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The Disney Renaissance

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We can always change the title or the subject of this thread but I thought I'd just start here as I spend a great chunk of my time discussing all things Disney, animation, and princess/gender related and since I spend a good chunk of my time here, I'd like to start discussing it all with you.

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I think it's up for debate. Wreck It Ralph is a very Pixar-ish movie. There are tons of little story tics that are characteristic of Pixar and not Disney. 

I can't remember if The Princess and the Frog came out before or after Lasseter took over but that still felt like a Disney movie. There were shades of direct to video and the Randy Newman score left a lot to be desired but on the whole I really enjoyed that movie. I like it more than Tangled.

For me, Tangled skews very young in a way that doesn't feel like Pixar or Disney. I mean it skews very, very young. I hate Mandy Moore's voice acting and her singing and I think they should have included more Zachary Levi. Also, WTF, Vikings? What was that? And the random sequences that looked like they came out a video game? I think they did a nice job with Mother Gothel, and come on, Donna Murphy. I think the animation feels Pixar-ish but the story is in this weird middle ground that's not really Disney or Pixar.

To me, Frozen still feels like a Disney movie. Pixar is bad at remembering girls exist. Lezz be honest. They are not great at the gender stuff. We can get into it, but I think there's a lot to defend about Disney movies. It's just popular to pick on them and they are this big symbol of how we transmit a lot of narratives to children because for the longest time they were the big juggernaut but I have way more complaints about Pixar and Dreamworks and Blue Sky and the smaller animation houses. 

From the trailer, Big Hero 6 looks a TON like a Pixar movie. Even the way the creature couldn't fit into the suit reminded me of that sequence from The Incredibles.

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I think the Disney stories have gotten better since Lasseter took over.  Tangled, Wreck It Ralph, and Frozen (and the new Winnie the Pooh, even) all were head and shoulders above Princess and the Frog and the other Disney movies of the 2000s.  They had heart!  Even Frozen was stuck in development hell until Lasseter suggested that Anna and Elsa be sisters.

 

However, I think Pixar has lost a little of their heart.  I hated Cars 2 and was "meh" on Brave.  I did like Monsters U, mostly because Mike and Sulley are awesome and I loved the college setting and how cleverly they put together a university for monsters.  Also liked the message - just because you really want something and work hard doesn't mean you will have a natural aptitude for it.  Quite the departure in the current world where society tells us that if we just work hard and believe in ourselves, we will achieve all our dreams.  I have high hopes for Inside Out from Pixar, mostly because the voice cast is awesome.

 

I think John Lasseter is a genius, so I try to forgive him for Cars 2 and the Planes franchise.

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I think the Disney stories have gotten better since Lasseter took over.  Tangled, Wreck It Ralph, and Frozen (and the new Winnie the Pooh, even) all were head and shoulders above Princess and the Frog and the other Disney movies of the 2000s.  They had heart!  Even Frozen was stuck in development hell until Lasseter suggested that Anna and Elsa be sisters.

Again, I think Tangled skews young and both Tangled and Frozen have some story issues. Basically, Vikings = rock trolls. Did you run out of ideas, guys? Wreck It Ralph is tightly plotted with all the Turbo stuff but it feels lackluster in the first half like they're just going through the motions. And yeah, I actually like TPATF. It's a little straight to video but it's not a poorly written story. I think it heart. It made me cry. Of course, they all made me at least tear up because I'm a big softy but TPATF and Frozen made me cry the most so, take that as you will. Personally, I don't think we've quite hit the level where any of them are as good as the Disney Renaissance movies. 

 

I don't watch a lot of Pixar because I don't like it. I should probably throw this up on the Unpopular Opinions board, I know. I think Finding Nemo is adorable. The Incredibles is enjoyable. I love Patton Oswalt but Ratatouille was meh. And all the movies have gender issues/forget that women exist and make up a significant portion of the population. Monster Inc. was... fine but I completely skipped Monsters U. Not interested in seeing women underrepresented at a college.

