• Wed, Oct 9 - 10:25 am ET

Disney Can’t Make Thin White Female Characters Look Different Enough

Disney-Frozen-Poster-2013

Disney movies often seem to lack more than 1 or 2 female character in their main casts, but why? In an interview by Jenna Busch with Lino Disalvo, head of animation on on Disney’s new musical film Frozen, it’s because women are too dern emotional. And because they need to stay cute, which makes having feelings less possible:

“Historically speaking, animating female characters are really, really difficult, ’cause they have to go through these range of emotions, but they’re very, very — you have to keep them pretty and they’re very sensitive to — you can get them off a model very quickly. So, having a film with two hero female characters was really tough, and having them both in the scene and look very different if they’re echoing the same expression; that Elsa looking angry looks different from Anna (Kristen Bell) being angry.”

Well, that explains why The Little Mermaid was so popular. I’m surprised Disney didn’t just add the “girl loses her voice” twist to every movie so they wouldn’t have to animate her speaking.

Frozen features Kristen Bell and Idina Menzel as the two female leads out of seven (apparent) main characters. But despite how “different” Disalvo claims these women need to look in order to exist in Disney’s multiverse, Tumblr blogger Moopflop points out that these female characters still look suspiciously similar:

disney women

Uh, yeah. The writer also commented on the Disalvo’s quote itself:

So that’s their (blatantly misogynistic) excuse for scrapping all but two of the female characters; that they’re too hard to animate? Those emotional female characters, they’re all the same, right? Here’s a hint: their “femaleness” isn’t what’s making them indistinguishable.

It’s so funny how only white people exist in an imaginary world! No, but really — wouldn’t it be nice if the act of creating a fantasy meant filmmakers, television producers and other creators didn’t abide by the same BS ones in our own society?

Unfortunately, his logic also doesn’t explain why there aren’t more female animal characters given that the human faces appear to be the animators’ issue, or do talking female bunnies look decidedly less cute when personified than the males?

[Via Buzzfeed]

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  • Laurenwagner

    Check out the horse in Frozen, I watched the preview and he looks suspiciously like the horse from Tangled.

    • Rachel

      Conspiracy!!

    • Samantha_Escobar

      Okay, not that I am not laughing at your comment, but isn’t that a reindeer?

    • Laurenwagner

      Not him, silly. In the preview there is also a horse

    • Samantha_Escobar

      Ohhhh! Oh, self. Do your homework.

    • Sassafras75

      I thought the same thing! He must be the only equine working these days.

    • Corinne Logan

      No he’s a spin on a Norwegian Fjord horse… you can see a lot of them at http://www.willowsedgefarm.com

  • Rachel

    Just…super sigh.

  • LynnKell

    So, woman are half the population of the entire world and we are only depicted as supporting, or barely there roles in the movies/tv shows/cartoons because we have emotions. Oh, those nasty, paralyzing, worthless emotions that makes us look ugly.

    If only we’d say “oh I’m angry!! Do I look ugly? So sorry for you because I don’t fucking care if I look ugly because I’m busy being angry”

  • NeuroNerd

    It’s not only the “whiteness” (which I agree with), but the features. Why are all Disney Princess’s big-eyed, pug-nosed, big-lipped, small chinned and cheekboned? Not all white women look like this, much less all women. It’s ridiculous. Could we please have some facial feature diversity.

    That said, the princes aren’t much better on this front. Clearly, if you want to be unique, you better be a villain.

    • Keen

      In fact no (adult) white women look like that. It’s a deliberately exaggerated style that mimics the facial proportions of a kitten for maximum cuteness.

    • Isabella

      Ugh, I accidentally upvoted this when I intended to downvote the shit out of it. I’m an adult white (and black mixed) women with massive eyes, a small mouth with full lips, button nose, high cheekbones and chubby cheeks. Many of my friends look like this too. Just because you’re not conventionally attractive and cute doesn’t mean others can’t be either. Don’t be so bitter.

