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Unsurprisingly, Disney Says It’s Not Backing Down on That Merida Redesign


The recently controversial redesign Disney’s done in order to induct Merida of Brave into the canon of their other princesses isn’t the first time Disney has done a sparklier, cleaner, trimmer version of their princesses. But it’s caused particular backlash in part because Merida represented a different kind of femininity than most of her other princess counterparts.

She’s the only member of the group, for example, who doesn’t have a love interest by the end of her movie. And unlike her action-girl counterpart Mulan, whose character development comes when she reconciles and embraces the dual presence of what her culture regards as “feminine” with what it regards as “masculine” in her identity, Merida’s identity reconciliation isn’t actually about gender. It’s about personal responsibility. While her betrothal is the catalyst of her rebellion, Merida is just as frustrated by her mother’s insistance that she learn history, politics, and how to inspire her people; subjects that while boring, are absolutely necessary for the responsibilities Merida will take as she grows older. It’s these skills that Merida uses to defuse her betrothal problems, and when she does create respect among her clansmen for her desire make her own choice, when she wants to make it, her relief is shared by her potential fiances as well. In Merida’s world, those responsibilities and her desire for freedom from them are not actually seen as masculine or feminine: she’s expected to rule with her husband, and before her brothers, despite the fact that one of them is actually the first born male in the family, and she’s being schooled in those skills by a female expert: her mother.

But I digress: it was inevitable that she’d get a 2D redesign to make her fit in stylistically with these lineups, criticized by many Disney fans for slimming and whitening characters, as well as smoothing the differences between their faces and replacing original hairstyles with more stylistically modern ones. I also understand why, after a movie that’s entirely about Merida accepting responsibility while using that responsibility to preserve her freedom from the traditional patterns of her society, and after all of the other traits that make Merida unusual (if not entirely unique, although that’s almost entirely because of the presence of only one other princess, Mulan) among the Disney Princesses, that folks would see this as a betrayal of her character. There’s a bit of a feeling like: if we have to homogenize and glitter up the Disney princesses (for the purposes of delighting little girls, not necessarily a bad thing), can we at least keep a few of the princesses who are less “classically feminine” (in our extremely limited cultural definition of the phrase) than their counterparts more in character, with more of the design cues that accompanied them for the majority of their films, where they spent the majority of their time not being “classically feminine?” It’s about options, and having a lineup of Disney Princesses that presents a diverse definition of “femininity.”

It doesn’t surprise me that Disney has said no, because they’re not likely to lose much by saying it. A Disney representative told the LA Times that despite a Change.org petition, “Disney has no intention of abandoning” its redesign.

The modified Merida was created specifically to welcome the character into the company’s princess collection. And according to a Disney representative on Wednesday, the image of Merida that sparked this maelstrom is part of a limited run of products including backpacks and pajamas. But images of the original Merida will also be available on consumer products, the Disney representative said.

Hope was sparked recently by reports that Merida’s image on Disney’s official princess website had been “restored” to that of her CGI version from the Pixar movie, but quashed by the reveal that her redesigned look had never actually appeared on Disney’s official site, but on Target’s website and on a site specific to the “coronation ceremony” played out by park staff at Disney World last weekend.

(via The LA Times.)

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  • http://twitter.com/Loerwyn Kathryn

    I could be wrong, but the redesign has already been taken down.

    It also isn’t the issue and I wish those who criticise it would actually step back and look at the designs of all the Princesses. Merida’s design is the *least* problematic of the lot! Snow White is fourteen in Disney’s film, but in that franchise she’s all flirtatious and coy. It’s sickening.

  • http://twitter.com/DoctorOddfellow Doctor Oddfellow

    Worth noting at that the coronation ceremony, she was dressed in her normal park wear, which is the new dress sans sparkles and off the shoulder cut, and behaved quite Merida-y, so it seems Disney is likely going to strike a compromise here. Its possible that that was the intent all along, we’ll never really know.

  • http://twitter.com/aspielighthouse Fran Simmons

    Utter crap.

  • http://everythingiscats.wordpress.com/ Krystal

    Snow White was designed in the 30s and we can’t expect much change from them on her design now that she’s a “classic”. Merida was designed in this decade and therefore her redesigners should know that making a 15 year old sexier for the sake of sales is a bad thing. So I disagree, I think Merida is currently one of the strongest issues out of the princesses.

  • http://www.facebook.com/ellen.a.devries Ellen DeVries

    Yeah, well see if I buy any of their princess products again….

  • Boom Cookie

    Ended up writing a flaming post about this on my tumblr. Main points: changing her look doesn’t change her personality/character, she’s not a real person, and if anyone has a serious problem with it, you don’t have to buy it!!
    http://boomcookie.tumblr.com/post/50325181117/disney-princess-makeover-sparks-outrage-merida
    The only way to affect Disney’s outlook is by affecting their sales. Money speaks. I guess I’m just annoyed that so many people will sign a petition about a Disney Princess, when I’d guess many of them don’t pay this attention to petitions to Congress, etc…

  • Anonymous

    in b4 “but girls can be badass while wearing a dress!”

  • http://www.facebook.com/wendyofneverland Wendy Davis

    OK, I read the LA Times article, but the headline does not correspond with the text of the story that they wrote.

  • Anonymous

    “The modified Merida was created specifically to welcome the character into the company’s princess collection.”

    Alright, who let the Ice King into Disneyland?

  • Emily Neenan

    Cause this stuff is important too. You said it yourself in the blog post, perception matters. Sure, it’s a baby step. A bunch of people pointed out that Merida’s redesign made her more sexualised, thinner, and conventionally attractive. Even if it didn’t change the world, it’s not nothing. It’s a conversation, generally, we should be having all the time; what are we showing our children?

