Robot 6

Does Disney really know what boys like?

Disney's "Tangled"

Disney's "Tangled"

Disney’s effort to broaden its appeal with boys — a drive that fueled its $4.3-billion purchase of Marvel — is behind the media giant’s decision to rename its next animated film.

The Los Angeles Times reports that Rapunzel was too “girl-centric” for a studio wincing from The Princess and the Frog, which performed well for a December opening but fell short of the ’90s heyday of Disney animation. The blame for the film’s $222 million worldwide gross fell on its inability to attract boys, who apparently won’t come near anything with “princess” in the title.

So last month, the studio replaced the name Rapunzel with Tangled, which executives felt was less gender-specific. But they didn’t stop there: The marketing campaign leading up to the Nov. 24 opening plays up the “Errol Flynn-styled” male lead, voiced by Chuck‘s Zachary Levi, with an emphasis on the movie’s swashbuckling elements.

In the article, a retired Disney and Pixar animator called the title change — Tangled tested well — “beyond stupid.” At NPR, Linda Holmes dubbed the makeover “a moronic decision … based on a complete underestimation of the varied, complicated cultural tastes of boys.”

Holmes builds a case against Disney’s decision by pointing to the Nickelodeon television series iCarly which, despite featuring two female leads, apparently draws young male viewers. And why is that?

“Because iCarly‘s main characters have characteristics that, unfortunately, traditional kids’ movies usually assign to boys and not to girls,” Holmes wrote. “In other words, any aversion they have to princess movies has nothing to do with needing the movie to be about a boy, or even, to be honest, needing the movie not to be about a princess. I believe it comes from what they have been trained to believe princesses will be like — and they will not be like Carly.”

She also notes that The Little Mermaid, credited with starting the Disney Renaissance, did well with an obviously female lead. And Alice in Wonderland held its own back in the day, “despite not being called Hatter!

Disney’s repositioning for the young-male market extends to television, where last month it rebranded its Toon Disney channel as Disney XD to target boys ages 9 to 14. The Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes animated series will debut on that network this fall.

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Comments

12 Comments

laaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaame.

Steven R. Stahl

March 9, 2010 at 11:29 am

It seems that Disney has an identity problem. Is it a company that produces films with the intention of selling film-related merchandise to girls, that produces films that succeed as films and makes merchandising a secondary consideration, or that produces films designed to appeal to girls and tries to repackage and promote the films in ways that will appeal to boys as well? Disney might be better off letting Marvel reach boys, and letting Pixar reach general audiences, and not try to change its public image.

SRS

So a movie that makes double of what it cost produce needs to have blame placed on it? That’s stupid.

I thought Pixar was in charge of delivering what boys like. I mean … Cars.

Other than that, what’s wrong with doing another princess movie? Doesn’t Disney remember that before “Up” the only other animated film to receive an Academy Award nomination for Best Motion Picture was a princess movie? And, c’mon, Disney, your last attempts at boy’s adventure films — Atlantis and Treasure Planet — weren’t exactly tearing up the box office. Just put together a decent story and the crowds will come.

I’d buy the whole “The Princess and the Frog was marketed too much to girls” defense if the whole movie wasn’t specifically about girl power in a tiara.

I think comparing it to iCarly is a bit like comparing apples and oranges. My stepson, who is an avid TV watcher, was introduced to iCarly because of others, not because he was drawn to the show on his own. I think the show benefited more from word of mouth than anything. A movie doesn’t really have that advantage. It has to attract audiences from opening night or risk being dropped from the theater too soon.

Boys are fickle, and anything that might look like it is remotely aimed at girls doesn’t have a chance unless you can strap them to a chair and make them watch. My wife and I put on Matilda for my daughter to watch. Guess who had their eyes glued to the screen until the end? Yep. The 10 year old boy. I had told him before that it was a good movie, but he refused to watch because the lead was a girl. He is getting better and not judging things before actually watching/reading them (he agreed to see the Princess and the Frog), but he is a typical boy. Methinks Ms. Holmes is unfamiliar with the behavior of boys.

While I really do like the title Tangled…I just think that this is an entirely stupid move on Disney’s part.

I understand why they called it “Tangled.” Not just to get the boys well entertained, but there are scenes in the synopsis that have created an example of the word “tangled.” Such as the bandit, named Flynn Rider, who gets “tangled” with Rapunzel after she made a deal for her freedom. Flynn and Rapunzel’s romance can be “tangled.” Even Rapunzel’s hair can be “tangled” as well famous for her 70-feet of golden hair, or blonde either way.