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While they generally make a very good movie, I agree that Pixar skews very male. I was highly disappointed when they replaced Brenda Chapman with a male director for Brave. Don't get me wrong. It was a decent movie, but I expected more.

 

My understanding is that Cars is a very commercially viable product. They sell a lot of merchandise for this movie. I haven't even seen the sequel. (I am usually first in line to see the Pixar movies and will see them opening weekend.)

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I sure do wish they would go back to traditional hand drawn animation. I'm so over all the CGI stuff.

Amen. While there are some beautiful techniques in the CGI stuff... I liked some of the work they did with liquids in Wreck It Ralph and some of the ice stuff in Frozen was just gorgeous... I miss 2D animation. It's one of the big reasons I champion TPATF. Yes, some of it got a little straight to video at times but there were some beautiful scenes in that movie and that hint of Disney magic. Also, I know people love to complain about the Disney princesses but it's the CGI characters who all look the same to me. For some reason in CGI they're either not trying with the character designs or it's not as easy to differentiate characters, at least when it comes to human ones. Even when characters in one movie look different enough from each other (for the record Anna and Elsa don't bother me because I think they're different enough while still being sisters) characters in different movies look way too similar to me. It makes me feel like everyone's related which never happens to me with 2D animation. I think that sameness is hitting the female characters the worst because there isn't a lot of variation in the way female characters are drawn (Merida is an exception with smaller eyes and a more exaggerated body type, Fiona from Shrek is another as she's very realistic) but I see it in the guys as well.

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^Ok that was sorta cool, I think it could have been done better, but I had a chuckle on more than a few moments.

 

Thanks for that.

 

And for the record, I don't know what it says about me, but I knew each and every reference.

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Wow, I thought I was one of the few people who didn't like Pixar films. I don't hate their movies, but there's something about them that seems coordinated to please everyone in the audience which rings a little hollow for me. Apparently, it works because they've been very successful, but I've just never been satisfied by their movies for the most part. I do enjoy the Toy Story series, but I believe the only film they've had that I've come close to loving is The Incredibles. No coincidence that it also features the strongest female character the studio's created in Elastigirl/Helen Parr, imo. For whatever people say about Disney's depiction of gender over their history, they've definitely been ahead of the other studios, even if you just look at the past 5 years alone.

 

I'll admit I definitely was not happy when John Lasseter was put in charge of Disney, even though they were really spinning in the mud the past decade and half. But I can't deny I loved a lot about The Princess and the Frog (except, well, Randy Newman), enjoyed Wreck-It Ralph, and loved Frozen (even though I wish it was titled The Snow Queen...). I hate Tangled with a passion though. The one thing I miss most is hand-drawn animation, but I understand why none of the big studios are making those films anymore--3D makes the money.

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For whatever people say about Disney's depiction of gender over their history, they've definitely been ahead of the other studios, even if you just look at the past 5 years alone.

Yup. I'll always go back to this but whatever else you can say about them... princesses are protagonists. And it's not like Disney hasn't made movies for guys either. They've had Aladdin, Hercules, Tarzan... it's just that they also take the time to make stories about female characters. I feel like in an attempt to push back against the Disney princesses the other studios (Dreamworks and Pixar in particular) made movies "for boys." And while everyone should be able to see themselves reflected on screen at one point or another that only emphasized the imbalance that was already in present in all the other movies being made. So, yeah. Great job, dudes. Wouldn't want to imbalance the status quo too much and teach children that they can all watch movies with male or female protagonists.

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So I'm just listening to the Hercules soundtrack again as I add it to my Spotify playlists... it's a process as I make the switch from iTunes to Spotify. Oh my God, I love it so much. And it's not even one of the better Disney Renaissance movies. Not to take anything away from newer animated movies, Disney or not, but do you remember, do you really remember how magical these things used to be? Having a moment.

