Honestly, I’d never even thought about this until Prairie brought it up after we watched one of the trailers for [Cars], when its predominantly male-centric theme got her started thinking about the rest of [Pixar]’s oevure. We got started talking about it again this morning, after I noticed [this quote from Bonnie Hunt] excerpted on the [Luxo weblog]:
> One night John [Lasseter] said to me, “The next movie I’m writing, you’ll be the girl in it.”
: http://disney.go.com/disneypictures/cars/ “Disney Presents a Pixar Film: ‘Cars'”
: http://www.pixar.com/ “Pixar”
: http://disney.go.com/inside/issues/stories/v060502.html “Disney Insider: Fine-Tuning ‘Cars'”
: http://pixaranimation.blogspot.com/2006/05/fine-tuning-cars.html “Luxo: Fine-Tuning Cars”
See that? _The_ girl. Really, that sounds about right. Just where are the girls in Pixar films? Let’s take a quick look…
1. [Toy Story][ts]
Bo Peep, Andy’s Mom, and Hannah (the infant sister). All definite supporting characters. Andy’s Mom and Hannah are barely there, and Bo Peep is little more than a cute flirtation gag.
2. [A Bug’s Life][abl]
More women, but more characters overall, also: Princess Atta, Princess Dot, The Queen, Gypsy Moth, and Rosie the Black Widow. It’s still a male-dominated cast — even the ladybug is a boy (it’s a great gag, but when looked at from this context, suddenly it’s not _as_ funny).
3. [Toy Story 2][ts2]
Jesse, Mrs. Potato Head, Tour Guide Barbie, Bo Peep, Andy’s Mom, and Hannah. Jesse, admittedly, is a wonderful character, but still definitely a supporting character — this is still Woody and Buzz’s story. The other additions are an overbearing housewife and a dim blonde. As Prairie said, “Hooray for womankind!”
4. [Monsters, Inc.][mi]
Boo, Celia (Mike’s Medusa-like girlfriend), and Roz (the supervisor/secretary). An infant, a neglected love interest, and a stereotypical crone of a secretary (voiced by a man, no less).
5. [Finding Nemo][fn]
Dory, Peach (the starfish), Deb/Flo (the fish whose ‘sister’ is her reflection in the tank), and Coral (Nemo’s mom). Dory’s certainly a major character in the film, but still essentially a supporting character (this is, after all, Marlin and Nemo’s story)…and she’s addled to boot. Sweet, lovable, and funny…but addled.
6. [The Incredibles][ti]
Helen Parr (Elastigirl), Mrs. Hogenson (who?), Violet, Mirage, Edna Mode, Kari (the babysitter), and Honey (Frozone’s wife). To date, Helen is Pixar’s strongest female character, and the closest they’ve come to a female lead, but again, the movie is about how Bob (Mr. Incredible) adjusts to the changing circumstances in his world. We certainly can’t ignore Honey, who is only present as a voice haranguing Frozone as he tries to find his costume.
Sally’s the only female character in any of the previews. According to the IMDB, there’s also a Lizzie and a Flo. Until the movie appears, we won’t really know just how strong of a character Sally is, but the trailers make it obvious that this is, once again, a boy’s movie (to the point that Prairie isn’t looking forward to _Cars_ as much as she has other Pixar films, due to the automotive theme).
This one’s so early in development that the only definite information to date is that it’s about “a rat named Ratatouille who lives in a upmarket Parisian restaurant run by an eccentric chef.”
To date, there’s not a single Pixar film that has a female main character: _The Incredibles_ comes the closest, but even there, both Helen Parr/Elastigirl and Violet are supporting characters, and it’s Bob Parr/Mr. Incredible that’s the hero. Look at the ‘poster wall’ [on Pixar’s website]. _None_ of the poster designs feature a female character…even the rollover effects exclude every female character save Dory.
: http://www.pixar.com/featurefilms/index.html “Pixar Feature Films”
As Prairie pointed out to me, where there are plenty of Disney films that girls can spend hours playing and pretending to be the [Disney Princesses] in ([most of them], at least), there isn’t a single Pixar film that she would have wanted to play as a child.
: http://disney.go.com/princess/html/main_iframe.html “Disney Princess”
: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Disney_Princesses#Criticism “Wikipedia: Disney Princesses: Criticism”
While some might argue that [Disney as a whole is sexist], I don’t quite see that. Disney’s older works are often based on traditional fairy tales, where the missing mother/evil step-mother is an integral part of the tale (as is the handsome prince coming to the rescue); newer films have been much better. [Tarzan], for instance: while Jane’s mom is conspicuously missing (presumably permanently, and not just left behind in England, as Jane’s father cheerfully joins her in remaining in Africa) and Tarzan’s parents (mother _and_ father) are killed, Kala is a _very_ strong and loving mother figure, and Jane — like [Megara], [Mulan] and [Kida] before her — is a deliciously strong woman in her own right.
: http://www.francaisedecoeur.com/journal/2005/12/14/disney-schmisney-or-single-dads.html “Francais de Coeur: Disney Schmisney (or Single Dads)”
: http://us.imdb.com/title/tt0120855/ “IMDB: Tarzan”
: http://us.imdb.com/title/tt0119282/ “IMDB: Hercules”
: http://us.imdb.com/title/tt0120762/ “IMDB: Mulan”
: http://us.imdb.com/title/tt0230011/ “IMDB: Atlantis: The Lost Empire”
It’s a pity that, [as one commenter posited on the Feministing weblog], movie studios in general are both constrained by and unwilling to challenge what appears to be a very male-dominated movie audience, even for children’s movies.
> The two big reasons for the dearth of females in G-rated films are that a lot of the source material (childrens’ books, fairly tales) feature male protagonists, and more importantly, a number of very well-made childrens’ films featuring female protagonists underperformed at the box office (_A Little Princess_, _Matilda_, _Because of Winn-Dixie_…), leading a lot of executives to believe that boys won’t watch films with female protagonists. So while studio executives bear a large measure of responsibility for not pushing harder, they’re also reacting to the market in this case.
: http://feministing.com/archives/004982.html#comment-27722 “Feministing: Feathers McGraw: The two big reasons for the dearth of females…”
So how about it, Pixar? You’ve shown the world that not only does Disney not have a lockdown on animated films, but that “children’s” films can be made that are good _family_ films as well, rather than aiming the films so low that the unfortunate parents have to grit their teeth for an hour and a half whenever they take their kids to the movies. For over a decade now (since _Toy Story_’s debut in 1995), you’ve consistently produced some of the best _films_ — not just animated films, or children’s films, but best _films_ — around.
How about letting the girls in to play as well?
[ts]: http://us.imdb.com/title/tt0114709/ “IMDB: Toy Story”
[abl]: http://us.imdb.com/title/tt0120623/ “IMDB: A Bug’s Life”
[ts2]: http://us.imdb.com/title/tt0120363/ “IMDB: Toy Story 2″
[mi]: http://us.imdb.com/title/tt0198781/ “IMDB: Monsters, Inc.”
[fn]: http://us.imdb.com/title/tt0266543/ “IMDB: Finding Nemo”
[ti]: http://us.imdb.com/title/tt0317705/ “IMDB: The Incredibles”
[c]: http://us.imdb.com/title/tt0317219/ “IMDB: Cars”
[r]: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0382932/ “IMDB: Ratatouille”