“A Disney movie” is a colloquial film classification that connotes mostly animated, kid-friendly, premium theatrical fare. Interestingly, on Wednesday, February 10 at Royce Hall on the UCLA campus, the Women’s Image Network (WIN) Awards officially will recognize a markedly different phenomenon bearing the Disney name: acclaimed filmmaker Abigail Disney.
WIN will present Abigail Disney with its 2016 Woman of the Year honor (2016 co-awardee is philanthropist/entrepreneur Irena Medavoy). WIN describes itself thus: “There is no other organization like WIN, a charity which, since 1993 has collaborated with advertising agencies, fortune 100 and 500 companies, and television networks and movie studios, to create The WIN Awards for deserving media and individuals in film, television, advertising, politics, and business, thereby promoting gender parity through their creativity and leadership.”
According to the above, Abigail Disney definitely qualifies for a WIN Award, and then some. Abigail, daughter of Roy E. Disney and Patricia Ann Dailey, and granddaughter of Roy O. Disney (Walt’s brother), has established herself as a noteworthy producer/director of non-fiction, socially relevant, often female-centric content. Examples of of her chosen documentary subjects include American gun violence (“The Armor of Light”), the Liberian civil war (“Pray the Devil Back to Hell”), sex trafficking (“Hot Girls Wanted”), the 2008 financial crisis (“The Queen of Versailles”), and rape in the U. S. military (Oscar nominated “The Invisible War”). Needless to say, these are not your mother’s Disney movies, but they are “Disney” nonetheless.
In the interview below, Abigail Disney discusses her filmmaking philosophy with a thrilled LA Animation Examiner.
LA Animation Examiner: How has your Disney family heritage affected your career?
Abigail Disney: The Disney name is a hard thing to get out from under!! I know it influenced me simply by being such a big deal to others. But more substantially, I think it gave me a habit of noticing story, which has been a wonderful gift. I like to believe that the films I make are, in a way, “Disney” films, even if I tend to approach subjects that are tough.
LAAE: Do you have any plans to cover women in animation as a documentary theme? Why, or why not?
AD: I don’t have any plans to do that, only because it’s not an area I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about. I only came to filmmaking after years of work at the grassroots level to influence politics with regard to women’s issues. Animation, while important, is a very different area. I’d hate to go clomping around where I have no expertise!
LAAE: What is your opinion on animation, in general? Does it interest you? Have you employed it as a storytelling device?
AD: I adore animation. It is a magnificent art form. I love it, especially its collaborative spirit. It doesn’t take a village: it takes a whole country!! I have not used it, but I am a producer on a forthcoming Bosnian feature film and am very proud to have been able to help these young, self-taught Bosnian Muslim men [the animators], whose work finally will be in the public eye.
LAAE: Besides women’s voices and concerns, what are other topics that are close to your heart? Do you plan to direct and/or produce upcoming projects on these subjects?
AD: I am deeply committed to speaking to the issue of violence, and particularly, the role it plays in American life and culture. It is really all I want to speak about from here on out. I feel so saddened by the current discourse, the discourse which says that violence is normal, inevitable, and natural, when it is none of these things.
LAAE: On a lighter note, how was Sundance 2016? (Congratulations on your two official selections – “Trapped” and “Cameraperson,” respectively – by the way!)
AD: Sundance is terrific, as always. So many great films and so many great people! It is like going to a gigantic buffet with all your favorite things, and there’s always a sense (when you leave) that you could have seen more, done more!! And that’s how you should leave, longing for more!!
Coincidentally or not, Abigail Disney’s production banner is Fork Films. To savor a menu of her work, please visit the corresponding website, Facebook page, and Twitter feed.