Disney’s Female Characters

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It seems that Disney is losing its nerve. It has never shied away before from titles that announce that the main character is a woman, but it seems that “The Princess and the Frog” changed all that. The next movie due to come out is about Rapunzel, but instead of using the main character’s name, Disney has decided to call it “Tangled.” (Read more about this here.)

It seems that “The Princess and the Frog” didn’t do nearly as well as expected and the powers-that-be pounced on the use of the word “princess” in the title as the reason for its poor showing. They’re convinced that the title kept little boys from seeing the movie. Funny, I don’t remember any problems with audience identification with “The Little Mermaid,” or, going further back, “Snow White,” “Cinderella” or “Sleeping Beauty.” Granted, the word “princess” wasn’t used in those titles, but the main characters are clearly female and Disney has never seemed to worry about that before.

Has there been a shift in attitude toward all things female these days? Or is there another reason for the “failure” of “The Princess and the Frog”? After all, the main characters are black; you might just as well blame racism for the lack of interest in the movie. Or maybe there’s a prejudice against frogs? The last Disney movie that dealt with a transformation from animal to human was “The Beauty and the Beast,” but maybe a beast is more interesting to little boys than a frog. (Although we all know that little boys like frogs.)

I haven’t seen “The Princess and the Frog,” so I can’t comment on the plot other than to say that it’s a departure from the well-known fable, in which the frog becomes a prince. In “The Princess and the Frog,” the princess becomes a frog. Maybe that just wasn’t appealing to children period. I can’t say.

It could just have easily been the timing. Or the competition. Disney has had a lot of that lately from DreamWorks Animation and Pixar. (I believe that “How to Train Your Dragon” is going to blow Disney out of the water.)

It’s hard to believe that Disney changed the name of “Rapunzel” just because little boys didn’t like it.  (Read news and commentary here.) Since when have little boys’ opinions become so important? Personally, I think it’s a mistake to change the name.  Audiences identify with the name (especially Mom and Dad, who, after all are the ones who will take the little ones to the theater). “Tangled” has to be one of the lamest titles Disney has ever come up with.

“Tangled” won’t be out until November. Maybe the hype about the name will draw in crowds. Maybe I’m contributing to higher box office stats by writing this post. But the bottom line is, I think that part of the reason for the change in title has more to do with societal attitudes that “boy things” are better than “girl things” and that little boys have more power than little girls. After all, who said that little boys’ opinions are more important than little girls’? Doesn’t Disney care that little girls may not want to see a movie called “Tangled”?

Published by

Ellen Keim

Ellen is a freelance writer, essayist and copy editor, living with three cats and a husband in Columbus, OH.

6 thoughts on “Disney’s Female Characters”

  1. I find that title, “Tangled,” disrespectful to not only the Grimm Brother’s title, but to Walt Disney as well. Because that is not what Walt Disney would do when he adapts fairy tales into animated movies. Just because fairy tales that have girlish titles does NOT make it a girlish story. Those people, who complain about fairy tale titles being too girlish, need to understand that those story titles being too girlish happens to be written by MEN before we are even born. Also, they need to understand that they do not write stories just for girls or boys, they write for families to enjoy, learn, and love. I even love the title logo that Disney created for “Rapunzel,” and now they want to change it to “Tangled?” That title does not make any sense, and it is misleading. If they ever do change the title from “Rapunzel” to “Tangled,” I would find Disney’s next CG movie a flop. But, if they leave the title, “Rapunzel,” the way it is, and the title logo that Disney created as well, then I would have high confidence that Disney’s next CG movie could be a huge success. So I say to Disney, “In the name of Floyd Norman, a retired Disney and Pixar animator, and Walt Disney’s ghost, I demand that you change that dreadful title back to “Rapunzel” at once, or else you will all become a disgrace to Walt Disney forever. And you will fall to DreamWorks Animation forever more.”

    I understand why they called it “Tangled.” Not just to get the boys well entertained, but there are scenes in the synopsis that have created an example of the word “tangled,” such as the bandit, named Flynn Rider, who gets “tangled” with Rapunzel after she made a deal for her freedom. Flynn and Rapunzel’s romance can be “tangled.” Even Rapunzel’s hair can be “tangled” as well famous for her 70-feet of golden hair or blonde either way.

    I watched the teaser trailer of Disney’s Tangled, it is very cool, but did not show the name of the story. Which means that Disney COULD, but that depends on their version of the story perhaps, change the title back, even though changing the title from “Rapunzel” to “Tangled” is official. However, on the leaked trailer before the teaser trailer that I have watched as well, it has revealed the title based on Disney’s title change. It is really cool, but I do not have the taste buds on the new title that Disney made. In fact, I love the title logo that Disney made for Rapunzel; it is very beautiful, and entertaining. It makes me want to see it so much. But since they changed the title from “Rapunzel” to “Tangled,” perhaps I could see it, but I would find it a flop.

