“Frozen” Head of Animation Says Animating Women is “Really, Really Difficult”

Disney’s Frozen won’t be released theatrically for another month-and-half, but it’s already melting into one giant slushee of controversy. Some people have chosen to boycott the film because of the chauvinist revisions to its storyline. But the real shitsnowstorm of controversy started from within the studio after Lino DiSalvo, the head of animation on Frozen, claimed that it was “really, really difficult” to animate women because they have to be kept pretty while expressing emotions:

“Historically speaking, animating female characters are really, really difficult, because they have to go through these range of emotions, but you have to keep them pretty and they’re very sensitive to — you can get them off a model very quickly. So, having a film with two hero female characters was really tough, and having them both in the scene and look very different if they’re echoing the same expression; that Elsa looking angry looks different from Anna being angry.”

These comments were reposted on Tumblr earlier this afternoon, and tens of thousands of users have added notes to the initial post, while criticism has emerged from other well known creative practitioners, like comic artist Faith Erin Hicks on Twitter:

In fairness to DiSalvo, I get what he’s saying as an animator. Female characters in animation typically have a more limited range of facial expressions than their male counterparts, and they are caricatured only in villainous (think Cruella de Vil or Medusa in The Rescuers) or comedic contexts. Even Golden Age Disney animators complained about being assigned princesses and other female leads because they were expected to keep these characters within a predictable range of acting. Put two on the screen at the same time, and it becomes an instant challenge.

But DiSalvo’s comments about women having to look pretty and having a limited range of expression are not inherent rules within animation; they are arbitrary aesthetic choices that have been handed down from one generation of Disney animators to the next. Feature film animators choose to use a recycled palette of expressions and they choose to portray woman as cardboard cutouts because directors choose to make these type of films—and entertainment companies profit handsomely when they do.

The Disney Company grosses billions of dollars every year from its Disney Princess franchise. If a company can earn money simply by reducing half of the world’s population into a generic and falsified ideal of beauty, more power to them.

Enlightened animation fans, however, have begun to reject this male-dominated view of animated women, and they have been using every slight opportunity to express their discontent. Someday, an animation company will heed the call and create films with believable women characters that represent the full emotional, mental and physical spectrum of women. Until then, we’ll have to settle for Tangled, Brave and Frozen.

  • George Comerci

    Honestly, I don’t think it’s a big deal. It’s Disney’s movie, not ours. If they want their characters to look pretty, then more power to them! While I do think it shouldn’t be a big deal, I don’t thing people should get all prissy over it either. Like I said, it’s Disney’s movie, so let them make it in their style! …I’m going to get a lot of hate for this, huh?

  • Remarkable Kanoodle

    Funny, I was just thinking how nice the Disney female protagonist head design was (Tangled, Frozen) in terms of being very appealing as against say Pixar or almost anyone else. But if that violates a cultural taboo they should feel free to make them as cartoon generic and common as the male head designs.

  • optimist

    There’s a lot of willful parsing and misunderstanding going on here with some people online.
    The animator is talking about a technical challenge, as “in fairness”, Amid points out. He’s talking about keeping a character with, yes, a “pretty” face from going so off model that it looks grotesque or ‘wrong”, NOT that women characters should always look pretty or not express extreme emotions. Sure, there’s an aesthetic choice-and then there’s a technical choice/challenge. THAT is what he’s discussing and trying to describe.
    Secondly, I’m not a CG animator, but it seems to me that working with a hard-modeled, “three dimensional” puppet rig requires a simpler sort of base when one is translating 2D designs, or (yes, again) attractive SISTERS, who, horror of horrors, are supposed to read as related girls of a similar age, and then taking those 3D versions and having them look “the same but different” in, say, a screaming argument. it’s much easier to get that across in 2D, imho. But that isn’t the type of animation being discussed.
    Lastly, I haven’t seen Frozen yet. I don’t believe anyone in the public sphere has. I’ll reserve my review of the characters’ success as “believable” personalities until I actually sit and see all the animation unfold in front of me. That seems only fair, don’t you think?

    • Social context

      Think of it this way, news items like this act more like a reminder that Disney has always had and is continuing to maintain a very narrow definition of ‘appeal’ for it’s women characters. Many of us are and have been fighting against this sort of thing for a long time, we’re still annoyed Anna looks like Rapunzel and when this tweet came around, it just sounded like whining. Maybe if the designs were more unique, it would be less noticeable when they go off model? They made 3 girls (including Rapunzel) who have the exact same face, and then had the audacity to complain that they can’t differentiate them from each other. Yet no one can figure out why we’re bashing our heads against the wall.
      They’re basically telling us that it’s MORE effort to make pretty, appealing women characters and keep them expressive than it is for whatever miraculous system makes the male characters less of a challenge. It isn’t even done out of laziness, it’s actually more difficult and more time consuming. And to women who grew up with this and are sick of it already, that’s just a slap in the face.

    • Toads

      As a 3D animator and modeler, I assure you it’s possible to make a variety of female characters in 3D. Plus, a female rig is no more limited than a male rig. The problem here is males thinking that attractive women must be attractive all time time. FALSE. Even “attractive females” can make funny or even ugly faces sometimes. This is realistic to human beings. They’re limiting their animation due to limited thinking over what a woman can be and must be to be a “attractive female.” It’s not due to any real technical issue in animation.

  • Elf

    Most interesting animated female character I have seen recently is probably Lucy from Despicable Me 2. Disney, ironically the pioneer of this animation industry, could probably learn a thing or 2 from the creators of Despicable Me. Such shame.

    • Shazbot

      Yeah – too bad, though, that Lucy was so annoying and unfunny.

  • Rayya Brown-Wright

    It’s sad to see that animation is as limited as real life when it comes to its interpretation of women. For all of the technology that we throw into these 3D animated features,we still can’t get past these One dimensional interpretations??

