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27 Animation Features Submitted for Oscars Consideration Severely Lacking in Female Directors

ZOOTOPIA – Pictured (L-R): Judy Hopps, Nick Wilde. ©2016 Disney. All Rights Reserved.

While there are many amazing women and girls at the center of this season’s animated movies like Moana or Zootopia, the fight for a 2017 Oscar nomination is indicative of a problem behind the camera. This season saw a record-breaking amount of submissions for the 89th Academy Awards. 27 films, in comparison to the 16 submitted last year, qualify. And they’re not all Disney films! While Disney has won the award eight of the nine years, Cartoon Brew mentions, there are a number of other exciting contenders like LAIKA’s Kubo and the Two Strings or the Wild Bunch and Studio Ghibli collaboration The Red Turtle (and, yes, Sausage Party).

However, Women and Hollywood pointed out that only 2 of those films are directed or co-directed by women–Kung Fu Panda 3 (Jennifer Yuh Nelson) and 25 April (Leanne Pooley). That’s 7 percent. They do note, however, that 7 of the films have women as writers or co-writers (Victoria Strouse on Finding Dory, Irena Brignull on The Little Prince, Miho Maruo in Miss Hokusai, etc.) and women played significant roles in other features (Josie Trinidad and Jennifer Lee in Zootopia).

Last year, I wrote about research from the Animation Guild that stated women make up 20% of the workforce and while we’ve seen amazing women making strides in the field, you can still count on your hands the number of female directors who’ve been given the opportunity to helm a US-produced animated features. Did you know there wasn’t a single female-directed animated feature in 2014 or 2015? Yeah. That’s not to say things aren’t (slowly) improving. We reported last month that Inside Out writer Meg LeFauve is directing Giganticthe second woman to direct a Disney feature ever. And you don’t have to look far to see the great work that women like Rebecca Sugar are doing on television.

A lot of the animated movies this year are amazing and I’ve enjoyed a great number of them. I’ve even had the opportunity to interview some of those male directors myself. Long Way North’s director Rémi Chayé and producer Henri Magalon are innovative creators who told the story of an ambitious Russian girl who goes on an expedition to the North Pole. Their team was heavily female, and they plan to tell the story of Calamity Jane next. Director Keiichi Hara gave a great amount of respect to the female artist who first told the story of Miss Hokusai and portrayed a young female artist’s coming-of-age with a silent formidability. Mark Osborne was heavily influenced by the Geena Davis study to put a female protagonist in The Little Prince and spoke to me candidly about animation’s gender problem. Zootopia, Moana, and Finding Dory are all about unique, driven, and lovable female characters on journeys of discovery.

These are beautiful, amazing movies about women, but it’s just sad that the same kind of representation is, more often than not, lacking in leadership roles behind the camera. If we’re telling stories of women overcoming tenacity and instilling ambition in young girls, it only makes sense that they’re given opportunities to prove themselves in the real world as well. There’s a lot of untapped talent that needs to be encourage and fostered.

(via Women and Hollywood, image via Disney)
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