Disney gives Brave princess a body makeover

Gone are the wild tight curls, relaxed now into auburn waves. Her waist is cinched, her bust inflated: skinnier and sexier is the new Merida, star of Brave. And gone, in some of the new art, is that troublesome weapon: no fit thing for a Disney princess, after all. Fans and websites lamenting the changes, chief among them A Mighty Girl, have spearheaded a change.org petition seeking to convince Disney to change its mind.

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 ... In an interview with Pixar Portal, "Brave" writer and co-director Brenda Chapman stated, "Because of marketing, little girls gravitate toward princess products, so my goal was to offer up a different kind of princess — a stronger princess that both mothers and daughters could relate to, so mothers wouldn't be pulling their hair out when their little girls were trying to dress or act like this princess. Instead they'd be like, ‘Yeah, you go girl!’”

There seems a deliciously vile bait-and-switch element to it all: design a character that will attract parents resistant to the traditional messaging, then recast it in same old mold once they've sold it to their daughters for you.

But you can see the problem in that Chapman quote, which is never really about the character. When "marketing" is the first principle of your art, even something opposing its dictates is doomed to gravitate around it in fast-decaying orbit.


  1. No one changes the mind of the Great and Powerful Diz!  Now begone!

    *flames leap, smoke billows*

  2. “Bust inflated” …I still don’t see much of a bust there. I just think it’s more noticeable since they reduced the waist to give her an hourglass figure.

    Though, I wish people would have gotten this upset over Mulan’s Disney Princess makeover, considering that her problem was that she’s terrible at being girly and she spends a good chunk of her film dressed as a guy. But that was also a different time Internet-wise.

      1. Considering that Tiana was pretty much created with an eye on adding a long overdue black princess to the Disney Princess lineup, it’s hard to really be upset over the lack of Amphibian-American princesses here.

        1. “. . .the lack of Amphibian-American princesses. . .” Ahem, I believe Princess Arial fulfills this qualification?

          *goes back to breathing through mouth*

          1. She was the one betrothed to the Duke of Helvetica, right? But she ran off after one of the common folk, Papyrus or Comic Sans, I think?

  3. Am I the only one to think that she doesn’t look all that different? Ok, her BMI might have changed a bit, wich is a shame, but if there is any agenda behind that I suspect it has to do with logistics; making her doll’s clothes interchangable with the other tiny couture thats already in stores.  Also, the girl in the movie was supposed to be 15-ish, maybe this is the older version. :)

    1. I was thinking the exact same thing.  They make millions of dolls from the same casts.  Keeping the body the same size as every other doll just makes sense financially instead of creating a whole new set of casts and clothing templates.  Just reuse what you have and call it good. 

      Just an edumacated guesseroonie. 

  4. Simply put, you’ve put your finger on it.

    What has happened is simple. Merida has been stylised to fit in with the cartoony, hand-drawn (inspired) look of the Princesses line. They’ve not actually changed her beyond a mild hour-glassing of her figure.

  5. Ah Disney. Will you ever change? Pixar puts a gift in your lap with a feminist movie and intelligent heroine that you could use to show that you’ve changed and become less sexist. Instead you automatically brand her a Disney Princess, cut two inches off of the top of her dress, straighten her hair, and give then her a breast enhancement and a tummy tuck (or corset).

      1. The review started

        “So, I haven’t seen Pixar’s new film Brave. And I’m probably not going to.”

        Naturally, I stopped reading the review at that point.

      2. Jesus. I’m not Scots (although I have a Scots grandmother) but that article is just stupid beyond anything. 
        “Scots are tribal with weird indigenous clothing and silly instruments and some old languageand funny words and goofy accent and ginger hair, and these facts have been used to marginalize this occupied nation for centuries, but they’re WHITE, so it’s okay!”
        Christ on a fucking crutch. Stop. I’m all for cultural sensitivity, but I seriously can’t believe this article was written as any other than a parody of a clueless self-righteous social-justice blogger.

        1.  The best part was when she aggressively told off a Scottish commenter who said “it’s okay, we don’t mind and you don’t need to speak for us.”

          1. I missed that, thanks for bringing this to my attention: “[…] really makes you look like you’re too stupid to comprehend the nuance of
            the post, or, alternately, like a deliberately shit-stirring pissant.”

