Disney’s Princess Makeover of Merida Leads to Uproar and Petition

The confetti from Merida’s Royal Coronation at Cinderella’s castle in Walt Disney World has barely been swept up and she’s already learning what it means to be a real Princess. When it was announced that the star of 2012’s Brave would be crowned Disney’s 11th Princess on the morning of May 11th, they unveiled her new look for the product line.
The makeover, which apparently happened to all the Disney princesses when no one was looking, involved dropping 20 pounds, caking on some mascara and giving Merida a Keratin hair treatment. “There’s the hot hair, the coy expression,” wrote Peggy Orenstein, author of Cinderella Ate My Daughter. “Also the obligatory exposed shoulders, slimmer waist, and the bow and arrow replaced by… what is that, a low-slung belt?…Because, in the end, it wasn’t about being brave after all. It was about being pretty.”

The new look has caused such an uproar with the female empowerment website, A Mighty Girl, that they started a petition on Change.org to “Keep Merida Brave!” The appeal, which has already picked up over 100,000 signatures, states:

“The redesign of Merida in advance of her official induction to the Disney Princess collection does a tremendous disservice to the millions of children for whom Merida is an empowering role model who speaks to girls’ capacity to be change agents in the world rather than just trophies to be admired. Moreover, by making her skinnier, sexier and more mature in appearance, you are sending a message to girls that the original, realistic, teenage-appearing version of Merida is inferior; that for girls and women to have value — to be recognized as true princesses — they must conform to a narrow definition of beauty.”

The film’s original director, Brenda Chapman, has also blasted the makeover, telling the Marin Independent Journal that it is “a blatantly sexist marketing move based on money.” Chapman continued:

“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. 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.”


  • elliot Lobell

    well the new one just looks like really bad fan art.

    • http://www.facebook.com/FerGalicia J Fernando Galicia

      Yes but I’m sure is only an artist concept, I really think is only to show the detail in the new dress. Talk about overreacting, at the end is their property they can do whatever they want with it people still can choose watch it or not.

    • yourallsadgetalife

      I dont see what’s wrong with the character. People are making a big fuss over a cartoon character…. get a life all of you. We have real world-wide problems and your all going crazy over a character that isnt real. Disney will probably still release it, just because your all moaning doesn’t change anything.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jpcassidy John Paul Cassidy

    I suspected from the very beginning that something like this was going to happen (simply on the basis that Merida was a princess, who, despite being a Pixar creation, just happened to be connected with Disney, and thus, was open to be marketed as a Disney Princess). This is *not* cool. Brenda has every right to be outraged.

    Maybe Nostalgia Critic should read this and wonder why there’s so much hate for the “Disney Princess” brand…

    • http://twitter.com/somethingbetter Katie Better

      NC made some great points as to the problem with the brand and are pretty much in-line with Chapman’s statement as well. The idea of most Queens being evil, and Princesses balancing the availability and lack of power/responsibility was a nice point I hadn’t thought of before. This article only backs up what he discussed, really.

      For those who haven’t seen it… It’s a worthy addition to the discussion if you watch through the whole thing: http://blip.tv/nostalgiacritic/nostalgia-critic-what-s-with-the-princess-hate-6558321

      • http://www.facebook.com/jpcassidy John Paul Cassidy

        Yeah, that was a really good point that NC brought up! There are good queens (and you do see some in Disney tales), but an evil queen has become an old-hat stereotype (and I think that there also must be an underlying hatred of women in power, even if it was a good woman; but maybe that’s just me).

      • http://twitter.com/SarahJesness SarahJesness

        Pretty much this. The outrage over the princess line isn’t just about being shallow, it’s a power and responsibility thing. The “princess” has the wealth and prestige without power or responsibility, so it’s kind of disturbing to many people to see little girls aspire to be that. Merida wasn’t materialistic and she had some power and strength. Adding her to the princess line in this way only confirms people’s anxieties.