    • slowtiger

      So right! The problem is not the animation, it’s the choice of stories and characters. I’d go so far and say it’s a problem of US vs. european film industry. Hollywood feeds cookie-cutter female characters to the audience, and in animation this only is worse.

  • Scott Benson

    I wonder what other swaths of the population are difficult to animate individualistically based on their company-mandated essential characteristics?

  • Guest

    This is such a pile of shit. First of all…. Lino is not the director, he’s the head of animation on Frozen. Second,
    all you haters are never going to be happy, because if the expressions
    were pushed any further on many of those mouth and eye shapes, the
    characters would go off model, and they would look ugly and you’d all
    complain that Disney was making ugly films. To completely discredit Tangled is just completely unwarranted… because the truth is that most people
    love it. I wish people would stop complaining so much about what other
    people aren’t “doing well”, and just fucking step up to the plate and
    put in the work yourself to fix it, rather than crying about a misquoted
    piece of information that one of the most talented guys in animation
    said in a side-interview. How old are all of you? It’s unbelievable.

    • Barrett

      Wow, hostile much?

      Look, I have nothing against Tangled, it was a beautifully-animated film with a decent-if-derivative story. I admire the technical achivement of making 3D act reasonably like high-end 2D. Glen Keane’s influence obviously helped proper Disney 3D out of the level they were in with things like Bolt and Meet The Robinsons.

      All the same, the characters practically look like “re-skinned” versions of Rapunzel. I’m sure there have been some advancements as to the underlying software, but stylistically, it’s kinda stale. It’s not like Disney hasn’t been guilty of this before in 2D, but after Wreck-It Ralph, I think expectations were a bit higher for Disney to have a wider range of character construction and face shapes. I think the videogame setting forced the decisionmakers to push things into more distinctive directions because the characters from Sugar Rush had to look like they came from another “universe” than the ones in “Fix It Felix.” With the return to classic storybookland, the old tried-and-true look for the heroine has returned as well.

      I know from all the concept are I see that Disney’s artists are capable of all kinds of boundry-pushing character design, and not just freakish “look at this weird thing” edginess, but stuff with real mainstream appeal that also looks fresh. Laika has managed to actually make features that have that kind of “odd but appealing” innovation, and I think a lot of people would like to see Disney do the same and not waste the talent they have in their team. The final look of the humans in Frozen feel very “by committee” or “studio-head-approved.”

    • Creepy

      [Comment removed by editors. Per our commenting guidelines, "Defamatory, rude, or unnecessarily antagonistic comments will be deleted."]

  • Alex Printz

    Faith Erin Hicks draws flat characters, and doesn’t have to worry about movement. I’m not knocking her style, but she’s in a completely different universe and has no right to comment until she’s tried to break the animated female mold on the same terms Disney set up for their animators.

    I won’t even comment on constructed drawings, since this is a CG film, and I don’t want to defend disney’s choice, but I will say I’d love to see her try to work with princess characters. It isn’t easy animating feminine, and there’s only a handful of people in the last century that have been able to do it convincingly.

    • timlai

      I see your point but Faith Erin Hicks graduated from Sheridan’s animation program and worked in the animation industry for several years. I’m pretty sure she knows what she’s talking about.

      • Alex Printz

        Then as an animator she should know all the more how difficult that disney-esque type princess animating is. Her remarks seem even less comprehensive now.

        • timlai

          But the point that she’s making isn’t that drawing princesses that meet the same standards for beauty and keeping them distinct isn’t hard. The point is that Disney’s mentality that all female characters must be “pretty” and that they all must meet the same exact standards for beauty represents everything that’s wrong with Disney. And would anyone ever say that it’s difficult to have a movie where there are two male protagonists? God forbid, what would Disney do if they ever wanted to have a movie with THREE female main characters?

          • Geez

            I’m sorry, but when has it been a problem with female leads being pretty? Aren’t you being hypocritical? Name one animated film you enjoyed where the lead heroine was “ugly”. There are simply different standards for

            The truth is that Disney is a company created by white people and their style is therefore white-dominated, using the same large-eyed, button-nose template that made Ariel and Rapunzel so popular. That’s my main riff – there’s no range in feature placement, but hey – that’s they’re style for the white female heroine. The point is not “female characters shouldn’t be pretty” (wtf?)

          • Funkybat

            Esmerelda in “Hunchback” was definitely not the “typical Disney pretty girl” though she was by most accounts attractive. Pocahontas’ design was pretty groundbreaking as far as Disney “princesses” goes, very lanky build and a lot of flat plane shapes instead of lots of circles. Most of the characters in “Atlantis” looked more “street art” inspired than they did like Snow White or Cinderella. Lilo & Sitich was very distinctive, I love that they basically let Chris Sanders do his thing in regards to character design instead of forcing him to “fit the mold.”

            Disney has a small range of “typical” styles for male and female characters, but they have pushed beyond that in the past. “Wreck-It Ralph” is the most recent example, and I think some people were hoping it was a sign of the new blood at Disney setting a whole new course for design and writing for features. I have no info beyond the bare outline on the story of “Frozen” and will withhold my judgment until I see the film, but as far as character designs go, they do look more reminiscent of “Tangled” than i was expecting.

          • Power_Animator

            Wrek-it-Ralp was an accumulation of different game characters of course it would be different. A hodge podge of characters..the movie would have never worked if all the characters looked relatively the same.

          • Alex Printz

            Then she should be attacking Disney corporation for their disney ideals instead of the artists and directors admitting how hard it is to meet that expectation. She doesn’t understand how short of a leash they’re on right now over there.

  • Jones

    Animation is not about “the full emotional, mental and physical spectrum”, at least imho. (To a lesser extent, that goes for the medium – film – as a whole). Movies like Avatar or Iron Man 3 earn billions – and we criticize an animated cartoon (which nobody has seen yet, I might add) for doing what animation is supposed to do? Princess and the Frog was racist, because it had a black heroine, now Frozen is chauvinistic, because it has not one, but two female leads – what´s next? Accusing Schindler´s list of anti-semitism?

