• Mon, May 20 2013

Disney Took The ‘Merida Makeover’ Issue One Step Further With These Dolls

brave-merida-makeover-dolls

Remember the recent ‘Merida makeover’ debacle, wherein Disney decided to change the appearance of Brave‘s Princess Merida from being a round-faced, wild-haired fearless teenager with a bow to a more coy-looking, demure version with tamer hair, enormous eyes, and a thinner frame and face? Well, the new Merida doll, shown above on the left, is even more ridiculously different.

The ‘Disney Princess Merida Sparkle Doll,’ sold at Target, is disproportionately thin with large eyes and awkward pageant-hands. Her freckles are kept to a minimal dusting; the hair has clearly been blown out by a hairdresser whose favorite description is “vintage curls.” She looks bored. There is no excitement or curiosity, as was so characteristic to Merida in Brave.

Then again, even prior to the film’s release, Disney was already selling a similar doll via Toys ‘R’ Us. Her hair, while curly, is considerably tamer than the film’s version; her jawline is angular; her eyes are Barbie-large; her hands are pushed out and stuck together in typical, “I seriously cannot do anything with these things” fashion. Merida, on the other hand (pun not intended), fires bows and yields swords and does all manner of fascinating things because she is a proactive, exciting character.

These dolls all looks as though they could never be used by little kids as a portion of a story that didn’t involve sleep and a date at some point (not that there’s anything wrong with naps or dates, but, y’know…swords and monsters are generally more enthralling when it comes to imagination time). Toys for boys are generally made for telling all manner of stores; toys of girls are typically designed to play house with. And while I admittedly loved playing house, it’d be excellent to see some diversity for once.

In a somewhat bizarre twist, the Merida doll sold by the Disney Store itself is the only one that actually looks like the film’s version of her.

brave-merida-makeover-dolls

So, we know that it’s possible to create a doll who is not just a red-haired Cinderella, right? Right.

I have been upset about this stupid makeover, and I’m certainly not the only one. Many of you have been upset about this, as well as the 200,000 people who signed the online petition. Hell, even Jon Stewart was angry as he discussed the story last Thursday on The Daily Show, saying:

“The point is this, Disney: You need to reconsider this makeover because you have an arrangment with the parents of America, of which I am one,” he said. “Our job is to make sure the children are sitting in front of the screen. Your job is to raise them right. And if you keep teaching them the wrong lessons, then we’re going to have to start doing it ourselves, and that’s not cool.”

Boosh. Stewart is completely justified in being angry as a father; it’s nearly impossible for parental figures to find positive role models for their daughters. And while many wonderful characters’ stories do certainly end in love, marriage and the rest of that romance stuff, it’s been great to see a princess who didn’t need to be rescued by a kiss, rose or specially-fitted high heel. And it was also really, really nice to see an animated female role model whose proportions and demeanor weren’t identical to every other princess.

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  • Lauren

    The takeaway I got from that Jon Stewart comment was that parents should be teaching their kids how to be a person, not Disney.

    I get why it’s upsetting that Disney gave a makeover to the one “princess” who really is much more than just that, but I tend to gear towards the “if the girl wants to play with the doll of the girl from Brave, then I think she’s already doing pretty well”.

  • Tania

    Hooooly crap. That doesn’t remotely look like Merida. I wouldn’t have known it was supposed to be her if you hadn’t posted it here. That’s incredibly stupid.

  • Scott Metzger

    Everyone who’s blowing a gasket here does realize that doll is made by Mattel and appears to re- use a Barbie body, right (which is why the figure looks so thin)? Mattel would have to make a whole new body, with all the thousands of dollars of tooling costs involved, to make a Merida with the proper proportions from the movie, and the company has a well established reputation for loathing such production costs and instead re-using existing molds.

    This has nothing to do with the Disney Merida make-over; it has to do with a toy company taking the cheapest route to make a doll…

  • Tusconian

    The doll issue, I have less of a problem with. Fact is, toy makers are lazy, and also much more limited than animators on a high-budget film. What looks normal, even beautiful, in cartoons or real life looks hideous, scary, and freakish as a toy (anyone remember that trend in the 90s/early 2000s where every boy band and girl band had Mattel dolls made of themselves, and they were terrifying despite the subjects being attractive people?). And, they’re trying to pump out as many dolls for a lot of characters as cheaply as possible. They probably use the same few molds for several dozen individual characters. The Disney store sells dolls that are much more expensive, so they can afford to be pickier and more detailed. What I have an issue with is typing the Merida character to the doll’s representation on other merchandise.

    Though I have to wonder what’s with the less curly hair, and putting her in the dress the movie makes clear she doesn’t like. The darker dress is no less elegant and princessy to a modern girl, and her curls are a major part of her appeal. The newer Mattel doll may as well be Ariel with legs, while the old one at least symbolized Merida adequately.

  • Heartcatch

    Jon Steward sounds loke he can’t parent. Teachings come from your parents not tv. He makes all american parents look bad.