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I remember the first Disney Renaissance, with The Little Mermaid. Before then, the last Disney movie I, or anyone I knew, saw in the theaters was Pete's Dragon, or maybe The Fox and the Hound. But when The Little Mermaid came out, adults unabashedly saw it unaccompanied by a child, which was something Disney hadn't seen since Walt died. It was thrilling as a movie fan, and Disney movie fan in particular, to go through as a 20-something.

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I sure do wish they would go back to traditional hand drawn animation. I'm so over all the CGI stuff. 

 

Exactly this, which is partially why I'm devastated that Studio Ghibli seem to be going out of business. But also because Ghibli have made some classic movies, by any standard. Mulan is probably my favourite Disney movie.

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Will someone take the time to explain to me why they think Tangled skews young, but Frozen doesn't?

I mean, I think they both skew younger than say... Tarzan or Pocahontas but I just feel like Tangled is meant for a younger audience. I think the fact that Frozen's score is contemporary musical theatre helps it skew older. The lyrics are smarter and more complex. They might be more challenging for a younger audience. The plot is also more difficult to sort through where Tangled is more straightforward. I mostly think it's the characters. I know some people have their complaints about Anna but I liked her. I thought she was quirky in the way you'd expect someone very sheltered would be while still managing to be competent. It reminds me a little of Fiona in the Shrek musical. On the other hand, Rapunzel felt very childlike to me. I think she was closer to Snow White than most of the other Disney princesses. Ariel is very clearly 16 but most of the others feel older. Cinderella, Aurora, Mulan, Meg, Tiana, etc. They don't act like children. 

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I mean, I think they both skew younger than say... Tarzan or Pocahontas but I just feel like Tangled is meant for a younger audience. I think the fact that Frozen's score is contemporary musical theatre helps it skew older. The lyrics are smarter and more complex. They might be more challenging for a younger audience. The plot is also more difficult to sort through where Tangled is more straightforward. I mostly think it's the characters. I know some people have their complaints about Anna but I liked her. I thought she was quirky in the way you'd expect someone very sheltered would be while still managing to be competent. It reminds me a little of Fiona in the Shrek musical. On the other hand, Rapunzel felt very childlike to me. I think she was closer to Snow White than most of the other Disney princesses. Ariel is very clearly 16 but most of the others feel older. Cinderella, Aurora, Mulan, Meg, Tiana, etc. They don't act like children.

Thank you. I do agree she seems more childlike. I just like Tangled a lot however old she seems. It's such a beautiful film, and I relate a lot. The singers in Frozen, I'm sorry to say, hurt my ears.

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I mean, I think they both skew younger than say... Tarzan or Pocahontas but I just feel like Tangled is meant for a younger audience. I think the fact that Frozen's score is contemporary musical theatre helps it skew older. The lyrics are smarter and more complex. They might be more challenging for a younger audience. The plot is also more difficult to sort through where Tangled is more straightforward. I mostly think it's the characters. I know some people have their complaints about Anna but I liked her. I thought she was quirky in the way you'd expect someone very sheltered would be while still managing to be competent. It reminds me a little of Fiona in the Shrek musical. On the other hand, Rapunzel felt very childlike to me. I think she was closer to Snow White than most of the other Disney princesses. Ariel is very clearly 16 but most of the others feel older. Cinderella, Aurora, Mulan, Meg, Tiana, etc. They don't act like children. 

I think both who thinks this (and when) has to be important.  Because whatever they may or may not have thought when making the film, now, after it's become the phenom it's been, Disney has to know that Frozen--while it can be made appealing and marketable to all ages--has a powerful core of very young children who are it's strongest fans.  How many millions of comments have we all seen over the past year or so about people who's kids have made them watch Frozen dozens of times, or who sang that damn Idina song non-stop for months?  I bet if we look at Halloween costume sales on Frozen merch, they were absolutely nuts.  The fact that Disney has also been able to peddle Frozen to adult viewers (recycling it into Once Upon A Time, for example) is just gravy, and maybe by using a more adult plotline that's helped, but whatever reasons we dig into about why Frozen has also appealed to adults is secondary in a way to whatever it was about it that appealed to kids to a level that stepped up from Tangled and it's ilk (which don't mistake me, were massively popular with kids too--I just think Frozen went to a new level).