    • Klyph14

      I think the day that Brenda sold her creation to a multi-billion dollar company that consistently made bastardized versions of it’s films and characters via merchandise or straight to dvd sequels for 30+ years, she gave away the right to be outraged when her creation was used in a way she did not agree with.

      • http://www.facebook.com/jpcassidy John Paul Cassidy

        Well, yeah, that’s a good point. If you want to do something personal that has meaning to you, yeah, I really wouldn’t do it at a major studio like Disney or Pixar. Look what happened to Chris Sanders. (But then, at least AMERICAN DOG/BOLT turned out better than how Richard Williams’ THE THIEF AND THE COBBLER did!)

        But still disheartening, though. And not in the least surprising.

        • trn

          lest we forget what the emperor’s new groove almost was

          • http://www.facebook.com/jpcassidy John Paul Cassidy

            Yeah, don’t get us started on that. :P

  • http://twitter.com/PhilWillis Phil Willis

    I used to think I wasn’t good enough at drawing to get hired by Disney.
    Now I know that simply isn’t true.

    • J

      That’s really insulting to the original artist who probably had no say in the matter. I don’t care how good you are.

  • Jeff

    It’s a CARTOON character not a role model.

    • CCannon

      Dude, that’s like saying, “Harry Potter isn’t a role model” or any actor or being in a fictional universe isn’t one because it’s “not real.” Just because that person or situation isn’t real doesn’t mean it’s not influential to someone or that it doesn’t emote realistically. If Merida isn’t a role model, then what is?

  • barney miller

    Much ado about nothing. I can’t believe there’s been such a strong reaction to what simply appears like a badly drawn and painted version of Merida. Put the painted, 7-11 cup versions of ANY of Pixar’s characters against their models from the films and see how different they look. They’re ALWAYS off model when translated to 2D.

    Besides, the film will continue to be enjoyed by young girls long after they’ve scraped the last bit of frosting off the birthday party plates emblazoned with this airbrushed train wreck.

    • Animator606432

      Exactly, I don’t really understand why anyone is in a uproar about this. I wasn’t a fan of the original character design anyway.

  • http://the-animatorium.blogspot.com/ Natalie Belton

    What surprises me is that people have started making such a big uproar now, not earlier. For example, take Belle and Mulan, both very strong and independent female characters (Belle does’t start out as royalty, and Mulan isn’t even a princess), but both are also portrayed in the lineup the same cringe worthy way that other Disney leads often are.

    • Allison

      What apparently needs to be noted is that Disney is totally responsible for people seeing these “strong and independent female cartoon characters” in the first place.

    • Timmy

      I heard they’re going to make Black Widow a Disney princess as well.

  • Malificent

    The redesign is very tastefully done. In no way is this version “sexy” or “sexist” or “prettier”.. She looks just as awkward and dorky as she did in the movie. So they put some mascara on her.. big deal. It makes her eyes pop. No, you don’t need mascara to look pretty.. but we’re not talking about 3D IMAX movie Merida anymore, we’re talking about static 2D clip art Merida. The mascara was needed to make her flat cartoon face more prominent and also a little stylized.. Her hair looks the same, her waist looks the same, and remains the same size as all the other princesses.. They respectfully lightened up her dress because the original color is just too dark for consumer products.. and they got rid of the bow and arrow because they’re not practical for merchandise either.. If her dolls need accessories it’ll be the bow and arrow. They kept Merida pretty true to the original.. Even her face is still round as a circle. People just like to complain about Disney and the princesses especially. They made slight changes and they’re not subliminal.. if they wanted to sex her up, they would have.

    • http://twitter.com/ChappellTracker Chappell Ellison

      If you think the restyled Merida is “awkward and dorky,” then I’ve got a bunch of junior high pictures of myself that I need to burn.