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000980670617 Rebecca Ramsey

    “The modified Merida was created specifically to welcome the character
    into the company’s princess collection. And according to a Disney
    representative on Wednesday, the image of Merida that sparked this
    maelstrom is part of a limited run of products including backpacks and
    pajamas. But images of the original Merida will also be available on
    consumer products, the Disney representative said.”

    Because girls CAN be wild, brave, and heroic and ALSO be glittery princesses, if they want to be.

    Thank you, Disney, for not backing down.

  • Emily Neenan

    What this mostly did for me was show me how different the movie princesses are to their redesigns. It wasn’t something I’d paid attention to before, I assumed they were the same with just sparkly dresses. The worst is that Mulan’s skin is significantly lightened and Tiana’s nose is narrowed.
    http://i.imgur.com/h4O2s54.png

  • http://twitter.com/Loerwyn Kathryn

    Snow White was designed many years ago, yes. That doesn’t explain why she’s currently drawn with coy, come-hither expressions. The Princesses line is fairly recent and has recent art to go with it.

    And I don’t think they necessarily made Merida “sexier”. Okay, yes. One of those poses was a bit much, and her dress was a little low cut in another, but if you factor in the stylisation they’ve done to ensure she fits in with the range? They’ve not done much except slim her waist, and we know for a fact (from Brave itself) that she does wear a corset (or perhaps a bustier). And yet she still has, probably, the thickest waist of any of the princesses in that style.

    Nevermind Rapunzel’s sudden love of tightlacing or the other wasp-thin waists of some of the other princesses…

  • http://twitter.com/Loerwyn Kathryn

    That’s pretty much the point I tried to make earlier. Merida’s redesign is barely a problem when you look at what they’ve done in the franchise as a whole.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000980670617 Rebecca Ramsey

    Also, I find it hypocritical that TMS is so vocally in favor of a Wonder Woman show while being so outraged about Merida’s LIMITED RELEASE glittery-princess redesign.

  • http://twitter.com/Loerwyn Kathryn

    Why were you buying them in the first place? If ‘sexing’ up Merida (which they didn’t really do) is an issue…

    What about Snow White’s coy expressions? (She’s fourteen!)
    The marginalisation of the minority princesses? (They’re in the range but not the most prominent ones – Cindypants, Aurora, Snow White, Rapunzel and Belle tend to be the main ’5′)
    The (much) thinner waists of Tiana and some of the others?

    When you look at the bigger picture, Merida’s changes barely rate. They have a fourteen year old girl making “come hither” faces, if that didn’t turn you off, why would Merida? I’m not having a go at you, I’m pointing out the ridiculousness of the outrage over Merida.

  • Boom Cookie

    Absolutely. And the more conversation takes place, the more we should be asking ourselves questions… Like, Why is Disney this important? How did they get the power to skew the looks of these characters? Why would they?
    While a petition is a great start, and maybe short-term answer to this type of dilemma, I really just want to encourage women to point their children towards a variety of cartoons/characters/role models.

    I’m also asking, who’s doing the “perceiving”? If our children are accepting the “sexy” versions as something they should strive for themselves, where is their reality check?

  • Anonymous

    You know, this was the OTHER Official Princess image that was released around the same time that doesn’t have as many of these issues:

    http://i.huffpost.com/gen/1135250/thumbs/o-BRAVE-PRINCESS-MERIDA-570.jpg?2

    Merida’s dress is dark green. It doesn’t have sparkles. Her hair clearly has small frizzes everywhere. Her eyes aren’t “sexy”. She has her bow and arrow. Not seeing that one getting circulated a lot for some reason.

    Did people really think Disney was only going to limit Merida’s new marketability to ONE depiction? Disney is well known for using a litany of different images to hock whatever product they want. If they want to sell a glamour doll, it’ll be sparkly Merida. If they want to hock a bow and arrow adventure set, it’s going to be movie Merida. This isn’t a new practice with them.

    Nor is the fact that there would be multiple versions “striking a balance”, since–see above–they already would have had multiple versions of her to sell, sell, sell.

    Personally, other than the shoulder cut, I’m not seeing the “sexiness”. That image posted in the initial article from Mary Sue when she’s in that awful tight blue get up shows she has a tiny waist and huge hips, which isn’t far at all from the 2D version of her. Her hair is still frizzy, albeit simplified for design (see all those tiny frizzes poking out?). Her eyes are clearer, and her lips look pink, not deep red. Her skin is lighter, but I give it a pass since she’s Scottish and a redhead, which I also figure means a smiling blush is more apparent than on Ariel. In the movie, she’s a ginger, even in Kathryn’s avatar here.

    And might I also add that no one seems particularly outraged that “Disney Princess” Tiana is depicted in her magnolia ball gown, which speaks nothing to her character’s industriousness. “Disney Princess” Ariel’s sea foam dress doesn’t do much to emphasize her curiosity and sense of adventure. “Disney Princess” Belle’s golden dress doesn’t speak to her intellectual pursuits. “Disney Princess” Mulan’s glitzed up feminine robes don’t emphasize anything about her character’s sense of duty, warrior spirit, and responsibility depicted for the majority of the film.

    And that’s because the glittery Disney Princess franchise isn’t selling that. It’s selling stereotyped girly glamour. But all those other characters’ other designs are sold on other products with other angles. Story Time live-action Belle is in her peasant outfit with books. Warrior Mulan has a sword, dressed as Ping, or the option to change into either set of clothes. Aquatic adventure Ariel is still in the clamshells and fishtail. The duplicity isn’t new. But you can bet that when Disney is slapping glittery Merida onto a doll box, they’re also slapping movie Merida onto their new bow and arrow set.

