New year. Same problems.
Earlier today Walt Disney Studios released their official slate of 2017 films, along with information about each movie (except for Star Wars: Episode VIII as that knowledge is protected by a herd of rancors, I assume). Across their divisions, the Mouse House will put out seven feature films this year, beginning with the live-action adaptation of Beauty and the Beast on March 17. After that, Disney Nature will release Born in China on April 21, Marvel Studios will have Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 on May 5, followed by Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales on May 26, Pixar’s Cars 3 on June 16, Marvel’s Thor: Ragnarok on November 3, Pixar’s Coco on November 22, and finishing out the year will be Lucasfilm’s Star Wars: Episode VIII. That’s eight major films that will no doubt rake in literal billions of dollars for Walt Disney Studios. And out of all those films, zero of them were written or directed by women.
Late last year, Lucasfilm chief Kathleen Kennedy came under scrutiny for saying a woman hadn’t directed a Star Wars film yet because “[W]e need someone with experience.” Jill Pantozzi deconstructed that Catch-22 of you need experience to get experience. The idea that female directors need a hefty resumé under their belt to even get a foot in the door rankles further when, for example, Disney sends out the description of Cars 3 as directed by Brian Fee (storyboard artist, Cars, Cars 2). Or that Pirates co-directors Joachim Rønning and Espen Sandberg don’t even have a mention of their previous work in Disney’s official press release as their most high-profile project before this was two episodes of Netflix’s Marco Polo. Or that another Pixar storyboard artist — this time Adrian Molina of Monsters University — was given a chance to be both the writer and co-director on Coco with Toy Story director Lee Unkrich.
Women did fair sparingly better on the producer side of Disney Studios. Of the nearly two dozen producers listed across the slate, two of them were women. Victoria Alonso for both Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 and Thor Ragnarok and Darla K. Anderson for Coco. The number raises to three if you count Lucasfilm’s Kathleen Kennedy, who is not listed but most definitely helped to produce Star Wars: Episode VIII. And while no women wrote a movie for Walt Disney Studios 2017 line-up, Stephany Folsom does receive a story credit for her work on Thor: Ragnarok.
All in all, it adds up to a poor showing for the biggest studio in the world. The Walt Disney Company recently surpassed $3 billion at the domestic box office in a single year, a feat that has never been accomplished before. With no signs of slowing down, it’s disheartening to see so few women sharing the spoils of success, despite how many are either qualified for the job or waiting in the wings to be discovered.