      None of this would be a problem if the princesses weren’t solely marketed to little girls. The new Merida has a fit-and-flare dress that accentuates child-bearing hips. She now has an off-the-shoulder dress. Her eyes are more come-hither than childish. Yes, the changes are subtle, but that’s why they are all the more disconcerting. And of course, not to mention offensive to the original artists to have their work manipulated for marketing purposes.

      • Josh

        I’m not personally outraged by the changes or the idea of the company tweaking the work for marketing purposes, she is the property of Disney after all. Did nobody expect this?
        And another thing: Who else are Disney princesses going to be marketed to? Teenage girls? Boys? Adults? I think they’re just a company trying to make money by targeting their demographic audience, I wouldn’t that against them.

      • Allison

        Simply Disney created all the women characters that you all love. Young girls look at these images and remember the story of the movie and remember the story lines of women who uniquely came against a big problem in their lives that they overcame. Girls love these women for being female life heroes.

        I think your child bearing hips comment is just creating adult fodder. If I call them child bearing hips then it is so! If I say eyes with a come-hither look then it is so, disconcerting! then it is so. I think you need to soften your outlook as no child would think this way. They would only say- Merida looks pretty.

    • Melissa Roskos

      I heartily agree with you. The changes to the Disney Princesses are SUBTLE, though. I like the changes, but I also like the original character designs. Nobody on this planet should be outraged over SIMPLE CHANGES. Yes, Disney Changed the outfits, hair, and added A LITTLE BIT of Makeup. THIS IS NOT WORTH COMPLAINING ABOUT. I love the disney princesses, regardless of what changes Disney does to their appearences.

    • Steve Carras

      MERIDA…DORKY?(Caps intended.)
      Steve C.

  • Cheese

    Well, that’s Disney for you. Always trying to impress boys since “Brave” is a princess movie, and boys just couldn’t stand princess cooties. Disney buffed up Merida to make boys do the googoo eyes on her. Hey Tex Avery, make way for the whistle and wolf cry!

  • DarylT

    Didnt she wear a that light green dress throughout that archery scene in the film

  • Noah Dorsey

    In fairness- all of the princesses in the picture above are off-model. Cinderella and Briar Rose aren’t even recognizable.

  • jmahon

    I want to point out that those choices were probably made apart fro Lauren Faust, as these mini-movies and gimmicks began the moment she left the show. Everyone who knew about it, knew this was going to happen, and it did, nobody is surprised, just disappointed. Not because I’m any particular fan of MLP- but because one of the only “girls” shows that wasn’t pandering bottom-barrel-scraping airtime filler has been reduced to just that, and now there is nothing.

    • Acey

      Why are you making a point to defend Faust here? The comment you’re replying to didn’t mention her at all.

  • John A

    It’s the Barbie syndrome- all females must conform to the acceptable proportionsas decreed by Mattell. Pixar used to be above this-none of the females in the incredibles were forced into the Barbie mold.

    • mick

      if you count this as barbie syndrome then you must include Mirage from the Incredibles

    • Animator606432

      “All females most conform to acceptable proportions decreed by Mattel”. Who are “all females” you speak of? All females created by Mattel? Well, yes, because they are owned by Mattel and they get to chose what they look like. Same thing with Pixar/Disney, by attempting to tell them how THEIR designs should look your no better then those you are calling sexist.

  • John A

    Since you brought it up, I’m not a big fan of Belle’s new “bed hair”, either. They all look trampy.

  • jhalpernkitcat

    I don’t like what they did to Cinderella’s hair. The dress is fine, the hair makes her look like a teenager going to prom.

    As for Merida–I totally get why people are upset, she’s supposed to be this rebellious Scottish princess who hates tight pretty dresses. She’s supposed to be breaking the mold of typical Disney Princesses, not fitting right in with them.

  • George_Cliff

    Merida should look more like this:

    http://www.cartoonbrew.com/shorts/transe-le-gros-by-julie-faure-brac-81898.html

    This flap is absolutely ridiculous..

