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Kim Voynar

By Kim Voynar

SIFF Note: On Kung Fu Panda 2’s Female Director

I’ll have a review of Kung Fu Panda 2, which played at SIFF on Saturday as part of their Films4Families series, in a couple days. But in the meantime, I wanted to call your attention to this interview with Kung Fu Panda 2 director Jennifer Yuh Nelson, over on Cartoon Brew:

I’m kind of surprised I haven’t seen more written about Kung Fu Panda 2 actually being directed by a woman. If you look at the list of directors of Dreamworks/Pixar films, you’ll find that (much as I do like much of their output) they have a long history of using male directors.

Brenda Chapman directed Prince of Egypt waaayyyyy back in 1998 and is currently directing The Bear and the Bow, but other than that, I don’t believe they’ve had another female director until now. Cartoon Brew has a nice list of all the Disney/Pixar and Dreamworks films, listed by year and director, right here. (As an aside, that particular list is a part of an article about the dominance of CalArts alumni and the difficulty of getting a primo job in animation if you go to animation school anywhere else, which is another subject entirely, though also interesting.)

There have been a ton of stories written, by myself and others, about lack of strong female characters in many of the Pixar and Dreamworks films, as well as the male domination in the animation field (and in the movie industry generally) so really, I would have thought that Dreamworks publicity would be falling over themselves making sure everyone knew that this one was directed by a real, live female person. Curious.

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2 Responses to “SIFF Note: On Kung Fu Panda 2’s Female Director”

  1. waterbucket says:

    I don’t think Brenda Chapman is directing (the formerly known as) The Bear and The Bow anymore.

  2. Kim Voynar says:

    Right you are, waterbucket. It’s now being directed by a man, although Chapman shares the writing credit. Also, it seems to have been renamed “Brave.”

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It shows how out of it I was in trying to be in it, acknowledging that I was out of it to myself, and then thinking, “Okay, how do I stop being out of it? Well, I get some legitimate illogical narrative ideas” — some novel, you know?

So I decided on three writers that I might be able to option their material and get some producer, or myself as producer, and then get some writer to do a screenplay on it, and maybe make a movie.

And so the three projects were “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” “Naked Lunch” and a collection of Bukowski. Which, in 1975, forget it — I mean, that was nuts. Hollywood would not touch any of that, but I was looking for something commercial, and I thought that all of these things were coming.

There would be no Blade Runner if there was no Ray Bradbury. I couldn’t find Philip K. Dick. His agent didn’t even know where he was. And so I gave up.

I was walking down the street and I ran into Bradbury — he directed a play that I was going to do as an actor, so we know each other, but he yelled “hi” — and I’d forgot who he was.

So at my girlfriend Barbara Hershey’s urging — I was with her at that moment — she said, “Talk to him! That guy really wants to talk to you,” and I said “No, fuck him,” and keep walking.

But then I did, and then I realized who it was, and I thought, “Wait, he’s in that realm, maybe he knows Philip K. Dick.” I said, “You know a guy named—” “Yeah, sure — you want his phone number?”

My friend paid my rent for a year while I wrote, because it turned out we couldn’t get a writer. My friends kept on me about, well, if you can’t get a writer, then you write.”
~ Hampton Fancher

“That was the most disappointing thing to me in how this thing was played. Is that I’m on the phone with you now, after all that’s been said, and the fundamental distinction between what James is dealing with in these other cases is not actually brought to the fore. The fundamental difference is that James Franco didn’t seek to use his position to have sex with anyone. There’s not a case of that. He wasn’t using his position or status to try to solicit a sexual favor from anyone. If he had — if that were what the accusation involved — the show would not have gone on. We would have folded up shop and we would have not completed the show. Because then it would have been the same as Harvey Weinstein, or Les Moonves, or any of these cases that are fundamental to this new paradigm. Did you not notice that? Why did you not notice that? Is that not something notable to say, journalistically? Because nobody could find the voice to say it. I’m not just being rhetorical. Why is it that you and the other critics, none of you could find the voice to say, “You know, it’s not this, it’s that”? Because — let me go on and speak further to this. If you go back to the L.A. Times piece, that’s what it lacked. That’s what they were not able to deliver. The one example in the five that involved an issue of a sexual act was between James and a woman he was dating, who he was not working with. There was no professional dynamic in any capacity.

~ David Simon