Sunday, October 19, 2014

Disney Movies: Male vs. Female Protagonists

I was thinking, when it comes to Disney movies, what characters come to mind?  Cinderella, Elsa, Snow White, Tiana.  So why is it then that male-led Disney movies outnumber female-led by two to one?  Do they make more money?  I decided to run the numbers and take a look.

The Little Mermaid F 1989 40 211 171
The Rescuers Down Under M 1990 37 47 10
Beauty & the Beast F 1991 25 424 399
Aladdin M 1992 28 504 476
The Lion King M 1994 45 987 942
Pocahontas F 1995 55 346 291
The Hunchback of Notre Dame M 1996 100 325 225
Hercules M 1997 85 252 167
Mulan F 1998 90 304 214
Tarzan M 1999 130 448 318
Fantasia 2000 -- 2000 80 90 10
Dinosaur M 2000 128 350 222
The Emperor's New Groove M 2000 100 169 69
Atlantis: The Lost Empire M 2001 110 186 76
Lilo & Stitch F 2002 80 273 193
Treasure Planet M 2002 140 109 -31
Brother Bear M 2003 100 250 150
Home on the Range F 2004 110 103 -7
Chicken Little M 2005 150 314 164
Meet the Robinsons M 2007 195 169 -26
Bolt M 2008 150 309 159
The Princess & the Frog F 2009 105 267 162
Tangled F 2010 260 591 331
Winnie the Pooh M 2011 30 44 14
Wreck-It Ralph M 2012 165 471 306
Frozen F 2013 150 1200 1050
Big Hero 6 M 2014 ?? ??

Average: $232.88
Variance: 77529
Standard Deviation: 278

Someone smarter than me can analyze these figures, but it seems that some basic statistical analysis tells the whole story. There may be more male-led movies, but they have a bigger tendency towards failure. Female-led have a lesser failure rate, with the only big loss being Home on the Range (in as far as Roseanne Barr playing a cow can be called female-led). The Lion King is Disney's biggest hit, and remained "the king" with the biggest profit margin until Frozen came along.

Some other notes:
  • Wow, I had no idea Rescuers Down Under was such a bomb. That's usually the dark horse of the Disney movies -- one everyone likes as adults looking through nostalgia goggles.
  • Disney doubled its budget on The Hunchback of Notre Dame. Why? Did they have a troubled production a la Empire of the Sun/The Emperor's New Groove? Did buying the rights to the book cost a lot? What was different?
  • Like Rescuers Down Under, I find a lot of people enjoyed Emperor's New Groove (at least through the memes), but the numbers don't show it. Maybe there are certain movies that have a better long tail than other, and I wonder if there's a pattern to that.
  • Treasure Planet is Disney's first deficit within this timeline. I haven't seen the movie myself.
  • At Tangled, Disney makes a big jump in their budget. It's their first combo princess-CG movie, that might have had something to do with it.
  • They say Wreck-It Ralph is a Disney movie, but it sure felt more like a Pixar movie to me. You got a director and a writer known for episodes of "The Simpsons" and another writer known for WALL-E.
There may be some discrepancy with the fact that there are fewer female-led movies than male (almost a 1:2 ratio). The averages seem to indicate the worst male movie is worse than the worst female movie, but the opposite doesn't hold true. Disney's best male-led movie was The Lion King, thirty years ago. It's best female is Frozen -- one year ago. If Frozen wasn't in the picture, would the numbers be skewed? Somewhat. But the conclusions would be the same.

That being said, it seems to me that Disney would be smart enough to start using more female-protagonist movies. They don't have to be princess movies, but that does seem to be their bread and butter. Too bad Disney doesn't have some sort of equivalent for boys. Disney Supers? Maybe that's where they're going for with Big Hero 6? Time will tell.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Monday Night Football Special: Players vs. Women & Children

I play Fantasy Football.  That means I watch the football culture.  I would like to get my daughters into football or fantasy football because it would be a fun bonding experience.  However, I'm having trouble justifying that when the front page of ESPN is filled with who's going to prison, who failed a drug test, and who's getting suspended.  How can I allow my daughters to watch the NFL when it is so cruel to women and children (of which they are both).

Especially given the latest news on Minnesota's greatest American hero - Adrian Peterson.  My eldest has a Peterson jersey (it's adorable), but still hasn't grasped that he's done with football.  Forever.  I wasn't going to tell her the reason, just that he got he got in some legal trouble.  But my wife had better confidence in their ability to understand how people they admire do bad things.  How can I allow my children to wear the jersey of a child-beater?  That's like giving my wife a Drew Peterson shirt.  And then all these other things come up -- he's got multiple illegitimate kids, failing a drug test, his charity foundation not getting the money promised (although that could be a separate issue).

It's not like this controversy is going to end anytime soon.  They're going to see a future Mark Chmura sexually assaulting his babysitter, future Michael Vick holding dog fights, future Brett Favre's cell phone penis pics, and future Sean Peyton staking bounties on players.  There are more Lake Minnetonka party boats and O.J. Simpsons in the cards, mark my words.

And it's not just the players.  I would find this acceptable if they were being punished and removed.  But then Adrian Peterson is on the field a few days later.  A press conference takes place that answers zero questions and gives zero information.  It was left to paparazzi to expose Ray Rice's transgression to the world.  (Sometimes people do the right thing for the wrong reason, I guess.)  These people don't become homeless after they're done.  Their fame gives them opportunities, even if they have to move to Canada or Europe.  The NFL has the wrong mentality.  They need to remove these players not to punish them, but to preserve the integrity of the league.  Because I can't, in good conscience, allow my daughters to give their devotion to a felon.

