Disney’s Merida redesign raises debate on toys merchandising

As Merida, from Pixar’s animation Brave, was introduced as the 11th Disney princess, she suffered what some may call an extreme makeover. The fearless, tomboyish girl became someone she fought the entire movie not to be: a girlie girl.

For merchandizing purposes, the princess image was changed, representing the heroin in a sexier way. Her waist is smaller, the bow and arrow are gone, even her eyes are changed. The dress she wears, a distinct mark oh the characters dismay for fancy, uptidy clothes, was transformed into the very thing she wouldn’t feel comfortable wearing.


The redesign created a major buzz online, especially after the website A Mighty Girl launched the petition online and the campaign Keep Merida Brave.  The initiative had full support of Brave‘s writer and director, Brenda Chapman, who argued on her website that not only Merida should stay true to her character, but consumers should be more critical about what images were being sold to their kids and how those images could affect their perception of themselves.

According to Chapman, one of the issues is the message the makeover would send to Brave‘s fans: “Kids liked the original Merida, then suddenly, she changes to be what she hates in the film. What is that saying to the kids? That Merida was wrong to be self confident about what she looks like/who she is. She must be improved to be ‘good enough’.”

She says she has been so vocal about Merida’s change precisely because studios should be more concerned about the influence images and movies have on children and the public in general. “Sadly, I see studios continuing to objectify female characters by the types of roles they are given and the costumes they are forced to wear.”

“Companies need to be aware of the message they are sending children. Just as cigarette companies are no longer allowed to use cartoon characters that would attract children to their adds, in an attempt to keep them from smoking, I believe putting sexual and unrealistic images of girls and women, cartoons and live, have an adverse affect on young girls’ self image”, explains Chapman. “However, I am not saying that there should be absolutely no girlie girl sexy images out there, I’m just saying that there should be a balance. Merida was supposed to start that trend.”

Since the debate started, last month, Disney claims that the redesign was only part of a “limited line of products”.  Both A Mighty Girl and Brenda Chapman are still waiting for the company statement saying all merchandising products are going to maintain the original image. The Keep Merida Brave campaign website states that “contrary to reports on various new outlets, Disney has not pulled the new sexy design” and “the madeover Merida can still be found throughout the Disney Consumer Products page”.

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