    Maybe Merida was the last straw for the acceptability of the glamour Disney Princess angle? Or maybe it’s that no one cared about the other characters being nullified in their glamour? Or that Merida is somehow the one character who “shouldn’t” be nullified in one depiction like the others?

    Disney is a shrewd company. It knows how to maximize profit by targeting all angles and playing both sides. This “issue” with Merida is neither surprising, nor is it in any way indicative of the ONLY way Disney is going to sell the character. The new design, as stated, was just a way to sell Merida in a glitz glamour fashion AS WELL as whatever else they wanted to sell with the original depiction. A fate that the rest of the more modern “girl-power” princesses also unfortunately shared. People are acting like this one redesign of several has somehow become the only design, which just isn’t true from the images Disney released at the same time and its marketing history.

  • http://twitter.com/Loerwyn Kathryn

    Whilst ignoring the rest of the franchise?

    Sexed up fourteen year olds are so unimportant compared to a slight waist-thinning.

  • http://twitter.com/Loerwyn Kathryn

    i love you

  • Ali Colluccio

    Susana bring up an excellent point with Disney homogenizing the Princesses. From a branding and marketing standpoint, I understand ensuring a consistent look and feel to all of your brand assets (i.e. the Disney Princesses). Disney has one of the strongest and most recognized brands in the world; and that has a lot to do with how well they handle their brand assets across the organization.

    That said, homogeneity is still the opposite of diversity. Making the Princesses look the same doesn’t just create a consistent brand image. It sends the message that these are the attributes we consider to be Princess worthy; that anything outside of this definition must be changed.

    It doesn’t matter if they’re only doing it to make money from merchandising. It perpetuates the terrible and archaic message that “different is wrong.”

  • Boom Cookie

    At least she’s thinking about not buying again. This is the real point, isn’t it? If the debate can enlighten/change minds, that’s great!

  • Anonymous

    Given the different images of Merida it released at the same time, I’d say that was the intent all along. Diverse angles and designs for a character help sell a greater diversity of products, tapping into glamour, girl power, and action markets is more profitable than just tapping into one.

  • Boom Cookie

    Amen.

  • http://twitter.com/EmberDione Kim Pittman

    Thank you for saying this far more eloquently and polietly than I could.

  • http://twitter.com/ReallyOnlyErin Erin Treat

    They could already. Just not with Meridia a character who does not fit into your glittery princess mold. If you want glittery princesses, just look elsewhere.

    What others want doesn’t affect your desires to be glittery or anything else, but you want to change and pervert a character’s nature to suit you.

  • http://twitter.com/EmberDione Kim Pittman

    http://thebloggess.com/2013/05/two-uncomfortable-truths-new-merida-looks-a-little-whorey-less-people-care-about-this-than-you-would-think/

    The Bloggess makes a very good point.

    I guess ever since I saw the whole “What did Disney movie teach us?” meme going around Facebook that put the worst possible spin on every movie, I have been a bit disillusioned by the whole raging against Disney for making fairytale movies. People look at things with their own baggage. I looked at the redesigns and thought, Oh look, they are making them all look similar so they can put them on packaging and stuff together and not look stupid. Those new hairstyles are kinda cool I guess. That’s IT.

    Regardless of how she looks on packaging or art, her story is still shown in the movies. That is what kids are going to take to heart. Did they George Lucas the movie? Nope.

  • http://twitter.com/Loerwyn Kathryn

    It’s not the real point, but it is, shall we say, a positive side effect that could hopefully lead to more people actually stepping back and going “this ain’t on”.

    But I wish this argument wasn’t about Merida. It’s so much bigger than her.

  • http://twitter.com/Loerwyn Kathryn

    With Brave (and to other extents The Princess & the Frog, Mulan 1+2 (taken together)), it is a good film that makes good messages.

    Cindypants, Sleeping Beauty, Snow White? Not so much.

  • Boom Cookie

    Correct me if I’m wrong… your point brings us to “how do we stop Disney from changing these characters from how they looked in their movies?” (Because their ORIGINAL designs were mostly great, esp, IMO Snow White, Mulan, Pocahontas, Tiana, Merida…)
    Which brings us to my point, not buying what you don’t like (the altered versions). Pretty simple solution…?

  • http://twitter.com/Loerwyn Kathryn

    But my point was more that why is it Merida that has caused all of this? Why have sites like The Mary Sue blissfully ignored the other princesses? And when this franchise hit the limelight again, why was the focus on Merida, and not the others, all of whom are more problematic on every level?

    It’s not that Disney have necessarily been changing them from how they looked in the films – Rapunzel and Pocahontas were relatively unchanged, Rapunzel’s lack of change completely contradicting the film – but it’s more a case of “How do we get Disney to treat their characters and fans better?”, yet also I suppose it’s a case of “How do we raise awareness of these issues for the public?”.

    If people are going to turn their back over a tiny waist reduction for Merida, just think what they’ll do when you point out the much bigger issues.

  • Boom Cookie

    Awesome point. It’s probably because the creator, Brenda Chapman, spoke out about the redesign. No creator of any other character has done this.

    Also, I hate to break it to you, but the fans are the reason why they do these redesigns. While we’d like to think that we have say over what they do with these characters, there are thousands, if not millions (or billions?!), of people who LIKE the sparkly princesses, and therefore we are not the majority.

    Again I make the point that the best way to get Disney to “treat their fans better” is to not buy any products you don’t support. And also to talk to your real-life friends about it. :)

  • http://twitter.com/GemmaArcadian Gemma Arcadian

    I don’t really have a problem with the redesign. She looks older and more mature, yes, but it’s just an evolution of the character.

