Wind Dancer Day

Geena Davis and Madeline di Nonno with Wind Dancer Films Partner Dete Meserve and twenty kids and family series creators working on projects with Wind Dancer.

We have all heard about the issues of gender representation and Hollywood. While it is film and primetime television that get the most attention, the area that may have the biggest impact is in children’s TV. Why is children’s television so important? It is because it is from children’s media that kids often form the views that will guide them later on, in school and in life. According to data from the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media, the more hours of media girls consume, the fewer life options they believe they have, while the more hours boys watch, the more sexist they become.

Said Davis, “It’s important to focus on children’s television in an effort to avoid creating a problem we’re working to solve later on.”

Certainly, the “all boys club” of children’s television (with the obvious exception of Dora the Explorer and Doc McStuffins) has made progress in recent years. Just one look at today’s lineup of popular programs shows an extensive list that have leading female characters, including Ready Jet Go!, Annedroids, Kate & Mim-Mim, Peg + Cat, Sophia the First, Nella the Princess Knight, and more.

However, that doesn’t mean that there isn’t lots more work to do. Wind Dancer Films, the company behind the animated space-themed hit Ready Jet Go! on PBS KIDS, is looking to use its prominent role as a producer of children’s programming to be a part of the solution. Wind Dancer Principal Dete Meserve joined forces with the Geena Davis Institute to host a Summit of 20 leading kids’ television creators who are working on Wind Dancer Films projects to discuss where things stand and what needs to be done.

“We can change the way the future looks by what we do in kids television today. When kids watching their favorite TV shows see girls and boys equally at play, it just becomes natural for them to think and know that girls have as much potential as boys do.”

The Summit opened with a presentation from Davis and the organization’s CEO Madeline Di Nonno, during which they cited both qualitative and quantitative evidence of the disparity in screen time, speaking time, and lead roles for male versus female actors in G-rated (and non-G-rated) films and shows. The disparity that girls see on screen, both in main characters and background crowd scenes (where there are typically only 17 percent females despite females comprising 50 percent of the population) is the reason that Davis says it is urgent that the problem is fixed. Her advice to makers is simple: cross out a bunch of first names in your script and replace them with female first names, mind your crowd scenes – make sure they’re evenly split, and make sure 50 percent of the population is women/girls.

The work that the Institute has done has been paying off in dividends. Davis has been making her case to media-makers around the world since 2004. Since then, 68% of industry executives briefed on the Institute’s research changed two or more of their projects; 41% changed four or more.

The creators – more than half of them women – who gathered for the event are all currently involved in upcoming children’s television projects with Wind Dancer. They all seem to recognize the issue and readily agreed with Davis’ approach, even giving examples of where they were already achieving gender balance on-screen and behind the camera. They also brainstormed numerous ways to ensure that girls are given equal lines of dialogue and aren’t stereotyped on screen.

“What a thought-provoking experience. Even if we believe we act in a positive female gender promoting way, the facts on the unconscious bias truly made me rethink my level of awareness,” said Fonda Snyder, a Development Executive working with Wind Dancer on various projects. “I am literally going to do a check of each and every book I am representing and every project I am developing using the information presented and make a very conscious adjustment to all of these project to make sure I create and represent girls and women in the most positive and fair and wondrous way,”

In addition to Fonda Snyder, Wind Dancer creators attending the event included Craig Bartlett (Ready Jet Go!, Hey Arnold!), Don Hahn (Butterscotch + Kit for Wind Dancer, Beauty and the Beast, Lion King), Mark Dindal (Butterscotch + Kit for Wind Dancer, Emperor’s New Groove), Carin Greenberg (Not A Box,Tumble Leaf), and Kim Berglund (World Wide Webbers), among others.

“Fantastic presentation. I hope there will be more girl characters (in general), but especially more girl characters who are lovable and appealing for what they do and not how they look,” said Rebecca Dudley (author of Hank Finds an Egg, a project in development at Wind Dancer Films). “I will never write another conventionally beautiful character unless she has personality traits that define her more than her appearance.”