Here’s a conspiracy theory to rival the Kennedy assassination “magic bullet”: Every Disney/Pixar female character in the past decade has the exact same face. Upon realizing that Tangled’s Rapunzel and Frozen’s Anna and Elsa all share a similar look, Tumblr user Alex “wanted to see just how far this face thing went.” And what she discovered is that while Disney and Pixar men are given a diversity of face shapes, the women all have round faces with small button-like noses.
The phenomenon is clearly illustrated in this image for Pixar’s upcoming film Inside Out, which features three female characters and two male ones.
While at first glance the women might look quite different, Alex traced their face shapes to demonstrate just how similar they actually are.
After that she pulled images of male and female characters from the likes of Up, Wreck It Ralph, Brave, The Incredibles, and several other recent Disney and Pixar films.
While these results are rather shocking, there are a couple of factors at play here. This is not a fully comprehensive list of Disney/Pixar female characters—for instance Colette from Ratatouille may share the round face shape of her animated sisters, but she has a larger nose than the rest. The Incredibles’ Edna Mode also has a less generic face. In general, supporting animated characters are more likely to look distinctive than protagonists. The problem is that Disney/Pixar films—even the ones with female leads—almost always populate their supporting casts with men (10 out of 14 Pixar films fail the Bechdel test; Anna and Elsa are essentially the only two women in the entirety of Frozen). That means there are fewer opportunities for animators to create goofy looking female supporting characters.
However, even just comparing the male and female protagonists is revealing. The male leads of Up, Frozen, Ratatouille, Wreck It Ralph, and The Incredibles have a great diversity of face shapes that aren’t necessarily “traditionally” attractive. Female leads, however, almost all fit the same princess-inspired mold. These findings come on the heels of a bizarre quote from Frozen’s head of animation Lino DiSalvo about the fact that it’s harder to animate female characters because “you have to keep them pretty and they’re very sensitive.”
The other question is: Is it inherently bad that characters have similar faces? If the answer is “no,” then why are Disney and Pixar so intent on diversifying male face shapes? It’s ultimately not the lack of different faces that’s troubling, it’s the fact that the trend is so clearly applied to one gender and not the other, especially when one factors in the limiting beauty standards already imposed on women.
While everyone is welcome to draw their own conclusions from Alex’s data, she sums up her work thusly:
Apparently every Disney woman is a clone/direct descendant of some primordial creature with huge round cheeks and a disturbingly small nose, because there is no other explanation (yes there is (it’s lazy sexism)) for the incredible lack of diversity among these female faces.
Her full post is available here.