Robot 6

The not-so-Brave makeover and subtle backpedaling

merida-redesign

Brave‘s Merida looking… different

In case you thought it was only comics that unnecessarily sexed up female characters, fear not: It happens in all media — and the newest guilty party is Disney.

On Saturday, the studio inducted Merida of the Pixar film Brave as the 11th Disney Princess. More accurately, it inducted some alternate-reality Merida who’s thinner, wears her dress off her shoulder and exposes more cleavage. A redesign of the character appeared on the corporation’s website in advance of the induction at Disney World, and faster than you can say “Wonder Woman’s pants,” someone launched a Change.org petition, which is now approaching 200,000 signatures. Disney removed the images of the redesigned Merida, not that it matters; the Internet never forgets.

I’m being somewhat flip about this but the whole thing is kind of amazing. I loved Brave, and thought it was the animated-princess story that was so overdue. It was so refreshing to watch an animated movie that stepped away from cliches to give us a female lead who isn’t pining after a man, can skillfully defend herself, and looks and acts reasonably like a girl approximately her age. And it not once felt like an agenda movie. Really, it’s pretty stupid that these kinds of characteristics feel like such a breath of fresh air.

A major entertainment company should have a sense of its own properties — Disney must know what Brave represented to segments of its audiences. Surely executives read reviews, or had assistants read to them if they are above such things. Maybe a quick summary in a PowerPoint presentation? I just don’t understand how they could be so tone deaf when preparing Merida for the Disney Princess induction.

It’s worth pointing out that the informal tradition of Disney princesses has now become a formal brand, which is why the character was redesigned. The Disney Princess brand has books, CDs, playsets and other merchandise that essentially mashes together these characters into the same world, or at least the same packaging. Putting together disparate characters from Pocahontas, Mulan and Cinderella might seem too jarring, so the distinctive styles are toned down to create a unified look that the redesigned Princesses all share. While I think they go a little too far with some of them, making some almost unrecognizable from their movie counterparts, it makes sense from a branding and marketing standpoint. However, redesigning Merida isn’t the problem; it’s the choices they made. Giving her a tiny waist, and exchanging her bow and arrows for excessive makeup and an alluring look that ages her a good 10 years is counter to so much of the character. It’s almost as if Disney didn’t watch its own movie. In the aftermath of the protests and condemnations, you’ll notice that Merida’s page now uses an image from the movie, while every other Princess has the more unified look. They also no longer show the group shot (another oddity is that Tiana from The Princess and the Frog is missing in the Visit the Princesses menu at the very bottom of the page).

So did Disney listen to the protests? Maybe. Such a response isn’t without precedent. Earlier this month, Disney backed down from registering a trademark for the Mexican holiday Dia de los Muertos after a Change.org petition charged the corporation with trying to exploit Mexican religion and culture. Of course, Disney said it dropped the filing because it decided to go with a different name for its movie, making no explicit mention of public pressure. But it’s not too hard to read between the lines and see the blowback at least partly influenced the decision.

Time will tell if Disney eventually releases a new redesign for Merida. About a week ago, a Disney spokesman told the Disney fan blog Inside the Magic that different style guides would be used for different products, “so some images of Merida may be in 2D and some may still be 3D – it all depends on the product and what type of art is most appropriate.” The petition continued to gain signatures, and the film’s co-director/screenwriter Brenda Chapman protested the changes, calling them “blatant sexist marketing.” In the meantime, Disney downplayed the redesign by making changes to the Disney Princess website and using a pretty faithful real-life version of the character for the coronation.

I’m hoping this whole incident will inspire Disney to rethink the Disney Princess designs. Maybe instead the studio should go for something more inspired, such as Amy Mebberson’s adorable yet feisty Pocket Princesses fan cartoons. That may not ever happen but it’s encouraging to know Disney isn’t completely tone deaf as to why Merida is important to young girls. Maybe I was just feeling sappy, but this “I am a Princess” video of a young archer explaining how she overcame the difficulties of being one of the only girls into archery kind of got me. It shows that while big entertainment companies can make some questionable choices, it’s really encouraging when they get it right.

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43 Comments

I just saw this article and wanted to let you know that Disney reached out again today offering a thorough response to the controversy: http://www.insidethemagic.net/2013/05/exclusive-disney-bravely-responds-to-merida-makeover-outrage-says-2d-new-look-was-for-limited-use-only/

She’s not “sexed up” and she is not thinner than in the film. Her look has just been finessed to fit the merchandising portfolio of the Disney Princess brand.The other princesses have also been given a more “updated” look recently because recent focus group studies showed that young girls were finding some of the dresses and hairstyles “outdated”. Giving a female character an innocent “Prom dress” treatment is not the same as sexing her up.

it looks to me like they just animated her in 2D, the dress is a little more off the shoulders. I attribute the makeup to be an attempt to recreate the more real skin tones of 3D models. 90% of her body is still covered by clothes, and she always had an anatomically impossible body. I am not insensitive to this kind of thing in the least, to me it seems like she got a slight makeover for her coronation, I would dress up a little to for such a thing too.

