I just went to see the new Despicable Me movie (maybe I'll do a review post on that, but it was much fun), and one of the trailers was a teaser for LAIKA's new movie set to be released in 2014: The Boxtrolls. Seriously, kudos to LAIKA, because they are going to single handedly drag American family-targeted animation into the 21st century.
When in 2012 they introduced the first out animated character in an American family target theatrical release, there was some opposition. Some Christian reviewers commented on the difficulty of having to now explain to their children about homosexuality, as Nancy French put it:
"...Parents who take children to the new movie ParaNorman might have to answer unwanted questions about sex and homosexuality on the way home from the movie theater (French)."
Well, the new Boxtrolls trailer does that explaining, and quite eloquently:
I really appreciate how inclusive the movies are that LAIKA has made. When Coraline was released in 2009, the same year Disney loudly introduced their first black princess with much merchandising, LAIKA quietly included a POC protagonist: Wybie.
I loved Coraline, it was beautifully animated, funny, and used it's medium to the advantage of the storytelling. But I didn't realize how revolutionary it was until I was discussing the movie with a friend a few days later. She had taken her little sister to see the movie, without knowing about Wybie's character. It was the first time her sibling had ever watched an animated movie with a black protagonist (even if he was the supporting character). It was the first time here little sister had ever seen an animated hero like herself.
My friend then in an offhanded way mentioned the cartoon Doug, which we had both grown up watching.
"Did you know Skeeter was black?" she asked me.
I had never thought about Skeeter having a race. He was blue to me. Yet as I began to actively look at the animated movies I loved, the lack of color was astounding. Perhaps a sign of how unaccustomed we are to seeing POC characters in our animated movies; right after Coraline was released, Deviant Art was flooded with fanart and a surprising amount of the Wybie art depicted him as a white, curly haired, redhead.
I might feel the lack of female characters acutely. Looking at every American animated G and PG rated movie released from 2008-2012 only 29% of the voiced characters were female. But there are white female protagonists. At least I exist on the screen.
So, a big round of applause and lots of love for LAIKA. Thank goodness there is an animation studio willing to take risks.