Femmes top toon contenders

Anderson, Arnold headed for showdown in animation race

If oddsmakers are right, at least two female-produced films will compete for animated feature honors at February’s Oscars ceremony: Pixar’s “Toy Story 3,” produced by Darla Anderson, and DreamWorks Animation’s “How To Train Your Dragon,” produced by Bonnie Arnold.

Both women’s careers belie the conventional thinking that CG filmmaking is strictly a boy’s club.

“Back in the day, I definitely was the only girl,” recalls Anderson, who produced “A Bug’s Life,” “Cars” and “Monsters, Inc.” during 17 years at Pixar. “But now there are lots of women in leadership positions on animated films.”

All of Pixar’s 11 releases have had female producers — which is also true of every Oscar-winning animated feature since the category’s inception in 2001.

“Jeffrey Katzenberg has lots of women in DreamWorks’ producing ranks. We’re seeing more women in technical positions, too,” adds Arnold, who previously produced the original “Toy Story” and Disney’s 2D-animated “Tarzan,” and counts the live-action pics “Dances With Wolves” and “The Last Station” among her credits. “There are more opportunities for women in animation, but we still have further to go, just as in live-action.”

The scarcity of animated female leads may be a better indicator that most toons been written and directed by men. DreamWorks’ “Monsters vs. Aliens,” Disney’s “Tangled” and Pixar’s upcoming “Brave” are among the few high-profile titles boasting girl power.

But it’s probably not surprising that the first wave of CG films had so many buddy pictures. “We faced so many technical obstacles trying to figure out this medium, and to begin with, guys wrote about what they knew,” Anderson observes. “My prediction is that we’ll see more heroines.”

There are already signs of change. Arnold lobbied to add a female character to “How To Train Your Dragon” – which didn’t exist in the books that inspired the film. Astrid, voiced by America Ferrera, will return for the “Dragon” sequel that Arnold will produce.

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