Thursday, October 17, 2013

Semi-controversial Controversy?

Or less than that?

Different news organizations have been twisting their undergarments over this quote from Frozen's directing animator Lino DiSalvo:

Historically speaking, animating female characters are really, really difficult, ’cause they have to go through these range of emotions, but they’re very, very — 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. ...

So okay, it's not the most artfully formed quote in the known universe, but what he's pitching here (I think) is how tough it is putting across two strong female characters; I don't think showing a raging misogyny was the intent. Yeah, it doesn't come off real well, but I disagree with the basic premise of the statement to start with.

There's nothing inherently tougher about animating females. In Sleeping Beauty, is Prince Philip an easier character than, say, Princess Aurora? Don't think so. And if you go back to Snow White (every animation buff's favorite old chestnut) you really think that the Prince -- bit player though he may be -- was easier to bring off than the female lead? Not based on the results. Because the Prince is a dull cipher and Snow White works as a living, breathing heroine.

Then there's this: "Historically speaking, animating female characters are really, really diffcult, 'cause ... you have to keep them pretty and ... you can get them off a model very quickly."

Mr. DiSalvo is clearly right. Female characters = pretty. That's just the way animated features roll, now and forever. Except for, oh, Medusa, Cruella de Ville and Cinderella's step-sisters, to name a few off the top of my pin head. I don't recall any of these women being created as stone foxes, but maybe I wasn't paying attention.

So who are we kidding here? Males can be tough to animate. Females can be tough to animate. Female characters can be less than gorgeous, and it's the same for men. Mr DiSalvo was (it seems to me) striving to point out the challenges he and his co-workers faced in bring Frozen to the screen, and he bungled his words a bit. And so TIME magazine saw an opportunity to get some licks in, and took it.

And then others in print and the blogosphere piled on. (Also, too, I got a chance to chip in my nickel's worth of wisdom.) But I'm betting the next interview Mr. DiSalvo does will be better prepped. (If he risks doing an interview at all.)


Dexter2999 said...

I think what he may have been trying to voice was that pretty female characters have traditionally been drawn with similar features (lips, small noses, eye shapes, etc..) When attempting to put two females in a scene together these similarities become glaring.

But that's just my take on it.

Steve Hulett said...

I agree with you. But he said something else, and so TIME and others got some column inches out of it.

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