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Disney's 'Brave' makeover sparks fury from fans, director

Published: Monday, May 13 2013 4:20 p.m. MDT

Disney crowned Merida of "Brave" as its 11th princess on May 11, but not before giving her a makeover and angering fans.

A petition on change.org encouraging Disney to ditch the makeover has garnered more than 200,000 signatures, and even the film's writer/co-director has criticized the updated image as "a blatantly sexist marketing move based on money."

As the controversy played out in the media, there were conflicting reports over whether Disney had succumbed to the pressure. Several websites, including Yahoo!, reported that the updated image had been pulled from the official Disney princesses website. However, IGN reports that the image on the website has always been that of Merida from the Pixar film.

Dubbed the "anti-princess," Merida's wild red curls, passion for archery and refusal to follow tradition won the hearts of parents and children alike last summer. The film won an Oscar for Best Animated Feature and has grossed more than $550 million with its Scottish heroine.

But in preparation for Merida's official welcome to the Disney princess collection, her curls have been tamed, her waist slimmed, her dress covered in glitter and her bow removed from sight.

Many parents were not amused.

Carolyn Danckaert, co-founder of A Mighty Girl, a girl empowerment website selling books, toys and movies for “smart, confident and courageous girls,” launched the petition.

Addressing Robert A. Iger, Walt Disney Company's CEO, Danckaert wrote:

"Merida was the princess that countless girls and their parents were waiting for — a strong, confident, self-rescuing princess ready to set off on her next adventure with her bow at the ready. She was a princess who looked like a real girl, complete with the ‘imperfections’ that all people have.

"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 who speaks to girls' capacity to be change agents in the world rather than just trophies to be admired. Moreover, by making her skinnier, sexier and more mature in appearance, you are sending a message to girls that the original, realistic, teenage-appearing version of Merida is inferior; that for girls and women to have value — to be recognized as true princesses — they must conform to a narrow definition of beauty."

Parents and fans of the film weren't the only ones unhappy with the change.

Brenda Chapman, who wrote and co-directed the film and has added her name to the petition, wrote a scathing email to her local newspaper, the Marin Independent Journal, about the redesign, calling it "a blatantly sexist marketing move based on money."

Writing from Chile, where she is currently working, Chapman wrote, "There is an irresponsibility to this decision that is appalling for women and young girls ….

"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! Merida was created to break that mold — to give young girls a better, stronger role model, a more attainable role model, something of substance, not just a pretty face that waits around for romance."

A Disney spokesman told Inside the Magic, an online outlet that covers Disney news, that the change, in part, was to help create a 2D image to use for easy product design.

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