  • http://the-animatorium.blogspot.com/ Natalie Belton

    Uh oh, it’s one of these articles again. Let the angry comments commence!

  • Brill 93

    Its like Disney can’t do anything anymore without these social justice idiots making it seem Disney is some sort of racist, sexist company. Everybody is so full of holding a grudge on old Disney that they forget modern Disney is different. If you don’t like Disney don’t watch any of their stuff. No on is forcing you.

    • Harry Bastard

      A grudge? A grudge. The characters LOOK EXACTLY THE SAME. They’re templated, they have no visual character of their own, they’re like vat-grown Monsanto clones. They’re not women, they’re DISNEY PRINCESSES, a marketer’s idealized version of what a heroine SHOULD look and act like. If yer into that, fine. But don’t go on about holding grudges to women who don’t fit the Disney mold and find it more than a lil’ demeaning.

      • Brill 93

        [Comment removed by editors. Per our commenting guidelines, "Defamatory, rude, or unnecessarily antagonistic comments will be deleted."]

        • Harry Bastard

          Brill, man, I wasn’t tryin’ to piss you off, I was just tryin’ to make a strong point. The idea is to compose yerself and make a strong point back. Sorry if I made you feel the need to slag me.

      • IJK

        Studio Ghibli’s protagonists are all templated. Most of the Looney Tunes characters are pretty interchangeable. Pluck off Bugs’ ears , give him a bill and paint him black, he’s Daffy. Hell, wasn’t Elmer based on Porky’s design? Or vice versa?

        Change Aladdin’s hairstyle and he can be a pretty princess himself.

        This isn’t restricted to Disney princesses, this is just for art in general. When you have a style, you repeat it. When Bruce Timm directs a superhero tv show, you can expect Superman to look just like Batman. All of Hannah Barbara’s characters are templated as well.

        That’s why it’s upsetting that people get up in arms when Disney does this just become they’re grasping at straws at reasons to be mad at them. Early on, Disney’s princes pretty much all looked like the ones in Cinderella. All of their horses were the same. They re-used damn designs from Robin Hood to Jungle Book. If you’re looking for misogynist, racist, sexist, whatever reasons that Disney is doing this, save your breath. They do it for animation purposes, not because they hate women,

        • Harry Bastard

          Hmm…You do make a point about style, but compare character! Princess Mononoke or the lead from Howl’s Moving Castle (which was about as fairytale romantic as you can get) vs. any of the Disney Princesses. And the villains of Myazaki’s tales…the lady general from Nausicaa, or the leader of Iron Town. Myazaki’s movies feature strong, believable female leads throughout. And yes, he does have a consistent look to them, but ‘bombshells’ they ain’t. Ironic that his films are published in North America BY Disney. (Yeesh, now I sound like Myazaki’s press agent.)

          By the way, ‘member that ep of Batman when Harley, Poison Ivy and Catwoman teamed up? No wimpy womens there. All beauty ideals in design, but destinct and strong in character. That’s me beef. Right, enough geekery. Thanks for the well thought out reply, by the way!

        • Rachel

          Studio Ghibli protagonists templated? Kiki has insecurities, San hates humans, Eboshi hired female prostitutes, Mei is lovable and stubborn, Fio is a aircraft developer, Gina owns a hotel, Shizuku loves antiques and writing, and Taeko is a normal twenty-something year old who can’t let go the inner 6th grader. Please educate yourself before you speak.

          • IJK

            Please understand the topic being discussed before chiming in overly defensive.

            Everyone here is talking about design, not personality.

        • Toads

          Actually with 3D animation there is absolutely no benefit to having the characters look similar. You don’t have to worry about drawing the character the same way over and over again. It’s a 3D model that you’re moving like a puppet. It’s more similar to stopmotion than 3D in a lot of ways.

          Personally I think Disney needs to try to do something fresh and genuine instead of trying to mimic the past.

        • Rias

          I know… it’s a month old, but… the fact that other studios do it doesn’t make it ok. I’m sure if you took the time to look, you would find people complaining about Ghibli, too (Though, the fact that none of his women look like ideal beauties makes people more at ease. Also, Kiki’s delivery service, you have women of different body types like the pregnant woman who looks naturally portly and the woman in the woods with the wicked strong jaw. Actually… yeah, no. Ghibli can be pretty good about making somewhat different faces within the limits of his style. Main characters, too. Chihiro’s face in spirited away, her nose was flatter, her cheeks were fatter. It was charming. He tried, but I digress…). And the daffy and bugs thing bothers me. Take a bald characters face, and change the nose and take away the ears and yes…. you would have a distinct character :u. So no. I daresay, they aren’t very interchangeable, in so far as they changed their silhouette.
          …And Aladdin has a pretty distinct nose (bigger) and a long face. Make him a princess and he would be head and shoulders above the rest in terms of he looks different, which would be fantastic.

          But yeah, everyone else does it too isn’t a good excuse. It’s really not. And the subject is not ‘everyone else’ it’s Disney right now and it is a problem. And the fact that the only not ‘pretty’ females in disney land I can think of are dotty old women, or villains is super sad. So, I think this is just adding straw to the old camels back.

          Also, unrelated to your post, sometimes same sex siblings don’t look so similar. Cause they have two parents to get genes from (I look more like my dad and my sister looks like my mom). I’m just saying…

  • Guest

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    As a woman who worked on this film and knows it inside and out, I would suggest that people actually go see it before making false assumptions about supposed “chauvinist” storylines and complain about lack of dimension in the female characters. It is a fantastic film with a strong, appealing heroine, so please hold your judgement and hissy fits until you actually know what you are complaining about.

    • Toads

      As a woman. Oooooo.

      “I’m a woman and I support this, so it can’t possibly be sexist. Women never support, create, or do anything that’s sexist or chauvinistic.”

