Tuesday, March 8, 2016

New Releases

       Lately I've noticed that there's been quite a bit of news surrounding upcoming animated projects, specifically Sony' Pictures Animation's Surf's Up 2 (sequel to the 2007 film) and Disney's reboot of DuckTales. Both projects, so far, have only released one image to showcase their animation aesthetic and characters. And with one look at these images, you can see that the hope of better depicted females in animation is immediately dashed away. First, both animations are guilty of the token female cliche. And second, because there is only one female in the group she is forced to become a flattened stereotype, 'female' becomes a personality rather than only one part of a more complex person. So let's look at these token girls...

      Apparently Sony decided to bring the WWE into the world of Surf's Up in the upcoming sequel.
Despite this appearing (in my opinion) to be one of the weirdest mind-boggling crossovers, this post is not about their story decisions. I want to talk about how they decided to portray the WWE wrestler, Paige. Her character is jam packed with visual tropes when it comes to designing animated female characters. How many can you find?

I found plenty.

1. Using pink/magenta
    I google searched Paige's costumes and it looked like blue/black are definitely her colors. But the film ignored that because female cartoons are only allowed to wear pink (especially token females), or else how in the world will you know she's female???
2. Eyelashes 
    Hey, did you know she's female??
3. Eyeshadow 
4. Small Stature
    Despite Paige being a woman and an official WWE wrestler, her character looks more like a girl than any sort of woman capable of putting you in a chokehold. She's a THIRD of the other penguin's size. Her body lacks any sort of muscle compared to everyone else. And the excuse of 'it just being  cartoon so they can do whatever', does not hold up in this case because the designers are CLEARLY referencing the male wrestlers' images in their penguins. Why then choose to ignore referencing Paige in her design?
5. Round face 
    A trope that has stood the time of time is the habit of drawing females with round faces. Also its interesting to note that she is the only one with a white face. "You got to keep her feminine with round shapes and curves! Keep her cute!"
6. Sacrifices penguin anatomy to keep her sexy/feminine
    Character designers will makes female characters look more human in order to maintain their 'appeal' no matter what they are supposed to be in the story. (ex: Pixar's Inside Out) No penguin has a round ball for a head, nor does it have wings like hers. (I'm actually doubtful that she is even a penguin in the film, I haven't seen it said explicitly anywhere yet. I mean she can't be a penguin, maybe she's some other bird. But she's black and white like everyone else sooooo...maybe she's just a really messed up looking penguin.)
7. Sultry Look
    I know this one could be argued by saying 'well they're all angry, so everyone looks like that', but I disagree. The half closed eyelids, along with the eyelashes/eyeshadow and that smile all give her an air of sexiness, of allure, which people can't seem to stop drawing on animated women characters (apparently even penguins are fair game)! Sex appeal is not the defining factor of women. 
It's also unfortunate that sexism also runs rampant in the WWE. With female wrestlers being called WWE Divas, they tend to be known more for their sexiness than their wrestling record. So Sony Picture's didn't really choose the best place to take strong female characters from, but then again I doubt that was any sort of high concern for them. I mean it's not like they are doing anything different from their first film.                                           
                                                  Surf's Up (2007) cast and character line up

I'm not saying that Happy Feet (2006) is any better in their representation of women in the film, but at least their female penguins look a bit more like penguins. However I guess both films are pretty different when it comes to style so I don't know if I really can compare them, but still its interesting to note the difference.

Now that we've dealt with Surf's Up 2, DuckTales should be easy-peasy.
I have vague memories of this show back when the original aired, but I never knew there was a female girl duck in the main cast, Webbigail "Webby" Vanderquack. Again, I'm not going to go into the story or character personalities, since I have no knowledge of how different the new version will be. I am simply looking at the one image they have provided....however a quick look at the old show's Wiki page didn't make me too much of a happy camper.

"Webbigail "Webby" Vanderquack is the female child who often has difficulty being accepted by the boys." (Wikipedia)  Sad faces all around. :( :( :(

ANYWAYS...what tropes is this image guilty of when it comes to depicting females? Well... 
1. Eyelashes
2. Pink/ Magenta
3. Hair Clip/Bow

     I always find it so frustrating how obsessed character designers are with making sure that a character clearly reads FEMALE. Would the world explode if Webby had no eyelashes, wore shorts and shirt and didn't put anything in her hair? Wouldn't her voice or hair get it across to the audience that she was a girl? Also why is so important for audiences to know immediately which gender each character is?

FYI here's an image from the original so you can compare the Webbys.

       On a positive note, I recently stumbled upon a show called Twelve Forever, created by Julia Vickerman, about a young girl called Reggie Flaps. The show's pilot premiered on Cartoon Network's website in 2015. As of today, the pilot appears to be the only thing created for this show. Anyways, even though I actually didn't like the show, I still found the character design of Reggie to be super refreshing. She looks like an average girl, not meant to carry the burden of everything feminine on her shoulders.
         I've made a lot of fuss over two pictures in this post, and things can change as these projects are still in production. However if these designs end up being approved then I feel like no matter how strong and independent these females end up being (or not), they will always be defined first by their gender, because apparently that's all they have to offer, especially in the world of animation. 

3/10 UPDATE: Another new show was announced. Its by Disney for Disney XD, called Billy Dilley’s Super-Duper Subterranean Summer, slated to premiere in 2017.

Oh hello, pink bow, round face, pink clothing and eyelashes....we meet again.

Also in 2015, ShadowMachines's Hell and Back, a rated R stopmotion film was released, which is yet another new film that partakes in the tropes noted above. Deema is a demon that helps the two main characters along their trip to Hell. She is your token female in the main cast, she has the makeup, the small round head (reeeaaly small 'feminine' nose) the sultry look (with the half closed almond eyes) and she gets the honor of wearing the least amount of clothes. :| 
So yeah...

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