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OUAT almost got me to watch this season because of Frozen. Just like they almost got me to watch last season because yes, I had a Wicked phase. But I couldn't get through a whole episode either season. I just can't. It's so totally bad fanfiction and the acting is so subpar.

 

Anyway, I don't feel like they need to put in adult plotlines to appease an older audience but I appreciate that they're willing to challenge their younger audiences to some extent. Now, I personally don't feel like any Disney movies, including Tangled which is one of my least favorites, condescends to its younger audience. I mean, maybe some of the straight to DVD ones do but I think on the whole the theatrically released films are more ambitious. I think that part of the issue might be the reliance on princesses. There's always a princess and there's always a romantic plot so the characters need to be a certain age (even if like with Tarzan or Frozen you see them when they're younger in the beginning). This makes it more awkward when the characters act very young. Take Wreck It Ralph. Vanellope is a child so I don't have a problem with her acting like one. 

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I mean, I think they both skew younger than say... Tarzan or Pocahontas but I just feel like Tangled is meant for a younger audience. I think the fact that Frozen's score is contemporary musical theatre helps it skew older. The lyrics are smarter and more complex. They might be more challenging for a younger audience. The plot is also more difficult to sort through where Tangled is more straightforward. I mostly think it's the characters. I know some people have their complaints about Anna but I liked her. I thought she was quirky in the way you'd expect someone very sheltered would be while still managing to be competent. It reminds me a little of Fiona in the Shrek musical. On the other hand, Rapunzel felt very childlike to me. I think she was closer to Snow White than most of the other Disney princesses. Ariel is very clearly 16 but most of the others feel older. Cinderella, Aurora, Mulan, Meg, Tiana, etc. They don't act like children. 

 

Rapunzel definitely seems more childlike but that makes sense story wise as she had spent her existence locked in a tower with only one other person and a lizard. Anna, at least, interacted with her parents and the other palace staff and received an education so while sheltered she isn't ignorant of other people and the outside world.

 

That aside, I thought Tangled had the more complex villain and by a long shot. Mother Gothel's relationship with Rapunzel is probably the most complicated villain/princess dynamic in any of the films. Hans, on the other hand,  was vital to the plot twist but otherwise pretty one note and his plan was kind of odd once you think about the way royal succession tends to work. Killing Anna and Elsa just paves the way for their fourth cousin or similar relation to take over.

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Hans would have been better served to marry, have a child and then off her. He'd have a strong claim to be Regant until the child came of age. Beside, Ana seemed quite infatuated and had so little real world experience that he could have easily wielded power through her until they had a child. Clearly I've given this too much thought.

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Tangled has the darker, more sophisticated villain, and yet I'm not sure that type of villain would really appeal to the majority of kids or adults.  It hits home in an uncomfortable way, and it's not as universal as Frozen's conflict or themes.  Frozen has multiple characters to like and identify with - the bubbly, awkward Anna, the isolated and responsible Elsa, and the more practical, snarky Kristoff.  Having the two princesses really does broaden Frozen's appeal.

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Tangled has the darker, more sophisticated villain, and yet I'm not sure that type of villain would really appeal to the majority of kids or adults. It hits home in an uncomfortable way,

and it's not as universal as Frozen's conflict or

themes. Frozen has multiple characters to like

and identify with - the bubbly, awkward Anna,

the isolated and responsible Elsa, and the more

practical, snarky Kristoff. Having the two

princesses really does broaden Frozen's

appeal.