  • Anonymous

    And frankly, isn’t the “Disney Princess” franchise one big reinterpretation, akin to all those fan-versions of characters we’ve seen from Deviant Art? As stated above, it was a design specifically made to sell Merida in a limited set of merchandise. We can assume they mean the official Disney Princess line of merchandise. That’s what the Disney Princess franchise is: reinterpretations of marketable Disney characters as glittery princesses to sell to those who want to consume glittery princess versions of those characters.

    Of course She-Hulk isn’t the type to wear a Greecian toga (http://www.themarysue.com/she-hulk-shirt/). Captain Marvel isn’t going to wear a flowing gown akin to her uniform (http://www.themarysue.com/hanie-mohd-welovefine/#1). The Disney Princesses aren’t going to wear mini-skirts and leotards as Sailor Senshi (http://i707.photobucket.com/albums/ww80/DisneyDD/Sailor_Princesses_by_DracheaRannak.jpg) or wearing Urban Outfitter as hipsters (http://www.disneydreaming.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/Hipster-Disney-Princesses.jpg). The women of the X-Men aren’t high fashion models/fashionistas (http://www.themarysue.com/femalex-men-fashionistas/).

    Isn’t Captain Marvel/Ms. Marvel in glamorized ballgowns just as contrary to character, since she’s a hero first, military person second, and glamorous individual 9th? The same for the warrior-like X-Women, who are heroes, rescuers, and activists first and not glitzy runway models?

    But the same outside-of-character perspective is applied to these characters because they’re redesigns. Redesigns to specifically sell a glamorized perspective more or less irrespective of actual characterization. The only difference is that Disney is officially doing the redesign to sell from that perspective.

    And that would be a bigger problem if that was the only depiction Disney was selling, but it clearly isn’t. Just look at all the merchandise they have of movie-version Merida:

    http://pixartimes.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/Toy-Fair-2012-Brave-Image-3.jpg
    http://farm6.staticflickr.com/5316/7200190884_66d06df411_z.jpg
    http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-zotqoaMDN0I/T5Iwmv8XDbI/AAAAAAAAAPY/BV0AI4EYNRg/s1600/horse.jpg
    http://farm8.staticflickr.com/7214/7200191542_50bb54a6fa_z.jpg
    http://farm8.staticflickr.com/7104/7200188906_b725459435_z.jpg

    Disney clearly doesn’t have a problem selling both at the same time (and never has for any of its other characters). The glamorized Disney Princess versions are one reinterpretation subset of the market, just as the Disney Princess baby doll versions are another reinterpretation subset, those Lego set versions are another, and the original depiction is another. It’s certainly not monopolizing anything, problematic though it may be to exist in the first place.

  • Anonymous

    Aaaand apparently I wasn’t. We’ve already gone there. Sigh.

    /hara-kiri

  • http://twitter.com/EmberDione Kim Pittman

    Yes because when I watched Beauty and the Beast all I was thinking was Stockholm Syndrome… /sarcasm

    No. I was thinking, hey, being a book worm is a good thing. Hey, judging people by how they act as opposed to how they look is a good thing. Controlling your temper is a good thing. Understanding people make bad choices but can learn from their mistakes and change is a great thing.

    People’s view is colored by their experiences. Remember, at the end of the day, it’s still targeted at 9 year olds, who don’t have our jaded world views.

  • http://twitter.com/Loerwyn Kathryn

    There’s nothing wrong with being a book worm, no.

    But there are some quite worrying messages in the earlier Disney films (and some of the later ones) that generally seem to be of the variety that men are desirable and women are vain, stupid or only good at falling in love.

    The later ones have better representations of girls. Merida does what she thinks is right. Tiana is industrious and works towards her goal. Rapunzel makes her own rescue happen. Mulan goes against the traditions and culture of her people to fight for her father’s honour.

    Sleeping Beauty is comatose for the majority of her story (and let’s not get into earlier versions), Belle is… fairly problematic (but they mangled the message anyway), and so on. It’s not about what those kids believe before the film, it’s what they take from it. Do we want our children to believe that they should be who they want at their own speed, or that their place is doing housework until Mr Princeypants comes along?

  • http://www.aeryllou.tumblr.com/ Aeryl

    This would be like if Mulan was presented in the get up she is forced into at the beginning of the movie.

  • http://twitter.com/Loerwyn Kathryn

    Real life friends? Ha!

    Funny thing is, I actually like Merida’s redesign. I think it worked really well. I mean I certainly think there are potential issues with it, but I have far fewer problems with Merida’s design than I do with any other princess in that range.

    But I think Chapman spoke out *after* the controversy broke out, which did fuel the flames somewhat. And I think it was a bad move for her to get involved. Why? Well, when you do anything to someone else’s creation, chances are they’re going to not like it. Look at Alan Moore for a great example of this (mind you, I’ll be bloody staggered when someone works out what he does like that doesn’t involve rape and using other people’s characters). So yes, she brought us Merida, she has emotional investment in her, but Merida is owned by Disney (I assume; I can’t see them doing a creator-owned style thing with her), and she’s theirs to do what they want with.

    It’s great they listened to the outrage, but it hasn’t gone far enough on either side of the debate.

  • http://twitter.com/Super_Widget Joanna

    *sigh* Yes, girls can be adventurous AND “feminine” but come on. I’m so sick of Disney girly girls. Merida’s 2D look just doesn’t work because it’s not Merida. Imagine turning Jessie from Toy Story into a “sexy” princess. It’d be pretty weird right? Glamour is fine but it just doesn’t fit Merida at all.

