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For some time, Disney animation has come under fire as being the complete opposite of diverse with their animated characters. While films like Pocahontas and The Princess And The Frog have helped add some much needed weight on the other side of the scales, the canon of Disney characters have been, for the most part, white protagonists. Among those critics is none other than John Lasseter, famed animation director and chief creative officer of the Disney/Pixar family, and he's vowed that now more than ever the company is working to become more diverse in creating characters.
Variety saw Lasseter speak at a press conference during the Cannes Film Festival recently as he promoted Pixar's latest film, Inside Out. In the midst of that conference, the attention of the room was turned towards the issue of diversity in Disney/Pixar's films. Specifically, a reporter had asked Lasseter if a black character would ever be the center of their own Pixar film. It was then that the Toy Story director issued a very simple directive of the creative direction the company was aiming its collective talents towards. More specifically, he said,
It’s very important to us … to have female and ethnic characters. It’s grown in importance over time. As you’ll see in future films, we’re really paying attention to that.
Set to open out of competition next Monday, Inside Out is a very good example of the diversity that John Lasseter is talking about, as it focuses on the mind and emotions of a young girl and her tough time with moving to a new area. Not content to use Pixar's newest would be blockbuster as the best example of overturning business as usual, Lasseter also mentioned the upcoming film Moana - the first Polynesian princess story to be told by Disney – as an example of the exciting new material that the studio is looking to branch out with.
Disney/Pixar has definitely gone above and beyond when it comes to the act of storytelling, and their work on Inside Out and Moana are two huge strides towards leveling the playing field for stories of all nationalities and genders to be given a chance to shine. While the studios have a while go, as does the rest of the industry, before they can really shake the stigma of a typically white male dominated marketplace, they've obviously put some real thought into the matter when it comes to the content they produce.
What will be interesting to monitor, though, is how films like Inside Out and Moana handle their merchandising, especially after the debacle involving Avengers: Age Of Ultron's treatment of Black Widow. While neither film may have as all-out of a marketing strategy as Marvel's latest comic book opus, whatever merchandise either film will generate will be most assuredly watched with keen eyes. Again, it's not like Disney/Pixar is going to fix problems that have been inherent in the system with an overnight solution, but with enough thought and balance between business and equality, the road ahead should be a bright one for the animation powerhouse.
Inside Out thinks its way into theaters on June 16th, while Moana sails into history on November 23, 2016.