In writing my stories, I try to keep my characters as diverse and creative as I possibly can. This is my personal reflection of a modern society put into a modern fairy tale. I live in a global universe, so do my characters. But, when my characters go to a certain location, I expect to find people living in that location that belong their. I don't expect to find Scots living in Singapore. Likewise, I would not expect to find Santa Clause (or in this case the Snow Queen) to be living at the South Pole.
That said, I've come across a post on Tumblr that has really got me seething. You can find it here. There are many arguments made in this post, which goes back and forth over many different reasons why characters at Disney look similar. Some assume that the artists are lazy, or *rolls eyes* racists. But here's what I have to say on the matter.
Individual artists, successful artists, make their money out of being
stylized. This is how they make their money. An artist is selected out
of hundreds of thousands because the producers like their style. Any artist or animator will tell you that!
And I would leave it with "That's it. Nuf said." but there's so much more to this than just that simple fact! I recall watching one of the extra features on Lilo and Stitch where they were talking about the specific style of the movie coming from this key animator that had been a concept artist for years and had always had that similar style. They talked about how, for animators, it was difficult for them to do because it was SO stylized, but it was well worth it!
Now, from what little I know about 3D animation, it's a lot easier for everyone to be on the same page animation wise - and by a lot easier I mean A LOT easier. But there's still a distinctive style! Looking over all the Disney classics, you can tell they're classics just by the animation style. The eyes, are the same, the proportions are the same. Sure, the styles may vary from film to film, but they all have that classic feel.
On a different issue having to do with artistic style, has anyone noticed that you can look at a film and guess with darn good accuracy who the film was made by? This goes for live action or animated. Go ahead, explain to me why! Explain to me that directors have a specific way they want the film to look and they get it. Explain to me that they have a style to convey a theme, a location, a common thread in a series of adventures. But no, the people on Tumblr that criticize a successful person for sticking to their style is simply a jaded critic that has yet to do anything truly successful with their lives.
That said, on to point 2.
The argument of racial ambiguity really pisses me off. Disney does a
good job of keeping a story's characters racially tied to their place of
origin. The Jungle Book takes place in India. The Legend of the Emperor of Cuzco takes place in the Andes. Atlantis is Mediterranean. Tarzan is
about a white boy found by white people in the depths of Africa. The
Hunchback of Notre Dame is French. Hercules is appropriately Greek! Aladdin distinctively reflects the tales of Scheherazade in her classic 1,000 Arabian Nights. Mulan is a Chinese historical figure, just like Pocahontas is to the new world. Peter Pan, The Sword in the Stone, and Alice in Wonderland are all British classics by British authors which they set in *gasp* Great Britain!
point of fact is that Snow White, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Rapunzel
are all fairy tales compiled by the Grimm brothers. These fairy tales
are from the German and French country sides and have things central to
their story that require that setting. Just as I fully anticipated The
Hunchback of Notre Dame to take place in *gasp* Paris!, I expect to see
these classic Germanic fairy stories to take place in *gasp* Germany! Now, The Princess and the Frog, while sweet and a really creative take on
a classic Grimm story (The Brothers Grimm being, of course, German)
did not stick to it's alleged country of origin. Then again, there
aren't very many story centric references of to culture in the fairytale
which Disney botched. But, seeing as how they've completely changed the
story before *cough* The Jungle Book *cough* I won't contend it.
if you want to get really persnickety about this, which I most surely
shall, The Little Mermaid, The Snow Queen, and Thumbelina are all H.C.
Andersen stories. He is Danish. I expect danish influence in these
movies. The Little Mermaid has Danish ships, a Danish castle, even
Danish countryside. Now, seeing as how The Snow Queen is written to take
place in the northern most part of Norway, or possibly Russia, and that
the Snow Queen's castle is supposed to be at the North Pole... And
seeing as how the South Pole is so frigidly terrible weather wise that
even modern explorers avoid it at all costs... And seeing as how even the
great and mighty Inca didn't sail in those treacherous southern waters - whereas the Northern Sea used to freeze over completely on a regular
basis and peoples have been known to cross them - I expect that Scandinavian/Slavic touch, white skin and all.
heart! Disney's running out of tales from my ancestors. I believe the
only the only ones left are: The Princess and the Pea, and The Troll King. But then after that, you have the stories of Baba Yaga, The Tales of Ulster and any number of Viking tales. Yeah... us crazy white people were really good at coming up with some frighteningly entertaining stories. And it's not that other cultures don't have them too, it's just that the majority of Disney animators are white, the majority of their watchers are white and they - LIKE ANY OTHER CULTURE - love sharing their favorite bed time stories! I, personally, have been waiting 13 years for them to make a featured film out of Rapunzel. From the time I was 8, it was my favorite fairy tale.
Now, that's not to say that other cultures don't have great fairy tales and cautionary stories, they do! And shame on Disney for not drawing attention to those stories. But don't take my favorite fairy tale and try to turn it into a story about a culture I know nothing about. Turn that culture's fairy tales into feature length movies instead! Why not? There are the Native American tales of Cayote, and the Mayan tales of the Jaguar warriors, and the Chinese tales of Monkey, and you can pick from any number of Hindi stories. Then there's the African tales of Spider. Or, heck! You can go do some more of Scheherazade's 1,000 Arabian Nights. I know for a fact that they didn't even even cover half of them in the Aladdin TV series. The fact of the matter is that there are a lot of other multicultural fairy tales to choose from, so stop ragging on Disney for keeping the culture that the fairy tales belong to in tact.
Now for those of you that saw this, thought "tl/dr" and skipped to the last paragraph, I suggest you go through and reread the entire rant, it's pretty interesting. If not, then I leave you with this: Disney is running out of northern European fairy tales to tell in their animation. So, now they actually have time to research some far eastern tales that don't involved being eaten by tigers (or dragons, or wild demons, take your pick), or they're going to have to move on to the Irish tales of Ulster... which aren't really that pretty either.