7 of The Greatest Animated Female Characters in Film

This is a guest article from my very good friend Ruth Hartnoll who co-runs the awesome blog Crown Rules which you should definitely head over to and bask in its glory. Anyway here is Ruth’s post on her favourite animated female characters. Enjoy!

1. Kiki – Kiki’s Delivery Service

Kiki

Kiki’s Delivery Service sees a young witch leave her parental home for her mandatory year of independent life. She travels to a distant town on a broomstick and sets up her own air courier service. She does all of this with her faithful sidekick, her cat Jiji.

This film was made in 1989 – the year I was born. In the same year Walt Disney bought out The Little Mermaid. That story sees a woman stripped of her independence and identity so that she can chase after a Prince. I think we both know who won 1989 – Hayao Miyazaki. Kiki’s Delivery Service is one of the few films where the adventure is had by a female character – for that alone she gets a firm place on my list.

3 Things That Make Kiki Great

  1. She sets up her own business and gets her own place when she’s 13
  2. She’s brave, smart and self-sufficient – all the characteristics a girl needs to get on in the world
  3. She’s not always happy and perky, like so many female characters, and she’s still brilliant

Best Scene

Kiki

The scene in the woods when she goes back to visit the female artist she happened to stumble across on one of her deliveries. The two characters talk about everything but men and they comfort each other with cocoa. What a bloody great scene that is.

2. Yzma – Emperor’s New Groove

 Yzma

There is no female character in animated cinema history that has made purple more fabulous and tyranny more appealing that Yzma from Emperor’s New Groove. She’s the villain, without falling into any of the female villain stereotypes (step mother, mother, jilted lover), and her assistant is a (loveable) muscled and stupid man.

Yzma kills it in this film. She sounds like she smokes 40 a day, could probably have her own headlining act in Vegas and she makes grey skin du jour. My love for Yzma is so paramount that when I take over the world I will have a National Yzma Day where all women can be tyrannical without reason, whilst wearing purple.

3 Things That Make Yzma Great

  1. She’s super quotable: “Pull the lever Kronk! Wrong lever! Why do we even have that lever?”
  2. She basically invented the colour purple
  3. She’s old and still as spritely as a dame

Best Scene

The potion making scene. The animation, the quips – flawless.

3. Wyldstyle (Lucy) – The Lego Movie

 Wyldstyle

Wyldstyle is the fast quipping, punky and hilarious female from 2014’s The Lego Movie. She saves the hapless Emmett on countless occasions and is always ready with an inspiring speech, flick of the hair and wrench. Man, can that girl build a spaceship-submarine-time travel machine quickly.

Side Note: I was at a wedding recently and a 6 year old boy turned to me and said his favourite character in The Lego Movie was Wyldstyle. My feminist heart filled with joy and I proceeded to tell him about the importance of female role models in children’s films. He got bored and ate some cake, but I really felt I got through to him.

3 Things That Make Wyldstyle Great:

  1. She goes after bad men because good men go after her
  2. She’s as equally funny as her male counterparts and looks a damn sight better than them to boot
  3. She’s an engineer, maverick and traveller

Best Scene

She saves Emmet and fights off a load of police whilst flying through the air, whilst constructing a getaway car, whilst finding time to flick her hair in slow mo. My kinda gal.

4. Satsuki and Mai – My Neighbour Totoro

 Satsuki & Mai

I am going to cheat and put two female characters in here, but it’s only because you can’t have one without the other. Satsuki and Mai are the central characters to Miyazaki’s most loved work; My Neighbour Totoro.

Again, Miyazaki puts the two girls at the centre of the action and shows that girls can be heroines. As the girls’ mother is ill Satsuki takes on the role of guardian, not mother, to her sister and shows that being a guardian doesn’t necessarily mean being safe – it means looking after someone, even if that might involve a bit of danger and fun. Oh and they get to spend a lot of their time with a giant, fluffy imaginary beast. I don’t know what else a film could need really.

3 Things That Make Satsuki and Mai Great

  1. They look out for each other and show a positive female relationship in action
  2. They get to run around with a giant, fluffy, ridiculous beast called Totoro and don’t question it for a second
  3. They’re both brave, adventurous and independent

Best Scene

The now more than iconic bus stop and cat bus scene. It’s a bus that’s a cat people, need you ask why I love it so much?

5. Marjane Satrapi – Persepolis

 Persepolis

Persepolis is the startlingly beautiful and autobiographical film by Marjane Satrapi. It’s a coming of age story set in 1970s Iran and shows the impact of a country run by Islamic Extremists. Marjane is less than quiet about her opinions on the new regime and is eventually sent off to Europe to live alone, all whilst she’s a teenager.

This film shows a female character in real, mortal danger and shows her unnerving and resilient nature against oppressive figures. Marjane lives abroad, educates herself and messily falls in love and we get to see all of it in its black and white glory. Persepolis is so achingly beautiful that sometimes it’s hard to take it all in at once. Just go and watch it right now.

3 Things That Make Marjane Great:

  1. She’s an out and out feminist and frequently voices her opinion even if it may get her into trouble
  2. She’s resolutely human and makes some pretty bad mistakes on the way – which is an important thing to see your heroine do
  3. She’s educated, fearless and imaginative

Best Scene

Persepolis

One of the best montages in all of film history exists in Persepolis. There’s a great part where Marjane lifts herself out of a depression and does it all to Eye of The Tiger. Genuinely funny and moving all at the same time.

