Yesterday, CBS News aired a segment on an “ongoing blogger debate” over the representation of black people and negative stereotypes in Disney’s The Princess and the Frog. Of course, after previous and longer segments on the failing economy and Air France, even the way in which Katie Couric mentioned “bloggers” carried a decidedly trivial tone connoting birds-on-a-wire. Snob. However, given that hardly anyone has seen a near-complete version of the fourth-quarter film, I have to agree that any “chirped” anger, feigned or genuine, is premature. Also: the world is mad, get over it.
But heated discussions about Disney’s movies, especially in this case, do have precedent: clips from the studio’s infamous 1946 film, Song of the South, are forever available to support and fan the issues of political correctness. Moreover, theories about sociological, hidden and subliminal messages in Disney films and characters are so prevailing that I have enjoyed intriguing classes on the very subject in junior high (for free) and at university (for a repossessed Porsche).
Which brings me to Disney’s Pixar, where animated films are made to awe kids and—and arguably more-so—adults. Feted, beloved, and at times “progressive” as it may be, Pixar is not immune to similarly “bloggy” issues regarding political correctness; a debate over the absence of female lead characters in their films began earlier this year and remains a valid and popular talking point.
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Does Pixar have a gender problem? A blog called Vast Public Indifference thinks so, claiming that the Emmeryville computer animation studio doesn’t have any good women characters as the central protagonists in their stories. Caitlin GD Hopkins claims that most of Pixar’s female characters are “helpers, love interests, and moral compasses to the male characters whose problems, feelings, and desires drive the narratives.” I highly recommend reading Hopkins’ rant as she examines each and every Pixar film, one by one, even taking a look at the studio’s future projects.
Does Pixar have a problem with creating strong female protagonists? I’m a Pixar fanatic and this is a question that has never even occured to me. I would like to think that Hellen/Elasticgirl and Violet were well rounded female characters in Brad Bird’s The Incredibles, and you could argue that WALL-E‘s EVE is both smart and strong. While she is the romantic love interest of the film’s title robot, EVE is a driving force within the story, many levels above Dory from Finding Nemo or Ratatouille‘s only female lead, Colette.
But I do see the point — why does Remy have to be a male rat anyways? Or as someone quickly pointed out in the comments, would that then open the argument up to perpetuating a stereotype by making a female the one who is good at cooking. It might have been more interesting if Linguini was a woman. Heck, even Colette said that it’s harder for a female to make it in the kitchen.
Discuss: Does Pixar Have a Problem Creating Good Female Characters?
For me, The Incredibles is the most worthy Pixar film deserving of the sequel treatment. But for one reason or another, Pixar would rather make Cars 2 (boo) and another Toy Story film (which to be fair, could be good… but seems unnecessary) . Instead, The Incredibles sequel (which is being referred to by writer Mark Waid as “Incredibles 1.5″) is being wasted as a comic book series, which will begin to hit comic book store shelves in April. Waid reveals to MTV that the story will take place shortly after the events of the original Brad Bird film, and the first four-issue arc will tell the story of Mr. Incredible, whose powers are begining to fade. Basically, he’s getting older, and he doesn’t want to tell his family or go to the doctor.
Six issues have been written, Darwyn Cooke is doing the cover art, but no artist has been hired yet for the actual inside art. Apparently the plan is to launch other Pixar franchises as monthly comic book series. Toy Story is next, with eventual plans to have six different titles released per month. I’m guessing the line-up will be: The Incredibles, Toy Story, Monster’s Inc, WALL-E, Finding Nemo and Cars As much as I’m actually looking forward to these comics, I’d disappointed that Disney won’t take The Incredibles to the big screen one more time. The storyline in the comic book seems perfect for a sequel. It also seems like they are attracting big name comic talent to provide the art for the books. I’d much rather see some of the in house Pixar arts provide something more unique, rather than the same old comic book style art.
Animatronic Remy The Rat
The Pitch: This life-size animatronic Remy the rat from Pixar’s Ratatouille is used to attract guests to enter a restaurant in Disneyland Paris’ Disney Studios park. Check out another video after the jump.