    • Ben

      Sorry to tell you this but there is no way in hell you look like a Disney character, those features are far outside the range of humanly possible! But if you really do have eyes the size of tennis balls, I advice you see a doctor!

    • Harris Caroline

      if you’re Black too then you aren’t white hun. Down South (and most of this country) then you are considered black (you ever hear anyone call the President White mixed with Black? NOPE!) or biracial by more open-minded people. And you know comparing yourself to an anime character (because disney is mimicking japanese anime) is BS. These characters eyes take up more than half their face. No one is “bitter” or hating on you, get over yourself. Take some anatomy and physiology classes and stop being foolish.

    • ocelotish

      Actually that’s quite deliberate. When you’re having a character, you want a person that the audience can easily relate to. This means you make them as generic as possible; nothing to get in the way of the audience projecting on said character. If you look at the cast of almost any animated film, you’ll notice that the main characters are going to be the most generic, with the villains and sidekicks being far more exaggerated. Villains and sidekicks are not avatars for the viewer so they can be much more pushed. Keep in mind that we have to genuinely feel all the emotions a main character experiences.

      The main characters in the princess films are also going to need to be cute. Cute is based on the features that babies have: big eyes, big lips, little noses, little chins, and big cheeks. That’s just what humans respond to.

      There’s a reason why you can look at Princess and the Frog and instantly know that Tiana is the main character and Charlotte isn’t. It’s also a great example of how we experience side character emotions differently: we Tiana is sad, we’re sad; when Charlotte is sad, we’re laughing at the melodramatics.

      As for facial diversity, remember that there is a difference between the original ladies in their films and how they appear on merchandise. There also are more diverse ladies than you’re accounting for (Pocahontas has a hugely different face shape). Finally, the same thing happens for the Disney princes/guys. Take a look at Mulan: look at Shang vs. Ling, Yao, and Chien-Po.

      There’s a lot going on with animation that I think you’re glossing over.

    • koolchicken

      This is 100% right. Even Stephanie Meyer said it was the reason she kept Bella’s appearance generic and left out a lot of specifics beyond brown hair and eyes. And I think we can all agree it worked, girls instantly identified with Bella and could see themselves as her.

      The princesses looking like babies is true too. Big eyes, lips, button noses, pointy little chin, and round cheeks that sill somehow have visible cheekbones. You could be describing my one year old son.

  • MammaSweetpea

    It’s pretty obvious that Disney artists are lazy. They take a template of female characters, change the hair colour (because female characters always have long hair, so no need to worry about length). Add a few freckles maybe. Change eye colour. Add crown and velvet clothing if character is royal. Add scrappy clothes if character is not.
    Done and done. No wonder they crank these movies out so quickly; there’s no effort required.

    • Keen

      Disney artists are not lazy, and these movies aren’t made all that quickly. Tangled was in production for 6 years. Call it sexist or whatever, but the decision to use a similar style for the female protagonists is a design choice. In the grand scheme or things creating the 3D meshes is a pretty minor thing. It’s animating them that takes the man hours and money.

    • Chloe

      Wow, you clearly have no idea about the process of making a movie of this level. You can’t call animators lazy, it’s a ridiculously hard (but rewarding) job.

    • MammaSweetpea

      I called them lazy not because of the process, which I know is hard. It’s the lack of imagination I was referring to in the look of the characters.

  • Ly

    I agree with the point of this post, but I think it’s worth noting that the main character in Frozen is quite likely a POC. Based on her looks and the scenery of the film, she looks Sami, which is a native group in Sweden. Yes, many females in Disney movies look similar, but between Mulan, Titania, Jasmine, Pocahontas, Kida, and (possibly) this new girl, you can’t say the princesses aren’t racially diverse. (Also, she’s not a princess, but don’t forget Lilo. Lilo is the best.)

    • SL

      Uh, you absolutely can, though…. because Kida and Lilo, while awesome, are not part of the “disney princess” lineup… and the other four are all single representatives of a different race, while all of the remaining 7 princesses are all the same race as each other, and even if Anna is Saami, these two new introductions are still light-skinned, light-haired Europeans.

