How About An Animated Movie With A Female Lead Who Isn't A Princess?

Illustration for article titled How About An Animated Movie With A Female Lead Who Isn't A Princess?

People are excited about Toy Story 3. And Up made good money over the weekend. But NPR's Linda Holmes pleads to Pixar: "Please make a movie about a girl who is not a princess."


See, the next Pixar project — after TS3 and Newt — is The Bear And The Bow — the company's first flick about a girl. Guess what? She's a princess. (While The Cowgirl character in Toy Story was a hit, she's definitely not the "star" of the franchise.)

Holmes continues:

I have nothing against princesses. I have nothing against movies with princesses. But don't the Disney princesses pretty much have us covered? If we had to wait for your thirteenth movie for you to make one with a girl at the center, couldn't you have chosen something — something — for her to be that could compete with plucky robots and adventurous space toys?

Agreed. As a child I loved fairy tales, but also loved stories about girls who went somewhere: Dorothy to Oz; Alice to Wonderland; Eloise to Paris and Moscow. I wanted to be lots of things — photographer; archaeologist, filmmaker; gymnast; microbiologist — never princess. Isn't it funny how Coraline could do well at the box office without a castle, pink gown or tiara? (And now Coraline: The Musical is being staged.)

We already know that Disney is pretty committed to the Princess franchise. A blogger at Packaging Girlhood writes of The Princess And The Frog:

Another Disney princess movie. Yawn. Hard to get too excited because we know when it comes to gender, Disney has the imagination of a toadstool… We already know Disney is hopeless, but maybe Pixar can give us what we want. While we wait - and it could be a very, very long wait — we'll take a reader's advice on the NPR site and go back to the best in good old 2-D animation: Studio Ghibli's haunting, imaginative, original films like Howl's Moving Castle, My Neighbor Totoro, and Spirited Away. All female driven with nary a princess in sight."

Dreamworks, the studio known for making jabs at Disney in flicks like Shrek, usually relies on male leads (Bee Movie, Kung Fu Panda) but throws female characters into the mix in ensemble casts (Madagascar, Monsters Vs. Aliens.)

Why is it that most animated films fail to present strong female characters? In December, the BBC presented a list of "subversive animated female heroines" which included Betty Boop (?!). Wonder Woman has been done, and she can't be expected to carry female-driven animated flicks all by herself.


Maybe the animators looking for good stories should turn to sci-fi? This list of heroines from science fiction includes great characters like Ripley from Alien; Buffy from Buffy The Vampire Slayer (is that sci-fi?); Starbuck from Battlestar Galactica; Dana Scully from The X-Files; Sarah Connor from Terminator and, okay, one princess — Leia, from Star Wars. All make decent Halloween costumes, and none of them are waiting for their prince to come.


Dear Pixar, From All The Girls With Band-Aids On Their Knees [NPR]
Rate-a-Trailer: Toy Story 3 Enters Rebuilding Phase [E!]
Disney's First Black Princess [Packing Girlhood]
'Sexy' Sigourney Weaver Is First Lady Of Sci-Fi [Independent]
Better the Mother You Know Than the Other One [NY Times]
Musical "Coraline" Even Stranger Than The Book [Hollywood Reporter]
Earlier: Women And Cartoons: Beyond Breast Size



I find it interesting that films like Spirited Away, Nausicca, and My Neighbor Totoro all feature main female characters and were HUGE successes in Japan, which has it's own set of gender issues...yet here in the U.S. we have a real hard time with featuring them as non-Princesses in animation or at all.

Frankly, it's lacking in imagination. Which especially from Pixar is disappointing. They're an established company that, while they need to rely on their audience for continued success, is in the unique position of also being able to dictate to the audience what it SHOULD want. They can do a film with a female lead and say, no, really, you want this. Because they have a proven track record.

I definitely think part of this is that the default "neutral" gender is male, it's the perspective we get most often and is the one we're expected to identify with as being the "every person"...because we've othered women's experiences into something that no one but another woman can identify with. And that's just not true when you're talking about stories like this. They all have common themes, and there's absolutely nothing gender specific about a quest story.