  • http://twitter.com/zarry22 zarry22

    Wonder if anyone checked the disney website through this whole debate; there is TONS of product with Marida’s movie look on it.

  • Boom Cookie

    First of all, I want to clarify that I wasn’t insinuating you don’t have “real-life” friends. I just use that term for anyone we’re not communicating with online. ;) … (Unless you’re laughing because you actually don’t have any real-life friends…) ;P

    As for the rest of what you’re saying… I think we understand each other. :) Other reasons I think Merida may be at the crux of the debate: she’s the first Princess not to have a love interest, and there was already a lot of debate about her before, during, and after the film’s release… (especially regarding said lack of love interest and Chapman’s “demotion” to co-director).

  • Anonymous

    “Oh look, they are making them all look similar so they can put them on packaging and stuff together and not look stupid”

    This is what concerns me though. It smacks of conformity. If you want to be a Disney princess you must look like THIS. They could learn a lesson or two from their recent acquisition of Marvel comics. The members of the Avengers couldn’t be any more different in appearance and abilities from one another, but that’s what makes them cool when they come together as a team. I grew up worshiping the X-Men exactly because of their diversity (aesthetic, ethnic, gender, nationality, power, etc). Redesigning Merida to conform to the aesthetics of Cinderella or Belle or Sleeping Beauty just comes across to me as turning them into some weird animated version of the Stepford Wives.

    And I keep imagining that famous line from the film Freaks (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Freaks) “One of us. One of us. One of us.”

  • http://twitter.com/EmberDione Kim Pittman

    What I am saying is kids aren’t taking away that message. None of the kids in my family, or any of the kids I have ever known have walked away from Sleeping Beauty and said “Whelp, I guess I should just be pretty, take a nap, and wait for some dude to come make out with me!” Most of the time they are on about how awesome Maleficent was, and talking about slaying a dragon. Please re-read what I wrote. We are looking at them as being bad through OUR view. Kids don’t see it that way.

  • http://twitter.com/Loerwyn Kathryn

    I was laughing because I don’t have any ;)

    I think you are right in that Merida is a bit of a fan-favourite, and there was a *lot* of build-up to Brave’s release. And even after it you couldn’t get away from it for a while.

    But… I still wish instead of writing Merida-centric knee-jerk articles, that sites like The Mary Sue took that step backwards and looked at the wider picture. It’s not about Merida. Or, should I say, it shouldn’t be about Merida. It should be about realising that what they’ve done to Merida makes sense within context… but when you look at the context it’s in, there’s this *much* bigger issue there.

    I think I described it as people picking up on grammar errors in an offensive rant without discussing the content of the rant itself. Those errors, whilst still wrong, mean nothing compared to the wider picture.

  • http://twitter.com/Loerwyn Kathryn

    But how do you know kids aren’t taking away that message? Your family might be socially progressive and the kids might know that stuff is BS anyway, or maybe there’s just the general change in social views we’ve had over the 80 years (holy hell) that Disney have been making animated films of this nature. Or, heck, maybe the kids just liked the actiony bits.

    This site has proof that (some) kids are aware of the messages being thrown at them by marketers, by films, by, well, the world. There’s plenty of proof that kids can be world-aware.

    Whether the kids understand the messages in the films or not doesn’t change the fact that the messages (particularly in older films) are often quite bad.

  • http://twitter.com/Loerwyn Kathryn

    Merida has only just been initiated as a Disney Princess, they haven’t really rolled out the “New Look” merchandise.

    And if rumblings on tumblr are correct, Disney have changed a lot of the images on their Princesses website to Merida’s movie look.

  • http://www.fangirlwithtea.com/ Pamela

    I agree that there are different versions of her (though I do think that the doe eyes in the sparkly dress version do bring sexuality to the character, more than just the off-the-shoulder dress) and that Disney is going to market the hell out of this character no matter what the public says. I also hate the rhetoric that’s been thrown around about how Merida was great because she didn’t care about being pretty, as if wanting to be pretty is somehow bad and that girls shouldn’t do it. Girls can be tough archers AND want to wear makeup at the same time.

    But I have seen people complaining about Mulan’s portrayal in particular in the Princess line, in that like Merida, she’s shown in the fancy-pants getup that she hated in the movie rather than the clothing that she chose to wear.

  • http://twitter.com/Loerwyn Kathryn

    Does it not? That dress is supposedly quite similar to the one Merida wears at the end of Brave. It’s been a while since I’ve seen it so I’d have to go back and check.

    As for Jessie into a “sexy” princess? I refer you to Toy Story 3′s “jailbreak” section with Spanish Buzz, particularly the very brief section where the searchlight passes and Jessie turns to face the camera in slow-mo.

    But then again if they tried that with Jessie she’d just escape. She’s very good at that.

  • http://twitter.com/Tonks07 Mandy

    Doesn’t Disney do that to Mulan already? Admitingly it’s been a few years since I’ve been to the WDW parks but I don’t ever recall much Ping merchandise.

  • http://twitter.com/EmberDione Kim Pittman

    And yet, they did all make the Avengers look similar so they could fit in the “real” world together. They did make the XMen all wear a uniform so they would look logical together.

    Also, we aren’t talking about them re-doing the movie. Have you SEEN the Avenger packaging? Poor Thor and Cap. And did you see any of them outside their hero gear/poses? Of course not.

    It’s called consistency and makes sense when creating 2d art for things like party supplies and toy packaging. It’s not like they are making a movie with this art.