            Wow. Really… convincing line of argument. o.O

  6. I always liked how she looked.  Now she looks like some ’80s fanatic Caribbean-based plastic surgeon has wish-fulfilled on her.

    Damn it, you can *smell* the waves of MBA / DizMBA debates breaking her down into components and building her up again.

  7. This just looks like a different visual interpretation. I don’t get how she’s “re-designed”. That would imply we’d only ever see the new illustration style of her. The article at Essential Kids doesn’t give any detail as to what this new design is even for, beyond, FTA: “The frizzy, fiery red head is set to be crowned the 11th Disney princess tomorrow and she has undergone a drastic transformation in preparation for her big day.”

    Huh? What does that even mean?

    1.  Isn’t that type of transformation exactly what she fought over with her mother?  Merida never wanted to be stuffed into a too-tight dress and have her bow taken away, then be presented as a prize to the winner of a contest.

    2. You
      can draw Merida in the typical disney illustrative style while staying
      true to the movie. I’ve seen a thousand fan artists do it. When a random
      amateur on the internet does a better job drawing a character “on
      model” than your own art department, it’s GOT to be a deliberate change.

      the new redesign clearly portrays a girl wearing extremely heavy
      makeup. Most redheads don’t have dark eyelashes like that, and Merida
      certainly didn’t. That’s not a natural lip color for her skin type
      either, and those lips are a different shape than Merida’s were in the

      For an example of an on-model drawing of her:


      1. Oh, I’m in agreement–I’m not at all saying that what you’ve identified isn’t a new look–I’m just asking how this is all qualifies as a complete “redesign” versus, just another interpretation of the character. There doesn’t seem to be any hard evidence that this will be the new way she appears on everything Disney-related from this point on.

  8. Disney, unable to produce a memorable character franchise of their own in the past several decades, acquired Marvel, Pixar and Lucasfilm and they will do their level best to exploit each and every one of these properties to maximum profit.  

    If you think the reworking of Merida is bad, just wait until they start extruding Star Wars in all its possible mutations, including Leia getting “The Disney Princess” treatment.

          1. No, he’s based on Keith Richards, from that time back in the early 1970s when Richards took a leave of absence from The Rolling Stones to become the captain of a pirate ship in the Caribbean, where he had many colourful and thrilling adventures involving sea monsters, other pirates, and a girl that looked much like Keira Knightley.

        1. And if I do, you ask me to name another. I can see there is no winning this little game of your’s…

          1. Jack Sparrow was present in the 1967 opening of Disneyland Pirates of the Caribbean ride.  Only late was it updated to include a Johnny Depp-version.

          2. I would counter that the character Jack Sparrow, however, did not become memorable to a large number of people until Johnny Depp portrayed him in the movies.

  9. Is this really a redesign? They’re comparing a 3D render to an illustrator’s interpretation meant to fit along with the style of the Disney Princess brand. And even then, the differences in the design are very minor. And if Pixar ever made a sequel to Brave, I’m fairly certain her design would essentially be the same as the first film.

  10. “But you can see the problem in that Chapman quote, which is never really about the character.”

    Um, what? The whole point was that she would be a different character than the cookie-cutter princesses. 

    1. Yeah, I think Rob missed the point of the quote on that one.

      Chapman is saying that “marketing” has caused little girls to gravitate towards princesses, so he wanted to essentially subvert that existing desire so that they would like a stronger character that wasn’t such a “princess.”

      1. Nope, I didn’t miss the point of the quote! Which is why I said:

        “When “marketing” is the first principle of your art, even something opposing its dictates is doomed to gravitate around it in fast-decaying orbit.”

        The point is that by sitting there thinking about princess marketing, they just ended up defined by princess marketing.

        1. Ok, I guess I can see that. However, I read the quote more as “The existing state of the world is that little girls like princesses. So let’s do something within that framework that still creates interesting role models.”

          It’s true that marketing may have created that state of the world, but that seems to be less important.

          I can see your meaning though.

        2. “The point is that by sitting there thinking about princess marketing, they just ended up defined by princess marketing.”

