. Boo.

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Brave

I haven’t seen all of Brave, but I do know one thing: Merida, like Tiana, has a close relationship with her mother, and their bond is a big part of the movie’s plot.

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Merida’s mother and Merida don’t always see eye to eye: they have different goals and outlooks, and Merida doesn’t always live up to her mother’s expectations, thus, they butt heads a lot. But Merida cares deeply for her mother, and vice versa. Merida’s accidental wish – and her attempt to undo it – bring mother and daughter closer together as the movie goes on.

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I think this is probably the biggest mother-daughter focus we get out of any of the Disney Princess movies, which is pretty awesome because the bulk of Disney Princess relationships tend to be between fathers/daughters, or a princess and their significant other.

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While we do get a mother-daughter relationship, Merida doesn’t have any female friends though, which is sad. Maybe we can get one in a sequel? 😉

Frozen

And finally, we have Frozen. Frozen is kind of a weird one, because the only two prominent women in the movie are the leads, Anna and Elsa. Anna and Elsa sisters, who used to share a close bond that Anna is hoping to rekindle, despite Elsa’s avoidance of her. However, Frozen doesn’t do a great job of displaying their relationship.

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Elsa and Anna are separated for a majority of the movie, and while they connect a little at the palace after Elsa’s coronation, they’re quickly separated afterwards, and only interact for a short time before Elsa’s powers freeze Anna’s heart and Anna and Kristoff are forced to flee. Next interaction: Anna steps in just in time to stop Hans from cutting down Elsa. Her act of true love both saves Elsa and defrosts her own heart, which is a nice twist.

frozen hug

I think Frozen is a draw for me. Elsa and Anna are close, and I enjoy the bond between them. It would’ve been nice though to see their bond better fleshed out, and see more women in the movie in general.

 

Conclusion (Aka, Why Is This So Important, Mel?)

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Much like the Bechdel test, checklisting whether a movie contain female friendships or not doesn’t mean that it is a failure. However, it’s telling that there are only two prominent female friendships, and three strong mother-daughter bonds, within 12 Disney princess movies. Why are father-daughter bonds and romantic bonds prioritized over female friendships and mother/daughter bonds? Why are so many of the female interactions in Disney films negative and antagonistic in nature? In a society where women are torn down, pitted against each other, and strive to be “one of the boys”, positive female interactions in Disney movies, especially Disney princess movies, might promote stronger female relationships in everyday life for young girls and women. (It would also be good for boys as well, and it’d be nice to see more parents take an initiative to be more gender-neutral, but that’s another post in itself.)

Do you think Disney movies need more positive female interactions? What are your favorite Disney bonds? Let us know in the comments!

Follow Animated Meta on Tumblr and Twitter. Have a happy Saturday!

Cheers,

M&M

Do Animated Movies Pass the Bechdel Test?

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It’s time to put animated films to the test and find out which ones pass the Bechdel Test!

The Bechdel test has three requirements:

  1. at least two named women in the film
  2. that talk to each other
  3. about something other than a man

Disney:

  • Snow White and the Seven Dwarves:

There are two women, Snow White and the Evil Queen. They don’t talk until the very end of the film when the queen tricks our heroine into eating the fatal apple. The conversation, though, veers very closely towards what men want: “The little men are not here?” “Making pies? … It’s apple pies that make the men folks’ mouths water.”
So just barely, this one gets a yes.

  • Pinocchio:

There’s only one woman in this film, the Blue Fairy.
So by default, no.

  • Dumbo:

There’s the crew of lady elephants that make fun of Dumbo and tell Jumbo (his mom) to unwrap him faster (when the stork brings him), but that’s not a conversation.
No

  • Bambi:

Devoid of two females that communicate.
No

  • Cinderella:

A lot of Cinderella’s interactions with her stepmother and stepsisters can’t count as conversations since she’s mostly being ordered around. But we do have one kind interaction between Cinderella and her Fairy Godmother, plus the stepsisters bickering about music class, dresses, and how much they despise Cinderella. Disney has their first film that earns it’s passing grade. Cinderella gets a lot of criticism for its love story, but it’s important to note that Cinderella just wants a night off, to go to a party. She didn’t ask to meet the prince and fall in love, that was just a perk.
YES!

  • Alice in Wonderland:

Alice doesn’t meet the Queen of Hearts until the end of the film, up until then everyone she met in Wonderland was male. When she meets the queen, their discussion consists mostly of Alice trying to keep her head.
Yes

  • Peter Pan:

Wendy is the main female in this film and though her relationship with Tinkerbelle is shrouded in jealousy, they do have an exchange briefly in the beginning of the film, though it is not a direct conversation. Tink says something in her language and Wendy responds, “I think she’s lovely.” They, however, are talking to each other through Peter, so I can’t consider this a conversation. Tiger Lily has maybe only one line of dialogue, when she says “No,” to Hook. The only named  female (cause we do have the mermaids) left is Mrs. Darling and she and Wendy have limited time together by nature of the story, but they talk in the beginning and again at the end.
So, kinda sorta, yes.

