redshoes_sevendwarfs redshoes_sevendwarfs
Feature Film

Korean Feature ‘Red Shoes & The 7 Dwarfs’ Accused Of Body-Shaming Ad, Filmmakers And Chloë Grace Moretz Apologize

The South Korean cg feature Red Shoes & The 7 Dwarfs isn’t scheduled to come out until next year, but the studio behind the film – Locus Creative Studios – is facing a crisis after an online backlash to the film’s marketing campaign.

The trouble for the quirky fairytale parody began at the Cannes Film Market earlier this month when Korean sales company Finecut began promoting the film to international buyers with a billboard that seemed to imply a woman’s beauty is determined by her weight:

With the current consciousness about body-shaming issues the U.S. and Europe, the marketing approach seems uniquely tone-deaf and antiquated, and critics, like plus-size model Tess Holliday, have been quick to jump all over the project:

A response from the Korean filmmakers and the American star

The backlash has left the producers scrambling to save the English-language film directed by Sung-ho Hong (Egg-Cola: A Miracle in the Desert). Its producer Sujin Hwang released the following statement to Salon:

As the producer of the theatrical animated film Red Shoes and the 7 Dwarfs, now in production, Locus Corporation wishes to apologize regarding the first elements of our marketing campaign (in the form of a Cannes billboard and a trailer) which we realize has had the opposite effect from that which was intended. That advertising campaign is being terminated.

Our film, a family comedy, carries a message designed to challenge social prejudices related to standards of physical beauty in society by emphasizing the importance of inner beauty. We appreciate and are grateful for the constructive criticism of those who brought this to our attention. We sincerely regret any embarrassment or dissatisfaction this mistaken advertising has caused to any of the individual artists or companies involved with the production or future distribution of our film, none of whom had any involvement with creating or approving the now discontinued advertising campaign.

Locus has also removed the film’s teaser (which we first posted over a year ago) from its Vimeo page, though other copies remain online, including below. The teaser, which features two dwarfs lusting over Snow White undressing, manages to raise additional questions about the film, which is being marketed as a family-friendly project. The plot, according to Locus’s website, is about seven narcissistic princes who are transformed into dwarfs and can break the curse only by receiving a kiss from the most beautiful woman in the land.

American actress Chloë Grace Moretz, who was announced at Cannes as the voice of Snow White, is on the defensive as well. On Twitter, she said she was “apalled” and “angry” at the marketing, but defended the overall film:

A former Disney superstar is involved with the film
Jin Kim, the film's animation director and character designer, made big contributions to Disney films like "Frozen" and "BIg Hero 6."
Jin Kim, the film’s animation director and character designer, made big contributions to Disney films like “Frozen” and “BIg Hero 6.”

Red Shoes has a reported budget of around $20 million, a fraction of American cg features. The early footage looks very polished, and a lot of that has to do with the film’s character designer and animation director, Sang-Jin Kim, better known in the U.S. as Jin Kim.

Kim, who spent 20-plus years at Disney as an animator and character designer, returned to Korea recently to work on Red Shoes. He was interviewed on the Bancroft Brothers podcast last year about his decision to leave Disney to work on this feature.

His work as a designer at Disney was especially influential on the studio’s most recent batch of theatrical features, including Tangled, Frozen, Moana, and especially Big Hero 6, for which he was the character design supervisor.

"Red Shoes & The 7 Dwarfs."
Challenges of the global feature animation market

The controversy over Red Shoes illustrates the types of challenges that other foreign animation studios will face in the coming years as they try to break into the lucrative global feature animation market. For these studios, it will not be enough to simply focus on local/regional social values; they must be deeply connected to the global zeitgeist, too.

Few entertainment companies beyond Hollywood have yet perfected the tightrope act of creating palatable blockbuster animated features for the global market. Figuring out acceptable themes and stories could prove to be just as much of a challenge, if not more so, as the technical demands of producing the films.

Sometimes, even when foreign studios get everything right, they still don’t succeed, as was the case with the recent Chinese feature Rock Dog, which underperformed in both China and the United States. That film, directed by an American filmmaker, followed all the acceptable story beats for a Western film, but it deviated so little from the standard formulas that it ended up a pale imitation of an American feature.

The good news for the producers of Red Shoes is that they learned of the negative reactions to their approach while their film was still in production. Further, the film’s ill-conceived marketing campaign was targeted at distributors, not the general public, so there is still time for the filmmakers to adjust course and rethink any potentially problematic parts of the film.

"Red Shoes & The 7 Dwarfs."
  • Chicken McPhee

    That’s the unfortunate fact of the society we live in. Diverse in their inability to see past their own dwarved-mind programming. Plenty of men prefer curvier women.

  • Roman Reigns Owns The IWC

    No longer beautiful? She looks fine to me!

    • Jack Newman

      I know, right?

  • WanderPony

    Wait…I don’t get it. Are the clothes magic or something like that? And they make the wearer look thinner than they actually are? Explain, movie! Explain!