    • Lou

      I don’t understand the outrage, especially by the creator(s). Disney is one of the largest mega-corporations on planet Earth. I don’t care for Disney Princesses or that culture of branding. And I’m not a businessman, but even I know that if you make something for Disney Co., they own it. That means if they want your character(s) to sell diapers, be fat, skinny, team up with Hannah Montana, or all of the above and then some..Guess what? They can do whatever the hell they want with your creation. If a major corporation buys you out for 7.4 Billion Dollars, don’t you think they will have a few things to say about their “product”? That doesn’t mean I agree with what they do, but it’s not my company. If you want to make something that YOU own, you either have to make it outside of that mega-corporate system (independent film, graphic novel, lemonade stand) or you have to become Walt Disney Co. How can one person become that? Even Walt Disney doesn’t own Walt Disney anymore (not just because he is deceased, mind you. RIP). The machine has outgrown its maker. That is the pattern throughout history. When Lucasfilm became an Empire, a small band of rebels was creating what would become PIXAR. They branched out and started their own company. Now that company has merged with and been consumed by another Empire, on a scale which we may never see again. “the glory that was Greece, and the grandeur that was Rome” -Poe.

      It’s the same story throughout time. What or Who will that next, small band of independent filmmakers be and when? Only time will tell. In the meantime, if you want to make something that you can really call your own, do your work, save some money, take a break and make your own personal project. And be quiet…

      then send it out into the World. That is the present and possible future of Animation.

  • Elana Pritchard

    Every time Disney does something uncaring or horrible everyone acts all shocked. Guess what? They DON’T care and it’s just going to keep happening.

    They’re a corporation and they’re just in it to make money. If you don’t like them, don’t work for them and don’t support their products.

  • mud

    There was a previous ‘princess’ version of Merida already:

    http://www.therotoscopers.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/disney-princess-merida.jpg

    Quite a difference, especially in dress-shape, gesture and facial expression. Makes this ‘new’ Merida look like a lifeless mannequin…

  • mick

    AMEN!

  • http://twitter.com/DawnEmperor 木Erik木

    Princesses aren’t evil per se, but when Disney’s most iconic characters(or more accurately their interpretations of iconic characters) become homogenized into just “women waiting to be saved” toylines, it’s also insulting to the original films. Cinderella was passive but to quote the NC she was optimistic and kind. The Renaissance women were fairly pro-active for their time; Belle and Ariel were active protagonists, even if their motivations could be iffy. If it’s a toyline on “Disney women” that’d be alright, but specifically princesses locks these characters in a rather inconsistent paradigm. What really gives qualification as a Disney princess?

  • http://www.facebook.com/bodhipuff Stephanie Phillips

    Actually they did change Mulan quite a bit. She’s significantly different.

    • jmahon

      and I don’t think they could’ve properly translated Merida into 2D in any other way… I’dve done the same thing. Besides, it’s nice to have a princess who isn’t shaped like everyone else. It’s been a bit offending to see everyone yell at the body shape I ended up with for being “TOO SEXY!!” …I beg to differ!

  • Are they That different?

    Am I the only one that finds very little difference between the two? the new one is *ever so slightly* thinner in the waist… But she still has chubby cheeks, roundish face, and wide hips…. I don’t see what the big fuss is about.

  • mick

    Outrage outrage! The good news is that disney have taken into account the incessant bleating and decided to make a movie about a plain girl who has to struggle to get by like EVERYBODY does. She works in a job she never wanted has a good heart and works hard to meet her mortgage payments while raising her children in a loving environment like EVERYBODY does. In the end she simply lives her life of quiet desperation in the way EVERYBODY does. They expect to make about 12 quid.

    Disney does what they do, coca cola does what they do, mcdonalds does what they do, baywatch wasn’t popular because of the acting. Are these things worth while in the great scheme of things?