  • Lady and the Tramp:

Lady is surrounded by men: her two friends Trusty and Jock, Tramp, and Jim Dear. Lady eventually meets another female dog, Peg, but their conversation revolves around Tramp and his past lovers. Finally, there’s Si and Am, the Siamese cat twins and they have a song about ruining Lady’s life, but that’s not a conversation.
No

  • Sleeping Beauty:

Maleficent talks with the fairies—or more like mocks them towards the end. The fairies themselves talk a lot: for example, the argument they have over the color of Aurora’s dress, and their plans for Aurora’s surprise party. Aurora also talks to the fairies, but most of the time the fairies and Aurora spoke about the man she met in the woods and was forced to leave. If not for Maleficent and the fairies, this movie might not have passed.
Yes

  • 101 Dalmatians:

Praise Cruella De Vil! When the puppies are born, she talks with Anita and their Nanny about the states of the puppies and when she can buy them. She does take jabs at Roger, but that’s not the whole of their conversation. Anita and Nanny also mourn the loss of their adorable puppies. [Does Nanny technically constitute as a named character?] Regardless, we have Cruella and Anita discussing the dogs.
Yes

  • The Sword in the Stone:

I’ve never seen this movie from start to finish, but when I googled it, it came up as a fail.
No

  • The Jungle Book:

No females, except wolf mommy and the girl meant to lure Mowgli into manhood. Tsk, tsk.
No

  • The Aristocats:

We’ve got Duchess and one of her babies, Marie, that have no time to talk about men. They have way bigger things to worry about.
Yes

  • Robin Hood:

I don’t remember Maid Marian and her friend talking about anything besides Robin Hood, but the internet is telling me this is a pass. Anyone have a reason it is? Till then I’m marking it,
No

  • The Rescuers:

It’s been ages since I’ve seen this, but we have a female villain, female protagonist, and one of the Rescuers was female. There’s lots of female interaction going on here.
YES

  • The Fox and the Hound:

No two female characters.
No

  • The Black Cauldron:

Similar to a few other films, I haven’t seen this either and googled it. It got a yes.
Yes

  • Oliver and Company:

There is Jenny and Georgette, though they never speak to each other on account of one being human and the other a poodle.
No

  • The Little Mermaid:

Ariel and Ursula are the only female characters (besides Ariel’s sisters but they are not significant, sadly) and they don’t have an actual conversation. Ursula manipulates Ariel via song and Poor Unfortunate Souls is more about Ursula’s view of things than it is about Ariel’s love interest. Because of the lack of a real conversation, this fails.
No

  • Beauty and the Beast:

This is painful, but Belle only talks with Mrs. Potts and her closet about the Beast. Lumiere’s main squeeze informs Mrs. Potts that “There’s a girl in the castle!” but that’s not a real conversation. The only time Belle talks with Wardrobe about something other than the Beast is about what she’s going to wear and well… um… does Wardrobe count as a name? She never introduces herself that way and all the other main characters are not so obviously named after what object they are (Cogsworth, Lumiere, Chip, etc).
No

  • Aladdin:

Jasmine is the only female character.
No

aladdin done w your shit

  • The Lion King:

There’s a scene where Nala talks with her mom, briefly, but I don’t believe Nala’s mom has a name. Other than that, this a pretty male populated film.
No

  • Pocahontas:

Pocahontas and Nakoma mostly talk about men (“Your father’s back!,” “He is so handsome.”), but Pocahontas and Grandmother Willow talk about her dreams and her future.
Yes

  • Hunchback of Notre Dame:

Esmeralda and that one lone gargoyle are the only female characters and they never interact.
No

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(Not impressed, Disney)

  • Hercules:

Meg, Hera, Hercules’ adopted mom, and the Muses are the female characters of this film and while the Muses sing, telling us the story, that is not a conversation. Meg does not speak to another woman, same goes for Hera and the human woman that adopts Hercules.
No

  • Mulan:

Mulan certainly has conversations with the female family members in her life. She also speaks to the matchmaker. Unfortunately, these conversations are either about marriage or about her father.
No

  • Tarzan:

Jane is the only human female character. Tarzan’s gorilla mom and his friend Terk are the only female gorillas we encounter and I believe their conversations revolve around Tarzan.
No

  • The Emperor’s New Groove:

Yzma goes to visit Patcha’s family in an attempt to gain information about our favorite llama. The conversation is all about stalling Yzma from going after them and earlier in the film, the kids want to know why their dad isn’t home yet.
No

  • Atlantis:

Abstained

  • Lilo & Stitch:

Our protagonists are two sisters and their conversations range in topics.
YES!

  • Treasure Planet:

No

  • Brother Bear:

Lacking female characters.
No

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(I know, right?)