          Re-defined, in this case, which is neither their fault nor inevitable. 

          It sounds like you’re making excuses for Disney.

        3.  As Walt himself, said, Disney’s modus operandi isn’t making art, it’s running a business. This is totally in line with Disney’s noxious approach to culture production (and Pixar’s, which, frankly, has more in common with Disney than most folks seem to want to admit).

      2. a stronger character that wasn’t such a “princess.”

        Real life Princess.

        1. They sure don’t make ’em like that anymore, do they?  She (and my daughter, as a matter of fact) shares a birthday with Princess Isabella of Denmark who actually looks like she could be one of my daughter’s kindergarten classmates.

          1. Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden looks like she could do a bit of ass-kicking. Probably not a coincidence that she married her trainer.

  11. I’ve always assumed that becoming a Disney princess is a bit like dying and going to Heaven (the unimaginative, boring one that  people usually talk about). No matter how awesome your life once was, now you basically just sit around looking slightly stoned and doing nothing much, while being told that this is your reward for being a hero. 

        1. It just occurred to me that after the acquisition of Marvel, Lilith, daughter of Dracula, is technically a Disney princess.

  12. I suspect that it is just a cartoon character.

    I’m still mad about the remake of Fred Flintstone.

  13. The 2d Disney Princess lineup this Merida is taken from looks like an advert for a StripperGram. Merida would ‘av non o’ it.  (Nor would my daughter.) 

  14. Where is the source of the new Merida picture? While I am not saying Disney isn’t making Merida over, the quality of the “new” picture just seems very poor for Disney…

    If they were making her over in order to add her to the new Disney Princess line-up, I’d say the changes were more about doll production than anything else. This make-over seems to line her up with the other doll images, so they can use the same mold and slap some red hair and Merida clothing on the doll and call her Princess Merida.

    1. My thoughts exactly.  Production efficiency will trump the idea of making the doll’s body look identical to the cartoon. They’ll make the face/hair/clothing the same – everything else underneath will be a generic princess doll body from their current lineup.

  15. Edward Jay Epstein called this tendency to formula in pictures ‘The Midas Touch’.  Note the point by point list of the common elements of these films.


    Worse than Disney seeming to have found a formula for success, was all the other studios following suit looking for the same predictable profits. 

  16. Sounds like over-reaction, in the sense that every Disney character gets redesigned or tweaked or streamlined for dozens of different products or iterations. Fricking Disney baby versions, or small dolls that require less detail, cartoony versions of CGI characters, costume versions of CGI or cartoon characters that walk around Disney parks. I haven’t seen anything that says what this specific redesigned version will be used for — all promo materials going forward? for a Brave tv show? a coloring book or junior novelization? If she was drastically revamped for Brave 2, then it might be a big deal. For almost anything else, it won’t be seen by enough people to ever compete with the original version in the movie. Any kid who sees it will understand that it’s meant to be the same character, but they’ll think of the version in the movie as the “real” one. If kids knew the word “pseudo-canonical,” they could recognize it in things like this, and the movie is the canonical version.

  17. While we were all arguing about bust size, a gazillion boys and girls just visited Radiator Springs for another delicious hit of gasoline.

  18. I still don’t understand the fascination with Disney princesses in the first place. I mean as far as unrealistic aspirations go, being born a possible heir to a wealthy monarchy seems like you’re already behind the 8 ball before getting into actual appearances.

  19. This was entirely predictable and the only way to avoid it is to stop nursing at the giant entertainment megacorp teat, not by filing petitions. But you know, whatever floats your boat.

    While I’m raining on your parade, let me also say that I’m not very excited about even the most otherwise squeaky-positive princess image as long as it’s still, you know, a princess. Why on earth are people so gung-ho to promote an elitist, regressive system of government that we (well, in my country, anyway) fought a war to get rid of?


    1.  Because the freedom (so-called) of modern society generates a suffocating ennui that has led to soaring depression and suicide rates and almost everyone secretly yearns for more order and meaning in their lives?

