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The Importance of Accurate Representation of Black Hair in Animation

Alisha Hawthorne (voiced by Uzo Aduba) in Disney/Pixar's Lightyear. (Disney/Pixar)

Last year the Disney Pixar film "Lightyear" made waves not just for its exciting storyline, but also for its focus on representation. In particular, the film received praise for its accurate & detailed portrayal of natural black hair, a significant step forward for the film industry.

In a Q&A session - Lauren Lind from The Female Lead asked about the process of animating the natural braided hairstyles for the characters played by Uzo Aduba and Keke Palmer.

Producer Galyn Susman commented:

"Grooming is a-is still a developing art form in computer graphics. So it's very-it's very complicated. It's very information-rich,"

She went on to detail the process, saying that they worked closely with tools and had a woman on the film who had a particular passion for figuring out the braids. "She just-yeah, it was-it was her thing. And she owned it," Galyn said.

The result was a stunning masterpiece of working with tools, coding, and bringing it all together. "It was worth making the investment to really try to make-make them feel authentic," Galyn explained.

"I think probably one of the one of the most joyous moments for me was at the preview when one of the women in the Q and A afterwards, she looked and said, 'I love that hairstyle. I could wear that hairstyle.'"

This attention to detail and dedication to representation is incredibly important. For far too long, the film industry has ignored the beauty and versatility of natural black hair in animation.

It's not just a matter of aesthetics, either. Representation matters, and seeing oneself reflected onscreen is incredibly important. By including accurate and beautiful depictions of natural black hair in "Lightyear," Disney Pixar is sending a powerful message to young viewers everywhere: your hair is beautiful just the way it is.


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