  • SarahJesness

    I’m not against wanting female characters to look pretty. Animation is a visual medium, after all, and a lot of people want to see pretty films. (this especially applies when you’re doing “princessy” stuff and the characters are supposed to be pretty) But come on, this is Disney! Kings of animation! They should be able to make more than one 3D face design for lady characters!

  • Power_Animator

    I agree with you, lets just say that people only see his statement they way they’d like it.

  • http://www.thecaterjillar.com/ Jillers

    Annnnd the amount of people missing the point in the comments piles up and up and up…

  • farleftside

    Need I remind everyone of Helen and Violet Parr in the Incredibles, both of whom showed a wide range of non-pretty emotion.

    • IJK

      How are you looking at “non-pretty”?

      As in, they were “drawn” ugly or anger is an ugly emotion? Because they both practically looked like sex symbols to me.

  • AmidAmidi

    The sentence I wrote means the following: He is saying something as an animator, and I get it. Had I written “As an animator, I get what he’s saying,” then that would have been an incorrect sentence since I’m not an animator. Sorry for the confusion.

  • slowtiger

    I always found Miyazaki’s range of style neither special nor really large, but even with a style comfortably nested in the center of Anime he is able to tell stories which are just original enough to stand out.

    • Toads

      He allows his female characters to make ugly and ridiculous faces.

  • slowtiger

    I think the problem with female characters in Hollywood feature animation (and to a large extent in live action as well) lies in the stories, which at their core are still victorian. As Arno Schmidt put it, “In the victorian novel the main characters are the least interesting characters.” All thoses princes and princesses and wannabe-nobles are completely uninteresting for a contemporary audience, but they serve well as projection objects for anybody’s wishes, desires, and fears. They serve so well because they are essentially blank, with no real problems and even less traits of personality. “Being pretty” is not how I’d like to describe any of my real-life friends, it’s more of an insult than anything. “Being a princess” (or “being the Chosen One”) is not a profession, nothing one has to study and struggle for.

    Additionally Hollywood-pretty is a very small portion of what people in real life find attractive. So no wonder animators find it difficult to work convincingly within these double restrictions: it’s really hard to maintain a certain state of blandness all the time. How would one ever apply Howard Hawks to a Disney Movie – “Show people at work, and you get an interesting movie”?

    • Lumiere

      I agree, especially with “Show people at work and you get an interesting movie.” Book too! ANIMATED by N. Lumiere shows animators at work and play.

    • Funkybat

      That’s one reason I loved “Wreck-It Ralph” so much. Instead of being based off of a Victorian romance/adventure template, it felt like it was more akin to a modern “outcast/geek” story such as Scott Pilgrim or The Venture Bros. I was not surprised when I learned the director was a veteran of The Simpsons and Futurama. My generation relates to that sensibility a lot more than the “romance & rescue fantasy” that worked so well for many earlier animated films. I’m glad to see movies like “Ralph”, “Paranorman” and “Coraline” succeed, it’s certainly better than what most non-Disney studios were doing to compete with Disney in the 90s.

  • Shazbot

    I have absolutely NO interest in this “Frozen” abomination. The original Hans Christian Andersen story featured a plucky little girl who endures hardships and dangers to rescue her MALE friend – a neat twist on the “damsel-in-distress” trope. But Disney has completely gutted the story, dumped Kay and Gerda, so that its version can feature not ONE, but TWO princesses! Two princesses, twice the merchandising sales! Win-win! It’s such an obvious, mercenary and crass ploy that not even the new Mickey Mouse short in front of it will make me lay down my 9 bucks. I refuse to see this, on principle. Plus the trailer looks like a Barbie Winter Wonderland. :P

    • DarylT

      The original Snow Queen story is awful though.

  • Pedro Nakama

    Looks like they’ve mastered the DreamWorks smirk.

  • Ant G

    As you said, “master” animators. 2D animators in general struggled as well to make pretty princesses and handsome princes, they depended heavily on reference and rotoscoping. Snow white being a huge example of this.

  • N. Lumiere

    It’s a fact that Disney has a franchise of bland pretty princesses that must be followed, technical difficulties and all, to get a paycheck.
    But wouldn’t it be lovely if they used some of the shiploads of money they make from the franchise to make bolder, more adventurous films? Films for adults even. Where female (and male) characters could have a broader spectrum of behaviors.
    I think we’re all disappointed that so much animation talent should have such a limited scope of story lines and characters. We’d like to see Disney come out from behind the franchise template and value its world-class art more than profits.
    We’ve seen some interesting new techniques in PAPERMAN and GET A HORSE so why not take a chance a do a non-franchise feature? The studio won’t go broke and audiences might actually like something new and different.

    • DarylT

      The whole point of a Disney film is thats its for everyone.

  • TheGreatWormSpirit

    But people do criticize Miyazaki’s stale art style though. I don’t see what he has to do with Frozen.

  • Mammo

    Man, reading those comments in the link. And here I thought the things I’d heard about tumblr were exagerations…

  • TheDisbeliever

    “…this guy is saying women are not allowed to express a wide variety of emotions in animation…”

    No. He never said that. Please stop twisting what he said to justify your indignation.

    • Toads

      Actually he literally did say that you have to keep them looking pretty. “they have to go through these range of emotions, but you have to keep them pretty ” You can’t show the whole range of human emotions and faces while looking pretty. That’s very limiting.

  • Sandy Blinks

    “Off model”, “off model”, “off model.” Gee, it’s almost like CGI animation is inferior to traditional animation or something. HHRRRMMMMMM!!!!!

    • Ijk

      Oh yeah I forgot how Disney encouraged you to go off-model when animating one of their 2D films HEY WAIT A MINUTE….

      • Sandy Blinks

        There were plenty of better studios who did, though.

