Thursday, June 2, 2011

We Finally See Pixar's Princess Merida

This is old news, but I wanted to talk about it.

I can't begin to describe how happy I am to see a Pixar film that stars a female. Hell, ANY animated film starring a female is great news.

Pixar doesn't have a great track record of including interesting females in its lineup. The only director to do it is Brad Bird, who gave us the ensemble cast The Incredibles, with two rich, believable female leads. He also directed Ratatouille, with a strong female secondary character. Toy Story, A Bug's Life, Monsters Inc., none of them had a strong, non-stereotypical female. Even Dorie in Finding Nemo was the stereotypical kind-hearted bubblehead.

I think that Pixar lost the chance to lead the pack when they weren't the first to have a female direct a CGI feature. They've now lost that distinction to Dreamworks who tapped Jennifer Yuh Nelson, who won awards for her direction of the opening animation to Kung Fu Panda, to direct its sequel, Kung Fu Panda 2.

Brave was supposed to be directed by its writer Brenda Chapman, who still holds the distinction of being the first female to direct an animated feature with 1998's The Prince of Egypt, but she will instead receive co-directing status. There are rumors that Pixar has actually moved her onto a future production, and that's why she left. I find that entirely plausible. Perhaps they wanted her there all along and decided that the free marketing that they would have received from her being the first female director was nullified by Dreamwork's announcement that Kung Fu Panda 2 was being directed by a woman.

Regardless, directing is one thing, but it's from the writing where the underlying tone and message of films comes. It's actually rather startling to see the differences between films written by men and women. Men produce bizarre, self-referential (and self-important, if I'm being honest) things like Synechdoche, New York, while women produce equally insightful, but much more entertaining works like Juno.

I wouldn't be surprised if the flavor of Brave is entirely different from every Pixar film up to this point.

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