“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; that Elsa looking angry looks different from Anna (Kristen Bell) being angry.” –Lino DeSalvo, Frozen‘s head of animation
Sexism has been an issue in animation for quite some time. Even Disney’s Beauty and the Beast is sexist, despite having a smart leading lady who’s not searching for a husband. Despite all of her charms and smarts, Belle is glorified by everyone for her looks instead of her brain. Even her name, Belle, means beautiful in French. Sexism is not just a thing that happened in the past within animation, it is still actively happening. This can be seen clearly in Disney’s Frozen. “DeSalvo’s beliefe, that males come in all shapes and sizes, whereas females come in one, is so common, most people think it is a fact.”
It is being taught that women can only have one basic shape within animations. The book even goes as far as to basically say that women only exist for the sex appeal. In Frozen, it goes beyond how the female characters look to include how they behave and react to different strong emotions. Obviously, there is only one way a girl can react to feeling anger (or at least that’s what the animators believe). The issue of representation of women and girls in animation goes even farther, with the lack of female characters. At first I assumed that women were pushed into the sidekick role, but in fact, a study found that: “females were underrepresented as main characters, sidekicks, and characters overall. Regardless of main character sex, sidekicks were more likely to be male than female”. Check out this “Gallery of Girls Gone Missing From Children’s Movies in 2013” which shows “of the 21 movie posters for young kids, only 4 appear to feature a female protagonist”.
Despite all the clear evidence of sexism in animation, it still goes largely unacknowledged by the producing companies. Tom and Jerry includes a disclaimer at the beginning of their animations (on a DVD copy) about racist undertones throughout the cartoon. They explain that they chose not to remove them because they are not willing to pretend that it never happened. No animation has ever contained a disclaimer of blatant sexism and I highly doubt they every will anytime soon.