        • IJK

          There are also plenty of studios who don’t care about making sure their women, or ANY characters, looking appeal at every angle and with every emotion, but we’re talking about Disney in this discussion. CGI or not, Disney would be following the same rules and principles they’ve set up for their studio.

  • optimist

    They are still not as “flexible” as a 2D line drawing; they are different. It’s true, there are rigs that are tremendously plasticine(Disney’s in particular animate beautifully-thanks to the animators)-but that still doesn’t mean that they can’t easily go off model and look bad-especially if the head/face being animated is that of a pretty girl, one less caricatured than, say, Vanellope.

    • jmahon

      they are. Feel free to watch Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs or Horton Hears a Who. Their rigs are so flexible often the characters are posed “to the camera”, and look more like shaded illustrations than they do 3D models and this is done on purpose. Please, stop comparing 3D to 2D by saying one is inferior to the other, this isn’t 1997.

      The reason they don’t go to these extremes is because they are girls. Girls aren’t very caricatured in animated movies anymore because they (apparently) need to be doll-like at all times. Even Sam, the girl in Cloudy, was more doll-like and rigid than Flint, the guy, who was bendy and noodley and deformed at every possible opportunity. I strongly suggest you watch this movie as it’s a great example of what rigs can do if you let them.

      • optimist

        I have seen them.
        I’m going to suggest that the discussion belongs in the camp of the character designer, not the animator, if someone wants to criticize the “prettiness” factor. This all really seems to be getting far afield of what was ACTUALLY being described by LIno, though.

  • http://skunkandburningtires.com/ Ju-osh

    What’s funny is about this quote is, back in the days when Disney was creating their first round of classic princess flicks (Snow White, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, etc.) it was always the PRINCES who were the bland, forgettable, pod-people that all of the animators found impossible to breathe life into. (Hell, it could even be argued that this trend lasted right up ‘til The Little Mermaid!) Now they’re claiming the reverse?!

    (Quick aside: On a much more positive note, doesn’t Beauty & the Beast feature the best, most interesting, most fully realized, most emotionally nuanced Disney couple EVER? I sure think so.)

    While I wouldn’t go so far as to call Disalvo’s remarks
    “misogynistic” (mi·sog·y·nis·tic: Of or characterized by a hatred of
    women), I would call them unfortunate. Idiotic, even. What was he aiming
    for in admitting how far the studio has fallen artistically and
    creatively? Underdog status? Disney is a multibillion dollar company,
    fer chrissakes! Was Disalvo trying to ape Pixar’s already annoying habit
    of finding some random technical innovation to hype when promoting a
    new film featuring weak characters and/or story? (Realistic looking
    hair! Realistic looking water! Realistic looking fabric!) Cuz honestly,
    no one outside of Wired Magazine gives a fuuuh…

    Maybe — more likely — it was just an awkwardly worded attempt at
    patting oneself on the back for doing something that should appear par
    for the course.

    Which would be embarrassing.

    Probably — and MUCH more likely — it was an off-the-cuff comment by a
    guy who was tired and brain-dead from a months-long, around-the-world
    media junket.

    Which would be regrettable, yet understandable. Forgivable, even!

    I’ve no doubt that Disalvo will learn from this misstep and go back
    to using the carefully prepared answers vetted and edited by Disney’s
    multiple legal teams and marketing departments. This will make for a
    helluva lot of boring and repetitive interviews, but at least PR and the public
    will be pleased.

    • Toads

      I’d say their portrayal of both men and women have been historically sexist and limited. This just happens to be an example of sexism towards women.

      • Bob Robblepots

        I’d say it’s sexism in general. It’s also putting men in that “emotionless meat-sack” slot.

  • Ricky
  • Andrew

    If any you commentators knew Lino, you wouldn’t be so quick to judge him so harshly. Had you worked on this film, or any other film with difficult rigs then you would know exactly what he was talking
    about, and how difficult it is to work with such complex and delicate
    characters. It was easy to throw them off model. It’s that simple….he was talking in animation terms. There are plenty of reasons to dog Disney as a corporation, but this isn’t one of them.

    This guy cares more about the characters in this film more than most of you will care about anything in your entire careers. He inspired and fought hard for the animators on his team and I hate to see the animation community vilify a man that hasn’t done anything but work his ass off to make something to be proud of. He just rolled off a long and exhausting production and this is a simple statement taken completely out of context…..give him a break. Go see the bloody movie and THEN form an opinion about him.

    • Daniel

      It’s difficult because no one really knows how to draw well except for less then a handful of folks who are usually drowned out by the majority who can’t. As soon as it hits modeling, then rigging, and finally the animators who don’t draw you get the result of .. “difficult to work with such complex and delicate characters”. There is a huge majority of “artists” that don’t have the eye to make decisions on how characters should be made that make decisions; or more realistically ignore problems because they can’t tell the difference…

      so what do these “artists” fall back when they do have problems? Since they can’t make improvements on a better design they saddleback on something that’s worked in the past (or more specifically an artist who did know the difference). They try to chase after what was appealing with Glen Keane’s work yet without doing the real homework that got Glen to be Glen. A lifetime of observing life, drawing, and hand-drawn animation. They superficially try to hit shapes that Glen would hit; yet don’t have the insight or knowledge behind it. That’s where you get Frozen!

      I don’t want to lump Lino in that group of “artists”, but the root of the problem isn’t Lino; it’s the ego of cg animators, modelers, and riggers that drown out the artists that know what they are talking about. I’m sure there are some difficulties with throwing them off model; but that problem is compounded by the amount of uninformed decisions or indecisions that went into the models…

      the problem is that the models are built by technicians not artists..

      • Toads

        You sound like you don’t know what you’re talking about really. That’s bogus. The 3D modelers I know are amazing at drawing and even sculpting with clay. It’s amazing that in this day and age people are still fighting the 2D vs 3D battle.

        • daniel

          .. name at least one who is at least as good as kent melton? or raffaello vercchione or Greg Dykstra? If you don’t know who these people are you don’t know what your talking about… Probably only a handful of REAL sculptors that can do their job in a professional manner but without the EGO!..