  • The Princess and Frog:

I can’t recall if Tiana and Lottie discuss anything than kissing frogs and Lottie getting married, but Tiana and her mom talk about her dream of owning a restaurant.
Yes

  • Tangled:

Rapunzel and Mother Gothel’s manipulative relationship underpins this whole film.
Yes

tangled WHAT THE FUCK

(Rapunzel: We couldn’t get one other woman?)

  • Wreck it Ralph:

Yes

  • Frozen:

Anna and Elsa don’t talk much, being separated for most of the film, but when they do it’s not always about Elsa telling Anna not to marry Hans. They talk about familial love and Anna tries to encourage Elsa to come home.
Yes

  • Big Hero 6:

I haven’t seen this yet and I’m seeing yeses and noes online, so this will be an abstained for now.
Abstained

Total: 37
Pass: 15
Fail: 20
Abstained: 2

It’s interesting to note how many films pass because of mainly MC/Villain interaction. Percentage that pass for this reason: 53% (Snow White, Alice in Wonderland, Tangled, Cinderella, The Rescuers, Sleeping Beauty, & 101 Dalmatians)


Dreamworks:

  • The Prince of Egypt:

While getting points for diversity and having some impressive ladies, there are no actual conversations between them that don’t revolve around a man. There is a song, but that is not a conversation.
No

  • The Road to El Dorado:

Chel is the only female character.
No

  • Shrek:

Fiona is the only female character, besides a dragon.
No

  • Spirit Stallion of the Cimarron:

Rain is the only named female character.
No

  • Madagascar:

Gloria is the only named female character.
No

  • Kung Fu Panda:

Tigress and Viper are two named female characters, but one brief exchange does not count as a conversation.
No

  • How to Train Your Dragon:

Astrid and Ruffnutt are two amazing female characters. They don’t talk much, but there are blips of back and forth between them.
Yes

  • Rise of the Guardians:

Tooth is the only female character of merit.
No

  • The Croods:

Haven’t seen this, but the internet says pass, though just marginally.
Yes

  • Mr. Peabody and Mr. Sherman:

Haven’t seen this and the internet scathes it.
No

  • Turbo:

Haven’t seen this. Just barely passes according to the internet.
Yes

  • Flushed Away:

Internet says no.
No

  • Bee Movie:

Internet says no.
No

 (Author’s Note: Yo Dreamworks is doing soooooo bad!)

  • Over the Hedge:

Internet says no.
No

Total: 14
Pass: 3
Fail: 11

crying breakddown snow white do you feel the judgement have i been put on this earth to suffer ron kp kim possible


Pixar:

  • Toy Story:

No

  • A Bug’s Life:

Yes

  • Toy Story 2:

No

  • Monsters Inc.:

No

  • Finding Nemo:

No

  • The Incredibles:

Mrs. Incredible frequently tells Violet she’s in control and talks to the babysitter. However, the only time she has a real discussion of merit with another female character, it was with Edna and mostly over what her husband’s been up to. It passes on the strength of the family dynamic.
Yes

  • Cars:

No

  • Ratatouille:

No

  • Wall-E:

No

  • Up:

No

  • Toy Story 3:

Yes

  • Cars 2:

No

  • Brave:

YES

  • Monsters University:

No

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Man, Pixar, why. Why is there no place for women in your world?

Gifstrip’s post notes that Pixar has created some fantastic ladies, but there are far fewer female characters than male ones and these women don’t tend to have meaningful interactions with other women. Dory seems to be the only female fish in the ocean in Finding Nemo, while Bo Peep—Toy Story’s sole female toy—is cut from the second film with a single line of dialogue. Considering half of the population is female, why can’t Pixar populate its worlds with a bit more equality? [x]


Non-Disney/Dreamworks:

  • Anastasia:

Anastasia and her grandmother talk about their family.
Yes

  • Ice Age:

Not a single female character.
No

  • Rio:

Anne Hathaway is the only female character, besides Blue’s owner.
No

  • Epic:

Queen Beyonce talks to MK briefly about the importance of protecting the pod. There’s also the young girl that adores Queen Beyonce and tells her mother she wants to be her (spoiler alert: she does!).
Yes

(skip to :50)

  • Despicable Me:

Yes, our three children long for a family.
Yes

  • Quest for Camelot:

Kaylee and her mother are the only female characters and thankfully they talk to each other.
Yes

  • The Swan Princess:

Odette and Derek’s mother are the only female characters, besides Rothbart’s lackey, but neither of them speaks to each other.
No

Total: 7
Pass: 4
Fail: 3


The Bechdel Test is the not a perfect test, but it gives you an idea how what kind of roles are out there for women. It’s startling to see that a multitude of films don’t even have more than one female character! That’s just not an accurate representation of the world.

The Bechdel Test is also not an accurate representation of how feminist a film is, because films like Beauty and the Beast, Mulan, and Shrek do not pass the test.

