Out this Friday, director Josh Cooley's Toy Story 4 is the 21st feature film released in the 24-year history of Pixar, with its screenplay co-written by Stephany Folsom and Andrew Stanton. The animation studio made headlines last year with the exit of co-founder John Lasseter and the original team behind Toy Story 4 stepping down due to perceived mistreatment of women and people of color.
“We parted ways because of creative and, more importantly, philosophical differences,” writers Rashida Jones and Will McCormack wrote in a joint statement to the New York Times following their November exit. “There is so much talent at Pixar, and we remain enormous fans of their films. However, it is also a culture where women and people of color do not have an equal creative voice.”
Though Pixar films have been beloved by children of all ages and gender identifications since Toy Story was released in 1995, not a single one is directed by a woman. (Brave director Brenda Chapman was replaced during the animation process, given a screenplay and story credit despite conceiving the story herself- as told in the new documentary Half the Picture.) Of 109 writing credits, 11 have gone to women or people of color, according to Vanity Fair.
Very few Pixar features center on female characters, and only 35 percent pass the Bechdel-Wallace test (A Bug’s Life, The Incredibles, Toy Story 3, Brave, Inside Out, Finding Dory, Cars 3 and Coco). Four of those were released in the past three years though five are co-written by women. Academy Award winner Inside Out is an especially noteworthy exception, centered on a young female brain driven by witty emotions (voiced by Amy Poehler, Phyllis Smith and Mindy Kaling) and co-written by Meg LeFauve.
More female characters and screenwriters are a clear step toward change at Disney-Pixar. Oh My Disney contributor Rachel Berman even compiled a list of Pixar’s celebrated female employees - from designers and artists to editors and administrative positions. Bugs, cars, toys, superheroes, fish - the list goes on, and they’re all saying the same heartfelt thing. Even Incredibles 2, written and directed by its original creator Brad Bird, has a decidedly gender-equal story line in which Mr. Incredible stays home with the kids while Elastigirl goes out and saves the world. But the themes of Pixar’s movies are gender-neutral - letting go and growing up do not have a male or female distinction. So why should 90 percent of the precious few who are given the opportunity to write it be male?
Several Pixar films take protagonists on a quest of some kind - Joy was on a journey to return Riley’s memories, Flik made a plan to stop evil grasshoppers from invading his territory and Woody had to save his fellow toys from a psycho purple teddy bear. Andy's beloved toys will once again be on our screens this weekend, undoubtedly facing some kind of familiar evil. And there’s nothing wrong with that - it’s warmed the hearts of generations of kids and their parents. But if recent news is any indication, the studio will be on a quest of its own in the coming years - one toward creative equality for its animators and directors.
© Georgiana E. Presecky (6/16/2019) FF2 Media
Featured Photo: Toy Story 4
Bottom Photo: Joy (Poehler) and Sadness (Smith) in Inside Out.