    • Chloe

      Because it’s a European fairy story?

    • Voice of Reason

      OR maybe the majority of the other princesses are white because many of those movies were created at a time when being openly racist against other racial groups was the norm…

    • Rachel

      What is your definition of a POC?

  • Alyssa

    Conspiracy theory: Rapunzel is their mom, explains everything. Seriously though, this isn’t anything new. Disney princesses have always lacked diversity. Although, it seems to be getting worse recently. If Disney is just going to rehash character models in order to save time on computer animation (my guess is that this is one of the reasons) they should just switch back to cartoons. At least the old Disney princess have different facial features (sort of).

    • MammaSweetpea

      I was reading your post and I was about to say, “but the early princesses looked different..” and there it was, at the end of your paragraph.
      And I agree with you. I saw a website, can’t remember which now…something satirical like The Onion…that showed how all the modern Disney heroines were just the same face and body, but with slight alterations. So Mulan, Jasmine, etc, all the same, like mannequins, with interchangeable parts.

    • Keen

      When was the last time you actually looked at Mulan and Jasmine? I wouldn’t really call that slight alterations.

    • Alyssa

      If you look at recent depictions of Disney Princesses that Disney has released you’ll notice that they’re starting to look more similar. Also, Disney is getting lazy with their artwork. The current official depictions of Disney princesses look really shitty. This is also why I think these new animated princesses look way too similar. Because Disney is getting too lazy and using this new animation style as a gimmick. That’s how I feel about it anyways.

    • Alyssa

      Yeah they keep changing the art for the old Disney princesses. Mulan and Pocahontas have paler skin, larger eyes, smaller noses, and even (if this is even possible) smaller waists. Mulan has larger lips too. While Jasmine’s transformation is less pronounced she got white washed too. Not to mention the actual faces of Belle, Aurora, Ariel, Snow White and Cinderella are basically interchangeable now. Their hair is also messier and curlier which adds more sex appeal. I could go on and on about how Disney is basically regressing their princesses into dated feminine stereotypes. But I think you get my point!

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  • Chloe

    They had to develop and create entirely new programs to animate Rapunzel. Those programs are brand new, literally less than 4-5 years old. It takes TIME to develop new animation techniques, especially in a field of animation that is so new.

    And you wonder why the protagonists of Frozen look so similar to Rapunzel. It’s because Rapunzel is their baseline. She’s their first big CGI female character (the only other CGI films Disney had done before Tangled were Treasure Planet, a animation-CGI hybrid, Chicken Little, Meet the Robinsons, and Bolt). She’s their first major CGI project with the technology they used in Tangled and Frozen. It takes Pixar literally YEARS to create each new project that they do. Plus the fact that Anna and Elsa are sisters for gods sake, of course they’re going to look similar.

    Basically, this stuff takes time and money to develop. I swear, it’s like you people have no clue how animation actually works, or how freaking ridiculously hard it actually is. These films are in production for anything up to 6 years, and everyone working on them puts everything into making them they very best they can. To dismiss them as ‘lazy’ is incredibly insulting to everyone in the industry. Animation styles change constantly, it’s a comparatively young industry (the 3D part anyway), and just like with traditional animation advances in tech will be made and changes in animation style will be easier. If you want companies to churn out second rate crap because they’re trying to do something that technologically isn’t possible then that’s your business.

    • N1C0L3_3

      I was going to add the sister thing as well for Frozen! My sister and I are definitely different, but we do have many facial similarities!

  • Natale Merchant

    The two main characters in Frozen are sisters. Yeah, they look alike. Duh.

    Also, the story is set in Europe. They look white, like Europeans! Oh noes! Maybe we should have made them all black despite that being a historical contradiction, because that wouldn’t hurt your feelings.

  • Snakes on a Car

    The two female characters should look similar because they are sisters.

    About all the white people. This fantasy world seems to have pre-industrial revolution technology. That would make international travel and mass immigration difficult. Keeping Arendell racially homogeneous is just being logically consistent with story premise.

    There were a few darker skinned dignitaries in the coronation scene.