Beauty features an MC that knows who she is and is unafraid to be that person. She loves books and she loves her father, characteristics that make her seem alien to the town. She refuses to marry a shallow and egotistical man that sees her as nothing more than a prize. She can see past an ugly exterior and even an ugly interior if that person is willing to change.

Mulan features a female warrior, but she ultimately defeats Shan-Yu not as a woman pretending to be a man, but as a woman. She uses her intelligence, fighting skills, and a traditionally feminine fan to save the day. The majority of her conversations with her family are around her father or about getting married. For this reason, Mulan does not pass, but it should not be looked down upon for this failing.

In Shrek we meet princess Fiona, a character that completely subverts the common princess mold we’ve seen. She’s pretty and dreaming of her happy ending, but she can’t sing, is a fighter, and ends the movie as an ogre.

Side note: It is 2014. There is one kind of feminism. The kind that wants equality for the sexes. Nothing else. First wave of feminism, second, etc they are all relative to the time period they were in. Today, for us, we’re in 2014 and feminism has one, simple definition: social, political, and economic equality between the sexes.
This site is not here to debate the meaning of feminism. This site operates with the above meaning of feminism.

What do you think? Do you agree with our ratings?

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Cheers,
-M&M!

Buzz Lightyear and Freud’s Defense Mechanisms: Denial

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Buzz Lightyear is a character from the 1995 film Toy Story by Pixar Animation Studios. Upon first viewing, his character seems nothing more than an amusing space ranger that threatens Woody’s status as Andy’s favorite toy. But with further investigation, it becomes apparent that the funny little space ranger is more than he seems.

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Sigmund Freud would describe Buzz as someone using a defense mechanism to the extreme, leading to a maladjusted personality. Yes, we’re about to get psychological here. All for fun, of course.

Defense mechanisms help people cope. They don’t change our reality, rather they distort our perception of it (Carducci, 2009). Sigmund Freud pioneered the idea of defense mechanisms in his psychodynamic theory of personality (Carducci, 2009). No matter how many times Buzz is told he’s a toy and not a space ranger and even given concrete evidence of this (ie, his laser not working), he hangs onto this belief that he is, in fact, a space ranger and needs to get home to defeat the Evil Emperor Zerg.

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Freud would say that Buzz is in denial. And Buzz’s denial is prevalent throughout most of the story. It is his mind’s way of reducing anxiety to keep him in balance.

When he arrives in Andy’s bedroom, his first lines are, “Buzz Lightyear to Star Command, come in Star Command. Star Command, come in, do you read me? Why don’t they answer?” With a single line, the magnitude of Buzz’s denial is obvious. Then he notices his “space ship” has been wrecked (which is what happens when kids rip open the box that holds their new toy captive). Buzz is in physical distress and records a mission log saying he was run off route on his way to sector twelve. Sector twelve is now Andy’s bedroom and Buzz claims that the impact awoke him from hyper sleep. He looks at his gamma gauge, which is actually a sticker, searching for information about the air quality. He goes through all the motions of what an actual space ranger has been trained to do.

Upon meeting Woody, Buzz jumps into defense mode.

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He uses his laser, which is actually a red light that does nothing (but would probably amuse children). The laser is useless and Buzz seems indifferent to this, denying it. Instead, he turns to focus on repairing his ship’s turbo boosters. He wants to know if we, “still use fossil fuels or have [we] discovered crystallic fusion?”

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Woody, flummoxed, has no chance to respond as the rest of the toys appear and Buzz again shifts into Scary Space Ranger Mode. He relies on his laser for the hundredth time, but upon confirmation from Woody that the new arrivals are safe, allows them to come closer. He allows them, as if he’s the one in charge. The brave, commanding space ranger immediately takes control of the situation and is already ordering people around. The denial feeds his image of being a powerful space ranger, giving him confidence.

When asked where he’s from, there’s a joke about all toys being produced overseas, but Buzz doesn’t understand. He says that he’s stationed up in the gamma quadrant of sector four. The other toys embrace being a toy, but not Buzz. The denial allows him to be bigger than them.

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The toys then proceed to fawn over Buzz’s gadgets and Buzz cautions them about the power of his oh, so dangerous laser. When Woody calls him a toy, Buzz responds with the most telling line: “I think the word you’re searching for is space ranger.”

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Buzz’s denial knows no bounds. He’s surrounded by a toy dinosaur, a Mr. Potato Head, and a cowboy doll in a child’s bedroom, but he holds onto his belief of being a great space ranger. Buzz refutes being made of plastic and is insulted at the insinuation he can’t fly, because he’s a toy.

With Buzz’s arrival the dynamic in the room changes. Woody, who was once Andy’s favorite toy, is now second best to Buzz Lightyear, the brave space ranger.

