Brave director slams Disney's sexy Merida makeover

Paul Liberatore in The Marin Independent Journal:

Marin filmmaker Brenda Chapman, who won an Oscar for writing and co-directing the animated feature "Brave," blasted Disney's sexy makeover of her movie's feisty heroine, Merida, as "a blatantly sexist marketing move based on money." ... "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!"

It's really blistering, bridge-burning stuff, and I salute her for it: "I forget that Disney's goal is to make money without concern for integrity."

Previously: Disney gives Brave princess a body makeover


  1. “I forget that Disney’s every corporation’s goal is to make money without concern for integrity.” 

    1. You’re far too cynical and, frankly, wrong. To find what the goal of a corporation is, you have to read the corporate charter. Many corporate charters (including my own) contain clauses about following ethical and moral guidelines.

      1. Well TFFT, no company of people ever deliberately interpreted its stated goals in a light that enabled it’s own bad behaviour before.
        We even have a “Don’t deliberately interpret clauses in the corporate charter concerning ethical behaviour as Koans” clause that someone has drawn a moustachioed penis on.

          1. I think miasm is suggesting, with lovely sarcasm, that there are few if any examples of a corporation deciding NOT to aggressively pursue its own interests because of some pious sentence in its charter…that no corporation ever truly has the interests of all society at heart. Myself, I doubt any random collection of stockholders is even likely to be competent to IDENTIFY the interests of all society. But like miasm, I doubt the question will arise often at the AGM.

          2. Nonsense. There are something like 7-10 million corporations in the US. Most of them are quite small (mine has no employees).  I wouldn’t be surprised if Boing Boing was a corporation. Just about any business you see around your neighborhood has likely incorporated. Some might be run by tyrants, but it isn’t  true that all try to make money without concern for integrity, as the OP said.

          3. 7-10 million!
            That must be why it’s so easy for them to pool their money into lobbying for their own laws, allowing human rights abuses and tax exemptions.

            I knew the problem was big but if 3% of the population of the US are Fortune 500 companies, we might as well just give up now…

      2.  And you can believe as much or as little of those bits of paper as you choose to.

        Actions are what counts, words are cheap and disposable.

        1.  Indeed. I once had a particularly crappy job at an ‘ethical’ company that hawked fairtrade goods & organic this & thats, who were the one biggest bunch of shits to their employees it has ever been my misfortune to work for (also Evangelical Christians. Go figure).

        2. Both actions and words count. If a corporation behaves in a way counter to what the corporate charter lays out, that’s grounds for a shareholder or investor lawsuit.

  2. “You know those crap-head add-men over there, you know, those kings of
    bastardization that have just taken everything that was ever real and
    genuine and honest and original and attached it to a toilet cleaner!”

    It is to hard to sell the idea of a spunky young girl, so lets just toss her in the hooker-o-matic and sell that instead.

    Maybe they are just trying to create better illusions seeing how their other stories ended…

    1. It’s more arms than that.  I know, from friends who work there, that Pixar spent 3 or 4 years perfecting her character’s appearance and style in Brave.  For Disney to morph her into something else a year later belies a big fight Pixar and Disney had over the creative direction of that character, and a big difference in the culture and aims of the two creative departments at these intertwined companies who no longer have the iron grip of Steve Jobs at the helm.

  3. It seems like Disney is composed of two companies. They have the creative arm and then they have the product arm. It is obvious that these arms do not communicate. And it is obvious that the product arm is completely oblivious to the purposes of the creative arm. Sexing up Merida is one of the stupidest things they have ever done.

    1. *wide childlike eyes*
      Are you trying to say that the Disney Corporate Person is… *snuffle*  BiPolar?!

  4. When I first read about Merida’s makeover, I was angry since this is one of my nieces favourite animations. I signed up the petition to protect the Brave princess original shape intact. If you are interested to find out more about the incentive and the petition, take a look at my article:

  5. I get why they’re trying to do this. If you market this character as she should be–as  bold, independent, spirited, break-the-mold sort of character–then what does that say about your other products, the shallow, sparkly and weirdly-sexy princess pantheon of blank-eyed dolls? So the Mouse is attempting to rip out her soul and add her to the lineup in order to preserve the value of their other junk. It’s just sad.

    1. And Disney has always been about the somewhat sexualized femme fatale.  It’s not the same company as Pixar.  Pixar has prided itself on good, clean family entertainment.  Whether they’ve achieved it is a different debate.  But that’s what they’ve striven for.  Disney has never striven to meet that as a standard.  Disney has sought to SELL, but whatever means possible.  It’s a different ethos, as you say.

      1. Sure. And I mean, Pixar has certainly done a few projects just to pay the bills (Cars 2, the upcoming Planes come to mind). But mostly they have been fantastic about putting character and story first, and giving the audience something real to invest in for a couple hours. I’ve admired it because it *doesn’t* ever feel like I’m watching a Disney movie. Anyway. You know, there are already a slew of books and other products based off of Brave in the stores, and the majority of them stay true to the movie. This new version isn’t necessary, except as a money-grabbing move that probably got some executives a bonus over the holidays.