Fozzielovemarvel

May 15, 2013 at 3:54 pm

I have to be honest in saying that no one should really care that much about this. The Disney Princess Gallery is nothing more than a marketing staple for Disney to sell more toy dolls to little girls and give people in the Disney (and obviously comic realm) something to be upset about. Again, I throw out a notorious, “Who cares!”

If Disney wants to put her in a Princess Leia outfit and strap her to Jabba the Hut, they have the right to do so because it is their intellectual property. I welcome the change because to be quite honest, I thought the movie was a flop anyways.

And, a twisted hip is not sexy. Who comes up with this mess? AAHHH! Stop disappointing me world!

The whole outrage over Merida’s redesign is upsetting. I mean, look at her 2D rendering, anyone who finds that “sexualized” is obviously sick. There’s nothing sexy about the redesign. It’s just the same old Merida with some glitter on.

Enough with these ” It was so refreshing to watch an animated movie that stepped away from cliches to give us a female lead who isn’t pining after a man, can skillfully defend herself” remarks. Are you all forgetting that Disney gave us Pocahontas and Mulan in the 90s? Those were brave women. Merida is just a spoiled brat compared to them.

Every princess in the line were redesigned this year. I don’t see anyone complaining about them either.

“In the aftermath of the protests and condemnations, you’ll notice that Merida’s page now uses an image from the movie, while every other Princess has the more unified look.”

This is false. Merida’s Disney Princess page always featured her original design. The same thing happened to Rapunzel after her coronation. She was the only princess in the original design, but eventually they updated it with the unified look.

As for the controversy: People are complaining as if Merida is wearing some thong and exposing her ass and breats. Lol. She looks exactly the same, except in 2D form. Drama queens.

She looks exactly the same as before, but rendered with regular 2D art.

And being involved in the marketing campaign for Brave (and many other Disney and Pixar films) the only reason the character was made too be so “butch” was because Disney are constantly worried that no one will go watch a movie about a female character — that is why we had to dictate that she be surrounded by lots of men in the campaign, both trailering and print. This is an ugly truth found in the briefs for a lot of Pixar films and movie studios in general. So women need to be aware that although over-sexualising women is something that needs to be stopped, on the other hand, by encouraging more and more masculinity in the depiction of female characters, women are inadvertently subscribing to misogyny. If a lot of young girls naturally gravitate towards Disney Princess merchandise in a retail environment (which they do, like Tina Fey’s daughter does, much to her comical dislike) then we should allow girls to feel comfortable and proud of being the way they are and liking the things they like. We far too often make fun of things for being “girly” and impose misogynistic values in Western society.

I’d kind of disagree with all you naysayers as to this, there is a definite trend when seeing the actual and revised versions side by side – full flowing hair instead of tangled thatch, waist is now thinner than head, more developed chest and loads of ornate glittery bits on a character whose defining traits included “only liked wearing practical clothes”.

Which isn’t to say I thought Brave was a particularly great film (indeed, Mulan certainly was better), but I approve of this as a stand amoungst what is a general trend towards every female character being thinner, bustier, prettier, wearing more pink etc, just because young girls need some variety in their role models beyond just ethnicity-swaps of women with the exact same physique and fashion tastes every single time.

Looks like Disney already caved in.

They also gave her Jennifer Lawrence’s face, which is an improvement.

PretenderNX01

May 15, 2013 at 4:27 pm

I don’t think “sexed up” is the right phrase but you can see how they tried to make her look a little older and glam her up a bit

http://wac.450f.edgecastcdn.net/80450F/ksoo.com/files/2013/05/Merida1.jpg

Her waist and rib cage are smaller in the revamp (with a bit more of a bustline) and her dress comes off the shoulder more and the eye-liner and lipstick is a bit much.

And she has a bit more submissive pose when crossing her arms with her head down on the sample that CBR has at the top of the page.

They could have at least kept her freckles. Miss Martian on young Justice had a few freckles
http://dreager1.files.wordpress.com/2012/06/young-justice-miss-martian.jpg

Fozzielovemarvel:”I welcome the change because to be quite honest, I thought the movie was a flop anyways.”
And how did you think the movie was a “flop”? Is it just because you didn’t care for it? It’s domestic gross was $237,000,000 with an additional $300,000,000 overseas.