6. Jesse – Toy Story 2 & 3

 Jesse

The Toy Story trilogy is my favourite trilogy of all time (fuck off Star Wars) and that is largely down to Jesse. Jesse is the spunky and boisterous cow girl that eventually steals the heart of a space man and manages to rock a plaid shirt like no other woman before her.

Toy Story was, of course, a great exercise in film franchising because you could buy all of your favourite characters as they appeared in the film. Ka-ching. If any of my friends have kids then they are getting a Jesse doll and the whole box set so they can see what it looks like to play alongside the boys and be considered an equal. Jesse for president.

3 Things That Make Jesse Great:

  1. She’s scared of rejection and has one of the best montages in Pixar’s history, then she finds all of her die hard loyal friends and has adventures with them. Yay!
  2. She’s a horse and space man whisperer (she knows about his Spanish setting, after all)
  3. She’s Calamity Jane for 90s kids

Best Scene

Jesse

The montage. Sob.

7. Young Ellie – Up

 Young Ellie  (Up)

That fucking montage. Heartbreak aside, Young Ellie is so great. She’s loud, outgoing and steals the heart of a man with a balloon and a winning smile. Fair shout. Young Ellie also demonstrates that you can suffer great loss (cue the tears) and recover to live a life filled with happiness. She didn’t get to travel, which makes me sad, but that’s part of her story – she’s the whole reason Mr Frederickson finds his bravery. What a catalyst she is.

3 Things That Make Young Ellie Great

  1. She’s loyal, brave and someone I would want to be friends with
  2. She makes a depilated house a wonderland
  3. She helps others realise their potential

Best Scene

Adventure is out there! The scene in the bedroom after Little Mr Frederickson comes back from the hospital. They tell stories under their own handmade tent. Nostalgia abound.

Ruth Hartnoll is a full time copywriter, part time queen at www.crownrules.uk and obsessive theatre & poetry enthusiast. She adores animated characters, particularly female, and encourages all women and girls to go and to have lots of naughty fun – if the boys are doing it, we can do it better. Adventure is out there! Follow Ruth on Twitter here.

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20 thoughts on “7 of The Greatest Animated Female Characters in Film

  1. Bubbawheat says:

    This list could be filled with Miyazaki protagonists. Chihiro, Mononoke, Arriette, and more. Two of my favorite non-human female characters are Mrs. Brisby from Secret of NIHM and Amalthea from the Last Unicorn.

  2. Fun post–great examples from films I’d never heard of from before like Persepolis.

  3. Nostra says:

    Great list and nice to see so much love for the Ghibli movies. Personally I would have also added Nausicaa as she is another great (and strong) female character out of the Ghibli studio movies.

  4. Mr Rumsey says:

    What a great list, I’m so happy to see Kiki on there!

  5. As a big fan of animation and female roles follower I love this post 🙂

  6. crownrules says:

    All of the suggestions for other females on here are fab. Ghibli kills it with great female leads and yes a whole post could be dedicated to their genius. Go the Ghibli girls.

  7. Brittani says:

    Great post! I love that you included Wyldstyle and young Ellie. Even if that Up montage gets me every time.

  8. Great list mate. I would add Jessica Rabbit; a classy bwoard.

  9. Persepolis is a great pick. Marjane is a really effective mediator between the film and its audience, someone we can genuinely admire, root for, and relate to. Excellent list!

    Adam.

  10. Abbi says:

    This is a great list. I’m not a Disney fan and I really don’t get Toy Story or Up but most female animated characters are so one dimensional and you’ve picked some awesome ones.

  11. Nick Powell says:

    Awesome list. It’s really hard to pick just a couple of the Miyazaki girls, given how wonderful each of his characters are. I probably would have included San instead of Kiki.. maybe… or Sin.. ajdkasjdlasjdkl I can’t choose.

  12. Pretty cool! Especially love the inclusion of Yzma, who I love!

  13. le0pard13 says:

    Double YAY for including Yzma from The Emperor’s New Grove. Voiced the legendary Eartha Kitt, she was the best aspect of the film. Fine post, Chris.

  14. ruth says:

    Nice idea for a list! I love Wyldstyle and Jesse. I definitely would add Princess Merida from Brave if I were to list mine.

  15. I really didn’t think Kiki set a very good example, but 3 cheers for Marjane Satrapi!

  16. table9mutant says:

    Oh – great list, Ruth! I’ve JUST watched Kiki’s Delivery Service. Liked it a lot – Kiki is a great choice! They all are. 🙂

  17. jackdeth72 says:

    Hello, Ruth:

    Great choices!

    Especially Kiki and My Neighbor Totoro. Miyazaki has a way about bringing out a child’s innocence and wonderment. While leaving plenty of room for adventures and maturity later on!

    And young Ellie absolutely owned her brief time on film!

  18. Great list! So glad to see Kiki and Yzma on there! I even nominate Eartha Kitt that year.
    I would also include Teri Hatcher in Coraline.

  19. Yay! So glad to see Lucy from Lego Movie and Jessie from Toy Story on this list. Well done.

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