I watched the teaser trailer of Disney’s Tangled, it is very cool, but did not show the name of the story. Which means that Disney COULD, but that depends on their version of the story perhaps, change the title back, even though changing the title from “Rapunzel” to “Tangled” is official. However, on the leaked trailer before the teaser trailer that I have watched as well, it has revealed the title based on Disney’s title change. It is really cool, but I do not have the taste buds on the new title that Disney made. In fact, I love the title logo that Disney made for Rapunzel, it is very beautiful, and entertaining. It makes me want to see it so much. But since they changed the title from “Rapunzel” to “Tangled,” perhaps I could see it, but I would find it a flop.

To tell you the truth, I find that title, “Tangled,” misleading, funny, but misleading. To me it is like watching a parody of Shrek, Hoodwinked, and Happily N’ever After put together. But I understand that Disney is sticking to one fairy tale by the Grimm Brothers. But I am afraid what they are doing is disrespectful to not only the Grimm Brothers, but to Walt Disney as well. Because Walt Disney would never change titles on fairy tales. He probably does not care about people like boys who complain about fairy tales with girlish titles being too girlish, the only thing that Disney cares about is not only making dreams come true for FAMILIES by adapting fairy tales into animated movies, but to fulfill famous fairy tale writers who has shaped the world of entertainment for every family around the world.

Also, those boys need to “Dig a Little Deeper (according to the song from “The Princess and the Frog”),” on the synopsis of fairy tales with girlish titles, because what if Disney arranges the synopsis to make it more interesting than typical? Maybe then, even though fairy tales have girlish titles, but it can have an excellent synopsis for not just girls or boys, but for FAMILIES to enjoy, learn, and love. The only way that fairy tales could be too girlish, including the title, is if the synopsis is too girlish. But through Disney’s experience when it comes to adapting fairy tales into animated movies with girlish titles, they are all FAMILY. That is what makes Disney very special.

By the way, I have no problem with “The Princess and the Frog,” that I saw. I give that movie infinite A+, especially when Dr. Facilier is a fun villain, evil, but fun. But I can say this, if changing the title is what Disney wants to do to get the boys well entertained along with the girls, it is their movie. But I have a little bit of a bad feeling that their next CG movie could be a flop based on the title change. But if they decided to change the title back to the way it is, then it could be a financial success…I hope.

The whole mentality that “girlie” movies need to be retooled because they’re “inferior” to boy movies needs to change. Afterall, I don’t see studios rushing to retool boy movies to make them “girlie.” Sure, they may throw in a girl character or a smootch scene, but Hollywood rarely creates a female character that isn’t cardboard-cut-out stereotypical these days.

I can live with Rapunzel’s title being changed to Tangled. That’s fine (though I wish it wasn’t so). But what I don’t like is the film introducing completely new macho characters, pumping up the action and danger, and destroying the atmosphere a Disney fairy tale is supposed to convey. Pixar already makes movies with action, danger, and humor. But we desperately need more singing, dancing, and romance. Rapunzel SHOULD have been that kind of film.

If anybody’s seen the rough-cut to the original trailer (not the 30 second “tower” teaser, but the one in storyboards) you’d know how bad I feel at the moment. It was awful in every sense of the word. On top of that, there was hardly any Rapunzel in it!

If you are reading this message board Disney, please take notes.

I’m sorry what? The Frog Princess was completely adequate. Forgettable characters. Milquetoast story. Do people not _remember_ how outstanding the Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, and the Lion King were? This is not complicated, and I suspect it is slightly closer to the heart of the issue than whether boys will go to see a movie with “Princess” in the title. Disney may be a monolith, but that doesn’t mean that all of its animated movies are of equal quality; different creative teams will produce work of varying merit. Why is there this assumption that all Disney movies will be raving hits, if we can only find the RIGHT DARN COMBINATION of marketing elements?

Create a great, engaging movie with a wonderful story, and they will come. I am not in the movie business but I am pretty sure of this.

a person who cares

May 3, 2010 at 9:05 pm

ok disney… why dont you just make an adventure movie like you used to back in the day that appeals to boys and girls. the rescuers, greatmouse detective, peter pan, robin hood. its not that difficult. boys dont want to see a princess movie, period. i dont care how the name is changed, or what kind of “swashbuckling behaviors” are applied to the secondary male character it still doesnt change the fact that this is about a girl. and boys would rather watch epic legendary male dominated movies. youre losing viewers and it doesnt help that there are cgi elements. just make a damn 2d adventure movie.

Jessie Nicole

May 31, 2010 at 2:07 pm

I think they should use `Tangled`as a sub-name, kind of like Pirates of the Caribbean: the Black Pearl, that way people would know that there is more to the story then just `Rapunzel,Rapunzel let down your hair`, but at the same time i keeps it`s fairy tale roots and in addition is also respectful to Walt Disney and the Grimm Brothers, like it could be something like `Rapunzel: the tangled years` or `Rapunzel: A tangled tale of epic proportions` or `Rapunzel: prepared to get tangled`

the options are endless, and in my opinion it`s a very ideal compromise.

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