There's also Olaf, who was everywhere this holiday season.

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but whatever reasons we dig into about why Frozen has also appealed to adults is secondary in a way to whatever it was about it that appealed to kids to a level that stepped up from Tangled and it's ilk

 

I've got a toddler. From what I can tell, the appeal of Frozen is simple. Elsa has badass snow/ice magic. That's why Elsa's the character who became the face of Frozen and Anna--the actual heroine--is more of an afterthought. There are a lot of reasons why I, as an adult woman, like Frozen (the lines in "Let it Go" about "be the good girl you always have to be" followed at the end of the song by "the perfect girl is gone" get me every time). But what I can tell with my daughter is that it's all about Elsa's power. There just aren't many human female good guys with actual power for her to connect to. Boys get tons of superheroes, but girls barely even get protagonists.

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Tangled has the darker, more sophisticated villain, and yet I'm not sure that type of villain would really appeal to the majority of kids or adults.  It hits home in an uncomfortable way

I think if you really imagine it as a woman who is so driven by vanity that she kidnaps a child and raises it as her own and then proceeds to screw that up royally, yes, it is darker. But at the surface level of watching the film as a child I think she'd come across as just another "bad," "not real" mom with all the other evil stepmothers... Evil Queen, Lady Tremaine, etc. While the moral implications are more complex, the plot itself is easier to follow.

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For younger children, yes.  But for older viewers (older kids, teenagers, adults), Mother Gothel's evil is more subtle and more realistic.  Ok, locking your daughter up in a tower is definitely extreme, but Mother Gothel's dialogue and emotional manipulation are much more nuanced than the Evil Queen or Lady Tremaine turning their stepdaughters into slaves.  There was no love between Cinderella and Lady Tremaine, just duty and a need to please.  Rapunzel loved her mother, and was tricked into believing that her mother loved her.  It's difficult and complex and more realistic, and yet I think fewer people are willing to openly speak out about how they might identify with Rapunzel's emotional abuse, than are willing to say how they identify with Elsa's internal conflict and struggle against conformity.

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So Pocahontas was on ABC Family, and although I still have a soft spot for that movie.....why oh why did Mel Gibson have to turn out to be a crazy wife-beating bigot?

Edited by Spartan Girl
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So Pocahontas was on ABC Family, and although I still have a soft spot for that movie.....why oh why did Mel Gibson have to turn out to be a crazy wife-beating bigot?

I try to ignore that when I listen to this song. It would have dragged the movie down but I still love it. 

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Damn that is a lovely song. I understand why they cut it from the movie, but still. There's also an extended version of the finale where they sing the reprise.

Again I ask why Mel Gibson turned into an asshole!!

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I try to ignore that when I listen to this song. It would have dragged the movie down but I still love it. 

 

As an aside, I think it's great that the real Pocohantas, despite dying young and only having had one child, still has direct living descendants today. That's pretty wild to me. Neither Shakespeare, Lincoln, or Laura Ingalls Wilder can claim that.

 

I saw Beauty and the Beast when it went back to theaters in 2012 in 3-d. Still holds up great.

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As an aside, I think it's great that the real Pocohantas, despite dying young and only having had one child, still has direct living descendants today. That's pretty wild to me. Neither Shakespeare, Lincoln, or Laura Ingalls Wilder can claim that.

 

First Ladies Edith Wilson and Nancy Reagan were both descended from Pocahontas and John Rolfe.

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There is actually a claimed descendant of Abraham Lincoln still alive - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timothy_Lincoln_Beckwith

 

Yeah, but I think we all know it's b.s. Otherwise, he would have been willing to submit to a DNA test to prove it.

 

I'm really curious to see how the live-action version of Beauty and the Beast will turn out. I really think its my favorite of the Disney Renaissance- Belle and Pocohantas are my two favorite heroines.

