The Disney Princess product line has been a major cash cow for the Walt Disney Company ever since it was created. Today, the sorority welcomes its newest member, Princess Merida from Pixar's original fairy tale, Brave. Disney is pulling out all of the stops in honor of the fiery-haired Scot, including a coronation ceremony at the Magic Kingdom in Orlando. With her new status also comes a new look so that she can fit in with Snow White, Cinderella, and the rest of the Stepford Princesses
Here is Merida as she appeared in Brave:
And here's the redesign:
Holy HGH, Batman!
Some family and progressive groups have been up in arms over the changes claiming that Merida has been made sexier, more mature, and robbed of her sporty self-reliance. I'm not going to get into the gender politics of the Disney Princess franchise. The issue is a big enough quagmire already and I don't feel like wading in and soiling my good sandals with summer right around the corner. Plus, it obfuscates the real issue here: the redesign looks AWFUL and adds to the detrimental legacy of the entire Disney Princess concept.
Judging art may be largely subjective, but I really don't feel like this is the same character. Obviously Merida would have to be redesigned for two dimensions, but there is a right and wrong way to do it. The red hair and the styling of the dress are the only indicators that this is supposed to be Merida, but even those have been changed to look sleeker and more stylish. Her hair was a primary symbol of her personality, and to limit that is a crucial mistake in her characterization. This isn't new though. Go check out the rest of the Princesses here. They've even included pictures from their respective movies so you can see just how badly they screwed up when adapting their character models.
My male gonads may be showing here, but I just don't see the Princess line as anything other than a cheap marketing ploy. I won't deny that there are legions of kids who want to be able to dress up and play with their favorite Disney characters. That is a fair enough point and there was very likely a market for it prior to its conception. I'm not even going to fault the company for doing something that is designed to make money. As much as I love prestige pieces and have a strong "ars gratia artis" attitude towards animation as a whole, it is show business. My beef stems from the fact that these ladies have forced a creative bottleneck in the output of the studio.
As an example: of the current eleven princesses, only three of them are from the classic Disney era (Snow White, Cinderella, and Aurora). The rest were all created after 1989. Nine princesses in the last twenty-four years versus three in the first fifty! Because of the company's insistence on perpetuating this brand, great original movies like Lilo & Stitch don't get the same level of recognition because they lack a princess. It's gotten so bad that when I saw the first preview glimpses of Big Hero 6 earlier this week, my first thought was, "this really doesn't feel like a Disney movie." Me...whose favorite Disney film is Fantasia!
Disney needs to start experimenting again. Wreck-It Ralph was fantastic as well as completely different from anything else in the studio's library. Big Hero 6 is the first Marvel-based animated film since the comic company was purchased outright and also looks refreshingly different. We need more of these and less princesses. Go back to the way the studio was in its heyday, and even the few decades afterwards if necessary. Kids will still buy the toys even of they don't pander to the Pretty Pretty Princess crowd.