And what happens to the children who learn that if they are good at sports, they can get away with crimes and suffer no consequences for it.  I'm not sure missing games or fines is even a good deterrent, but it seems to be the only way to punish them.  When I was a kid, my dad would punish me by taking something away.  But the scale of wealth and fame these people have is so huge, how could it make a corrective impact?  If someone told me "you're not allowed to work here anymore", I could live on what I've saved up for a while.  And when that runs out, there are a bunch of places that would still take me for my skills.  And if not, just make my own money.  And I'm just a normal guy.

You either die a hero, or live long enough to see yourself become the villain.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Guest Post: Always Striving by Daniel Ausema

Turnabout is fair play.  If you read my guest post on his blog, now welcome Daniel's article about persistence.

Always Striving

When I hosted Eric's post on my blog last week, one line jumped out at me: "But it's also important to know if you don't stretch your limits, you won't get better." That encapsulates my approach to writing (and everything) as well as just about any one sentence could. So I wanted to riff on that for a bit.

A big part of my background is in experiential education. We would create experiences for kids that pushed them in one way or another. And if an activity felt too easy, we always told them that they could choose to make it more difficult. The bigger the challenge (usually), the bigger the reward. Climbing a rock wall too easy? Go for the harder route or limit which color holds you let yourself use. Solving a brainteaser group problem not hard enough? Blindfold half your team. Crossing a webbed bridge up in the rafters of the university gym doesn't get your fear reflexes going? Try crossing while balancing on just one side of the bridge or switching back and forth without stepping down in the middle—and don't touch those safety lines.

We had an expression, "Challenge by choice," and kids were never forced to do something too far beyond what they believed they could do. But for those who were ready, there were always ways to bump it up a notch.

I take that same philosophy to my writing. Not needlessly—I don't randomly choose to type out my next story with one arm in a fake sling or throw in artificial obstacles. But I do approach each story as a challenge to try something new.

When I first started writing the Spire City episodes, my middle child was a newborn, and my wife was just going back to work. So part of the challenge was simply finding the time and space to write in the middle of taking care of my children.

Some of the other things I did, though, was to take inspiration from some other sources that hadn't typically been a part of my writing. The TV-show influence is clear in the wording we use: seasons and episodes—and initially I even called my scene breaks commercial breaks, just for keeping my mind in that groove. It was never, to be clear, that I imagined I was writing for a TV show. I always intended the episodes to be read. I love words, love to arrange them just so to evoke the images I want. So don't imagine that I only wrote these stories in prose because I couldn't afford to make a TV show or movie. But I did try to see TV episodes from a writer's angle and take what I could from their approach and apply it to a written story, transformed as it must be.

And the influence isn't probably obvious to readers, but I looked closely at the TV show Firefly to figure out why it inspires so much devotion among fans. One effect of that is that Spire City is an ensemble story. I have a tendency, I'm well aware of, of writing stories about loners. They wander through strange and evocative settings and face their trials alone, whether there are people around them or not. So it was a healthy challenge for me to create a group of outcasts and not just a single protagonist. Their struggle is a communal one, and the focus varies from episode to episode among the different characters.

Every time I begin a new project, I try something new. So as season shifts to season, my goals become higher still, my ambition to create an engaging story that stays with readers becomes even bigger. The narrative strands twist and mature, and the stakes become higher and more poignant.

Will I succeed in making Spire City everything I hope it to be? Who can say, but the challenge of trying to reach that will make it a better, stronger story, one that reaches out to readers and drags them into the trials and dangers of its steampunk world of chained singers and giant beetles, mad science and deadly infections. And as the famous quote goes, "Ah, but a man's reach should exceed his grasp, / Or what's a heaven for?" (Robert Browning, "Andrea del Sarto").


Daniel Ausema is the creator of the steampunk-fantasy serial fiction project Spire City. The second bundle of season 1 episodes ("Epidemic") releases on October 17, and Season Two: Pursued begins serialization on November 28. He has also written a novella for the shared world project The Darkside Codex (also published by Musa) and has had short stories and poems published in many magazines and anthologies. He lives in Colorado, at the foot of the Rocky Mountains.


Targeted by a deadly infection, these outcasts band together to uncover the truth and to fight back.

Spire City is home to mighty machines of steam power and clockwork, and giant beetles pull picturesque carriages over cobbled streets, but there is a darker secret behind these wonders. A deadly infection, created by a mad scientist, is spreading through the city, targeting the poor and powerless, turning them slowly into animals. A group of those infected by the serum join together to survive, to trick the wealthy out of their money, and to fight back.

Buy Epidemic or any of Daniel Ausema's Musa works

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Looking for Mermaids

When I started thinking about promotions for Merm-8 (now in fine stores and outlets).  I wanted to do a blog tour.  Basically, that means doing guest posts on various blogs.  I came up with a ton of good topics, but the places to put them seem to be as sparse as cuttlefish*.

I thought there'd be more websites about mermaids.  There were when I was younger.  But when I Google, most of the results are for commercial sites that are for things named after mermaids, like models and hotels and cleaning products and... seafood restaurants.

So I'm putting it out there.  If you can help me find some sites about mermaids that weren't last updated in 2012, I'd be much obliged.  Otherwise, I can always post them here, but I'd just be shouting into the wind.  Need to spread the love.

Or sites that feature new authors would be good too.  I'm willing to bet there are more of them out there, sites that like to promote new books.  I haven't searched for those yet.  But if you're an early adopter, a referral would be most appreciated.

*I have no idea if cuttlefish are sparse, but it sounded good in my head.

Sunday, October 05, 2014

Guest Post with Daniel Ausema

For those who like cross-promotion, I did a guest post on Daniel Ausema's blog about the lessons I learned from Black Hole Son and how I applied them to Merm-8.  Guess which one actually got published.