Merida’s artistic “makeover” as part of becoming a full-fledged member of the Disney Princess brand has been met with major criticism, especially from her creator, former Pixar director Brenda Chapman. As reported by Animation Fascination and many other news sites, Merida, the heroine from Pixar’s 2012 animated hit Brave, was inducted into the Disney Princess “Royal Court” last weekend in a ceremony held at Walt Disney World. New artwork was created for Merida as part of the induction and for new Merida products for the Disney Princess product line. All Disney princesses have received a newly designed look over the last few months, which takes them more “off model” from how they looked in their respective films and makes them look more like, well, something else more sparkly.
Brenda Chapman had much to say about the new look for Merida, as reported by the Marin Independent Journal. Chapman called the new design “a blatantly sexist marketing move based on money.” She stated “There is an irresponsibility to this decision that is appalling for women and young girls. Disney marketing and the powers that be that allow them to do such things should be ashamed of themselves.”
Chapman based the character of Merida on her own daughter with the desire to create a positive role model for girls. She also said:
“I think it’s atrocious what they have done to Merida. When little girls say they like it because it’s more sparkly, that’s all fine and good but, subconsciously, they are soaking in the sexy ‘come hither’ look and the skinny aspect of the new version. It’s horrible! Merida was created to break that mold — to give young girls a better, stronger role model, a more attainable role model, something of substance, not just a pretty face that waits around for romance.”
Chapman has shared her feelings about Disney’s design decision with Disney CEO Bob Iger via email, she stated. A petition to Bob Iger has also been created on change.org asking Disney to ditch the Merida makeover.
A Disney spokesperson told Yahoo!:
“Merida exemplifies what it means to be a Disney Princess through being brave, passionate, and confident and she remains the same strong and determined Merida from the movie whose inner qualities have inspired moms and daughters around the world.”
[UPDATE – 05/16/13]
A representative from Disney Consumer Products, the group responsible for the Disney Princess product line and the group who created Merida’s new “look,” reached out to the Orlando-based Disney fan site InsidetheMagic.net in an attempt to set the record straight about controversial artistic changes to the Pixar-created heroine.
The Disney rep claimed:
“The whole Merida makeover controversy has been ‘blown out of proportion’ online in many respects, the most important of which is that they had no intention of changing who Merida is. The artwork that has circulated online depicting the new 2D rendering of Merida was intended to be used only on a ‘limited line of products’ as a ‘one-time stylized version’ [for the Disney Princess Royal Court ceremony]. They noted Disney uses different styles of art on characters regularly, changing them to fit their needs at the time.”
The Disney rep also claimed that “Merida has always appeared in her 3D form on the official Disney Princess website, contrary to what other sites have published.”
Brenda Chapman, former Pixar director and creator of Merida, had some choice things to say about this statement on her Twitter feed that are worth reading.
[UPDATE – 05/18/13]
Pixar has now chimed in on the Merida/Disney Princess artwork controversy. On the official Disney Pixar Facebook page as well as on the official Brave Facebook page, the following statement was posted yesterday:
“Merida has always been a different kind of princess–independent, strong and brave. We at Disney and Pixar are extremely proud of what Merida represents and that she exemplifies a sense of spirit, strength and character that sets her apart.”
“The recent impassioned response to the modification of Merida’s appearance serves to underscore our belief that people truly identify with this character that we are so proud of.”
“We are deeply committed to keeping the integrity and appearance of her character intact. We hope that Merida continues to help redefine what it means to be a princess.”
We’ll see what this commitment to the keeping intact the “integrity and appearance of her character” means in future product artwork and packaging.
Let us know what you have to say about the Merida makeover controversy in the comments below.