Industry Promises Increased Representation in Children’s Animation
The recent uproar over the scarcity of black representation in youth pop culture has resulted in a large number of animation studios pledging their commitment towards increasing black representation. Although this is great news for both the industry and humanity as a whole, it is very important to ensure that no empty promises are made and that actual transformation continues to take place. A shift is not only needed as far as racial equality is concerned, disability and gender inclusivity as well.
Equal Representation is a Must!
When the ever-popular TV show Doc McStuffins first premiered on the Disney Channel in 2012, the title character became the first black girl to be the star of an animated preschool show. Prior to that, black girls were pretty much resigned to identifying only with Tiana in Disney’s The Princess and The Frog. More recently, a greater effort towards racial inclusivity has resulted in the creation of animated masterpieces such as the well-received 2015 animated film from Dreamworks entitled Home, Spiderman: Into the Spiderverse, and Soul. There is, however, still a lot of hard work that lies ahead in order to achieve true racial inclusivity in the world of animation.
The Disabled Community Appreciates Inclusivity Efforts
In order for children’s animation to be truly inclusive, it is important that a concerted effort is made to represent the global disabled community which is currently standing at approximately one billion people according to the WHO. Members of the disabled community can find immense support from online communities such as cpfamilynetwork.org which is focused on individuals living with cerebral palsy and their families. Having disabled animated characters to identify with, on the other hand, can be a great morale booster for younger individuals with disabilities, especially if the character is portrayed as a ‘hero’. Although increased representation is undoubtedly needed, there has been a range of characters with disabilities that have proven to be especially endearing in children’s animation including Hiccup from the ‘How to Train Your Dragon’ franchise, Massimo Marcovaldo from ‘Luca’ and, of course, Mandy Mouse from ‘Peppa Pig’.
Gender Representation Can Always be Improved
For a very long time, both males and females have been portrayed in a very stereotypical manner in animation. Before gender equality became a ‘thing’, the typical Disney princess (Snow White, Cinderella, Belle, Aurora etc) was always depicted as a beautiful, polite girl in search of her Prince Charming. It was only in 1995, with the release of Pocahontas that a princess was portrayed as more than a pretty face. Mulan, Merida (Brave), Vanellope Von Schweetz (Wreck-It Ralph), and of course Anna & Elsa (Frozen) all followed suit, displaying multi-faceted personalities and interesting physical features. On the small screen, girl power has been front and center in a number of shows including the Powerpuff Girls, Adventure Time, Futurama, and Harley Quinn. While female representation has definitely improved over recent years, it is imperative that women of all ages continue to feature as strong, independent characters.
Animation has come a long way over the last few years in terms of inclusivity and diversity. There is, however, still room for considerable improvements in all various areas of the animation industry.