    Life sucks, get a helmet

    In regards to the design change, it appears to be a matter of a lobotomy and a wash rather than any great size difference

  • wgan

    Hell, whats the big deal, Merida IS a princess and just as dumb helpless screw up and dependent as other (even more), the character isn’t rolled out as a strong one in the original feature, so whats this fuss about??

  • http://twitter.com/SarahJesness SarahJesness

    As much as I like sparkly Disney princess crap, I’m not too happy about this. What really makes it bad is how much it goes against the movie and the character. Merida outright rejects the whole “princess” thing, she doesn’t care about her looks or none of that crap. I can tolerate the hair, since it’s hard to put her kind of hair into 2D without it looking weird, but everything else is crazy. This wouldn’t be so bad if they kept the bow and arrow…

  • http://twitter.com/SarahJesness SarahJesness

    I think what makes people annoyed with Merida’s changes is that Merida outright rejects the whole princess thing. The other characters do not. Most of the other Disney princesses already have curvy figures, makeup, and flowy hair. Merida didn’t have any of those things until the princess makeover.

  • http://twitter.com/kdcartoon Khalid al Dakheel

    This image also proves how 2D is much prettier & appealing than CG. I mean Look! COMMON! sorry “3D” ppl ^^

  • mo

    hands are reeeaally hard to draw, even for the wunderkind @ diztopia. oh wait. wouldn’t they have a built-in macros for hands now, in mudbox? just hit F17 or something a boom! princess hands!

    • Luke

      This is consumer products after all, not animation.

  • http://the-animatorium.blogspot.com/ Natalie Belton

    A horrifying notion, but I doubt that will never happen (thankfully). All of Miyazaki’s female leads don’t have the same ‘marketing potential’ as the Disney ones do. Also, Princess Mononoke is far too complicated and bloody for Disney to put her in the lineup. Heck, the only one of Miyazaki’s leads that even has a remote chance of this happening to her would be Sheeta from Castle in the Sky.

    • http://hoyvinglavin64.livejournal.com/ rubi-kun

      No. Sheeta’s, like, 8, isn’t she? They wouldn’t sexualize her like they do the Disney Princesses.

      Also, Ghibli’s contract with Disney is only for movie distribution rights, not merchandise. Viz is in charge of any movie tie-in books, Japanese companies import Totoro toys and such to stores here, the only merchandise Disney’s gotten to release of a Ghibli movie was a Ponyo plush toy that came packed with the DVD.

  • Josh

    File me under not convinced.
    The minute differences between those two images is considered sexist?? I can’t stand this age of rampant PCness in animation. Both images are so inoffensive I find it incredible people are even discussing this.
    I’ll admit she’s a tiny bit thinner and you can see the tiniest smidge more shoulder. Again, such a tiny difference I wouldn’t have noticed.
    Sure, she’s more lightly colored and has that unpleasant airbrushed photoshop look but isn’t that par for the course for the merchandising of Disney Princesses?
    Here I though sexism meant discrimination based on sex but clearly more enlightened 21sts century thinkers have deduced that the true face of misogyny is a gold trim on dresses.
    Sheesh! I’m going to watch Red Hot Riding Hood. Pure cartoon fun undampened by political correctness.

  • mick

    It’s a major presumption to imagine 8 year olds as dumb enough not to notice this isn’t real and exasperating that once again someone feels the need to be offended on behalf of someone else. I thought it was the job of executives to exercise such poor judgement

  • Trevour

    The difference being this is a perpetual Disney cash cow very specifically marketed to little girls and their parents being sucked into a manufactured brand of “princess” frenzy. Barneys was a one time thing, stylizing classic Disney characters for a single holiday fashion campaign.

  • Andrew Breneman

    Every Disney Princess is drawn like this. I want to know where the outrage over Cinderella, Belle and Ariel is? They are not even recognizable.

    • John A

      I’m outraged. There, are you happy now?