  20. So why are people complaining about this, but when women genderbend costumes into two pasties and a gstring, it’s amazing and cool?  I have trouble understanding how it’s ok to be pissed off about how tv/movies/video games show female characters in almost zero clothes and then make genderbent costumes that are EXACTLY the same as what is being complained about.  It’s totally ok to make genderbent costumes that actually use more than 6 square inches of fabric ladies!!  Really!  They can look just as cool and they can show the media that it’s possible to do female characters with actual clothing!!!!

    1. ?  I’m pretty sure a lot of the same people complain about both things.  For one, I agree with you. I’ll even give you ten fingers to help you off your high horse if you like.

      1.  I responded before seeing your comment, but I think your “?” basically sums it up.

      2.  No thank you, it’s quite comfy up here, watching all the people’s heads spin when the media does it but watching them whip out their cameras when they see someone dressed in a teeny bikini Iron Man costume.


      So why are people complaining about this, but when women genderbend
      costumes into two pasties and a gstring, it’s amazing and cool?

      Citation please.

      1.  Please, if you need a citation, you aren’t paying attention. Bra and panties in captain america or tardis colors and they get their picture all over every blog on the web…even ones who you think would know better like marysue.

        1.  Hate to break it to you, but I’m a woman. If women don’t call out the cosplayers for feeding the media stereotypes, why would the media pay attention?

          1.  This post isn’t about how the media portray women? And complaining about how the media portray women? So we’re only allowed to have these two conversations separately as if they have nothing to do with each other? 

          2. Female cosplayers Do get a lot of hassling from other people (including women) for how much skin they show, but as a rule the cosplayer is in control of how the costume is made. Merida is under someone else’s creative control, but as a Disney Princess her media exposure is going to be Huge, her impact on the psyche of young girls the world over is going to be a lot bigger than someone who wore a skimpy outfit to a Conn and put up photos on FaceBook and Tumblr.

          3.  It’s exactly the place to have the conversation. The media types don’t have a problem doing this to Merida because they GO to Comic Con and Dragon Con and they SEE women turning the Avengers into  Playboy Bunnies wearing nothing more than a corset and 4 inch heels. So they don’t have any problem giving Merida bigger boobs and a shorter dress because THEY SEE women doing it TO THEMSELVES.

            Why should they listen to people who file petitions against this sort of sexualization of female characters, when they can see that plenty of people have no problem with it?

        2. Love how you blocked my ability to answer your slut shaming accusation. You don’t like my points so you are going to call it something nasty and then take your toys and go home. Nice.

          The unwanted touching and attacks on women are a completely separate issue that I have not brought up because they are ALWAYS wrong. Women are absolutely welcome to wear whatever they want and should not have to worry about being raped because of it.

          Now how  does that relate to people bitching about the media portraying women the way women actually dress when the media reps are around?

          Slut shaming (also hyphenated, as slut-shaming) is defined as the act of making a woman feel guilty or inferior for engaging in certain sexual behaviors that deviate from traditional, or orthodox, gender expectations.[1][2]

          Nope, not doing that, not talking about anyone’s sexual behaviors.

          It is also used as a form of victim blaming for rape and sexual assault,
          such as claiming the crime was caused (either in part or in full) due
          the woman wearing revealing clothing or previously acting in a forward,
          sexual manner before not consenting to sex

          Nope, not doing that either, not victim blaming anyone.

          1. I think you’ve got a little bit of a logical flaw here.  You’re saying “this is how women dress for the media”, but you’re failing to realize the reason the media is there is because it’s an *event*.  It’s a party.  Like Halloween.  There *isn’t* another place where if I want to be, say, Sexy Cthulhu, that I can do so.  

            Women dress up specially for special events.  Some women dress in something more revealing than they wear otherwise, because it’s a special event.  I could go to a con as the girl from “Lollipop Chainsaw”, but I can’t really go to the mall like that.  Nor in a ballgown that I’d wear to a formal dinner, either.  

            Meanwhile, Merida there is in her everyday dress, and her everyday body.  The media thinks women dress everyday the way they do for cons?  Sorry, not seeing that.

          2. 1st, we have to remember that most of the decision makers for corporations involved in comics, movies, toys, books, and tv are still (yes, still in 2013) men.