          Being a modeler in my mind is on par as being a supervising hand-drawn animator.. yet that department has always run more on politics then talent..

          If you can’t tell the difference between good design and bad; I guess your part of that majority that can’t draw..

  • Power_Animator


  • DarylT

    Disney already have created believable woman characters. And its certaintly not a falsefied beauty.

  • DarylT

    Thank you. These people are being completely unreasonable.

  • CartoonGal

    “…Someday, an animation company will heed the call and create films with believable women characters that represent the full emotional, mental and physical spectrum of women…”
    Just wait for Jorge Gutierrez’s ‘Book of Life’ in the works now at ReelFX!

  • uland

    I can’t think of a Disney movie in which ANY character isn’t really limited by type-i.e, they don’t present a “full human spectrum”.If beauty is one of the constraints- & why shouldn’t it be?- the ” full spectrum” , which includes looking unattractive – can’t be included. The male lead can’t look weak, the skinny/fat non-alpha men can’t look strong, the old woman can’t look youthful, etc.. There are super beautiful women in the world- a Cate Blanchet, for example, really couldn’t look ugly if she tried-& I don’t see why a story that includes her beauty as meaningful should be dispriveleged in favor of one that wants to “problematize” that kind of feminine beauty.
    &, btw, it seems to me like 90% of feminist-ish comics use a very similar androgynous yet cute , simplified form to depict lead females (the other ten percent are anthropomorphs) .They don’t draw the zits & mustaches and cellulite -why not?
    None of this means the Disney movie in question won’t be garbage or that a webcomic isn’t good.My point is that cartooning is about using types, about reducing humans to readable symbols.The idea that use of these types causes people to recognize them/enact them psychologically is confused; the causal arrow points the other way.

  • Bret Leback

    Oh boy, another Photo-realism argument.
    Without getting into the feminist-minded argument, because its lengthy and accomplishes nothing to this moment, but this article is about technical achievements and not social-engineering.
    If you want to direct hate towards Disney, you should probably focus on what they did with Lohan, Cyrus, Bynes, and etc. Not some animated medium that’s arguably still in its infancy. We’re dealing with an animated visual medium, not PR.
    *Personal note* I could care less about story changes. This happens to everything, all the time. Final product is never, ever, like the starting issue. However, the fact that the models of the girls are so closely related is a bit disappointing. I get that they are sisters, but did they really need to be spinning images of Rapunzel?

    • Giovanni Jones

      Hey, don’t be laying how Cyrus is skanking for dollars or how Lohan is a train wreck at Disney. Plenty of their stars have done just fine without twerking and quirking, including Selena Gomez, Ashley Tisdale, Aly & AJ, and many others that don’t get the press that misbehavior does.

      Lohan and Cyrus both have parents with lots to answer to as well as hangers on toadies who are filling their pockets every time Miley pulls down her pants and Lohan just falls down.

      By the way, Amanda Bynes is a Nickelodeon product, not Disney.

  • Harry Bastard

    Soooo…the only thing the movie has in common (according to the blogger referenced) with HCA’s original story ‘The Ice Queen’ is the environment in which it takes place. Whoo.

  • Harry Bastard

    There’s a bit of a quandry…how do you honestly comment on the content of a film when the description of the film’s characters and script make it seem objectionable? Eh, I’ll wait for the DVD.

  • otterhead

    Cripes, this comes off as people who really, really want to be offended.

    Would it have been better if he’d said “appealing” instead of “pretty”?

  • optimist

    They also refer to an animator in their headlines as a “Disney exec”, which suggests something completely different than the fact that the guy talking is an animator, an artist. Ignorance and jumping to preformed conclusions. I think it’s grossly unfair to leap to other topics and conclusions based on the animator’s remarks, which were anecdotal and taken out of their technical challenge/animation context.

  • Ariel

    I know a lot of people are posting really long comments, but after all this, I can only say that people could be so sensitive these days. I’ll see the movie before I judge it.

  • thomas

    How do you know any of the males are love interests if you haven’t seen the movie yet? What if it’s just a movie about sisters and the males are just there as a supporting cast?

    And it looks like there are two males and two females on the poster (not counting the snowman and deer). Seems quite equal to me.

    • Harry Bastard

      Again, hard to know out of context, but Disney isn’t exactly famous for it’s progressive stance on strong female lead characters.

  • IJK

    Ignore any and all criticisms you ever hear on Tumblr. It’s a joke site for discussion. It’s the perfect place for people to go and act like they have strong opinions without the fear of dozens of people responding and telling them how stupid they are because of the lack of a proper “Reply” button.

  • IJK

    Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Tarzan and Aladdin all had similar girl designs…. This “trend” didn’t exactly start with Tangled.

    • Power_Animator

      I think things become more distinct when they are seen in 3D…Disney has had a style since their beg with Fred Moore, After Fred Moore, then Milt Kahl after Milt Kahl, Glen Keane.. People forget that in styles there are limitations to “NEW” just look at comics Joe Mad, Scott Campbell ‘s work. Limitations Limitations. Disney is distinct from other studios because of style and animation…but limited because of those same factors.

  • JJ

    I’ve got a crazy idea… how about everybody just go see the movie first before losing their shit?

  • DJ

    Have you seen the gif playing above? Even if they don’t look exactly alike, the resemblance is pretty uncanny.

  • animator

    Women are human beings, if you animate a man then you can animate a woman.

  • Mike

    There are several types of pretty in the real world. Why can’t animation seem to show case this? Art by Katie Rice.