The full flowing hair was already implemented in the various dolls that were released in stores around the time of the film’s release. You can’t manufacture dolls with tangled bed hair and expect them to sell of the shelves. Her waist is as thin as it is in the film. It depends on which publicity still you look at. In some her waist is winder and in some her waist is thinner depending on whether it’s frontal or side view. She isn’t any bustier either. That’s just creative liberty of the illustrator. And it is very common practice to produce more commercially appealing artwork of characters for merchandise. Look at the new Ultimate Spider-Man cartoon. In the cartoon, he looks older, and he has a washed out brownish orange colour with greyish blue. But in the official artwork poses for merchandise and adverts and dvd covers, he has bright red and blue with wider, whiter eyes and he’s smaller, less muscly and younger in physique. OBVIOUSLY.

Yes they didn’t turn into a centerfold, but they did increase her sex appeal. Her frick’n creator Chapman even says so, so I can’t believe anyone would try to debate it.

If Jack Kirby was upset about how Marvel was marketing one of the characters he helped, everyone here wouldn’t question it, they’d just want blood.

And here’s the ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN examples.

This is what he looks like in the show:

http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-sekuM63YeGA/T34zOmkv_xI/AAAAAAAAB_A/x2tM6NoqPRQ/s1600/Ultimate+Spider-Man+animated+Series+Disney+XD_01.jpg

http://www.bleedingcool.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/m25.jpg

http://www.wired.com/geekmom/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/USM-Field-Trip.jpg

And THIS is what SPIDER-MAN looks like in the show’s official portfolio/merchandise assets:

http://tv.blogs.starnewsonline.com/files/2012/01/spidey.jpg

http://www.c21media.net/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/Ultimate-Spider-Man.jpg

NOTICE how the colors are brighter, the eyes more defined and chiseled and his body is shaped more like a tween instead of a muscley college student (in the show he’s neither – he’s supposed to be a teenager)

I’ll be honest. I didn’t even notice any difference.

The 2-D version of Merida is a bit more “mature” but not exactly in a bad way. To me she looks a little bit older than her movie version and fits that look. If they are trying to say, “This is Merida exactly as she was in the movie”…then I cry foul.
Merida from the movie was brash and very much a tom boy with a bow. That Merida would not be looking this sweetly and wouldn’t “pose” without her bow.
So…long post short…I can look at this Merida as what she would be in a few years after the events of the movie. It stands to reason she would girl up a little bit more as she reaches her late teens. It would be nice though if they would have kept her bow with her though. It was as much a part of her as her tangly red hair.

Even more shocking, in a large part of the movie Brave you could see a woman’s bear breasts.

In a strange way, the battle for Merida’s soul against the Disney brand parallels their own movie: a princess who battles against tradition, against being married off as simple property with a fear of losing her uniqueness, her “soul”, if you will. I really feel that Disney didn’t recognize the value of their own film and blew it with her Barbie redesign, but now, if they wake up and smell the pixels, they could have something far more valuable than a simple brand to market; they could have a character that even parents place on a pedestal.

“In case you thought it was only comics that unnecessarily sexed up female characters”

I don’t think that, I actually think US comics are oddly skewed towards censoring sexuality and reveling in violence. Sexuality and attraction are normal things, oddly vilified, and the hilarious focus on this piece shows how odd your complaints are.

Ariel is in a bikini top and Jasmine is in practically the same thing. She shows off the top of her shoulders and it’s suddenly offensive. This story is a waste of time.

I’m sorry, but……how exactly has she been “sexed up”??????? What you call cleavage is literally her clavicle. She’s not any thinner than she was in the movie. If anything she’s actually looking a little rounder. In the movie, she was stick thin. So they gave her an hourglass shape. So what?

Yeah, the internet doesn’t forget. You know what else it does….overreacts and jumps to conclusions without a speck of evidence.

The only problem was that they took her bow and arrow away and that they made her slightly skinnier. Both moves were unnecessary. Everything else was done to make her fit in with the other princesses (as in actually look like she came from the same species.) I think the backlash was excessive but it also surprised me as I thought people DIDN’T like Brave. I keep reading pro and casual reviews saying it was boring and a step backwards for Pixar.

This article and most of the other’s crying foul are overblown crap.

How about this? We put every female character in a Burkha – would that make everyone happy?

Sooner or later, companies are just going to start ignoring all of this constant outrage. She’s a bit older and more mature than she was in the film, but that’s just so she can be counted among the young adult princess set. She isn’t ‘sexed up’. It’s just an opinion of mine, but I’m starting to get tired of all the ridiculous petitions over things that I can’t imagine people really caring about. Disney doesn’t need to design things by the committee of 10,000 anonymous people on the internet hunting around for the next big thing to get mad about.