    To tell you the truth, I find that title, “Tangled,” misleading, funny, but misleading. To me it is like watching a parody of Shrek, Hoodwinked, and Happily N’ever After put together. But I understand that Disney is sticking to one fairy tale by the Grimm Brothers, but I am afraid what they are doing is disrespectful to not only the Grimm Brothers, but to Walt Disney as well, because Walt Disney would never change titles on fairy tales. He probably does not care about people, like boys, who complain about fairy tales with girlish titles being too girlish, the only thing that Disney cares about is not only making dreams come true for FAMILIES by adapting fairy tales into animated movies, but to fulfill famous fairy tale writers who has shaped the world of entertainment for every family around the world.

    Also, those boys need to “Dig a Little Deeper (according to the song from “The Princess and the Frog”),” on the story of fairy tales with girlish titles, because what if Disney arranges the story to make it more interesting than typical? Maybe then, even though fairy tales have girlish titles, but it can have an excellent story for not just girls or boys, but for FAMILIES to enjoy, learn, and love. The only way that fairy tales could be too girlish, including the title, is if the story is too girlish. But through Disney’s experience when it comes to adapting fairy tales into animated movies with girlish titles, they are all FAMILY. That is what makes Disney very special.

    By the way, I have no problem with “The Princess and the Frog,” that I saw. I give that movie infinite A+, especially when Dr. Facilier is a fun villain, evil, but fun. But I can say this, if changing the title is what Disney wants to do to get the boys well entertained along with the girls, it is their movie. But I have a little bit of a bad feeling that their next CG movie could be a flop based on the title change. But if they decided to change the title back to the way it is, then it could be a financial success…I hope.

    One more thing, it is not the title that bothers boys, it is the story itself that is not strong enough. Some times, Disney probably accidentally made the story a little too girlish for “The Princess and the Frog,” than trying to make it a family type, especially when some of the characters that Disney has created are not receiving enough roles. My advice for Disney is that the next time they want to adapt fairy tales into animated movies; they should try to make the story strong to fit to the title based on the fairy tale, instead of changing the title.

    1. You sound like you’ve thought about this a lot!

      I’ve often heard Disney criticized for changing the plot of a fairy tale to the point where it’s no longer true to the tone of the original. (“The Little Mermaid” comes to mind.) It sounds like Disney is doing that big-time with “Tangled.” Maybe it deserves to have its name changed, because it won’t really be like the original when Disney gets done with it. Do you have any concerns about this aspect of Disney’s story-telling?

      1. There is no problem with story telling, it is just that I am not used of the title change. Because throughout Walt Disney’s career before his death, he never changes titles on fairy tales when he adapts fairy tales into animated movies. However, I do understand that the only way that Disney can change the title is if the story is told differently like, “The Emperor’s New Groove,” instead of, “The Emperor’s New Clothes.” I think there is a good reason to create a new story based on Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Emperor’s New Clothes,” because some stories are not that interesting, and can be a bit challenging to create extra details for the story. But I do have an excellent question: What if Rapunzel is a good story? To tell you the truth, I have created my version of Rapunzel based on a Grimm fairy tale, with extra details to make the story more interesting than typical, just like how Walt Disney always did. I did that to decide which version is better, either Disney’s version of Rapunzel, or my version of Rapunzel. If I ever publish my version, and Disney’s, “Rapunzel (forgive me, that is something I strongly recommend than Disney’s, “Tangled”),” is in theaters, I bet the audience would like my version better than Disney’s…maybe.

  2. I find it laughable that Disney is desperately trying to make ends meet by changing the title of this film, but not changing the release date. The real reason the Princess and the Frog failed is, not because it was a “princess” movie, but because it was sandwiched in between New Moon, Avatar, and the Chipmunks movie. Being the most “old fashioned” of the bunch, it didn’t make it. I’m sorry to hear that Tangled will be opening within a week or two of the next Harry Potter flick. Any fool can see that HP will be a bigger box office draw (though not necessarily a better movie.) I’m still rooting for this film to succeed. I’ve been following it through its preproduction for some time now and would like to see all the animators’ hard work pay off.

    1. I think you make some good points about what happened to “The Princess.” I wonder why they’d shoot themselves in the foot like that? And why they plan to do it again this year? Do you think the name change is going to help or hurt?

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