The last three Disney films that starred POC were the Emperor’s New Groove in 2000, Brother Bear in 2003 and Princess and the Frog in 2009.
What did they have in common?
Just stop. Lilo & Stitch came out after The Emperor’s New Groove. The Incredibles starred POCs. Prior to The Emperor’s New Groove there was Mulan, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Pochontas, and Aladdin - not without their problems, but not this problem, if it even is one. Isn’t there enough crap to pin on Disney without having to make more up?
You’re right that Lilo & Stitch came out after Emperor’s New Groove. So that’s one out of four movies since 2000 with POC in starring roles where they DON’T spend the majority of the film as animals. And how many movies with White protagonists who stay human?
Claiming that The Incredibles “starred” POC doesn’t make sense. Frozone was clearly a supporting character. His story arc was not central to the film. The OP is talking about protagonists, not supporting characters (not that there aren’t plenty of things to say about the relatively narrow range of stereotypes that POC supporting characters tend to fall into in mainstream media).
The other films you mention all came out before Emperor’s New Groove, so they’re basically irrelevant to the discussion. The OP isn’t talking about all Disney films ever. They’re talking about Disney films in the last decade-plus, which is a reasonable timeframe to consider (media representation doesn’t always follow a clear linear progress of improvement; like everything else, it can get worse over time). It’s probably especially relevant to people who have kids born since 2000, and would like them to see diverse representations of people, especially PEOPLE LIKE THEMSELVES, in the media that they consume. And if we restrict ourselves to only the past decade, then we have only two Disney movies starring POC and they both spend most of their screen time as animals.
This is certainly not a Disney-only problem, although it IS a permutation of a well-documented problem throughout children’s media, despite your incredulity (“if it even is one”?). You may have seen an infographic going around about overall representation amongst children’s book protagonists, where anthropomorphic animals routinely outnumber POC, but not White people, by a staggering factor. It is true, however, that Disney is a huge player in children’s media; it’s nearly impossible to avoid exposure even if you try. So a focus on Disney’s contribution to the problem is entirely appropriate.
Yes, Disney has other problems. But this is the one a whole lot of people seem especially dedicated to minimizing.
I didn’t get an objection to the overall lack of POC characters from the original post, just an erasure of the few Disney movies that did include representations of people like myself to score a few points.
From your initial reblog, I thought that you were making a general argument that POC aren’t under-represented, which was apparently a misinterpretation; I’m sorry.
But I still see the OP’s post as making a separate but related point that you seem to be missing, which is that, aside from getting disproportionately low representation in Disney animated films, when POC are put in primary roles, they are often denied humanity in a way that White characters are not.
I think the OP probably misremembered the date for Lilo & Stitch by a few years, which isn’t to say that it’s a trivial omission; it’s an important movie, especially in terms of POC representation, since ALL the major human characters are POC. Having looked up the exact stats, they also ommitted Up!, which featured an Asian-American protagonist (co-starring with a White one). Jungle Book 2 was released in 2003, and although the voice-acting was White-washed and its reception (by critics and viewers alike) very poor, let’s count it for comparison purposes.
That gives us, since 2000:
- 6 movies with POC protagonists, 50% of whom spend the majority of their films in animal form.
- 19 movies with White protagonists, NONE of whom spend the majority of their films in non-human form.
- 22 movies with animal or otherwise non-human (monsters, cars, robots, etc.) protagonists, who are never human.
(I’m not counting movies that were primarily promoted outside the US since most of them are marketed here in a very different way if they even have a wide release. If I were, almost all the POC characters are White-washed in the English dub voice-acting.)
The difference between White protagonists and always non-human protagonists is pretty minimal; statistically speaking, it might not be distinguishable from no difference at all. POC protagonists, on the other hand, run a clear and distant third to the other two categories.
Additionally, when POC star in Disney animated films, half the time they appear in those movies primarily as animals, which in the time period under review never happens to White protagonists.
This relates to findings that animals are consistently represented as protagonists far more often than POC in children’s media such as picture books. It’s related to the overall lack of representation of POC, but it’s an observation that kind of connects the two issues, that is, it certainly looks like Disney has decided that POC, but not White people, are more empathetic to (White) consumers if they’re not human at all. That is the OP’s point.
It’s important not to forget about Lilo & Stitch and Up! in the rush to make that point, I agree. But it doesn’t render the point invalid or unimportant.