  6. I was one of the people who initially thought “meh” about this whole thing, it didn’t seem like that much of a change. Now that I’ve seen more of the new concept art, I agree that the whole makeover is dumb, unwarranted and has sexist undertones.

    We should remember that this is the second time around for Brenda Chapman. She originated Brave, then the project was taken from her by the producers, re-written, re-re-written and then a lot of fighting and few rewards later the project is back where she left it, more or less. 
    But then this.

    On another note, Disney is putting out Saving mr Banks this summer, where they’ll whitewash the company and try their darndest to bury the historical fact that uncle Walt screwed over P L Travers in a very heartless way. In the light of this recent thing, I think any audience will catch the metaphor.

  7. From an adult perspective, the original Merida looks so frickin’ cool and intriguing. I’d love to meet her.  You’d have a gas.

  8. So… Is it weird of me to suggest that I (might have) found the Disney character more sexually attractive before they changed her?

    Oh, it is?  Cuz that’s just what a friend told me… er…

    1. Adventure tomboys have an appeal all their own, imo.    My tomboy daughter loved that Disney finally had a non-fluffy dress princess.    Yes, she wears a dress, but it’s a working dress -it’s not cut for ball dancing, it’s for working in. 

  9. Is this “sexy” by today’s standards.  Sure they made her waist thinner and her neckline lower, but really Even for Disney standards its still pretty tame.

    I think they were just looking to find a midway point so that they can sell a Sexy Halloween costume later this year.

  10. I’ve still never actually seen this artwork anywhere outside of articles complaining about it. I have no idea where it’s being used, and the original article BB linked to last week didn’t provide any links to Disney sites that were using it. Merida just made her in-park debut this weekend (“in person”) and the artwork was nowhere to be found. Where does this artwork actually exist?


      “The “Brave” princess is the first to join the line-up from the world of Pixar, though she is getting an artistic makeover new look on some merchandise to match the new Disney Princess look seen on a broad array of merchandise, as seen here, moving away from the 3D computer-generated look from her film.

      UPDATE: To clarify, a Disney spokesperson has reached
      out to emphasize that they have “many style guides from which
      merchandise is made from, so some images of Merida may be in 2D and some
      may still be 3D – it all depends on the product and what type of art is
      most appropriate.” She gave the examples that the 3D rendered version
      could be used on a backpack, while the 2D imagery seen here might be
      used on bedding.”

      1. So … it’s concept art that hasn’t actually been used in the production of anything. 

        1. Yet.
          And most likely will not be if they listen to the public outcry about the issue.

      2. Seeing the live action Merida in that video made me wonder if her new sparkly Princess lifestyle would make her turn to cats and birds out of boredom.

  11. No one here mentions the difference in the artistry — the subtle fabulous-ness of  the original art compared to the knock-off. I feel sorry for the hack that tried to draw the hair and instead drew waves coming off her head. That artist (who tells anyone who will listen that he drew Merida for Disney!) had big shoes to fill and failed.

    Then, the art director came along (he looks exactly like Herb Rennet chomping a cigar) and said “looks great! but could ja make her a little sexier?” That’s when the artist wishes he’d gone to RISD instead of Art Institute…

  12. The artist didn’t change her body shape – he just drew her in a corset, then took away her bow and arrows. Because as the first movie demonstrates, she would be totally fine with that.

    1.  You know, you’re right.

      Aside from making her arms skinnier, adding an inch to the length of her neck, changing her hair, somehow decreasing the diameter of her upper ribcage, lowering the cut of her dress, adding makeup and changing her “inquisitive/adventurous” expression to a “happy-cocksucker” expression,

      …all they did was put her in a corset.

  13. Mostly she looks like she’s grown up from 13 (per original model) to about 16 or 17.

  14. I really don’t see this as being a big problem.  Little girls, if raised in a loving, and nurturing environment will not equate her little girl body to the body of the character. I believe that if  parents are involved in their children’s lives, have their kids participate in a healthy lifestyle, and generally provide a healthy attitude towards body shape, no matter what it is, that children will respond positively.  This even goes for teenage girls.  I am 40 and I grew up in a single parent home; my mom made us healthy dinners when she had time to, taught us how to cook when we were young, policed our activities, and instilled in me love and respect for my body.  Parenting is not rocket science, it takes time and energy…and is a full time job.  If a parent wants to blame someone for a little girl or boy not understanding why something looks the way it does, they should blame themselves, not Disney. IMO

    1. No one is “blaming” anyone for their childrens’ body image issues.  This is about parents who were happy to finally have a role model for their children they could respect only to have the most positive aspects of that role model undermined to suit Disney’s “selling sex to children” business model. 

      I don’t really understand what you think the problem is but it doesn’t seem to be what everyone else is bummed about.  It has nothing to do with the responsibility of parents for their children.

    2. So children are just reagents? You do your chemistry right and they turn out exactly as planned with no wider environmental input.

  15. this makes me sad, her non Disney like appearance made me like her more!  she was a real girl and something girls should look up to. that being said Disney will do what Disney wants.  i think they could have changed the dress maybe the hair to make her more “grown up” but the rest should have been left

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