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Oct 09 2013

First rule: make them insipid

It’s sad being a Disney animator if you have to animate women, we’re told. Fortunately the problem doesn’t arise much because hey – Toy Story? Lion King? But when it does arise, damn, it’s difficult.

Lino DiSalvo, the head of animation on Frozenclaimed that it was “really, really difficult” to animate women because they have to be kept pretty while expressing emotions:

“Historically speaking, animating female characters are really, really difficult, because they have to go through these range of emotions, but 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 being angry.”

I have a solution. Ditch the rule. Ditch the “you have to keep them pretty” rule. Forget all that. Just think of them as people, instead of as girruls, who have to be pretty no matter what.

There are other reasons to ditch that rule, actually, such as the fact that it imposes such a narrow range of types. Male characters don’t have to meet that kind of criterion, so why should female characters? You really don’t have to keep them pretty; you don’t even have to make them pretty to begin with.

Try thinking of women as being just as varied and complicated as men are and it will instantly become clear to you that keeping them “pretty” just doesn’t have to be a rule. It works quite well in real life, too.

4 comments

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  1. 1
    A. Noyd

    On top of the limitations of keeping characters pretty, they have such a narrow idea of what pretty is.

    Also, I find it ironic that the first Disney villain was demonized for caring about being the most beautiful.

  2. 2
    zibble

    I think the problem isn’t even that they have to keep the characters pretty. The problem is that they define female prettiness as an absence of features.

    It’s like the bad-anime face.
    http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/1/13/Lucky_Star_main_characters.png

    The total lack of identifiable human features forces you to project idealized features onto their void of a face. There are enough face-like qualities for the mind to recognize that a face is supposed to go there – but with no specific information, your brain picks all the features it likes the best. Whereas if they tried to make a female character actually modeled off of a real female face, like Angelina Jolie, they have to deal with the fact that not everyone finds that specific face attractive.

    I think that’s the core problem with objectification. It’s not just that women are sexualized – when you watch cartoon films like Hercules or anything by Don Bluth, the men are designed to be sexualized and pretty too. It’s just done in a radically disparate way, in which women are sexualized not according to their individual characteristics, but by having their individuality covered up. It’s essentially the same mentality as a burqa – an attempt to define women as only being one particular set of things through a campaign to hide their actual attributes.

  3. 3
    Ophelia Benson

    That’s a very interesting point.

  4. 4
    rnilsson

    If this is the same Disney under discussion, why not just rip off their pants, like on the Ducks et al?
    Oh. Right. Disney.

  1. 5
    Guest post: they define female prettiness as an absence of features » Butterflies and Wheels

    […] a comment by zibble on First rule: make them […]

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