Disney's ‘Frozen’ Animator Draws Heat for Female Character Comments

Disney's 'Frozen' Animator Draws Heat for Female Character Comments

“They have to go through these range of emotions … and you have to keep them pretty,” says Lino DiSalvo

Disney Animation supervisor Lino DiSalvo is in some hot water over comments he made about creating the female characters in “Frozen,” the studio's upcoming cartoon musical.

“Historically speaking, animating female characters are really, really difficult, 'cause they have to go through these range of emotions, but they're very, very – you have to keep them pretty and they're very sensitive to – you can get them off a model very quickly,” he said.

His point, made during an interview with Fanvoice, was that it was harder to make the movie because animating women was trickier.

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“Having a film with two hero female characters was really tough, and having them both in the same scene and look very different if they're echoing the same expression; that Elsa looking angry looks different from Anna being angry,” he said.

In the film, Idina Menzel voices Elsa and Kristen Bell is Anna.

The comments have drawn negative reactions on the web, most taking DiSalvo to task for propagating unrealistic expectations for women to youngsters.

“It's not that animating female characters experiencing emotions is a hard job, it's that it's hard to do when you're focusing on keeping them looking pretty and perfect 100 percent of the time, which no one is capable of doing because it's impossible,” wrote Tanya Ghahremani of ComplexPopCulture.

Disney on Thursday took exception to the characterization of DiSalvo's comments.

“Animation is an intricate and complex art form,” a Disney spokesman told TheWrap. “These comments were recklessly taken out of context. As part of a roundtable discussion, the animator was describing some technical aspects of CG animation and not making a general comment on animating females versus males or other characters.”

Disney has high hopes for “Frozen,” which is opening on Nov. 27, the day before Thanksgiving. Long-range projections have it opening north of $35 million and taking in $170 million domestically.

Thanksgiving has been the launching pad for a couple of Disney films with female characters front and center, 2010's “Tangled” and 2012's “Brave.”


  • cthulu48

    You know, I'm a guy, so I'm possibly speaking out of clear cut bias, but seriously, get over it. It's a cartoon, and there are THOUSANDS of factors that animators must consider when animating a character of any age or sex. He was just talking about the process. If a woman made that same comment, there would be no problem whatsoever. I'd also like to add that I believe in being politically correct most of the time…. I usually identify myself as an open-minded liberal-thinking kind of guy, but I HATE when society takes political correctness too far. These feminist groups (for the most part) take themselves WAY too seriously. I happen to agree with most of the feminist philosophy that I have read, but they take it too far…. They want me to call that thing in the street a “person-hole cover”. (Gotta say… I stole that joke directly from George Carlin, R.I.P.). For God's sake, if certain women are getting flustered and bent out of shape about these MILDLY off-putting comments about 2 make-believe cartoon characters, to the point that the animators can't even discuss the process with the public, then we have too much political correctness in today's society.

    • KelVintage

      He said he had to keep the female characters pretty at all times….how is that not sexist you pig?

      • cthulu48

        I'll answer your question, though you are totally out of line calling me a pig. I'll be the bigger guy and won't call you names, though I should, but rather, I'll give a hypothetical reason why it's not sexist on the animators part: How about the story, ya know, the script calls for an “attractive” pair of female cartoon characters. If you really have a problem with what he said, consider first that he had to know the characters, story and script before he could animate the characters properly. Have you seen movies with actual human being actresses? Nearly 100% of all major movie stars, male OR female, are what I would call a “shallow person's idea of what makes a woman (or a man) “beautiful”. I hate supermodel lookers that every 10 year old kid dreams about as a child, but I NEVER said that it's “good” to go with the “standard” version of what Hollywood and/or Disney regard as “beautiful people”. I'm in agreement with you. I would give ANYONE a chance if they could become my friend or spouse or whatever. I care NOTHING about what is on the outside of a woman. I care what's in her heart first, last, and only. I'm totally fond of all women, whether they meet “Hollywood Beautiful Standards” or not. A woman's physical appearance is not who she is. Very unimportant to me. I'm not a pig, I had to stand up to that bogus name calling.

        And since you called me a “pig”, I'd like to say that my comment was regarding the guy taking SO much heat for these comments about the production of animated characters, which take thousands of skills that most people will NEVER understand. He had to craft 2 “Hollywood Beautiful Cartoon Women”, and he was simply talking about the script and the process of creation of art.

        After explaining myself, I hope you understand that I am NOT a pig. I agree with most feminists that men have nearly destroyed this planet historically through brutal war and political corruption, historically speaking.

        Even still, I wish you only the best in life. I'm just no pig.

      • chrissypants

        I understood what he meant by pretty. Unfortunately in our world, females have to be kept looking aesthetically pleasing to us the audience. And with a company like Disney, these girls have to cry pretty, be happy pretty, be angry pretty because if they were to go to an extreme angry then they would be a side character for example. Take a look at Lotte from Princess and the frog and then compare her to Tiana. Can you see the difference in having to keep Tiana looking prettier than Lottie? That's because Lottie is deemed as the side character / funny one so she is required to have extreme facial expressions.

        Disney animators have had a hard time animating any character. The technology for hair in Tangled is brand new, hence why no females had longer hair. The animators on The Incredibles had a hard time with Violet's hair because the tech was simply not available. Back on Aladdin, the animators complained that he was too hard to animate because of his character design. SO honestly, what I'm trying to say is that animating any character is simply not a new thing to complain about.

