Could not relate to damsel in distress formula in animation filmmaker Jill Culton

By Shubha Dubey
    New Delhi, Jun 12 (PTI) As somebody who grew up on animation movies, director Jill Culton says she could never relate to the damsel in distress idea of the princess films.
    This is why when Culton joined the animation field, she promised herself to create self-empowered female characters like the one in her upcoming film "Abominable".
    With the film, Culton becomes the first female director to helm a full-length animation feature.
    The director says it is high-time that creators in animation field worked towards eradicating such gender biases.
    "When I was growing up, the only example I had of how a girl should be were princess movies. And I was not at all like that. I couldn’t relate to it. I was a tomboy. I was sturdy and went for camping. Although I appreciated these movies, there was nothing in them which I could relate to.
    “So, when I decided to get into the field of animation, it was very important for me to create a strong female lead who was self-empowered and had her own mind. She is not afraid to get in trouble and also knows how to come out of it," Culton told PTI in an interview.
    A DreamWorks Animation and Pearl Studio co-production, "Abominable" revolves around a teenage girl ‘Yi’ who meets a young Yeti on the roof of her apartment building in Shanghai.
    She and her friends, Jin and Peng, name him 'Everest’ and embark on a quest to reunite the magical creature with his family at the highest point on Earth… Mount Everest.
    For Culton, it was important to come up with a strong-headed female lead in her directorial debut as she believes there is a long-due shift the society needs to go through when it comes to gender roles.
    “What we did in ‘Abominable’ is that another character, he is the friend of Yi and he is the one who is afraid when they finally start on the journey to take Everest back to his home in Himalayas. The play on gender here is very different.
    "He doesn’t want to get dirty and is busy on his Instagram feed. That is kind of a take on the modern times. I think it is high time to shake up how people perceive gender roles.”
    Culton started as an animator on the first “Toy Story” movie which came out in 1995.
    She says it was a long wait for her to get her first offer as a director but she is happy with the kind of opportunities women are getting now.
    "I have been in this field for 29 years. I have done every kind of work from animation to design to character design etc. It has taken a really long time for me to direct a film. But I think there is hope. Studios are finally realising the need for female directors. That’s exciting.
    "But that was not the case before. When I was studying animation, out of the class of 19 there were only four women. And now that same school of animation has 60 per cent women in the batch.”
     A Universal Pictures project, “Abominable” is co-directed by Todd Wilderman. The voice cast features Eddie Izzard, Sarah Paulson, Tsai Chin and Michelle Wong. PTI SHD BK