Is there a chance for us to see a Filipina Disney princess warrior on the big screen?
For Josie Trinidad, the Filipino-American co-head of story at Walt Disney Animation Studios, there’s a big possibility that it could happen.
She was in the Philippines recently for a press conference promoting the sequel to 2012’s Wreck it Ralph–a 3D computer-animated movie about a video game character who wants to be a hero of the arcade.
PEP.ph (Philippine Entertainment Portal) had the chance to ask her: if she could create her own Filipino-based Disney animated character, what would it be?
Josie answered, “Disney princess warrior. I definitely think there are a lot of stories that can come from and be inspired from the Philippines.
"Culturally, artistically, creatively, we have such a rich world that it would be very exciting to see. I definitely think that’s in the future.”
As co-head of story, Josie oversaw the story team responsible for transforming the written screenplay into visual form for both Wreck-It Ralph (2012) and Ralph Breaks The Internet (2018).
Phil Johnston, writer of the original movie, returns to this sequel as a writer and co-director along with Rich Moore.
In Ralph Breaks The Internet, which is currently being shown in Philippine cinemas, the lead character Ralph goes beyond the world of video games into the vast space of the world wide web.
PEP.ph and other members of the Philippine media had the opportunity to learn about her Pinoy roots and her experience penetrating the highly competitive world of animation.
Josie first joined Disney Animation Studios as a story apprentice in 2004. She was later hired by Disney as a story artist after she completed training. Prior to this, she was a English Literature major in the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). She also studied character animation at CalArts.
She served as co-head of story in 2016’s Oscar-winning feature Zootopia. Her other Disney credits include the 2010 adventure Tangled and the 2009 feature film The Princess and the Frog.
Josie’s parents are both Filipinos who migrated to the United States. Her father is a medical doctor and her mother is a nurse. When PEP.ph asked how she got her talent and interest in drawing animation, considering that her family is in the medical field, she explained:
“Each side of my family will claim my artistic side comes from them…but I feel like my dad was someone who likes to tell stories. He grew up during World War II. As a kid, we always heard about the war, the Japanese occupation, and all these different stories. The story-telling side came from my dad. But things like hard work--which is something Filipinos instil in their children--that came from both of them.”
When asked how it is like to be a Filipina working in the once male-dominated industry of animation, Josie recalled how times have changed since she first began.
“When I started in 2004, fourteen years ago, I was the only female in our story apprenticeship program. There are only two women in the story department. It’s just surprising that the department was really small. But now, the story department, half of it are women from all over the world. There are many Asians from Taiwan, Korea, Philippines, Indonesia, Thailand.
“It’s really wonderful because you get enough perspective. You also get an Asian perspective from different cultures. It’s nice to have that camaraderie, and it’s nice to have diversity in the story room so that each artist can bring their own unique perspective. They can be themselves.”
Josie never thought that being female was a disadvantage in her profession.
She pointed out, “I was the only woman sometimes in a story meeting. I feel it’s a unique perspective. I’m not a minority. They can take or leave it, but I’m not going to not say my opinion.”
Ralph Breaks The Internet similarly features Disney princesses in a more real and unglamorous way—starkly different from the iconic way that Disney has portrayed them in the past.
When PEP.ph asked Josie why the movie showed an almost sacrilegious but extremely entertaining image of its princesses, the story head explained:
“We get to see another side of them in their comfy clothes. They get to express things that people don’t know about them. I think that’s fun. They play an important role for Ralph and Vanellope.”
Vanellope von Schweetz is the little girl who is Ralph’s constant companion in Wreck-It Ralph and Ralph Breaks The Internet.
When asked what she would tell would-be animators who want to break into the industry, Josie gave this advice:
“I was aided by luck, but also a lot of hard work which I think a lot of Filipinos have. Filipinos are talented. They are amazing artists. I would just say, be true to yourself and don’t give up. We offer a unique and interesting perspective as artists. As Filipinos, we have a unique story to tell, given our history.
“We have a lot of different islands and that is something really worth tapping into. I encourage Filipino artists and animators to tell your own story because it’s something the world has not seen. It’s fascinating and exciting.”