        If you want to complain, complain about society's POV on how women are treated in Hollywood andhow there aren't that many POC women or curvier women, etc and not on Disney. They are unfortunately still following a Hollywood trend. :

        • Pablo Rages

          It's not just men, women prefer more attractive people too.

      • Guest101

        Believing he meant that he had to keep female characters pretty is like people believing that Al Gore said he invented the internet. The trickiness wasn't in keeping them pretty; it came from two leads having different expressions for the same emotion while keeping them on model. It's clear he meant “pretty” with respect to aesthetics, not attractiveness.

      • Pablo Rages

        They are just giving people, men and women, what they want. Look up some psychology research, men and women will rate attractive people as more competent, friendly, approachable, believable and trustworthy. JUst what you want in characters in movies!

      • Amckee0115An

        Because in a Disney movie, the characters are supposed to be pretty, and he was talking about as far as lead roles go you dumb ass. Elsa and Anna are both leading characters. And because of that he has to make sure that both characters differ in their faces and expressions, just as you and I don't look the same. And females (generally) are harder to draw bc we like to have dramatic faces. And if you are a girl you can't say that you don't do it because then I would have to call you a liar too. Because females in general show more emotions and express ourselves better. There was nothing sexist about what he said, you just wanted the attention. So shut your god damn “feminist” pie hole and go back to where you came from.

        • KelVintage

          Fuck off you sexist white pig. Go eat another burger fatass.

        • KelVintage

          Fuck off you sexist white pig. Go eat another burger you fatass.

    • ashketchum

      i agree with cthulu. i'm a chick and i really see nothing wrong with this. the people who are so upset over this either don't anything about animation and/or they're feminist.. or worst case, every little thing bothers them. animating anything is a difficult job and takes a lot of time. there are certain parameters that a character has room to make expressions and if it's not kept within the model then it'll look obviously ridiculous and ugly. i'm sure you won't want to watch a movie where faces are all fucked up

  • awful

    Another Disney movie to skip, based on that awful picture. Never seen women before with such big eyes. Just looks awful.

    • Aveeva

      You're awful :)

    • disneyfanguyrhing

      why not complain on all the anime characters also? u've never seen female cartoons with big eyes? this is cartoon. u can stretch the possibility as far as u want. :P

    • sparkle86

      half the emotion on a person's face in the eyes. the reason cartoon characters always have big eyes is for facial expressions. have you ever seen a cartoon character with normally proportioned features? they look weird. it's a cartoon. features are supposed to be exaggerated.

  • Cliffhanger77

    Yes, because all women look the same, and we must keep their faces pretty and with GIANT ANIME EYES and as expressionless as if they'd just been Botoxed, because that's just the way it is.

    Seriously, get over yourself, Lino (and take note, ALL animators). If you included, oh, I don't know, a few women of color, a few women who aren't Size 0, a few women who look and express emotions like real women do, you might see that it's not all that hard to animate and differentiate female characters. Not all of them have to look like traditional ultra-pretty Disney Princesses. That's why I like “Lilo and Stitch” (hey, look, some female characters who actually resemble humans! And have a range of emotions!) and consider it a real Disney achievement. Since then, things have really backpedaled. Another reason we need more women working in animation.

    • Hankenshift

      Don't be quite so ignorant. The “animators” didn't decide on the final designs. Their jobs are made much more difficult (and, depending on how you spin it, more challenging and fun) by having to have two similar looking characters in one scene physically ACTING differently. With so much lame dialogue (as evidenced by the trailers), and seemingly indifferent direction, it seems the animators have done an amazing job.
      Lilo and Stich was a cute enough for small children, but a mess of a film. No wonder it was received very mildly at the box office.

      • kyoseki

        Yep, I'll lay any money you like this guy is stuck between trying to generate an expressive animation and his Disney taskmasters forcing him to make sure that the princesses always look EXACTLY like the model sheets regardless of which emotion they're attempting to convey.

      • KelVintage

        Lilo and Stitch made over 145 million dollars in 2002 you tool. That's better than all of the Disney animated films in that decade. It was a huge hit at the time.

    • ashketchum

      um cliffhanger, i hope you realize what you said was wrong.. there are plenty of disney characters that of different races and backgrounds and that aren't size zeros.. if lilo and stitch is the only example you can think of, you have a quite a few disney movies to watch..
      and if you want more women working in animation, then go into animation. you know why there aren't many women in that field?.. because they don't want to do it. one of my friends, who is a female, is an animator and she always tells me how there are just aren't many women who are interested in that particular field so it does tend to be male dominated

    • Courtney Smithson

      Why don't u just shut up

    • Courtney Smithson

      Guess what! Shut up or I'll Make You

  • hupto

    BTW, the term is “off-model,” not “off a model.” It means the character is not drawn in the established way it was laid out on the animators’ model sheets.

    • Ricky Manginsay

      Hahaha…I saw that..Glad you cleared that out for people.

  • Ricky Manginsay

    Great! Someone you can't draw sh*t comments on an animator's thinking process on handling a character…If you draw emotions for a living you'll understand what he meant..Get over it people! It's just a cartoon..Leave the guy alone..

  • Olaf

    :{) :{) :{)