Tag Archives: John Lasseter

The Trouble With Pixar

A word about Pixar. For years it has been helmed by John Lasseter. He left the company this week – a “temporary leave of absence”, they called it, but with whiffs of sexual misconduct about, I’m thinking it’s likely a permanent and somewhat shocking move. John Lasseter IS Pixar, and I think we’re only beginning to understand why that is in fact a bad thing. First: we know that Pixar studios is a boy’s club. It doesn’t nourish and nurture female talent the way it has their male counterparts. Between its 19 films to date, there were 34 director credits and only one of them was female.

Brenda Chapman trained on The Little Mermaid, was an artist on Beauty and the Beast and became the first female head of story for The Lion King. She was the MV5BMzgwODk3ODA1NF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwNjU3NjQ0Nw@@._V1_UY1200_CR90,0,630,1200_AL_first woman to direct an animated feature from a major studio with a personal favourite of mine, The Prince of Egypt. She came aboard Pixar in 2003. There were NO women at all in the story department and they needed her to fix the one-dimentionality of the female characters in Cars (they were too far along in production for her to have much impact). Next, she conceived Brave and directed the project until they replaced her because of “creative differences.” Since they still had to give her co-director credit, she became the first woman to win an Oscar for (co) directing an animated film. She left Pixar and went on to LucasFilm and back to Dreamworks. Of her exit, she has said “I made the right decision to leave and firmly closed that door. I have no desire to go back there. The atmosphere and the leadership doesn’t fit well with me.” And I can’t help but read that “me” as “women” generally. “This was a story that I created, which came from a very personal place, as a woman and a mother. To have it taken away and given to someone else, and a man at that, was truly distressing on so many levels.”

Of Pixar’s 19 films, only 3 have females as their lead protagonists (Brave, Inside Out, Finding Dory). That’s a really dismal number. Even worse: Miguel, from Coco, is its first non-white protagonist (although Up has an Asian boyscout sidekick – possibly). And Pixar has been head and shoulders above its competitors, leading the way in top-notch animation and story-telling, which means millions are exposed to movies that refuse to give an equal voice to girls, women, minorities, and other cultures. Rashida Jones (along with collaborator Will McCormack) had been brought on board by Pixar to pen the script for Toy Story 4. She has since left the project: “We parted ways because of creative and, more importantly, philosophical differences. 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.” Out of 109 writing credits on its films, only 11 were women or people of colour. That’s eleven women OR people of colour, and 98 freaking white men.

So now we know why there is such a lack of female talent at Pixar: John Lasseter, proud president of the boy’s club, is a perv. Female employees had to develop a move they named “The Lasseter” just to keep him from running his hands up their legs. And though he paid lip service in 2015 to the lack of diversity in his studios, there are no female directors or writers attached to their upcoming films either.

John Lasseter won a Special Achievement Oscar for his ground-breaking work on Toy Story, but he has done so by overstepping women, and at the expense of diversity of thought and talent. He has spent his career groping women and refusing to promote them, creating a void of basic respect and decency – and he was the CCO (and when Disney bought Pixar in 2006, he took over leadership there as well). I don’t deny that Pixar has created some great films, but after shutting out diverse voices for over 20 years, it’s time to dump this loser and let someone else do some ground breaking for a change.

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Zootopia

videothumbnail_zootopia_officialtrailer_disney_a4d0f4ceIn 2006, Disney purchased Pixar for the equivalent of $7.4 billion dollars. It’s becoming more and more clear how good a deal that was for Disney. Every Disney animated movie since has been amazing, from Wreck-It-Ralph to Frozen to Big Hero 6. maxresdefaultNot only is Zootopia another success for Disney, it may be the best of the bunch since John Lasseter and Pixar came on board, and that’s probably the best endorsement I can give.