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Buzz spends his free time repairing his ship and exercising, as space rangers have diligent fitness routines. When Woody flips out on Buzz and tells him to stop putting up the space ranger act, Buzz responds with, “Are you saying you want to lodge a complaint with Star Command?” When defense mechanisms are used to the extreme, a person does not even realizing what they’re doing (Carducci, 2009) and Buzz seems to have no clue. The magnitude of his denial is obvious when Woody opens Buzz’s space helmet. Instead of taking a breath, he panics, falls to the floor like he’s suffocating. In actuality, he’s just being overdramatic about the whole thing. He even dry heaves before murmuring, “The air isn’t… toxic?” Then: “How dare you open a space ranger’s helmet on an uncharted planet.” An uncharted planet! The denial is so strong! “My eye balls could have been sucked from their sockets.” Then he closes his helmet. This is in an effort to maintain his denial and emphasize the divide between them; he’s not like them and the helmet helps protect him. The helmet is a physical reminder that they are toys and he is a space ranger.

Interestingly enough, it’s never mentioned how Buzz views Andy playing with him. The only time he acknowledges Andy around the toys is when Andy writes his name on the bottom of Buzz’s space boots. Even then he describes Andy as, “Your chief,” not “Our chief.” Does Andy waving Buzz around the room, imagining games for him where he saves the day, have no affect on him? While his flying demonstration miraculously worked out:

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The amount of times Buzz has attempted to attack someone with his laser only to have nothing happen, doesn’t deter him. It’s almost as if he can’t even see the laser not having its desired affect. “Melt him with your scary laser,” Woody mocks, pushing the button. “Be careful with that! It’s extremely dangerous.” No, it isn’t. But Buzz refuses to see it. Just like he doesn’t appear to even register Andy treating him as a toy.

When Woody and Buzz end up stranded at a gas station, Andy having driven off with his mother, Woody is paranoid about being a lost toy. He needs to find a way to get home, but Buzz has other priorities. In his intense denial, Buzz believes that his arch nemesis Zerg has a weapon posed to destroy the entire universe and blames Woody for “delaying his rendezvous with Star Command,” so he can deliver the information. This being the same Star Command that hasn’t answered him since his crash landing. In his hysteria, Woody launches into a tirade about Buzz being a toy.

Nothing fazes Buzz: “You are a sad, strange little man. And you have my pity.” The denial, the fantasy he’s conjured up protects him from having to accept the truth. And maybe the concept of being a lost toy is too much to handle; Buzz has to believe in Zerg’s plan to destroy the world so he can focus on that instead. This is the first time Buzz has mentioned Zerg and a weapon, so this intense denial must have been brought on by the extremity of their situation.

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(Yes, I’m fully aware this is a different Pixar film.)

He’s no longer in Andy’s bedroom, fretting about getting his space ship repaired. Now he’s in real danger of being lost in a world he’s tried to push aside for so long, so there needs to be a more pressing matter like the universe being destroyed. On their journey to find Andy, he refers to things like the front seat of a car as the cockpit and automatic doors as an air lock, keeping everything in space man terms.

Eventually, Buzz stumbles upon a commercial of the Buzz Lightyear action figure toy that he is. He tries to deny it once more, attempting to fly out of a window, but as he is a toy, he is unsuccessful and loses an arm in the process.

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He can no longer deny the reality that he is a toy. Buzz had derived all his self worth and confidence from being a space ranger and when that fantasy and denial is broken, he needs to adjust to his new understanding of life.

However, that’s easier said than done. Before Buzz can make peace with this, he now denies being Buzz Lightyear fully and is:

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The denial is strong with this one.

With the line, “Years of academy training wasted,” it is clear Buzz still has some ways to go. But, this is the turning point for him and Buzz is finally able to come to terms with who he is, finding peace with being Andy’s toy and Woody’s best buddy to infinity and beyond.

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Bibliography
Carducci, B.J. (2009). The psychology of personality: Viewpoints, research, and applications (2nd ed.). Wiley-Blackwell.
Bonnie, E., Catmull, E., Guggenheim, G., & Jobs, S. (Producers), & Lasseter, J. (Director). (1995). Toy Story [Motion picture]. United States of America: Pixar Animation Studios, Walt Disney Pictures


Talk to us below! Do you think Buzz is in denial? Who is your favorite Toy Story character?

Animated Meta is on Twitter and Tumblr!

Cheers!
-M&M

People of Color in Animation

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Today we’re going to talk about people of color (POC) in animation. POC, for our purposes, refers to anyone who is not white.

Here is a compilation of POC characters in animation:

  • Pocahontas [Native American] [Disney]
  • Esmeralda [race not identified] [Disney]
  • Tiana [African American—but not officially identified] [Disney]
  • Little Creek [Native American] [Dreamworks]
  • Chel [a native of Central or South America] [Dreamworks]
  • Lucius/Frozone [presumably African American] [Pixar/Disney]
  • Lilo [Hawaiian] [Disney]
  • Aladdin [Arab] [Disney]
  • Mulan [Asian] [Disney]
  • Kuzco [Incan Empire/Native South American—modern day Peru] [Disney]
  • Tiger Lily [Native American] [Disney]
  • Mowgli [Indian] [Disney]
  • The Prince of Egypt [Dreamworks]

(Note: I’ve included Native Americans and Hispanics in the list because Native Americans are currently a miniscule population due to atrocities committed during the forming of this nation and Hispanics currently face great hardships like immigration laws. I’m also including Lilo because “Hawaiian/Pacific Islander” has its own box on job applications/standardized tests/etc. Also, if I didn’t, there’d be, like, no one on this list.)

