A Panel Of White, Male Animators Have All The Feels About Breaking The “Princess” Mold

Photo: The Hollywood Reporter
The Hollywood Reporter's roundtable with seven animation creatives — including Sausage Party's Seth Rogen — sparked important conversations about ethnic stereotypes, sexism, and even body-shaming within the world of cartoons. However, there is one issue here: Everyone at the table was a white man. Though we don't know whether THR asked, say, Frozen writer-director Jennifer Lee or Finding Dory writer Victoria Strouse to participate, it's disheartening to hear such important discussions about diversity going on between people who always get to see themselves on screen. The issue with this was particularly evident when the men ruminated on the problem with princesses — specifically, how animated women are portrayed on screen. Here's what Mike Mitchell, director of Trolls, had to say about the leading female character in the animated film. "[On] Trolls, we wanted to completely break the mold of the animated princess. Most princesses have big eyes and little bitty waists and little tiny hooves they walk around on. And [with Poppy], we wanted to keep this ugly-cute, big melon head, giant teeth. She didn't have to wear uncomfortable princess shoes, which I think is cool." This is a step in the right direction, for sure — I'm so over the dainty, super-skinny princesses of early Disney movies. But while Mitchell's princess may look different, she falls into the same trap that so many women characters do on screen. The princess in Trolls is, apparently, a ray of sunshine. "We wanted to explore happiness and how undervalued a positive attitude is. So our lead character is super-optimistic, but we wanted to make sure she wasn't vacant. It was nice; we took a cue from [the rabbit] Judy Hopps [in Zootopia]. Is this something Judy Hopps would do?" I'm all for happy characters, but it's a little grating that women are often stuck in the role of the optimist. Consider popular princess movies as an example: Despite these women being forced to deal with outrageously terrible circumstances, they're also the ones with the happiest outlook on the situation. If they're not happy, they are broken. Even Elsa and Anna from Frozen, a relatively progressive princess movie, are guilty of this: Despite being a virtual shut-in, Anna is deliriously optimistic, while Elsa's sadness essentially causes an entire country to freeze over. Pixar film Inside Out challenged this notion. In Inside Out, which was co-written by female writer Meg LeFauve, young girl Riley feels a constant obligation to stay happy for her family, despite feeling nervous and sad about her recent cross-country move. It's a reminder that little girls, and women in general, have no obligation to be the sunshine in anyone's life — they're allowed the same range of emotions as anyone else. It's wonderful that Mitchell is trying to make strides for women in animation — it's about time that princesses with eyes bigger than their waists were taken back to the drawing board — yet changes in the portrayals of women have to be more than skin-deep. As this all-white-male roundtable suggests, we might need more women in positions of power within animation to make this happen.

More from Movies

R29 Original Series