Edited by methodwriter85

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I'm really curious to see how the live-action version of Beauty and the Beast will turn out. I really think its my favorite of the Disney Renaissance- Belle and Pocohantas are my two favorite heroines.

I'm curious because they're adapting the Broadway musical, not the movie. I saw it once on Broadway but I can't remember because I was very young. And I saw it performed at my high school after I'd graduated and that was just a mess (wigs were flying off). I do love parts of the score from Broadway like "Home" and "Me" but I wonder how they'll balance the tone. I don't think the Broadway play is a great work of theatre. 

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Damn that is a lovely song. I understand why they cut it from the movie, but still. There's also an extended version of the finale where they sing the reprise.

Again I ask why Mel Gibson turned into an asshole!!

 

I tend to think he was always an asshole, he just got lousy at hiding it. That kind of hatred is usually set early on. This is why I hate knowing so much about celeb's personal lives. If I never knew Mel was an asshole, I could still enjoy his body of work. Everything has that stain on it now. That shit won't easily wash out, maybe never.

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This is why I hate knowing so much about celeb's personal lives. If I never knew Mel was an asshole, I could still enjoy his body of work. Everything has that stain on it now. That shit won't easily wash out, maybe never.

That's true. I haven't been to a Woody Allen movie since he had an affair with his stepdaughter and then married her. And the argument that he was never married to Mia Farrow and therefore wasn't Soon Yi's stepfather doesn't hold water -- he was a parental figure in her life.
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First footage from Moana. I thought the design of Moana was too similar to Rapunzel, but omigosh -- the animation is similar too. It's enough to be distracting for me.

Disney has a style; but I never had a problem distinguishing the princesses.

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I'm trying to stay away from promo material but this is why I don't like computer animation. Well, one reason. I think Frozen ended up being different enough from Tangled but it was already looking same-y then.

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It's not a computer animation problem; see Pixar and their varied character designs. I mean, I don't know what the development process was, but the end result looks as though they just tweaked the Rapunzel model instead of starting from scratch. The design of the other character, Maui, looks like they did examine some Pacific islander men, or at least The Rock himself.

 

The same-ness is disappointing; especially considering Disney managed to achieve distinctive looks for the other non-white lead heroines like Jasmine, Mulan, and Pocahontas. Even Tiana, who is very "Disney-fied". (I see what you mean about Frozen/Tangled - the leads could be triplets)

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It's not a computer animation problem; see Pixar and their varied character designs.

See the women of Pixar movies. Jessie from Toy Story. Elastigirl. One of those girls from Big Hero 6. (I don't watch a lot of Pixar movies.)

 

I think it's a computer animation problem mixed with a "this is what an attractive female character (and to a far lesser extent male character) looks like" problem.

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See the women of Pixar movies. ...

 

... I think it's a computer animation problem mixed with a "this is what an attractive female character (and to a far lesser extent male character) looks like" problem.

 

Besides the fact that the Pixar leading ladies are all white(sigh) and have big, round eyes (an industry staple - sigh), I don't think they are as similar-looking as the recent Disney princesses. (Ellen Parr, Colette, Merida, Elinor, ) I think they all have enough differences (I appreciate that Elastigirl is the first Disney/Pixar leading lady with big hips) so that they are not clones with different coloring/hairstyles/clothes; though Ellie and Jessie do look alike.

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I actually do believe that hand drawn animation and 2D provides for a far greater diversity of character design options and animation style overall than CG does. I think it's a real shame that it's become obsolete (in America anyway).

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Random realization on my eleventy billionth viewing of Mulan: Mulan is the only animated leading lady/princess to kill people. (The Hun soldiers on the mountain pass.) Like directly, and on purpose.

 

And after typing that I realized Elinor from Brave might count, but she's not the lead. Co-lead at best.

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YES to taking a moment to celebrate female Disney characters on the Disney 60 TV special. But can we stop using "strong female character" as a buzzword/phrase?

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