Darth Eradicus

May 15, 2013 at 8:44 pm

I do think we’ve hit another low with all the outrage over this. I think it’s just a case that it was a conversion of a CGI character into a 2D one that is consistent with the other Disney princesses. Merida has not been remotely “sexed up” and if you think she’s showing any cleavage, you need to get your mind (not your eyes) checked.

I didn’t even notice any difference.

Seriously.

Barely notice anything difference..

definetly not as controversial as yesterday MLP Equestria Girls

God forbid parents talk to their kids instead if expecting multi-billion-dollar corporations to raise them.

SpellingChamp

May 16, 2013 at 3:31 am

Don’t you mean “backpedaling”?

Andrew Collins

May 16, 2013 at 4:07 am

I will agree that there are some serious image/portrayal issues with women in our popular media, but this? I thought this was overblown from minute one. She’s drawn slightly different then her 3D rendering, but “blatantly sexist”? Her complexion isn’t as ruddy, her shoulders are bared and…that’s about it. I guess we can see that she has boobs, but I would hardly call those bra busters. I guess some people just like finding things to be upset about.

There’s certainly a change you can’t deny, but I couldn’t think of less of an issue concerning a female character being “sexed up” Oh no, those shoulders are rated R!

Yup this issue is not worth 1/4 of the press it has received. Total non issue. Updated art to fall in place with the rest of Disney’s characters, whoopie.

I wish they’d sexy up the fairies.

Mulan was a far better example for young females (and also had a tighter plot)

Are you serious? She looks exactly the same except her dress is sparkly….Grow the f*** up!

So is the predominant argument here “They totally could have sexed her up more. Her boobs aren’t massive and her ass isn’t hanging out, so it all looks the same to me. Bitches ruinin’ my fun.”

just the thought of the words ‘sexed up’ and ‘disney’ in the same sentence creeps me out. If your looking for sexy on a disney website you have serious problems.

To me she looks like she was given a ballgown, lotta people projecting

Before we get doe eyed and lovey about Disney Princess videos . . .

http://princessfreezone.com/pfz-blog/2013/1/24/earth-to-disney-there-is-no-princess-gene.html

Kids should have choices . . . not types . . .

I…..really am not seeing the issue here. People are really calling this minor redesign “sexed up?” Oh no, she’s bearing one inch of shoulder! The Victorians would be proud. Just not seeing the deal here at all.

I guess you could argue that she’s been aged a tad, but even that is debatable and not by a large margin.

I didn’t think Brave was that great a movie either. Definitely one of Pixar’s weaker efforts. Probably my high expectations (which the trailers contributed to): I expected a rollicking fantasy epic adventure and got…..a very small scale story about a daughter and her mother’s relationship.

For some people who are commenting. Did you even watch AND understand the movie? Because if you did then you would know why this is a bad move from Disney.

If the character was the typical cliche of a princess then no one would mind the redesign (because no one would really care), but she wasn’t. Her look was part of who she was (just how comics mostly have women in bathing suits and few women in practical uniforms).

Some people are so against change (for better or worse), it’s not surprising to see even some women who side with misogynist like a weird case of Stockholm syndrome. To the point we’d get a scenario like “Why is she dressed so slutty all the time?” “Because she isn’t afraid to show her sexuality!”.

If you think all these types of things are no big deal. Then you’re blind (or ignorant) about the nature of messages and things we want our kids to learn as they grow up. All these minor things and subliminal messages add up through the years and make us who we are. We only wise up when we aren’t in that comfort zone any more and seek greater knowledge.

Oh, and for all you naysayers who think “Look! Another radical feminist who just lost her boyfriend and is on her period!”. I’m a single straight guy in his early 30’s. Not that it matters.

@Henry

Merida is the same kind of Disney Princess as most of the others. Strong willed, adventurous, in control of her own choices and destiny, and not interested in being betrothed to forced marriage. Same as Belle, Tiana, Rapunzel, Ariel, Mulan, Cinderella, Pocahonats, and although Sleepy Beauty did require saving, she didn’t want to marry the Prince. The difference is that Merida doesn’t end up finding her soul mate in the end because the story was about here rocky relationship with her mother. But they all end up with a gorge hunk du jour with slim fit bodies, gorgeous striking facial features and a cardboard personality – except for the Beast and the guy from Tangled. People need to stop reading into these things too much.

And having Disney as one of our clients, and knowing the company’s current infrastructure of who’s who, I know for A FACT that a woman was in charge of the decision for that redesign. These dolls are designed to be sold to females who DO want to feel like a princess and have a princess. Disney are not employed but the government and do not make it their mission to subliminally condition people to believe in anything. Such notions of Chomsky’s theories are silly and are only ever promoted by people who have never been employed to be a part of any major industry such as entertainment, or media, or retail, or licensing.

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