The Hollywood Reporter brings together A-listers and industry veterans for thought-provoking conversations around awards season every year to give all of us watching at home a seat at the proverbial roundtable.
But for some reason, the media outlet thought the best candidates to engage in a much-needed discussion about diversity in animation were seven white guys, drawing ire across social media for the complete and total absence of diversity.
Byron Howard, Garth Jennings, Travis Knight, Mike Mitchell, John Musker, and Mark Osborne and Seth Rogen, who are responsible for such films like “Zootopia,” “Moana,” and “Sing,” sat down earlier this week to talk “avoiding ethnic stereotypes” and trying to “break the mold” of princesses.
The conversation was essentially facepalm central given the many worthy non-white and female animators working in the industry today who were not included. Even when acknowledging the importance of accurately representing different cultures on screen, the group fell into the very same traps of cultural insensitivity and bias they claim to avoid in their films.
Rogen later acknowledged the irony of having the “white male take on ethnic stereotypes and sexism” in a tweet after the roundtable was published, joking that he was “Proud to break new ground.”
Read some excerpts from the conversation below:
John Musker on directing “Moana”:
“We had the challenge in ‘Moana’ of dealing with this culture that we were really outsiders to in a way. I knew something about the South Pacific just from a distance, reading books set there and seeing paintings by Paul Gauguin and that sort of thing ... So we cobbled together a story and pitched it to John and he said, ‘This is great, but you’ve got to dig deeper, do more research.’ So we were forced to go to Tahiti and Samoa and Fiji.”
“It was an added challenge that we didn’t have when we did ‘Aladdin.’ Our research on ‘Aladdin,’ it was during the first Gulf War, so for our research, we went to the L.A. Convention Center, where there was a Saudi Arabian expo.”
Mark Osborne on developing “Kung Fu Panda”:
“That’s pretty good. On ‘Kung Fu Panda,’ we just Googled China. That was as far as we could go.”
Seth Rogen on the backlash to Salma Hayek’s taco character in “Sausage Party”:
“You know, our movie is directly about racial stereotypes and how religion divides us and how our beliefs divide us and how we look different divides us and how we speak different divides us. And at the same time, as a lover of Disney animated movies, we took a lot of cues from those types of movies.”
Social media immediately took issue with the makeup of the roundtable, expressing their frustration toward the media outlet for not including a single person of color or woman in the conversation.