It’s always amusing when people criticize Walt Disney for being sexist because of the way he ran his company over 70 years ago, while completely overlooking the contemporary Disney Company’s abysmal track record of promoting women into top creative positions. While Walt Disney’s behavior can at least be understood in the historical context of mid-twentieth century America, the company’s actions today are indefensible.
Take, for example, Disney Television Animation. Launched in 1984, the division has produced over 50 half-hour series in the past thirty years, and of those half-hour series, only one—let me repeat that, ONLY ONE— was created solely by a woman. And it has been 17 years since the premiere of that series—Sue Rose’s Pepper Ann.
Disney TV has finally deemed a second woman worthy of helming her own half-hour series. Star Vs. The Forces of Evil, created by Daron Nefcy, a 2009 CalArts grad, will debut on Disney Channel and Disney XD in 2015. Disney teased the show at the San Diego Comic-Con last month with this footage:
The scarcity of women show creators at Disney TV Animation isn’t a unique phenomenon within the Los Angeles TV animation boys’ club. Disney competitor Cartoon Network produced animated TV shows for twenty years before greenlighting a show created solely by a woman. That show, Rebecca Sugar’s Steven Universe, premiered only last November.
Perhaps someday the industry will address the lack of woman show creators in a meaningful manner, so we won’t have to treat news about such shows as major events. For now, the animation industry’s attitudes towards women—not to mention minorities—remain mired in outdated paradigms and the evolution happens at a glacial pace. Yes, Star Vs. The Forces of Evil is a sign of progress, but it’s also a reminder of how much further the major animation studios have to go until they begin to consistently judge creators on their creative potential and not their gender.