  • http://www.facebook.com/rose.n.carousel Chris de la Rosa

    Thank you for bringing up everything I’ve been saying here and on the Facebook more eloquently that I could have in the many, many comments I’ve dropped on this debate. I get such a different perspective on this, since my job gives me access to ALL the Merida art, while these articles only highlight the Royal Debut line of art with all the glitter and “bedroom eyes.” There is so much more to her and her Princess art in merchandising, and with so little of it out for the public right now, it’s like there’s too much of a bad rap on it without there being a real fair depiction. And I also feel like everyone is also dismissing what the Princess line does negatively for all the other post-Rennaissance characters in the franchise AND ignoring that the Princess line is not the only place they exist in Disney merchandising.

  • http://www.facebook.com/rose.n.carousel Chris de la Rosa

    From the perspective of someone working in a company that makes merchandising for Disney, pulling the design would be a huge issue for EVERYONE that already did work on it. designs have a minimum of four months production and selling time before turnout of the actual products in store. We’ve known about these designs since January. They’re still not going to come out until I’d say July.

  • Anonymous

    I don’t know what you mean by the Avengers looking “similar.” They don’t. Thor, Cap, Black Widow, Hulk, Iron Man, Hawkeye. Not a two of them look alike. The X-Men wearing suits in the movies is not to make them look “logical” together, it’s because the comic book suits would look absolutely ridiculous onscreen (and there has been plenty of hate thrown at those costumes – cheap knockoffs of Tim Burton’s Batman suit) and an alternative look was needed. Yes, there is aesthetic consistency in the outfits, but it doesn’t change their inherent qualities – no one is sexed up or toned down, and there remains plenty of visible diversity as the team was designed that way. Disney Princesses aren’t a “team” and the only point that would be made by conforming them all to a similar look would be to say to women everywhere that this is the only way a princess can look. Irresponsible.

    One of the major points of The Avengers (and the X-Men) is that they are all different people from different backgrounds with different powers that come together as families/teams to fight for a common cause. Eradicating that diversity goes against what those teams stand for, and eradicating Merida’s wild hair, fuller figure, tenacious scowl, practical and modest clothing, and shellacking her with a thick layer of makeup all goes against what the character and the entire movie represented.

  • http://everythingiscats.wordpress.com/ Krystal

    There’s also the not-so-shocking possibility that the people who did the designs have no idea how old the classic princesses are. I mean she doesn’t *look* fourteen, does she? And she gets married at the end, so that’s sort of misleading as well. Perhaps the age of these characters just doesn’t come up at all in their notes- who knows?

    I’m just going to go out on a limb here and risk criticism by saying that I personally don’t think that any fifteen year old characters need to be wearing dresses cut low enough to show cleavage. Cleavage is just a way to boost the sexy factor and I just think that’s terribly inappropriate and completely unnecessary especially for a Disney princess. The cut of her original dress, without the shoulders and cleavage, was just as pretty and they should have left it.

    So I can deal with her magically thinner waist, I just think there are other aspects of her redesign that are pushing sexy where sexy need not be pushed.

  • Eisen

    I don’t think it’s about: “makeup is bad” and “looking pretty is bad” – all the princesses in the later designs are the princesses that “did it”. They reached their goals, did overcome fears and barriers – and to symbolise this, they get dressed up by Disney.

    This sends a message like in all those “makeover chickflicks” – reaching goals and facing ones fears is suddenly extremly strong connected to good looks, fancy dresses, makeup and being slim.
    It’s the “you are awesome and you did it”-look.

    Wouldn’t be a problem if not every princess looked like that, but if every princess looks like this in the end, it becomes a rule in our heads and the heads of children.

    So I think most of the people thought Merida was awesome not because she wasn’t so dressed up, but because she was different, and broke this rule in more than one way. And of course it is absolutely sad to take this rebel and get her “right”. Not because we all hate make-up, but because Merida was special, and isn’t anymore with this dull makeover.

  • http://www.fangirlwithtea.com/ Pamela

    I never said everyone was saying that makeup is bad. Some people, not in this thread but on the Internet at large, are saying things that imply that girls shouldn’t want to wear makeup, and I disagree with that sentiment. Girls can be whatever they want to be. And I also think the princess line is nauseatingly homogenous, and I don’t like the Merida redesign at all. I just don’t like the implication I’ve been seeing from some anti-redesign people that wanting to be a pretty princess at all is bad.

  • http://www.fangirlwithtea.com/ Pamela

    How, exactly, is Wonder Woman related to the Disney princess line?

  • Anonymous

    Agree. It also
    looks like they’ve lightened skin color and altered noses on both
    Pocahontas and Jasmine. Ariel, Cinderella, Aurora and Belle have completely interchangeable
    faces. Merida and Snow White look older, with more
    mature faces and bodies. Rapunzel is the one that seems to have gotten the least reworking. Merida’s face/body makeover is just the most
    extreme out of all of them, but when they’ve altered the majority to make
    them similar in looks and body type, and that definitely does create a
    stepford wives feeling. Like there’s only one standard for beauty.

  • http://www.facebook.com/ashe.samuels Ashe P. Samuels

    That is their reality check.

    You get told something over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over again, you’ll start to believe it as the only solution, contrary to what one or two people may say.

  • http://www.facebook.com/ashe.samuels Ashe P. Samuels

    That’s a pretty literal way of interpreting what Kathryn was saying.

    Disney doesn’t exist in a vacuum: it’s a drop in the ocean alongside all the other media flinging gross messages at little kids about their gender roles and appearances. That Disney is so influential and widespread makes it far worse.

    So, sure, a kid may not walk away thinking they have to wait for a fairy godmother to liberate them, but they’ll sure as hell walk away with their self-esteem incrementally lower (depending on their race and gender) and their minds stamped with yet more reinforced negative/inaccurate imagery.