(Other note: I’ve not seen Dreamworks’ The Prince of Egypt, so I don’t feel confident talking about it.)

This discussion has been building for a very long time. Disney has faced criticism for their all white casts and the usual defense has been, well, these stories take place in Europe back in the day, so everyone was white.

Yeah, no.

I’m here to burst your bubble because: you can see people of color represented in Medieval European art and considering the Iberian peninsula was conquered by Muslims in the 700s, I’d say Europeans were no stranger to people of color. Marco Polo traveled to Asia in the 1200s. And if you still doubt, my Tudor era professor confirmed that England, namely London, was already a mixed metropolis in the 1500 and 1600s.

To curb this backlash, Disney released The Princess and the Frog. I enjoy this film and the return to 2D, and I love the humor. However, this offering was meant to halt the criticism, but it only spurned more. Our first black princess and she’s a FROG for 70% of the film?

reaction do you feel the judgement

I don’t know if any other animation house has faced as much backlash as Disney. Presumably they are the target because they are the most successful and influential. However, it appears Disney may have the best track record compared to some of the other houses—though there is room for drastic improvement. Tallied from the above list, Disney has 10 characters of color. That’s a minuscule number compared to their collection of 50+ films, but when Disney does utilize diversity, they do so richly and create compelling stories (mostly, we’ll see exceptions below).

In addition to mounting movement in the animation world, this meta was also brought on by the senseless shootings of unarmed black adults and children at the hands of police officers.

From 2006 to 2012 a white police officer killed a black person at least twice a week in this country. [x]

I am saddened and angered by what’s been happening around us. This meta was always coming, so lets get to it.


The most shocking thing I noted was every story featuring a person a color is extremely dated.

  • Pocahontas = Age of Exploration (specifically 1607)
  • Esmeralda = Hugo’s novel was published in the 1800s, though the book is set in the 1400s
  • Tiana = 1912
  • Aladdin = unspecified, but based on the very old One Thousand and One Nights (though the genie loves his pop culture references)
  • Mulan = I really don’t know because the Huns were burning shit since the dawn of time, but Mulan first appeared in poems between the 300s and 600s
  • Kuzco = 16th century
  • Little Creek = Around the time railroads were being built, so 1800s
  • Chel = Age of Exploration (Spanish conquistadors—1519)
  • Lucius/Frozone = CONTEMPORARY (FINALLY)
  • Lilo = CONTEMPORARY (YAY!)
  • Mowgli = date unknown
  • Tiger Lily = exists in a world where time does not pass, but The Darlings’ interaction with Pan happens in the 1900s

The majority of stories being told here are set in very vivid time periods, as if the only story worth telling of people of color are their trials and tribulations in history, which are clearly over now because we live in a post-racial, globalized world. We know this is untrue. There may not be Jim Crow laws or homelands being overrun by industrialization, but there is still plenty of injustice.

Many Disney films give off old timey feels, but none are really held back by their time period. Beauty and the Beast has no identifying marker of what year it is, nor does the very recent Frozen, or Lady and Tramp, or Cinderella (in my opinion). But when you throw in the Age of Exploration, that dates your film. That sets the story firmly in one universe.

Next, lets look at who the protagonists of these films are:

  • Pocahontas, check
  • Tiana, check
  • Lilo, check
  • Mulan, check
  • Aladdin, check
  • Kuzco, check
  • Mowgli, grey area, but check
  • Tiger Lily, no
  • Esmeralda, no
  • Little Creek, no
  • Chel, no
  • Lucius/Frozone, no

Pocahontas owns her story and while Tiana is a frog for most of it, she does not cease being black (literally, she’s green, fine, but her character does not change). Kuzco is the male Tiana (or a prototype of Naveen, since those two are more similar) where he’s stuck as a llama for the majority of the movie.

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Lilo and her sister Nani are too wonderful for words (best sisters ever–sorry Anna and Elsa) and make me sob, sob, sob.

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Aladdin is populated with other people of the same race. And Mulan just needs no introduction.

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The fact is, only seven cases can be made for an animated movie led by a person of color. Maybe even four if you don’t want to include The Princess and the Frog, Emperor’s New Groove, or The Jungle Book.

Esmeralda plays an integral role in The Hunchback of Notre Dame, for sure, but it’s not her story. Ultimately it is about Quasi learning how to love himself and be confident. Little Creek, likewise, is super important in Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron, but it’s not his story, either. The film is about Spirit making his way home and becoming a leader. If you catch my drift here, Chel’s role in The Road to El Dorado is one of a love interest and ally to the two main characters. Lucius/Frozone is a wonderful friend and sidekick, but he’s absent for the entire middle portion of The Incredibles.