  • kate

    Disney started with The Snow Queen as inspiration, that was never meant to be the movie we made. Elsa and Anna are sisters, they were DESIGNED to look alike. Their expressiveness wasn’t limited to make them pretty – this quote was taken completely out of context. Lino was trying to describe the general challenge of CG. We use this language of something being “off-model” or “ugly” when the CG character starts to look wonky, whether male or female. Appeal is a major part of animation – THAT is what he means by pretty, not that we animated these girls only batting their eyelashes. Our animators challenge themselves every day to bring nuance and emotional depth to a 3D model while trying to maintain the design so they don’t start looking like a completely different character.

  • trenton hancock

    “frozen head” of animation = Walt Disney

  • Toads

    Attractive female humans can make unattractive faces. Example. Have any good looking woman tilt her chin as close to her neck as possible. Watch a live action film with an attractive woman and pause it. You’ll get some weird faces. I’m an animator I’m not going to get caught up with having my female character look “pretty” all the time. It’s a choice.

  • Toads

    Disagree. I know plenty of animators that don’t agree with what he was saying. Honestly, I’m fed up with conservative animators limited ideas of what is “appealing.” I had an animation instructor try to tell me that my female character wasn’t acting feminine enough so she wouldn’t be appealing. He was just using the principals of animation to push his gender politics.

  • Funkybat

    I liked Lucy’s odd design and didn’t find her personality to be annoying, but it did bother me that she ended up as “damsel in distress” in the end. From the way she handled Gru at the beginning, I’m pretty sure she could have kicked that fat Lucha Libre guy’s ass without much fuss. And if their reason for letting her guard down is her being distracted by her romantic preoccupation with Gru, that’s even worse.

  • http://voyagesextraordinaires.blogspot.com/ Cory Gross

    Miyazaki isn’t concerned with making women “pretty.” On the contrary, he has a good time making people in general look fairly grotesque. The sameness in his character designs is a matter of house style (and, to be honest, I wouldn’t mind them evolving past that), but when you see Kiki or Nausicaa or San or Sheeta or Chihiro you don’t automatically think that these are supposed to be princesses.

  • Anon
  • Daniel

    .. too bad you couldn’t name anyone.. I wasn’t trying to be egotistical.. It’s just a fact that there isn’t any modellers that are amazing at drawing and clay.. A big reason why pixar still uses clay maquettes..and why other studios constantly need 2d artists to draw over cg..

  • DeltaTau

    Sadly, many of the social justice movements have been invaded by extremely immature people who get violently emotional at perceived slights. They demand not to be judged, and then demonize others based on zero evidence: it’s atomic level hypocrisy. It’s frustrating, and beginning to ruin many years of forward progress.

    • peskyparakeet

      Someone once told me some people get into that so they can appear to be morally superior. I don’t know. But whatever the case may be… I agree with you. They are only hurting the causes they claim to care about.

  • Brad M

    To those who misunderstood what Lino DiSalvo had mentioned and decided to blow out of proportion. I point you to this video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cecx5HVtUDY (at 1:30) the exact same thing Lino had mentioned is also mentioned in this video. But why? well, chances are if your complaining about this whole situation then you just simply don’t understand the complexity’s of animation. Just because a studio wants their lead character to stay “pretty” does not in anyway mean that they are sexist or have some vendetta against female characters. Everybody has a choice, and because their choice doesn’t validate how you think things should be, doesn’t mean any person or studio should take blame for it.

  • Marysh

    Animating women may be difficult, but keeping them ‘pretty’ and generic is definitely a decision. Disney is deciding to perpetuate the same images it’s known for, which I’m getting a bit bored with. Rapunzel, Elsa and Anna really look so similar, I’m disappointed.
    When I watch the latest from Dreamworks animated films and see the diversity in their recent female designs, I find myself rolling my eyes at Disney. For example, Dreamworks’ The Croods turned the notion of prettiness upside down with Eep. She’s a caveman, she has features which in modern society wouldn’t be conventionally attractive (notice: conventionally attractive, not unattractive). She screams, grimaces, grunts, pouts, rolls her eyes, roars, smiles, laughs, weeps, stares. She has a huge brow ridge, wiry hair, a wide smile, a large jaw, big shoulders- She’s exaggerated and has a fun range, but she definitely doesn’t fit into any obvious template. Not to mention that in The Croods, there are four main females and three main males, while Frozen has narrowed a previously female-dominated story down to only two main female characters.
    Or, I look at Astrid and I see her as pretty, but individual. She doesn’t look anything like Fiona, Eep, Toothfairy or Roxie to me.
    I’m not an animator, it’s true. But Disney is a leader in the animation field. I guess I feel the need to hold them accountable, because even if it’s hard, they should be experimenting and moving beyond it’s status quo. This is one of the best animation studios around, I don’t really care if it’s difficult. It may be difficult to diversify, but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t do it. They should be capable of changing it up and diversifying their characters and their stories. If they need to ‘keep them pretty,’ at least expand what is considered pretty.

  • Power_Animator

    People will always wretch, its just the thing to do. I do agree with you here. As long as you have a style, there will always be some similarities some noticeable at first and some not so much. Anime has those same obstacles.

  • Power_Animator

    There we go!! People like to pick fights

  • guest

    I’m late, I’m just a nerdy outsider, sorry, but I think this is still worth noting:

    - snip –

    Q – Is there a sequence you’re most proud of, and why?

    A – Glen Keane: The sequence where Flynn is dying in Rapunzel’s arms. It was the most difficult and the most rewarding because the acting was so extremely subtle. The expressions of someone crying are inherently ugly. All the muscles in the face fight each other. No one wants a camera in their face at that moment. But we challenged the animators to go for the ugly face and as Rapunzel fights and holds back tears, the emotions are so real and so true. And it’s so effective because when that tear comes from Rapunzel’s eye and heals Flynn, you believe there is enormous pain in Rapunzel’s heart. If you don’t believe that tear comes from a heart of love the movie doesn’t work. It was successful and emotionally gripping. I was never more proud of our animators then at that moment.

    It’s the exact opposite of what DiSalvo said! And yet they’re both speaking as heads of animation, and Frozen’s characters look like bland reskins of Keane’s Rapunzel. I know Keane is gone from Disney now, but are the animators the same? What do they say?

