|made by the excruciatingly rad heysawbones. Used with permission.|
I know, right? How neat would it be to have a princess from Tibet? (Her name's Nyima, by the way.)
Or how about these guys? Like, why don't we set a movie in Argentina, maybe high up in the Andean mountains somewhere?
|made by the amazing Amy! Used with permission.|
Anyway, here's what all of these ideas have in common: they all are fan-drawn characters, created by artists who wish that Disney had gone a different direction with its upcoming Snow Queen reimagining, Frozen.
And I tell you what: I could not agree more. There's an interesting Tumblr, thiscouldhavebeenfrozen, which posts fan submissions and rebuts a whole array of "no, but this totally had to be a movie about white people" arguments (and does so pretty fiercely.)
Anyway, there's one post / infographic gallery in particular that I REALLY recommend checking out, about diversity in Disney, and the lack thereof. (It doesn't look so good on the author's tumblr, but if you click the initial picture, you can click through the gallery one at a time and it's much easier.) Here's the part that that blows my mind:
The white princesses are never given real-world locations and any assumed setting is based on the origin of source material and sometimes influence in design.
But with the exception of Aladdin, the movies with PoC characters are given explicit settings that justify their existence.
White princesses never have to justify their existence.
Oh, and for those of you who for some reason don't have your finger on the throbbing heady pulse of the Disney Princess lineup, we're up to 11. (I know, right. At this rate, the Earth's supply of winsome fictional royalty will be exhausted by 2037.) Here's the current lineup.
|from Fanpop © Disney|
Okay, so I was thinking about all that. And then I thought - you know what Disney movie is COMPLETELY AWESOME?
YES. Would you believe that they were originally going to set Lilo and Stitch on a farm in rural Kansas? Can you imagine how much less interesting that would have been?
Okay, okay, let's go again - think of another one that just took Standard Formula Disney and snapped it over its knee.
|from Generic Movie and TV © Disney|
The Emperor's New Groove is easily one of my favorite films - I am always hugely impressed with any movie that can do genuinely funny all-ages comedy, and this is easily one of the best. And again, how much less memorable would it be if we sucked out all that indigenous high-altitude flavor (freaking LLAMAS, people!) and set it in Vaguely Germanic Neverwhere?
And you know what's weird about these?
There is nothing in "cuddy but violent alien crash-lands into the lives of two struggling orphans" that screams modern Hawaii. There is no part of "outrageous buddy comedy about learning how not to be a jerk" that even suggests Incan Empire. We got to have two solidly non-white settings just for the hell of it - and I would submit, two fantastic movies as a result. Why? Well, here's a theory: because a creative team willing to go beyond generic settings and protagonists was far more likely to do likewise for plot, characterization, and dialogue.
And hell, let's throw up some props for Atlantis while we're at it. Like, who would have beefed if Kidagakash had looked like Namor the Sub-Mariner? Nobody! But there we are - free complimentary princess of color! Look at her, all powerful and magical and shit!
|from Disney Junior © Disney|
(So why is Kida not in the Disney Princess lineup? Maybe because her movie didn't do so hot. Or maybe because she's an actual twentysomething adult who becomes a queen and leads her people instead of, you know, skipping off into a nebulously responsibility-free happily-ever-after. But I digress.)
Okay, so I guess what I'm saying is:
1. I don't think Disney deliberately sets out to be stodgy or exclusive. (On the contrary, they'll do whatever gets them the best PR and the most money.)
2. I do think Disney is far more willing to take risks outside of its giant expensive tentpole Standard Disney Formula films.
3. I absolutely believe that more underrepresented characters and settings need to be brought into the picture - and the more we ask for them and talk about them and support the ones that do make it into the world, the more likely that is to happen.
So that is what I am doing here.
You know, it's a good thing you're not a big fat guy, or this would be really difficult.