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Universal has released a trailer for their pcoming computer animated film The Tale of Despereaux. I always find it fascinating when similar films are released close together: Armageddon and Deep Impact, Ants and A Bug’s Life, and now Ratatouille and The Tale of Despereaux – two computer animated films with European settings, about rodents who aren’t afraid of the human world which they are trained to be afraid of. And I’m not saying that Universal copied Pixar, or Pixar copied Universal. It’s just interesting that similar ideas are realized at the same time. The Tale of Despereaux is actually based on a book which was published in 2003, and the film was announced a year later. Pixar began developing Ratatouille in 2000. But it also doesn’t help that the teaser begins with a Chef in a kitchen.
[flv:http://bitcast-a.bitgravity.com/slashfilm/trailers/despereaux.flv 470 200]
Official Plot Synopsis: Once upon a time, in the faraway kingdom of Dor, there was magic in the air, laughter aplenty and gallons of mouthwatering soup. But an accident left the King broken-hearted, the Princess filled with longing and the townsfolk without their soup. Sunlight disappeared. The world became gray. All hope was lost in this land…until Despereaux Tilling (Matthew Broderick) was born.
A modern fairy tale, The Tale of Despereaux tells the story of four unlikely heroes: Despereaux , a brave mouse banished to the dungeon for speaking with a human; Roscuro (Dustin Hoffman), a good-hearted rat who loves light and soup, but is exiled to darkness; Pea (Emma Watson), a Princess in a gloomy castle who is prisoner to her father’s grief; and Mig (Tracey Ullman), a servant girl who longs to be a Princess, but is forced to serve the jailer.
Tiny and graced with oversized ears, Despereaux was born too big for his little world. Refusing to live his life cowering, he befriends a Princess named Pea and learns to read (rather than eat) books—reveling in stories of knights, dragons and fair maidens. Banished from Mouseworld for being more man than mouse, Despereaux is rescued by another outcast, Roscuro, who also wants to hear the tales. But when the Princess dismisses Roscuro’s friendship, he becomes the ultimate rat and plots revenge with fellow outsider Mig.
After Pea is kidnapped, Despereaux discovers he is the only one who can rescue her…and that even the tiniest mouse can find the courage of a knight in shining armor. In this tale of bravery, forgiveness and redemption, one small creature will teach a kingdom that it takes only a little light to show the truth: what you look like doesn’t equal what you are.
Watch the trailer in High Definition on Yahoo. The Tale of Despereaux is scheduled to hit theaters on December 19th 2008.
I’m a huge fan of Eric Tan’s retro styled art. In past editions of Cool Stuff we’ve featured Tan’s Raiders of the Lost Ark poster and a limited edition X-Men print he made for a Stan Lee art exhibition, both of which I own. Tan has worked with Pixar creating some great art which you may have seen some of his designs in various products such as apparel, trading cards, giclee prints, etc. Since we’ve never featured it, I thought we’d take a look at Eric’s work on WALL-E, The Incredibles, and Ratatoullie. The Rat and WALL-E art are now available to buy through ACME Direct. I wish I could get my hands on his Incredibles design.
The WALL-E designs were used as promotional postcards passed out at San Diego Comic Con 2007. Like most of Eric’s art, you can also see these designs hanging in the main lobby of Pixar Animation Studios in Emmeryville (that is, if you’re lucky enough to enter the gates.
Eric writes: “For inspiration, the guys at Pixar once again pointed me in the direction of those Disneyland attraction posters. They are in LOVE with those posters, which is fine cuz I am too. Just to differentiate these from the Incredibles, I added a 50′s advertisement twist.”
The Incredibles artwork came packaged with the action figure line and as tin signs. Tan created the series as a tribute to his favorite tv show growing up – That’s Incredible!
“The bright colors and flat shapes were inspired by the Disneyland attraction posters you see when going through the tunnels at the entrance of the park. Even when I was 6, I remember thinking those things were amazing, so getting to reference them for this project was a thrill in itself.”
Tan’s Ratatouille art is inspired by A.M. Cassandre’s French Dubonnet posters.
You can purchase some of the WALL-E and Ratatouille limited edition prints on ACME Direct. Check out Eric Tan’s website at erictanart.blogspot.com.
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Every year new names become popular. Cinemascopian points out that 2007 has had three films featuring lead characters with the unusual name of Anton:
- Anton Ego, “Ratatouille”
- Anton Corbijn, “Control”
- Anton Chigurh, “No Country for Old Men”
I wonder if such a cinematic occurrence might eventually someday reflect in those popular baby name charts. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think Anton will replace Michael. I’m just wondering if Anton’s “stock” might go up due to the recent big screen appearances.