Disney works to diversify its characters

Company works to broaden the perspective of future films

When Disney released their first fully animated feature film, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, in 1937, it’s safe to say diversity was not something they were concerned with. Over time, however, that idea has drastically changed and diversity is now a crucial component in animation.

As the times have been changing, Disney has been changing right along with them (or at least trying). They’ve been putting more thought into the racial diversity of the characters in their films. Now, instead of the white “damsel in distress” once portrayed in their animations, they are putting out more racially diverse and independent characters.

“I think Disney is doing a better job at providing diversity,” stated freshman Madison Lange. “They didn’t used to do so in the older age of Disney with Snow White and Sleeping Beauty, for example, but I must agree they are doing a better job now with people such as Moana and Tiana.”

Disney has even come out and said that they’re definitely making an effort to diversify the characters in their films.

“It’s very important to us … to have female and ethnic characters,” the Disney Animation Studios/Pixar chief, John Lasseter said in a 2015 press conference.

Lasseter was asked about the future of diversity in Disney’s animated films. “It’s grown in importance over time. As you’ll see in future films, we’re really paying attention to that.”

True to their word, Disney has released several racially diverse characters such as Moana since then. One Disney movie that especially stands out for its racial diversity is Big Hero Six. The main character of the movie Hiro, as well as his brother Tadashi, is biracial (Asian and white). And the other characters in the movie also come from diverse backgrounds, including black, white, Hispanic, and Asian descent.

“One of the things that I am proud of is the fact that we do have this very diverse cast,” said co-director of Big Hero Six Chris Williams in an interview with BuzzFeed. “In one sense, we don’t make a big deal out of it. The characters are certainly not defined in any way by their race and I’m very proud of that.”

The reason it’s so important for animated films to have diverse characters is because movies are able to cater to many children rather than just a select few. 

“It’s important to provide diversity because with Disney princesses, for example, more diversity means there are more kids who feel like they can look up to these princesses,” stated Lange. “They can relate to them in a certain way and use them as a role models.”

Brigham Young University’s animation professor Kelly Loosli couldn’t agree more.

“We all relate better to people and things that look like us,” voiced Loosli. “What is sad about this is that for years, everybody aside from white males were not catered to. Girls would watch movies about boys, and boys would not watch movies about girls. That’s the same for other races… When you see characters that look like you, that’s going to be appealing.”

Hopefully Disney continues on this path of racial diversity until it’s the norm set for all animated films.