The best part of Disney Animation’s renaissance is that these movies aren’t just for kids. They’re as enjoyable for adults as for little ones. Zootopia, for example, includes a spot-on reference to Breaking Bad! Striking that balance must be incredibly hard butb17 Disney has picked up the torch from Pixar in that area and is doing it as well as Pixar ever did. Zootopia is literally a movie that all ages will enjoy. So it’s one up on LEGO!

Most importantly, Zootopia’s underlying message is timely and may be more important for adults than kids at this point, given the horror that is the U.S. Republican party’s nomination process. We as Canadians dealt with some of the same terribleness in our recent election so it’s not just an American tactic.  Fortunately, enough of us were able to reject fear and demonization of minority groups to trump-chicago_wide-af9dd849d37a7079224f21dd42973b4aae2a4c88-s900-c85choose someone who wants to bring us together instead of tearing us apart. We really, really, really want to believe American voters will do the same (just like they’ve done in the last two presidential elections).  Please don’t let us down!

As for Zootopia, it is a movie that will definitely not let you down. It’s smart, funny and deep and you should totally see it. I give Zootopia a score of ten sly rabbits out of ten.

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer

Rudolph is celebrating his 50th year of bringing stop-animation joy into our homes this year. Most of us grew up watching this Christmas classic every year but re-watching it as an adult may leave you with a slightly different interpretation.rudolph

Yes, it’s tempting to say that Hermey the elf is gay. He’s got snazzy Justin Bieber hair and a lisp that just won’t quit. So is “dentistry” one of the oldest euphemisms for “raging homosexual”? Possibly. But you can’t really tell someone’s gay until they tell you they are, so if Hermey wants to stay in the closet, or is still exploring his options, we’ll let him. Meanwhile, it seems that some of the lady elves have found him to be an excellent dance partner. Sounds like a win all around.

Santa, however, I have issues with. He’s a dick. Definitely sexist. Pretty racist. I mean, he rejects Rudolph on the basis of the colour of his nose alone. He was totally excited about this guy on paper, but red nose? Deal breaker. And he’s a complete ass about the song the elves perform especially for him. I mean, these little dudes slave away all year long for him, and all he can do is criticize? This is not a nice guy. No wonder kids always cry when you plop them on his lap. I will say though that more mall Santas should aspire to his excellent beard grooming. Man’s got some tidy facial hair. Mall Santas always go for the curly bearded look, and I think it’s a mistake. I also enjoyed Santa’s Sherlock hat – who knew he also rocked the deer stalker?

But the best-dressed award goes to Sam, the snowman narrator. Love the tartan vest, the watch fob, his Colonel Sanders tie, heck, his bowler hat’s accessorized with winter berries! Burl Ives pwnd Christmas, y’all.

RudolphYukon Cornelius is a little more lumbersexual, but you have to hand it to him, he’s an inclusive, forward-thinking guy. His sled dogs include a cocker spaniel, a poodle, a Saint Bernard, a collie, and even a little wiener dog. He’s also a champion for immigrant employment. Who else would think that all this time the Abominable Snowman just wanted to dignified work and a decent wage?

I also felt like the Island of Misfit Toys must have planted the seedling of Toy Story into John Lasseter’s brain. Little Johnny would have been about 7 or 8 when Rudolph first aired and he heard a bunch of talking toys utter the magical words “a toy is never truly happy until it is loved by a child.” There was even a cowboy riding an ostrich. Not much of a stretch to Woody, and a dynasty is born.

It’s still a treat to watch this movie though, it takes you back to simpler times, to wearing your flannel jammies and sharing a big bowl of popcorn with siblings while the Christmas specials air. The animation was done primarily in Japan, but the voice work was recorded in Canada. In fact, the woman (!) who voiced Rudolph lived in the same Ontario retirement residence as the guy who voiced Hermey the elf up until her death a few years ago. For many of us, this movie became a Christmas tradition, one that you can honour during the holidays, or you can do like me and totally desecrate it by buying it on DVD and “accidentally” watching the claymation Destiny’s Child video in the bonus features – or worse yet, the Regis Philbin one.