  • DarylT

    The only thing that annoys me is how she puts down the other princesses like there is something wrong with them. There is nothing wrong with teaching girls to kind and considerate.

  • T.Bellicose

    Disney owns Pixar. They can do whatever they like with the characters. It is a push for uniformity. Disney does not want little girls to be confused about their roles. Assimilating all the female characters into princesses makes better sense from a marketing standpoint.
    Next year, Vanellope von Schweetz will undoubtedly be inducted as princess, as she is already royalty. Expect Violet Parr from ‘The Incredibles’ as a possible canidate.

    If Disney has monstrous ideas about role models for little girls, then their films should not be seen.

    • http://twitter.com/DawnEmperor 木Erik木

      That’s a bit of a false dichotomy there. Many of us enjoy Disney but we of course have our criticisms about the company and how it treats its characters. It shouldn’t be a matter of “accepting everything they do” or not.
      Besides, one of the main themes of this dispute is how the merchandising and marketing distorts the original messages of the films. Merida was a princess who explicitly rejected many of the traits associated with the Disney princess line.

      If we’re so complacent that we need everything “simplified” for marketing sake, then it really makes a point about our culture. If we’re going to look at young children as just people who need instant gratification with degrading toys, then that’s what we’re just going to get. Maybe it’s time to move beyond that

  • Josh

    I don’t accept the idea that cartoon characters should be role-models and impart morals on kids. When I was a kid (and even today) I like cartoons that entertained me, I couldn’t stand Dora the explorer.
    Making characters role-models makes them boring and formulaic.

  • Nikhita

    This is ridiculous! I can’t believe people are still arguing about this. What’s wrong with having a female lead that’s half pretty half brave? The makers have creative liberty to decide how they want to tell their story!

  • Eddie

    Looks like the redesign fits right in with the line up of the other redesigns. Same style, same Glitter, same look. I see no issue here. They’re selling Toys and merchandise with these illustrations. The original movie will still be there in all it’s Originality. :p

  • http://www.facebook.com/fabiovianna Fabio Vianna
  • Animator606432

    I guess i’m the only person who doesn’t have a problem with this. All I see is Disney taking advantage of a market that has been proven to make money. No one seemed to care about Disney closing down their 2-d animation depart, but redesigning a character most people I know didn’t really care to much about.

  • IndiAnimator

    I really don’t think her redesign is that big of a deal. She was just re-designed to match the other vector designs of the princess line up that is a huge cash grab at Walmart right now. I am happy that people are upset though only because I think it’s a shame that Lasseter tried to have PIXAR do a princess movie. He brags so much in The PIXAR Story how he wanted PIXAR to have a different format in storytelling and now he is just like Michael Isner or Jeffery Katzenberg and is just a whore for merchandising.

  • Alatariel

    She looks terrible like that!!!

  • anonymous

    i can understand the outfit change, they want the line-up to be glitzy and glamorous. what annoys me most is how theyve totally subverted what makes a lot of these characters unique. rapunzel by rights shouldnt have the long golden hair anymore, in the end flynn destroyed it to save her from gothel, and a lifetime of subjugation. pretty important dont you think? to still be portrayed with the symbol of enslavement to an abusive mother is pretty insulting to rapunzel. Merida also really should still have a bow, its part of who she is, and getting rid of it seems like theyre depriving her of what made her confident enough to be independent and stand up to a stupid tradition.

    im praying that the next disney princess is another woman of colour, or at least doesnt have the stick thin tiny waist huge bust and hips bodytype. i mean theres nothing wrong with having a thin white princess, its just annoying when the line-up consists almost exclusively of thin white princesses. representation is important, and when youre a girl growing up in a society that teaches you to diet and be white and be ‘beautiful’ (whatever that is), it can seriously damage you and your self esteem. so i hope the next story they choose focuses on another woc (and hopefuly features a larger female cast unlike frozen)