The Incredibles 2 is finally about to hit screens, and with it, we see the long-awaited return of a much-loved female cartoon character in Elastigirl. This got us thinking about other animated women and girls we’ve always admired. So, we came up with this very select list of our favourites.
Major Motoko Kusanagi
Ghost in the Shell, which started life as a manga series, is one of the greatest anime films of all time. So it’s fitting that Major makes this list. The 1995 film version of Major makes the cut because of how she and the film are both brought to life on screen. Kusanagi is a fully cybernetically enhanced officer working for a division of the Japanese Public Safety Commission. Despite — and also because of — her mechanical body, she tussles with existential thoughts and questions her identity, and humanity. A bit like the rest of us. Minus the metalwork in (most of) our cases.
We identify with her search for meaning, and we also feel an immense amount of sympathy for her. She’s tough and independent and ultimately ends up following her own path. These are the things we most admire about Major.
Zootopia – or Zootropolis depending on where in the world you’re from – was a surprise hit from 2016. It picked up the Oscar for Best Animated Feature but was so good, it could have been nominated in the Best Film category. It was young and tenacious bunny, Judy Hopps, at the centre of the story, that stole our hearts. And our complete and total admiration.
Constantly told she couldn’t achieve and so shouldn’t pursue her dream to go to the city to become a police officer, Judy ignores the naysayers and the pleas from her family and heads off in search of her aspirations. But when she gets there she finds she’s just as readily judged by Chief Bogo, who believes she’s not up to much more than traffic duty because she’s a rabbit.
Judy’s doggedness means she’s keen to prove herself and she has such self-belief and determination that you know she can’t fail. She investigates a case and finds herself onto something big. Voiced by Ginnifer Goodwin, Judy’s optimism rarely flags, and she proves she’s got commendable qualities in spades.
Inspector Gadget began as an animated series back in 1983 and spawned spin-offs and movies, including a live-action film starring Matthew Broderick followed by a sequel with French Stewart replacing Broderick in the role. But it’s Penny from the original cartoon that we always dug.
Penny is Inspector Gadget’s niece, the smarts behind the operation — alongside her canine partner Brain. Gadget is a cyborg police detective, with a number of devices incorporated that make him – in theory – very useful for fighting crime. Only it’s Penny and Brain that quietly get on with the job of battling antagonist Dr Claw and his crime syndicate MAD. She’s super-intelligent and great with gadgets herself – but computers rather than extending mechanical arms. Penny is representative of all those who do the hard work in the background while somebody else takes the credit. We got you, sister.
Diana the Acrobat
Dungeons and Dragons was an animated TV series which originally ran from 1983 to 1985. The story was based around six friends transported into the world of Dungeons and Dragons but eager to find their way back home. They faced antagonist Venger, a bad wizard who wanted to rule the realm and who believed the group’s magical weapons would help him in his pursuit of power.
Of the six main protagonists in Dungeons and Dragons, one was a Ranger, one a Cavalier, one a Magician, one a Thief and one a Barbarian. There was also sidekick Uni, a unicorn. The other was Diana – an Acrobat. Fierce and courageous, Diana spoke her mind. She was also supremely confident – all aspirational traits.
Diana’s magical item was a staff which she wielded as a weapon and also used in acrobatic moves. And though Hank heads up the team, Diana makes a great deputy in his stead. And if you thought this wasn’t enough to make you want to be her, in her home world she’s an Olympic-standard gymnast.
The 1990s brought us Daria. A sardonic TV series from Beavis and Butt-head creator Mike Judge that encapsulated the attitudes associated with the grunge movement that the show grew out of. Bringing us a dour, angsty teen we could all identify with. Through Daria’s wry observations, the show smartly satirized high school life and suburban America.
She was the antithesis of the traditional cartoon female – the impossibly proportioned Penelope Pitstops and Jessica Rabbits – and wore unremarkable clothes and thick, black-rimmed glasses. She’s cynical and sarcastic, she’s opinionated and lacks motivation, she refuse to conform and looks down on others. And, gawd, do we love her for it. Basically, Daria DGAF.