Pretty Females vs. the Bold Feminism of Frozen

At its first presentation at Siggraph, Disney’s Frozen started to gain some positive buzz as the animation Oscar frontrunner. But then came a viral media storm last month about gender portrayals in animation that yielded some provocative debate in the community about the Disney/Pixar animation boys club’s predisposition toward pretty females.

However, now we can focus on what really matters: Frozen offers Disney’s most progressive feminist approach to the princess fairy tale to date. How else would you characterize the post-modern refashioning of Hans Christian Andersen’s The Snow Queen as a conflict between two sisters based on love vs. fear? The result is a lot bolder than perpetuating traditional romantic love, bolstered by the presence of Disney Animation’s first female director — Jennifer Lee (the co-screenwriter of Wreck-It Ralph) — who helmed with animation vet Chris Buck (Surf’s Up, Tarzan). But then it was Buck’s idea to end with a radical departure that they worked very hard to earn.

So naturally if you have two princesses that closely resemble each other — the free-spirited Anna (voiced by Kristen Bell) and the repressed Elsa (voiced by Idini Menzel) — you’re going to have a few animation challenges in distinguishing their individual expressions.

That’s what Disney animation head Lino DiSalvo was trying to point out in the roundtable that started the firestorm. Yes, in retrospect, he shouldn’t have said that animating female characters is historically difficult because of their range of emotions. His big mistake, pointed out by Brenda Chapman (Pixar’s first woman director, who won the Oscar with her replacement on Brave, Mark Andrews), was saying “pretty” instead of  ”appealing” in describing the siblings.

Overall, though, the performances of Anna and Elsa are more nuanced and emotionally complex than ever before in the Disney canon, leveraging what Glen Keane and the animators accomplished on Tangled by adding more hand-drawn warmth and expressiveness to CG.

Read the rest at TOH/Indiewire.

Posted on by Bill Desowitz in 3-D, Animation, Below the Line, Books, Clips, Movies, Music, previs, Tech, Trailers, VFX, Virtual Production

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