            What men are seeing is that when there is no dress code, women choose to dress sexy. Cosplayers who could reimagine a costume any way they want, CHOOSE to do it sexy, women going out at night CHOOSE to dress sexy. So as far as their tiny little minds can tell, women prefer to dress sexy. So they have no idea why they shouldn’t sex up female characters. The decision makers have no clue that people consider it like halloween and they are just having a blast…because they are not fans, they are there in a work capacity and, honestly, think we’re all dumbass losers who should find better ways to spend our weekends.

            Aside from this, the other issue is that a lot of decisions are made by algorithm. MBAs run the universe at this point and the algorithm shows that all the princess dolls have X body shape and they sell like crazy and add sparkly junk and sales go up. So you end up with this.

          3. When there is no dress code, some women *choose* to dress sexy.  Many more do not.  Quite possibly its a question of those men only choosing to notice the ones they consider “sexy”.   

  21. I’m not terribly surprised. I figured it would become a slippery slope towards Disneyfication when I found out Merida would be a princess in the first place.

    Pixar were renowned for being wonderfully original and creative. Their male protagonists are toys, fish, bugs, robots, vehicles, even rickety old retirees in fresh, unexplored settings. Their first female protagonist could have been some migratory bird on an epic journey, a neat sentient jungle plant-life, a planet-settler in a distant future…

    …but nope. It’s a Princess. 

    That was a huge disappointment. It’s not a bad movie by any means, but I was looking forward to a new Pixar film that would explore fun new uncharted lands from an unexpected character’s point-of-view, not a yet another I-am-not-princessy  princess movie.

    I really hope they do a good job with Finding Dory. Now THERE’s a wonderfully zany, unusual and intriguing female character (unless they give her a makeover or marry her off to a prince, oh jesus lord…)

  22. The picture on the right looks like badly done fan-art.  It’s horrible.   The original is one of the best icons for young girls in a long time, the character was great and very realistic.  This water down and dilutes the whole thing, which I suspect is part of the intent.

    I suspect a lot pf parents don’t like the idea of their young kids getting independent ideas about how to live their life or deciding that is is OK to “question authority”.  (I note that latter is a major red flag on several “christian” movie raing sites…defying or even questioning authority is a big no-no to religious people as a rule.)

    1. Yeah when my 13 year old nephew was in hospital for three months I gave him my entire set of Heinlein juveniles to read but his very religious parents  returned them to me. I should have guessed. Poor kid isn’t allowed to read or watch Harry Potter, either.

  23. Still waiting for an animated female character that isn’t wispy thin and barbie ‘beautiful’.  How about one that is strong and burly?  or any of the other 99.8% of female body types.  How about a non-stereotypically attractive female character who is not an evil witch?

    Same applies to male animated characters – rippling abs for the heroes, oafish obesity for the comic relief (or alternatively outsider brown skin or funny accent or both). 

    I’d pay to see an action movie with a middle aged, bald character with a paunch, male or female.

    1. How about Mr.  Incredible in the Incredibles? Or Princess Fiona in Shrek? Also, you might like ParaNorman. That’s a lovely movie, and it features characters with all kinds of body types.

  24. “I’d pay to see an action movie with a middle aged, bald character with a paunch, male or female.”

    Didn’t you see Die Hard?

  25. Biggest change here: she looks about 10 years older and the eyes are more ‘seductive.’ A terrible rendering and a ridiculous way to ruin the message of the film: Merida hated her dress, loved her wild hair and never wanted to be a princess.  This is why their marketing efforts for this film (merchandise-wise) are total failures.   Re-branding her as a Disney Princess is bizarre at best, sexist at worst.  Very sad.

    1. I think that’s supposed to be her regular dress, though.  They’ve just made it into something that’s in-between her fancy dress and her comfy one.

  26. I’ve seen the new Merida in stores, next to the original. It made me very sad. Disney totally fucked it up.

  27. Pro Tip: if you are in the group of males here insisting you don’t see it it is critical that you engrave in your mind that you have a poor sense of these things and you should rely on others for hints in these matters. It is not enough to say, “Hey, I don’t see it. QED: it’s nothing.”

  28.  Precisely…. the only differences I see are the hips and lips are the tiniest bit thicker, and that she’s smiling instead of scowling.  After seeing all the “outrage” on the interwebs, I was expecting to see major triple-d cleavage and a thong.

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