Female leads, now a trend in animation movies thanks to ‘Frozen’

The year 2013 changed the way female characters were looked at in animation films, thanks to the Oscar Award winning film based on the relationship of two sisters – Elsa and Anna – from the house of Walt Disney Animation Studios, ‘Frozen’. According to a recent report, director Mark Osborne, who has been working on adapting the literary classic ‘The Little Prince’ into a feature film, experimented with the idea of actually going ahead with a ‘female’ lead. Well, that certainly means it will now be the tale of ‘The Little Princess’. “In animation, it always had to be boy-centric,” Osborne expressed, of most North American kid tales. “Right now there seems to be a changing of the tide but these things don’t happen overnight. These movies take years to make, so back when I was first pushing to make the little girl the main character it was seen as quite revolutionary.” Osborne is hopeful that his film, which is expected this Christmas, helps clear a gender imbalance he was alerted to by the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media. According to the findings of a 2010 study, which included Osborne’s 2008 comedy Kung Fu Panda, male speaking parts significantly outnumbered female parts in 122 live and animated family films released between 2006 and 2009. A scan of the big animated titles bound for the multiplex suggests that trend could be changing – as several releases boast of either female leads or very prominent female characters. This includes the recently released DreamWorks Animation’s (DWA) Home, about an alien who befriends a pre-teen girl; the upcoming Disney/Pixar Inside Out, about the tumultuous emotions of a moody adolescent; this summer’s DWA’s Minions, with Sandra Bullock as a female super-villain; and next year’s Disney/Pixar Finding Dory, the Finding Nemo sequel centred on the forgetful female blue tang fish. Just like how on the live action front, Twilight‘s juggernaut success ushered in female-driven live-action forays – The Hunger Games and Divergent franchises among them – a few industry observers claim 2013’s Frozen is thawing out notions that young boys won’t cheer for a female lead. But, clearly any apparent shift could have more to do with commercial interests rather than major attempts at redress. Animated fare in particular does offer more lucrative merchandising and spinoff opportunities far beyond the box office, even decades after release. This year’s TIFF Kids International Film Festival will screen three female led films namely, Australia/Germany’s Maya the Bee Movie, France’s Mune and Japan’s When Marnie Was There. Women will also take centre stage this year at the prestigious Annecy International Animated Film Festival, set to take place between 15 and 20 June. The long-running fest will highlight female filmmakers, figureheads, and emerging artists with an all-female jury, programs of films by women directors, and a tribute to female animation pioneers. Speaking exclusively to AnimationXpress.com earlier in the year, Annecy Festival and MIFA head of economic development Mickael Marin said: “This year’s focus of the festival will be on women from the industry, we also have an all women jury that will be selecting the movies. There will be special programmes on women that will be screened as well. This year’s country of honour is Spain and the art work will be designed by Regina Pessoa, a Portuguese short film director.” Such a spotlight could encourage more girls to enter the field, further changing the way females are portrayed onscreen.