Last night Pixar aired their first television Christmas special, though it is only nominally about Christmas (and takes place two days later). It’s called Toy Story that Time Forgot, and hopefully will not be forgotten because one thing that Pixar quietly did was make a girl the lead this time, and shows everything to do right about creating girl heroes.
Girl? Woman? It’s a dinosaur, voiced by the bubbly Kristen Schaal (who usually plays, in her own words, “kooky sluts,” on shows like 30 Rock and Flight of the Conchords), and either way it’s a great character. She’s brave, smart, and she’s definitely a girl, but veers away from the “take a male hero and give him a female body” answer to “strong female characters.” I loved her small part in Toy Story 3 and was thrilled that she took the lead this time. Her heroism is both natural in this series and in character.
I don’t want to sell boys short by saying they can’t enjoy a female hero, and the boy fans of Brave and Frozen prove they can, but here’s a non-princess character who’s got personality and style and will appeal to all kids. I hope we see more of Trixie. I hope Trixie’s lead role in this special is a sign of things to come for girl heroes in children’s movies that aren’t geared exclusively or mostly to a girl audience. And I hope Kristen Schaal voices more characters; she’s great at it.