They are players, but not major players.

Pocahontas, Lilo, Tiana, Aladdin, Kuzco and Mulan: Taking Names and Kicking Butt

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Disney gave us six POC leads. Each of them are strong, flawed heroes. We have a very diverse list of races/cultures/ethnicities here: Native American, African American, Hawaiian, and Arabic. In addition, we also have supporting characters to reflect this, too.

It’s clear when Disney sets a story within a particular framework, they usually go all the way to actualize the worlds.

In Pocahontas we see the Powhatan tribe farming the land and praying to spirits for guidance. Healing practices, transportation, customs and homes are all shown to us. Their way of life contrasts with the settlers so starkly. Pocahontas teaches John Smith many things, most importantly that land is not something to own. But she also teaches him about her culture, such as how their tribe says hello and goodbye.

Lilo and Stitch takes us to Hawaii, where we have Lilo, Nani, and David and wonderful world building. The perception is that contemporary stories are easier since there is no fantasy world or past to explain, but that’s not true. Contemporary stories require just as much work to get right and Disney was not afraid of the challenge.

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In addition to our sisters and a couple aliens, we have the social worker, Cobra Bubbles. He is darker skinned than the others and clearly holds a higher position of power (I point this out because of the power structure in Frog). Surfing and hula are all integral to creating Lilo, Nani, and David’s pastimes. David and Nani work at a resort and tourism has the biggest influence on the GDP of Hawaii. I’m sure this movie taught everyone the meaning of Ohana and several other Hawaiian words. Nani also sings a song in Hawaiian when she’s forced to say goodbye to Lilo.

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The flowers they send into the wind are also the same flowers shown on leis throughout the film.

Next we move onto The Princess and the Frog, which may have the weakest world building of them all. This is not a surprise if Tiana’s skin was colored just to appease outcries. Mardi Gras really grounds the city as New Orleans and jazz and gumbo tie us back to the African American culture. But that’s really all that can be said, sadly.

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As for supporting characters, Dr. Facilier is clearly not white and Mama Odie, Tiana’s mom (and dearly departed dad), and Prince Naveen are all dark skinned.

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This is offset by the white characters like Charlotte, her father, and Naveen’s evil minion, Lawrence. We are presented with a diverse New Orleans, brimming with French influence and lively jazz. Frog presents us with the uncomfortable image of an all white power structure: Charlotte’s dad being rich, the two men Tiana wants to buy the restaurant from being white, and Tiana’s mother working as a seamstress. As mentioned above, this is not the case in Lilo and Stitch, a film made before Frog. However, Frog is set about hundred years before Lilo, so that could be one argument in favor of the movie.

Then, we have Aladdin. We open on a desert, which right away sets the story. The marketplace, the sand, the palace, they all present a clear picture. The strength in Aladdin’s world building really comes from visuals: clothes, places, animals. There’s nothing that the characters do that really identify them, besides, to say it again, their clothes. The custom of a princess needing to marry does not differentiate it from other princess films. The art of the movie is really what saves it.

Mulan trumps all in terms of world building.

mulan reflection

The fact that Mulan is Chinese is very important to her story. Mulan, like Pocahontas, is a historical figure so it is not shocking her race matters to the story. Chinese culture is presented to us everywhere: praying to the ancestors, the matchmaker, the clothes, the writing. Gender roles, especially, and honor thy father all influence Mulan’s arc and the story Disney is telling. Mulan and Gender Roles is its own meta, but Disney consciously created a Chinese character and set her in her world, effectively showing us a new culture and race.

Finally, there’s Kuzco. While Aladdin sets us up visually and The Princess and the Frog is relatively weak, but still a decent effort, Kuzco isn’t anything special. Yes, he’s a native South American, but the only cultural addition to the film are llamas. Of course, there’s jungles and nature and the contrast between poorer homes on the hilltops vs Kuzco’s palace. Besides the llamas, though, this film could be set anywhere and it wouldn’t matter. Props to Disney for reimagining Mr. Andersen’s Danish fairy tale in this way, but the world isn’t strong enough.

I haven’t spoken much on The Jungle Book. Mowgli is Indian, but besides his name and the names of all the animals around him, that’s not very obvious. He certainly does not have an Indian accent, nor does he even possess any understanding of the concept of “Indian.” The girl in the village wearing the tilak (or bindi) at the end of the film is the only real connection we have to this culture.

Esmeralda, Little Creek, Chel, Lucius: Lets Be Honest, Taking Names and Kicking Butt, Too

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Esmeralda is the leading female of The Hunchback of Notre Dame. She is one of my all-time favorite characters. She’s idealistic, loyal, brave, kind. As a gypsy, she’s hunted by Frollo and made to feel unworthy.