    • Courtney Adams

      It’s the red shoes that are magic. They make her taller and thinner and when she takes them off she reverts back to her true form (shorter and heavier).

  • Elsi Pote

    Well well, what have we here, is it a take on Zalman King’s red shoe diaries? Not quiet but quite close :p

    Guys being curious about girls and peeping around? Well, Disney has done it too, so what is the issue again?

    Body shaming, where? Because seems like Snow White feel very comfy in hr shell.

    So are we talking about people blowing stuff out of proportion? Oh yeah, it’s the internet what else where you expecting?

    For me this is what you get when you have a Korean company does the marketing for the PC biased anglosaxon market. Tons of confusion and a big backlash.

    Bear in mind that in the oversaturated feature animation market anything goes and everybody will go up against everybody else to defend it’s turf.

    This movie looks amazing for such minuscule budget. It’s only sin was using the wrong words at the worst of moments. And if you ae going to be insulted for everything whoever says to you or others, you are going to have a long misearble life.

  • Marie

    A picture with a tall, slim woman next to a short, full-figured woman with the tagline “What if Snow White was no longer beautiful…?” is clear body-shaming (which isn’t about how one feels about oneself but how others feel and treat one based on one’s body). It’s obviously equating short and full-figured with “no longer beautiful” because those are the only qualities that differ between the two women. Regardless of the filmmakers intentions, that is the message clearly promoted with this poster and they are right to discontinue it.

    It’s extremely difficult, if not impossible, to tell the female-inner-beauty story without falling into the trap that this film’s marketing did. Shrek worked because it was more fantastic—woman turns into ogre. But to base this story purely on ACTUAL human women’s looks can only end one way—insulting women who don’t adhere to traditional beauty standards.

    And IMHO, the dwarfs watching Snow White undress wasn’t charming; it was cringe-inducing and cliché. I guess there’s a way to do that scene in a film for kids but I don’t think that was it.

    • R.

      Words mean things. “Full-figured” is not the same as “fat.” This character is not meant to be “full-figured.” She is meant to be “fat.”

      • Marie

        Agreed.

      • Inkan1969

        But maybe not “obese”.

  • Josh Evans

    Yeah, terrible ad. I’m glad the public reaction was swift and brutal. Here’s hoping they change course.

  • Troy

    Initally: Great… another international issue due to cultural differences.

    “Film’s character designer and animation director, Sang-Jin Kim….” *Spits out water violently* WHAT?!?

    In all due seriousness, while the film’s marketing chose poor words amongst other things, how exactly are we going to get diverse animation internationally if we immediately shame them with obvious agendas. As the article notes about the problems of distribution of foreign countries even with similar cultural values, it ends up being generic to both sides. If we want animation to grow worldwide, how about we don’t judge harshly base on our personal beliefs and “professionally” comment on why this film wouldn’t work.

    • Inkan1969

      I really wonder if those “poor words” are the result of the person who wrote the tagline not being a native English speaker, and therefore not realizing what “What if Snow White were no longer beautiful” would imply.

      • Troy

        “Korean sales company Finecut”, I dunno if that isn’t a native English speaking company or branch on that basis alone, but let’s assume that it is English in some way for your sake of argument. If that were the case it would mean someone as the middleman between the film crew and the marketing did not properly explain how they would want the film to be presented. Considering that Snow White’s interpretation on three separate occasions (this film, the original, and Disney) describes her as a beautiful person, Korea would simply label to whatever is the the norm for them by stereotypes or culture. It is obviously different if they did this on purpose, but considering that Animation usually contracts companies in Korea, would they actually give much say on what they personally think instead of I dunno…. find another gig to contract with? Personally I believe it is a third party who didn’t understand the film.

  • Cameron Ward

    yeah..there was no way around it. This was a bad marketing campaign and no one is blowing it out of proportions…it’s a bad ad and it’s good that they got the black lash fast and caught it quick enough to squish it and hopefully make a better marketing campaign for it.

    the teaser was also not really appealing. It looks fine in terms of animation, but nothing about it screams interesting or different. Hopefully when a trailer is released, it can give off a better impression.

  • cartoonguy

    The trailer with the dwarves ogling Snow White as she was undressing was pretty funny (and my curvy wife thought it was hilarious). Still, what a terrible tagline for a marketing campaign in 2017…

  • The trailer is animated well, along with the character designs….I’m just not feelin’ it overall as an interest in wanting to see the film.

    As for the ad, I agree that the marketing team did not really think this through to appease potential audiences. I wouldn’t think they did this on purpose to get more attention by controversy (if so, it worked). I’m not outraged by this marketing, but I agree, it’s a fail to keep the advertising positive.