    The kind of bad shit that leaks into adulthood, when we were convinced that, with kids, there was no problem.

  • Wendy

    In some home video clips of costumed Merida at the Disney parks I found it very interesting that every time someone (child or adult) asked her if she was a princess her reply was, “Yes, but I’m more of a free spirit.” At least in the interactions she’s having with children (and grown ups) she’s emphasizing the ‘independent’ aspect of the character.

  • http://www.facebook.com/ghostchilde Spooky Davis

    Rubbish. My daughter loves that movie (so does my son), and it’s because Merida is a stubborn, strong, feisty, angst-ridden, typical teenage girl. NOT because she’s skinny or sparkly. Gah.

  • Penny Marie Sautereau

    Fuck Disney. ‘Nuff said.

  • Anonymous

    I…
    I love you.
    Why would people down vote this?
    No seriously. Why?

  • Mina

    No, but to be fair, I never got the impression that Mulan preferred her Ping clothes to her normal clothes (though no, she did not like her formal clothes and makeup). She changed back once she got home, and she’s wearing girl’s clothes in the sequel. So I don’t know that I’d call it a betrayal of the character for Disney to sell her in her girl clothes, though it’s a little silly.

  • http://twitter.com/Loerwyn Kathryn

    If they don’t know how old the Princesses are, why are they working for Disney? And it’s not like these films are hard to see (though admittedly Disney’s love of only putting a few in circulation at a time is restrictive), and that no-one knows about the characters. A good chunk of the Princess characters are under 18 (if not all of them – though you wouldn’t guess it from some of them), which is common knowledge. And Disney keeps a VERY tight reign on its properties, so chances are they wouldn’t have put some interns on doing the art. It’d be Disney’s in-house, professional artists.

    I’m not disagreeing about her dress; I totally agree. The low-cut shoulders were a bit pointless, perhaps even too close to ‘sexy’, but the rest of it? I love it. I love this style for Merida.

  • Miss Cephalopod

    I don’t think she liked her Ping get-up very much, she looks very comfortable in that blue dress of hers. It’s not a “betrayal of character” to promote her in it, but the bride exam outfit would be because it stands for a moment when she was not allowed to be herself and when she felt she failed her family in the worst possible way. That’s not cool.

  • http://twitter.com/empuska Emppu Nurminen

    Now someone can have elite army of wives!
    (Always wondered that line, WHY anyone want to have wives to have an army? You have army of penguins already! Ice King, why y u make no sense?! /end of cartoon rage)

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  • http://www.aeryllou.tumblr.com/ Aeryl

    I just mean the overly feminine, white face painted outfit, not a typical woman’s outfit that she wears the remainder of the time.

  • http://twitter.com/Super_Widget Joanna

    The dress is similar but it’s more sparkly. It’s more her face and expression that’s wrong. She’s not bright and cheeky like the original Merida. Her hair is more styled than the original wilder look. The whole redesign just waters down Merida’s essence which makes me sad face.

    I haven’t seen Toy Story 3 since it was in the cinema so I can’t remember that bit…

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=671606384 Hannah Rose Truesdell

    Personally I think the redesign just looks older and more mature, like a Merida who’s excepted her womanhood, and honestly doesn’t look that sparkly…

  • Bree Brouwer

    I couldn’t be more furious.

    First Disney says I can be whatever I want to be when I grow up, and then they say I can’t look any way but their princess way?

    The rest of my thoughts on this: http://bit.ly/17B25rm

  • http://twitter.com/Loerwyn Kathryn

    They’ve probably had to style her hair in order to make it easier to draw repeatedly. I mean if you look at Rapunzel’s hair that’s not quite the same as it was in the film.

  • http://www.facebook.com/sienna.smith2 Sienna Smith

    I’m just glad they kept her free flowing curly hair. curl power!

  • http://twitter.com/Taste_is_Sweet Aundrea Singer

    Spearwives. Winter is coming. ;)

  • http://twitter.com/witchfury Bel

    Ok, I’m against the redesigns and all, but calling her FACE too sexy is absolutely ridiculous. There is nothing wrong with their faces. No, there is not anything coy and come-hither about Snow White. They are just smiling faces. Occasionally, awkwardly drawn stilted looking smiling faces that don’t quite reach their deadened eyes. Never sexy.

  • Tessa Gegg

    I have to say that parents should be the role models for their children. If you feel like this might affect your child, don’t let them watch it. You could also ask them how the movie makes them feel and get their viewpoints on it. If they have some disturbing responses, talk it over with them. It seems like people are forgetting that they are the ones raising their children and not Disney. Parents have the power to talk to their children about these things and parents should be the ones setting the right example.

    That being said, I feel like Cinderella has a lot of good points. She was humble and worked hard even when she was treated horribly by her stepmother and stepsisters. She could have sat down and thrown a fit. Yet, she took her situation in stride and did what she had to. She showed respect for three people who treated her like poop. Granted, she grumbled and rolled her eyes here and there, but she isn’t supposed to be perfect. When the opportunity presented itself, she took a way out.

    We can also remember than these fairy tales are set in extremely different time periods. The fairy tales romanced those time periods and then Disney romanced those time periods even further. I highly doubt that these characters, were they put in real situations in the real time periods, would be as strong as we hold them to be.

    It’s imagination! People treat these characters like they are real life people to be idolized. This is really where things go wrong. You can always explain to your child that Disney is imagination and real life doesn’t work out this way. I never expected mice and other woodland animals to help me do my housework or sew a dress. I understand that you can go to far in believing in a character. But this is where parents need to step in and gently teach their children that there is a difference between reality and imaginary. Imagination is a great thing to have and it shouldn’t be stifled, but we also need to know the difference between real life and imaginary things.

