In the days leading up to and following Merida’s coronation as the 11th Disney Princess, a swarm of controversy swirled across social media, blogs, and major news outlets regarding a “makeover” of the strong, lead female character of Pixar’s “Brave.”
Tens of thousands of fans became enraged as 2D renderings of Pixar’s 3D CG character appeared to show the fiery-haired independent anti-princess being forced to conform to what they saw as traditional Disney Princess standards - a thin waist line, heavy makeup, high cheek bones, and what many were quick to call a “sexy” appearance. Now, after days of silence, Disney is officially chiming in, saying that was never the intention.
Today Disney Consumer Products, the division of Disney behind the Disney Princess merchandise line and responsible for organizing Merida’s coronation ceremony, reached out to Inside the Magic to set the record straight.
DCP representatives said 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.” They noted Disney uses different styles of art on characters regularly, changing them to fit their needs at the time.
And in this case, that time was the coronation. Noting that Merida wanted to “dress up” for her coronation ceremony, the new 2D artwork was created, first debuting on the official invitation that was sent out to the media, supplied to me today for this article:
This 2D representation of Merida is the official version used for the ceremony, not any other version that has found its way across the Internet. The character seen here, sporting her bow and arrows, more closely resembles the one seen in the film, though converted to 2D instead of 3D CG. Her hair is wild with loose ends and her face and body shape more closely match the Pixar version. She does have a bit more flair to her dress, which does bare her shoulders, and she may be wearing a bit more makeup, but she still looks like Merida.
It’s the same rendering that’s been used in this image, also reposted across the Internet throughout the controversy.
In the days that followed the coronation, the online backlash continued with an online petition drawing more than 200,000 fans to call for Merida’s look to return to how it appeared in “Brave” - a more realistic depiction of “real” girls.
But the real twist in this story comes when the online tone shifted as it was noticed over the last day or so that the official Disney Princess web site only showed Merida in her 3D form, exactly as she looked in the film.
Many believe Disney changed this web site as a result of the backlash. Among the most outspoken on the subject have been “Cinderella Ate My Daughter” author Peggy Orenstein and “Brave” co-director Brenda Chapman, who have each noted on Twitter that Disney somehow backed down or changed direction due to the negative attention.
But Disney Consumer Products says Merida’s official Princess site only launched on Saturday following the coronation and that since the moment it launched, she has always appeared in her CG look. Those who have written that the site changed have been mistaken, according to DCP representatives.
Disney does admit that there are a few other variations of this rendering out there, supplied to Target for use on a limited line of products. This version of Merida may continue to be seen throughout the summer and fall on select merchandise packaging, such as pajamas and backpacks, shown off below during the Social Media Moms Conference at Walt Disney World in conjunction with Merida’s coronation.
Merida is sometimes missing her trademark bow and arrow in the new renderings. But Disney Consumer Products also notes that some of the image files making their way around online seem to have been inadvertently modified as a result of being passed around and resized to fit web site layouts, sometimes squished or stretched, accidentally offering an unrealistic portrayal of the character.
But the 2D variation was never used, or intended to be used, on the web site, instead only in “limited” circumstances and “not pervasive use of the art.”
Their goal in reaching out today was to contextualize a story that seems to have taken on a life of its own online, first blasting Disney for making the change, then praising them for changing it back - even if they didn’t actually do so.
When asked if they expected outraged fans to actually believe that their plans haven’t shifted and that this wasn’t simply an attempt to backtrack, DCP representatives repeated that everything they were telling me was the absolute truth - that Merida’s new 2D look was only intended to be used on some products, some of the time, and never as a permanent “makeover” for the character.
Looking forward, they could not say exactly how she would be depicted alongside the other Disney Princesses other than to again repeat that this “one-time stylized version” was only intended for the coronation and some products, hoping to create some calm in the communities who are up in arms over the matter.
Likewise, Merida’s look at Disney’s theme parks has not changed at all since the coronation. She isn’t even wearing the crown Queen Elinore gave her during the event. She’s just the same ol’ Merida, as seen in Pixar’s Oscar-winning film “Brave.”
Related Video: Merida’s coronation as the 11th Disney Princess at Walt Disney World