I don’t know if you would listen to a gypsy’s prayer… Yes, I know I’m just an outcast, I shouldn’t speak to you…
–God Help the Outcasts

She represents discrimination and persecution. She’s hunted for being a gypsy, for being a woman, and for being a person of color. But she’s prepared to become a martyr, to die for what she believes in.

She’s Quasi’s first example of a decent human being and becomes his first human friend (gargoyles, anyone?). She helps bring him out of his shell and quell his fears about being feared. She would know, too, since she’s used to mothers frequently telling their children not to go near her (see: the beginning of the film).

Esmeralda is another example of a Disney woman saving her man, but her and Phoebus may also be the first interracial couple (and they make me swoon)!

The Hunchback of Notre Dame is a very brave film. It doesn’t shy away from personal issues like religion and hate and sexual undertones. But it also tackles race and bias and unfair persecution. Esmeralda is an amazing character, she’s strong in the best sense of the word and brings amazing representation to the Disney animated universe.

I’ve been talking about Disney a lot, so lets turn to Dreamworks.

Little Creek is my baby. He’s a Lakota Native American and we first meet him when Spirit is captured by US soldiers. Little Creek was caught trying to free the cavalry’s horses and as the film shows us, Little Creek and his tribe care very much about horses. They don’t want to see them saddled, branded, or whipped. When he and Spirit escape, Spirit is brought back to Little Creek’s tribe and nourished back to health after The Colonel tried to starve him that way he would become milder and easier to tame (spoiler alert: not happening).

Little Creek becomes the most important human Spirit meets. He is the embodiment of kindness and they become good friends. He is the opposite of the regiment’s men, the ones who want to destroy the land and nature and build roads and railways. He wants to train Spirit, but he also is in awe of his power and respects him.

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who wouldn’t be in awe of Spirit? look at that pretty horsie

Little Creek’s version of training is of course very different from the soldiers, but when Spirit still resists, he lets go. He does not try to wield power over Spirit. And when Spirit sees that, that is when he lets Little Creek ride him.

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In the Road to El Dorado, we meet Chel. She is not a Disney princess, but like most of them she has dreams of going on adventure and discovering something new. In fact, the first time we see her she’s running away from home with some gold she stole.

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She’s native to El Dorado, the city of gold, somewhere in Central or South America. Where The Emperor’s New Groove failed, El Dorado excels. El Dorado is a fully real, actualized city. There is an opposing ruling force and tension within the community (the chief vs the high priest), distinct artwork and games that are played. Visually, also, the movie stuns, creating a rich world to contrast with Spain.

Chel’s role is fairly straightforward. If this was Disney, she’d have an “I Want” song and a love song with Tulio. She doesn’t have either of those here, though they are important aspects of her character. As the story goes on, we see her helping Miguel and Tulio pass off their con about being gods. She is vital to their success, filling them in on customs and traditions and getting them out of sticky situations.

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Chel’s face every time the idiot boys don’t listen to her

And when the chance to leave El Dorado and travel with them to Spain is presented, of course she’s ready to go for it.

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Lucius/Frozone is a wonderful bestie in The Incredibles. His scene at the end of the film–

incredibles wheres my super suit

–is one of everyone’s favorites. His wife is never seen, but even she’s legendary (I am the greatest good you are ever gonna get). There’s nothing about him to emphasize his race, but it doesn’t matter because that’s how life is. Your friends are your friends. We know all kinds of different people.

Also, the list of black superheroes is slim. Frozone does have a small role, but he is a splash of diversity in an otherwise all white film.


Do I think this is suitable? Of course not. More can and should be done to bring diverse characters into the mainstream animation houses. As we’ve seen with Mulan and Aladdin and Lilo and Stitch, amazing movies happen!

But, I wanted to highlight the fact that Disney, who largely faces the most criticism for their all white stories, have brought us people of color in their films. They’ve given us the biggest majority of POCs as protagonists, too.

I left out the film Brother Bear by Disney because there’s not much to add–it follows the standard interpretation of Native Americans we’ve seen in Pocahontas and Spirit, plus POC being an animal for most of the film.

brother bear new in town copy

I also left out Ice Age by 20th Century because 1, I forgot about the nomadic tribe, and 2, because they are a tiny facet of the film. But by the nature of the film, it dates itself back millions of years, which ties into a point made above. Also not mentioned are The Croods, which follows the same logic for Ice Age. The Book of Life, I have yet to see, but it seems Hispanic culture plays a bigger role there than Emperor. Big Hero 6 features an Asian protagonist, but I’ve not yet seen it yet, either.

People of color have stories to tell! Historical OR contemporary, their lives matter. Their lives in reality and their lives in art and animation.

If you take anything away from this post I hope it is either:

  • Disney has given us the most diversity of any animation house
  • But: we should still be critical of Disney and encourage more diversity among all animators
  • The majority of stories about POCs focus on historical aspects, which is great, but there needs to be more of a balance between past and present

Leave your thoughts and opinions below! How do you feel about diversity in animation?

Cheers!
-M&M