Pixar Animation Studio’s Brave
finally opens this weekend, riding a wave of pre-release buzz about the animation house’s decision to structure their adventurous feature around, Merida, a strong-willed female protagonist.
And while it’s true that the Walt Disney Studios – and the animation genre, in general – often imagines female characters are princesses needing the assistance of a storybook male to achieve a happy ending, those celebrating Pixar now are kind of missing the point.
Pixar has been creating strong female characters for decades now. Yes, the foundation of Pixar’s success was built on Buzz and Woody. But pundits can point to a long line of powerful Pixar women who easily could make their way to a metaphorical Mount Rushmore of vintage characters (should we ever take the time to carve that out).
With that in mind, here are – in our opinion the five bravest, strongest female characters in Pixar history. Four are animated, and one has done more for the studio in a behind-the-scenes role than most audiences member will ever know.
Tell us: Would you rank them differently? And who might we have missed? Let the discussion begin:
The ultimate working mother, Helen Parr (Holly Hunter) holds down the fort while her super-powered husband (Craig T. Nelson) toils away at his 9-to-5 gig. But when everything hits the fan, Helen doesn’t hesitate to don her Elastigirl costume, jet to a deserted island (with her kids in tow), and save the world … or Metroville, at the very least. It’s no stretch to say that Elastigirl is the strongest girl in Pixar’s animation stable. Now get her and her family in a sequel!
2. Jessie the Yodeling Cowgirl
She sings. She dances. She’s good with a lasso. And she has a soft spot in her heart for Space Rangers. But Jessie (Joan Cusack) blows us away because she’s dropped into the middle of a Pixar franchise dominated by charismatic men like Woody (Tom Hanks) and Buzz (Tim Allen), and she immediately grabs our attention with an ear-shattering yodel and her boundless enthusiasm. Bonus points go to Jessie for delivering the most heart-breaking sequence in Pixar history – the “When Somebody Loved Me” scene from Toy Story 2. I think I need a tissue.
Eve has one mission: Discover signs of life on our polluted planet. But those plans are scrapped once she realizes the scrappy little ‘bot who won her heart needs help. Before all is said and done, Eve and Wall-E actually save our entire planet. Top that, Merida. Eve brilliantly speaks without using many worlds. Her electronic eyes sell thousands of emotions. Just don’t cross her, because she does have a laser gun, and she isn’t afraid to use it.
Monsters in their bedroom closets are supposed to reduce kids to tears. Not Boo. The minute she sees Sulley (John Goodman) – or “Kitty,” as she calls him – she clings to his rug of wispy blue hair and embarks on the adventure of a lifetime. Even better is the fact that Boo really is looking for Randall (Steve Buscemi), the monster who really has been giving kids a scare. And without her efforts to invade Monstropolis, the creatures would never know the power of laughter … and we probably wouldn’t have a Monsters prequel to look forward to in 2013.
5. Darla K. Anderson
John Lasseter might be the face of Pixar, but Anderson is the beating heart and drive that has kept the studio in fifth gear. The Hollywood exec joined the studio in 1993 – two years before Toy Story hit theaters – and is credited as a “digital angel” on the studio’s debut feature. Since then, Anderson has established benchmarks for female executives in the film industry. She won win a Golden Satellite Award for A Bug’s Life, a BAFTA award for Monsters, Inc., and the Producer of the Year in Animated Theatrical Motion Pictures from the Producers Guild of America for Cars. There likely is no Pixar without Anderson’s efforts, so for that, we’re forever thankful.