  • What hasn’t been reported is that I have been involved in the film to a minor degree also. Since my podcast interview with Jin Kim and tour of the studio last year, I came to really like this film and believe in the talent at the studio (Locus Animation). The producers and director of the film asked me to come in to help direct the Hollywood (English language) voice talent for them and I was happy to do so. In fact, I was the one who recorded Chloe Moretz for the film. The unfortunate reaction of the world to this one poster just shows the awful side of internet gossip mill who quickly jump on a bandwagon to destroy something without all the facts. The truth is the film has a body-positive message as it’s core theme–it’s the opposite of what reports are saying. The problem is one poorly translated movie poster that has been taken dramatically out of context. As the father of three beautiful girls, of different body shapes, I would not have signed on to help a movie that wasn’t body positive in it’s message. Go see this movie, if not for the funny family-friendly story then for the beautiful art direction and character design work of a true master of our industry; Jin Kim.

    • Inkan1969

      It didn’t help that Moretz herself seemed to be joining in on the gossip mill instead of backing the movie up.

      • Rob Sharp

        I know – the world is in a strange place right now where it seems everybody is playing the “gotcha police”. Grown adults want to be the “firsties” to spot how this or that doesn’t live up to their own political,racial,religous,moral standards…we don’t even need the likes of the fcc or mpaa anymore as the public is doing it for them.

    • Boom Cookie

      great respect for you, Tom, but your comment blows off the fact that it wasn’t just a poster. the shaming was advertised across multiple platforms, including a very insulting trailer (did you read the full article…?). as an outspoken female animation professional, I honestly found it repugnant. the creative team is not to blame for the snafu… as this article clearly states it was a poor marketing campaign, so “don’t take it personally” before release day…. ;)
      also I’m sorry but, I have yet to see any marketing about this film that shows it as being body-positive. :(

  • Just passin’ by

    It’s a pretty bad ad to be sure, but I don’t really get this whole ‘body-shaming’ uproar, personally. I’m a fat guy myself, it’s bloody awful. I look in the mirror and I’m disgusted and, yeah, it IS ugly, and I’m ashamed. Hate the way I look, and I imagine most normal people do to.

    • Atom

      People would rather come to the aid of those whose feelings might have been hurt than try to fix the actual problem of America’s obesity problem, issues with out food processing industry, and poorer families being unable to afford anything beyond cheap junk. It’s much easier to fight the first fight than the second, all you need to do is whine on social media.

      There’s always going to be someone who says that someone “couldn’t help it” that they had a thyroid problem not realizing that maybe eating chemically processed foods and sitting at a desk for eight hours a day for twenty years is not a natural state for a living being. Yeah, it’s how humans live now that we’re not hunters and gatherers anymore, but it’s definitely not what a healthy person looks like, either.

      • And it’ll continue to get worse if we don’t get out of the house more often, given the way technology has put everything within reach without a need to do anything else.

      • BlueBoomPony

        I dunno… I cut the junk food from my life and my grocery bills went way down. I get fresh meats in bulk when on sale and freeze them. Local farmer’s market provides the fruit and veggies at great prices. It’s the processed junky stuff that seems the priciest.

    • Inkan1969

      I’m fat, too. My concern is not that I’m ugly, it’s that I’m endangering my health. Obesity for me is a health issue, not a beauty issue.

  • Anonymous

    Sony never should have made the Emoji movie. They should have made the Micro-agression movie.

    • Inkan1969

      Those poop jokes in that movie sure make me feel aggressive. :-P

  • mick

    All things aside that musical score was missing all the beats wasn’t it? It’s all over the place

  • riley

    This could have all been avoided had they put “ugly” in quotations.

  • Alan Wilcox

    ok I always wondered if there was ever going to be a plus size princess but if a movie has a princess who is nothing but skin and bones that could incourage little girls to starve themselves into reaching that unhealthy proportions and a lady does not have to be thin to be pretty she could be thick and chubby and still be as cute as a teddy bear

    • BlueBoomPony

      How about a tough warrior princess instead. :)

      That’s pretty much every MMO character I’ve ever created.

  • Marc Hendry

    it’s kinda bullshit how news sites have been giving the voice actress grief for it, as if she’s the poster designer too.
    The heavier character is a super cute design anyway

  • ho wow

    There was miss understanding. Actually that story is not about beauty.
    I agree that she is looking good.
    It just question. If snow was not beauty like star. just normal person like that you can see everywhere, when you walk in street. Fat or slim it’s those not matter.
    Just think about change. If snow was not tall and Dwarf was not short, then what happen there?

  • Matt Philips

    What a surprise that unhealthy role-model Tess Holliday is behind this protest. Healthy body weights are preferable then unhealthy ones. This isn’t controversial this is just reality. Beauty is subjective but overweight models shouldn’t be idolised as a inspirational hero. You can still have curves and be within weight proportion but the character is quite clearly not within a healthy weight bracket. It’s pretty black and white. You can still have ‘self-love’ as a larger person but your goal should ultimately be to get down to a healthy weight and prolong your life and health. The fact that this is now considered controversial blows my mind.

  • Mister Twister

    While I do agree with the complainers, the less of such jargon is used, the better. “Body shaming” sounds dumb, and hashtag-y.