As Inside Out (Pixar, 2015), a film which focuses on the life of an 11-year old girl and her emotions, opens its curtains at the Cannes Film Festival to rave reviews, chief creative officer of Pixar, John Lasseter, is looking to the company’s future to see how they can make their already successful films into greater box office hits. Namely, through looking at the studio’s relationship and attitude to diversity and race.
As reported by Variety, when asked a question about whether the studio would ever focus entirely on a central black protagonist to appeal to wider audiences, Lasseter replied, “[To have more female and ethnic characters has] grown in importance over time. As you’ll see in future films, we are really paying attention to that”. It seems that the question was not asked at a better time as it has been revealed that Pixar’s recent upcoming film, Moana, which concentrates on a Polynesian princess, sees the studio striving to reach and retain racial equality in its films.
If we take a stroll down Disney’s memory lane, then we will come across a number of films that focus on a central heroine that is not in line with the studio’s usual stock female protagonist. Mulan, focuses on a Chinese warrior who is raised in a confined and extremely patriarchal household, much like Ariel in The Little Mermaid (Disney, 1989). Jasmine, Disney’s middle-eastern princess forgoes a arranged marriage planned by her father, for a life of mystery and adventure, similarly to Pocahontas. However, it seems that the studio’s plan for diversity in its films has fallen by the wayside in favour of continually caricaturing perfect images of women. Images of divorce, unemployment, homosexuality and other issues affecting modern society are frequently ignored.
It does seem as though Disney are finally taking hold of the reins as they are slowly but surely, bringing diverse game-changers into the studio such as Merida of Brave (2012) and Tiana of The Princess and the Frog (2009). If Disney and Pixar continue the trend of more racially diverse characters then they will fully integrate themselves into a more modern-focussed society as well as improving their global image as being accessible for all. Hopefully Moana, will spread a little bit of pixie dust over Disney and transform their films into something that is culturally relevant. Inside Out is set to be released in the UK on June 16.