    TL;DR
    Parents are the ones most involved in their children’s upbringings. They should have open communication with their kids and provide a good example for them to follow. Disney is entertainment and should have it’s proper place as entertainment.

  • http://twitter.com/witchfury Bel

    WHAT coy, come-hither expressions? And have you WATCHED any Disney movies lately? They all have waspishly thin waists in the original design, along with oversized heads and eyes. That much is at least consistent.

  • Tessa Gegg

    I also want to say that I am not trying to personally attack you, Kathryn, or anyone else. I hope it didn’t come off that way.

  • http://twitter.com/Loerwyn Kathryn

    Oh, just these ones… http://digitalwriting.pbworks.com/f/1195487165/New_DisneyPrincess_1280x1024.jpg

    And yes, there is stylisation in this range (and Disney’s films in general). But it still stands that even with her ‘reduced’ waist, Merida’s is still thicker than that of almost every other character in the range bar – I think – Snow White.

  • Eisen

    Sorry for the misunderstanding, but I also didn’t mean “everybody”.

    I just wanted to say, those comments about “make-up is bad” you read, could sound like “make-up is always bad”, but also could be meant as “make-up on this character is bad” because of the reasons I mentioned.

    “What she wants” is quite often more of a “what media told her she should want” – so even if I absolutely think girls should do what they want, I think it doesn’t hurt if there is extra-effort to promote a lifestyle thats not about pretty dresses, tiaras and looking pretty.

  • http://www.facebook.com/lauren.allen.5268 Lauren Allen

    How completely accidental that this redesign of Merida from free-thinking tomboy to cover-girl princess -now wearing the very same dress that she despised in the movie- coincides with Disney putting that dress into every ToysRus on the planet. — Kooky-weird, right?

  • http://twitter.com/Super_Widget Joanna

    I actually think it would have been way easier to draw her hair wilder as opposed to having to draw painstakingly immaculate curls. =P

  • Amber Barnes

    The change to Pocahontas’ necklace…really? Something that is an important, cherished item to the character, you recolor like its interchangeable?

  • Amber Barnes

    There’s a difference between being kind to those who treat you badly and having to eat shit and grin because the people who are abusing you have absolute authority over you. Cinderella wasn’t nice to them because she was just that good: it was also a survival mechanism.

  • Amber Barnes

    I get what you’re saying, but I really think using comic books – the cesspit of copy-cat, oversexualized female bodies – as the basis of an argument against this particular line up is pretty shaky. Of course this differs depending on the artist, but there you have it.

  • Anonymous

    Well, the comic book part is inconsequential. You could substitute cartoons, video games, movies…any visual medium that relies on design. When characters in a group are drawn similarly it’s meant to express a sense of conformity. Generally we frown on this as we tend to value diversity, which is much more interesting (and realistic) when it comes to storytelling. It also allows more consumers of that property to identify with the characters. Imagine if every single character in your favorite movie was a twenty-something, skinny, white male. Pretty boring – and dismissive of anyone that doesn’t fall into that narrow ideal. That’s why the Avengers are a standout group (even more so in the books where there is even more diverse membership), they look different because they are different, and that adds so much more to their stories.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=48805881 Michael Fitz-Gibbon

    She looks exactly the same in the redesign, just rendered with traditional art. I don’t see the controversy.

  • Anonymous

    Disney just wants to make every heroine a weak princess and every prince charming a closet gay.

  • Vian Lawson

    Can’t wait to see what they do with Leia. Attack the slave costume with a glitter-gun, maybe? Or make a sparkly off-the-shoulder version of the dress she wore in the Medal-giving ceremony at the end of ANH? Bleah.

  • http://www.facebook.com/lauren.allen.5268 Lauren Allen

    On the positive side – at least they don’t have her wearing butterflies on everything, while bending over in weird slave poses and hiding one eye .. yet.

  • http://www.facebook.com/steveuk405 Steve Pendlebury

    There’s an answer to this. Don’t buy the merchandise!!! This has most likely happened so they can use the same plastic doll shape rather than design a new one. Capitalism at it’s worst, and because capitalism is all to do with making money, no sales kills it dead!

  • Anonymous

    It is known, Khaleesi.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100004251043934 Brant Rotramel

    Instead of getting pissed a Disney (because they do not care about you) why not just….NOT CARE because this isn’t important at all? Ya know? Why not just tell the Parents and women who are grumpy about this to TRY instead, Being a Role-Model to Young Girls? Why are parents relying and utilizing a Disney Princess in the first place to teach and coach their young daughters? How dare she grow up and wear make up, and want to marry a boy and change her hair. Oh please. Worry about something that actually matters. These are 1st world Problems. Problems only a society of crybabies would worry about. Some people get up and worry about what they are going to eat in the morning, or if there will be electricity or if their daughters can go to school, or heck, will I be raped today? What are some American Women (and others) worried about? A Disney Redesign. Good Grief.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100004251043934 Brant Rotramel
  • http://www.facebook.com/deejay.mcallister Deejay Mcallister

    Rewrite the character, she was a dunce that poisoned her mother and saved the day through blind luck because she didn’t want to get married and prevent civil war between the clans..

  • http://www.facebook.com/cierra.lunceford Cierra Lunceford

    I want whoever thought it was okay to change a already perfectly good awesome character like Merida to go die in a puddle of electric eel wielding knifes.

  • http://twitter.com/lysana Space Marine Lysana

    You think they aren’t? I give you the popularity of Twilight.

  • Anonymous

    why are the knives wielding electric eels?

    sorry, sorry, i could not resist.