    So, yeah, I’d say the criticism of Disney becoming formulaic and dumbed-down, especially women/princesswise, looks more and more apt, as in it’s the direction they’re going in when it wasn’t always true. Thinking too of the plans to redesign Merida for her spot in the Disney princess merchandising lineup: http://www.cartoonbrew.com/disney/disneys-princess-makeover-of-merida-leads-to-uproar-and-petition-82636.html Ugh.

  • Wicked Demon

    Princess Mononoke.

  • Kate

    It’s worth noting that yes animation in general aims for simplicity since it is not a complete realistic depiction and this includes styles where every character is a carbon copy with different hairstyles to styles where every character is unique in every aspect. The issue here is that with disney (and with a lot of animation) women are all carbon body copies of a specific mold (Hour glass figure -quite busty with ample hips and thin waist, short height, rounded imp like head, large child like eyes) with slightly different hair or eye color while male characters tend to have an extreme amount of variety (and varying doesn’t mean ‘ugly’ as is noted by the two main male characters in frozen both of whom have distinct facial features and body types – but who are both considered attractive. However it’s also true that it would be nice to see women who are good who are allowed to be ugly or ‘not perfect and beautiful’ as women are generally not allowed to do so unless they are evil) and this is most noticeable not only in the two main male characters in frozen vs. the main female characters in frozen but also in tangled where the most variety in body types come from the many men at the bar. If we did a test and stripped all characters of their hair and hair shape (reason being is this is often the only difference between female characters) and displayed the silhouettes of all of the characters bodies you would just about never be able to tell which female character was which but you would have a better time figuring out which male character is which because they are more distinct and theres something wrong with that. Women aren’t allowed to be women, they have to be perfect.

  • Kate

    No…Actually it’s not the same ‘design pattern’ it’s the same design style because it’s by the same guy…but we’re not talking about style we’re talking about different body and face shapes within the style. All the men in disney have unique bodies and face types while all the women’s body’s and heads are carbon copies. This is not true of Ghibli though – my favorite example is from KiKi’s delivery service where we have a pregnant woman! Also the reason why Studio Ghibli films are better than disney is very simple and can be broken down into a few important points.

    1. Variety in stories – disney likes to go back to it’s same ‘types’ of stories over and over. Disney reuses plot devises and story types (like magical curse, just in time, princesses) over and over while Ghibli tries new things and types of stories. Theres a wide amount of difference between the actual stories and plots in Nausica to Grave of the Fireflies to Spirited Away to My Neighbor Totoro.

    2. This is kind of the big one – they follow through on their ideas. I feel like disney sets up a pretty cool story but then chickens out feeling like they can’t go too in depth with the story or world they’ve created – whether their reason is because they feel like kids won’t like it or understand it, it would make them have to animate a longer film, it would be more complicated I don’t know. But what I do know is that Miyazaki is fine with going all the way to the ends of his plot points, side stories, and even the dark places he tells us exist. If you look at spirited away it has many very dark moments even starting with her parents turning into pigs. We also even have a scene where Haku in dragon form is getting blood everywhere – which is starkly different from disney who is too worried about doing anything dark for fear that it will be too frightening or upsetting – because they must have a pure happiness story with only mild speed bumps. Let’s compare this film to Brave, which I thought would be a pretty awesome film. I was fine with this film up until she met the witch in the woods and then I remembered ‘oh yes this is a disney film and if disney doesn’t reuse plot devises every so often walt will come back from the grave and eat our brains’. Then when all the bear madness started it was like, oh right they made their point this is a kids film (Which just because something is aimed at kids does not mean it should be written in a dulled down unintelligent manner, kids are actually smarter than you think) but disney always does this. (It’s also worth noting that in recent times there have been several ‘kids shows’ that have gained an adult following because they were so well written or interesting like adventure time so appealing to adults (outside of the occasional bawdy joke kids won’t get) is worthwhile). I want to like disney’s films but they keep doing these things. Like in brave they have the wisps – a neat device! -that they didn’t follow through on. They could’ve done SO MUCH with these things but they didn’t. Also you’re in freaking medieval scotland! And I got the impression from the preview that the story would be about her going off on her own – having an epic adventure that allowed her to learn valuable lessons and then return home at some point all the wiser which would have been awesome especially an adventure in medieval celtic scotland. But instead she went out, BEARZ, went home, BEARZ, went out, BEARZ, went home, BEARZ, went out one last time, BEARZ – fixed the bear problem, brief spirit tie in THE END. Also Wreck it Ralph which I like was also not followed through on, I expected them to go to more places…but instead it was straight to the places it needed to go…not much adventure…

  • Le Batteur

    Maybe it wouldn’t be such a challenge if their female characters weren’t practically carbon copies of eachother.

  • Laurel

    Personally I do not have a problem with females having to look attractive all the time or whatever people here are fighting about. To me, the main disappointment is that lately Disney makes a lot of the characters look alike. I might be blind, but I can barely tell the difference between Rapunzel and Anna and Elsa… In fact, I hardly see any difference between Rapunzel and Anna… And I remember old Disney movies where every female character was unique. Like Ariel, Pocahontas, Belle, Aurora, the list continues. Also, what I loved about the old animations was that every princess or female character had different ways of expressing feelings and emotions, it looked more real to me. Nowadays, when I look at Rapunzel or Meridia I see huge similarities even in expression of emotions… They are very alike… For example, if we remove everything like clothes or hair etc. and make them all have the amazed facial expression you would find it difficult to tell who is Anna, who is Elsa etc. They are very similar imo… But taking old princesses – and you can identify majority of them. I am not an animator though, so I do not know what obstacles they have, but I really wish they could make the characters more unique… Besides, changing the shape of eyes or face doesn’t necessarily make an ugly character. Beauty can be just as varied.