As a follow up to my “Cool heroines in children’s animated films”, I have decided to mention a few female characters that I find equally cool to the heroines, even if they are not the “main protagonist”. I’ve gotten the inspiration to write this post from a very special and dear person to me. I want to thank him for the idea and suggestions for what “side characters” to write about. Thanks, man, you’re awesome!
Side characters are often used as comic relief, but can also be used to represent ideas or attributes, for example child sidekicks are often used to represent innocence. At other times side characters may exist as wise advisers or as the voice of reason. Whatever their purpose, there have been many fun and entertaining sidekicks in the world of animation. Here’s a few I like.
The Black Widow from “Corpse Bride” (2005) – The Black Widow is a perky, friendly spider that though she doesn’t have her own name does deliver some of the most memorable jokes in “Corpse Bride”. She is the best friend of one of the main protagonist in the film, Emily. The Black Widow is played out as the friend that’s always there for you and always on your side, regardless of the Situation.
“Corpse Bride” tells the story of a young man Victor that through a number of weird circumstances ends up marrying a dead woman named Emily. This means nothing but trouble to Victor, since he’s already supposed to marry and in love with another (living) woman, Victoria. Emily on the other hand has taken quite a liking to her “new husband”. This was Tim Burton’s first full-length animation movie which he himself directed, alongside with Mike Johnson. This movie is full of fun characters, but The Black Widow is probably the sweetest one.
Wilma from “A Flight before Christmas” (2008) – Wilma, a least weasel, is, alongside with impressive villains, one of the most memorable things from this Finnish animation film. Wilma first shows up in the film singing in her crazy manner while shoving snow on to a pack of wolves who are trying to eat the main characters. Wilma is quite an odd weasel. She fancies herself a great singer, praising herself constantly. Being a straight forward weasel, Wilma’s always speaking her mind, even if it at times annoys others. Her quirky personality brings a lot of good laughs but she also represents an experienced character who, despite certain illusions, understands a lot about the world. Her introduction in the film is one of her best: while bathing in self-adoration, she stylishly distracts the wolves with her singing. The singing weasel confuses the wolves so much they can’t see the obvious trap Wilma sets up for them. Hilarious scene with its own unique, Finnish touch of girl power!
“A Flight before Christmas” is about a young reindeer named Niko who believes his unknown father is one of the flying reindeer’s who pull Santa’s sled. Since he can’t seem to learn to fly, he heads out to the North Pole in order to find his father and to learn the secret of flying. This movie is not too bad. A long side with Wilma, there are a few other memorable, fun characters and scenes (For instance, it features a cute side love story of a poodle and a wolf that become interested in each other). However the moral of the story – “you can achieve anything by believing” – does feel a little old and tiring by now. Niko, the main character of the film, was also a little cliché-ish.
(Here’s a video of the film with Wilma in it. Couldn’t find her introduction scene. Sorry!)
Dot from “A Bug’s life” (1998) – This little princess ant is just adorable. She’s a brave youngling and a born leader. Dot is the younger sister of the crown princess, which means she will become queen after her sister, Princess Atta (who’s also a pretty cool character! Strong and independent). Dot, being a child side character, exists to represent innocence in the film. However, her role goes beyond that; she helps out during crisis’s, she stands up for the outsider of the film and is the leader of all of the ant younglings. Sweet!
“A Bug’s life” is, in my opinion, Pixar’s strongest work. It deals with an ant colony which has been terrorized by grasshoppers for years and years. The ant must give the grasshoppers nearly all of their food in order to be “protected” from the outside world (which in actuality is just from the grasshoppers themselves). One of the ants, Flik, however believes that they can get rid of the grasshoppers if they just found some kind-hearted, tough warriors to help them (a´la Kurosawas “seven samurais“). Flik goes out seeking these warriors, as the rest of the ants continue collecting food for the vicious Grasshoppers. This movie is pretty exciting and gripping. Check it out.
The Girl Squirrel from “Sword in the Stone” (1963) – possible the most coolest, most awesome female side character to have ever been created, this girl has it all. She’s funny, she has an extremely strong will, she’s kind and loyal, and a good fighter who’s not afraid to defend the people she loves. She appears in the film only for one sequence, making that part of the movie the most memorable one.
Wart, a boy who’s an apprentice to Merlin the magician, is turned into a squirrel for educational purposes. While gliding through the trees, he bumps into the Girl Squirrel who instantly falls in love with him. Wart tries and fails at explaining that he’s not a squirrel, but a human boy. The Girl Squirrel chases him in a determined matter and results in saving him from being eaten up by a wolf. In the end gets her heart broken after Wart turns back into a human. The viewer gets good laughs, gets to see her kick ass and cry with her, all in ten minutes.
The Girl Squirrel was probably one of Disney’s first strong female characters. She wasn’t helpless or weak and had a mind of her own. It’s also enjoyable to see a determined woman chasing after a man; even if you laugh at this scenario, you also admire her strong will. That’s why it’s so sad when her dreams are deferred. It’s also worth pointing out that the Girl Squirrel was probably one of the first females who officially saved a male in a children’s film. She saved “the boy” in a movie made during the sixties, a time when the majority of life saving in films was made by men. You could therefore argue that this squirrel was the feminist of this film: she questioned gender roles by her energetic behavior.
The Girl Squirrel is a character not often talked about, but clearly was one of the first cinematic presentations of very strong, goal oriented girl power. And, if you look at it closely, could be seen as one of the first presenters of feminism.
“Sword in the Stone” tells the story of Merlin who prepares a young Arthur for a great future. The film contains a series of fun adventures Arthur has during his lessons, while unknowingly destined to become the next king of England. The movie is completely underrated. Merlin’s character is brilliant and the story is quite fun. Worth a watch if you haven’t seen it. Or a re-watch, if you’ve seen it but don’t remember much of it.
That’s a couple of female side characters that I really enjoy watching. Do you guys have any favorites? What do you guys think about the women I just talked about?