‘Tangled’ may close the book on Disney princess films

Nov. 23, 2010 | 1:19 a.m.

The end of an era at Disney? It sounds like it in this report by  Dawn C. Chmielewski and Claudia Eller. This is an excerpt from their front-page story in the Los Angeles Times.

Once upon a time, there was a studio in Burbank that spun classic fairy tales into silver-screen gold.

But now the curtain is falling on “princess movies,” which have been a part of Disney Animation’s heritage since the 1937 debut of its first feature film, “Snow White.” The studio’s Wednesday release of “Tangled,” a contemporary retelling of the Rapunzel story, will be the last fairy tale produced by Disney’s animation group for the foreseeable future.

“Films and genres do run a course,” said Pixar Animation Studios chief Ed Catmull, who along with director John Lasseter oversees Disney Animation. “They may come back later because someone has a fresh take on it … but we don’t have any other musicals or fairy tales lined up.” Indeed, Catmull and Lasseter killed two other fairy tale movies that had been in development, “The Snow Queen” and “Jack and the Beanstalk.”

To appreciate what a sea change this is for the company, consider that a fairy tale castle is a landmark at Disney theme parks around the world and is embedded in the Walt Disney Pictures logo. Fairy tale characters from Disney’s movies populate the parks, drive sales of merchandise and serve as the inspiration for Broadway musicals.

Alas, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, Ariel, Jasmine and the other Disney royals were all born in the 20th century. Now, different kinds of Disney characters are elbowing their way into the megaplexes and toy aisles, including Pixar’s “Toy Story” buddies Buzz Lightyear and Woody, Capt. Jack Sparrow from “Pirates of the Caribbean” and a platoon of superheroes from the recent acquisition of Marvel Entertainment. Over the decades, Disney has benefited from the ticket sales and licensing revenue generated by such princess-driven properties as “The Little Mermaid,” “Beauty and the Beast” and “Aladdin.” The studio’s most recent offering, however, was a clear disappointment. Although critically acclaimed, last year’s “The Princess and the Frog” was the most poorly performing of Disney’s recent fairy tales.

Disney princess characters (Walt Disney Co.)

In the age of mega-franchises when movies need to appeal to a broad audience to justify a sizable investment, Disney discovered too late that “Princess and the Frog” appealed to too narrow an audience: little girls. This prompted the studio to change the name of its Rapunzel movie to the gender-neutral “Tangled” and shift the lens of its marketing to the film’s swashbuckling male costar, Flynn Rider. Disney hopes “Tangled” will draw boys, teenagers and adults to the theater, succeeding where its frog-prince saga failed. But it’s taking no such chances in the future. Its current animation roster includes “Winnie the Pooh,” a return to the Hundred Acre Wood, and “Reboot Ralph” — itself a restart of an older project titled “Joe Jump” — about an outdated video game character who’s been left behind by the march of technology.

Catmull said he and Lasseter have been encouraging filmmakers to break with safe and predictable formulas and push creative boundaries. “If you say to somebody, ‘You should be doing fairy tales,’ it’s like saying, ‘Don’t be risky,’” Catmull said. “We’re saying, ‘Tell us what’s driving you.’”

So why has the clock struck midnight for Disney’s fairy tales? Among girls, princesses and the romanticized ideal they represent — revolving around finding the man of your dreams — have a limited shelf life. With the advent of “tween” TV, the tiara-wearing ideal of femininity has been supplanted by new adolescent role models such as the Disney Channel’s Selena Gomez and Nickelodeon’s Miranda Cosgrove.

“By the time they’re 5 or 6, they’re not interested in being princesses,” said Dafna Lemish, chairwoman of the radio and TV department at Southern Illinois University and an expert in the role of media in children’s lives. “They’re interested in being hot, in being cool. Clearly, they see this is what society values…”

THERE’S MORE, READ THE REST

–  Dawn C. Chmielewski and Claudia Eller

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Comments


27 Responses to ‘Tangled’ may close the book on Disney princess films

  1. Gretchen Robinson says:

    The old style fairy tales teach girls to depend on men, to marry a 'prince' and live 'happily ever after.' Or, when in trouble, look for a prince to rescue you from the dragon or whatever. Not real life as most girls and women know it. Check out the book "Don't Bet on the Prince" by Jack Zipes for more on this longstanding trope where the culture brainwashes little girls and tells them that good looks are all important, not developing their minds and hearts. PS, it's a trap for boys, too, having to always go around rescuing helpless and hapless females.

    • Andy says:

      The Snow Queen. Kay, the boy, gets kidnapped and Gerda, the girl, rescues him. There are other fairy tales that have strong female characters, but they're not as well known as the "classics."

    • Clawd says:

      Gee, how terrible that children use their imaginations these days… It's people like you who make kids think they need to grow up before they do, let children be children whilst they still can. I wish I could have my childhood back, but it was taken from me by someone else who thought I needed to grow up, thank goodness for these movies that helped me escape the realism of everything else. I watched classic cartoons all the time. I never depended on guys, I never even wanted to get married or have kids growing up, then I met the right guy at 21 and found I wnated to get married and have kids. Also, it never made me think that I wasn't good enough because I didn't fit the 'norm' with my looks. I grew up in a very multicultural family, where we were all treated equally. Get over it and let kids be just that, kids.

    • Lena says:

      So you're saying the "independent" Miley Cyrus is a good role-model?

      Frankly, I'd take the Classic and Disney Princesses/Heroines over every modern, celebrity ideal, any day.

    • Sara says:

      Seriously? you think that CHILDREN will over-analyze these movies like you do now? I grew up with these movies. These movies never made my confidence sway! They were just an entertaining way to pass time! Seriously grown ups these days.
      It is entertainment industries job to (since it seems so difficult for you to figure out) ENTERTAIN, not educate. Get over yourself. Stop forcing your views on everyone else.

  2. Shalisa says:

    If you look at the original Fairy tales, that is NOT what they say. Read the Little Mermaid, the original story, very tragic ending. The "Disney' fairy tale is this way, but not real ones. They should do true fairy tales can still have the important princess archetype.

  3. Amy Taylor says:

    I think this sucks big time we saw Tangled as a family this group was 2 adult men in there mid 20's, 1 man in his mid 30's, another in his late 60's, My mother in-law who is in her late 60's, myself early 30's and 3 young girls 10, 5, and 2 loved this movie. I think Walt Disney would roll over in his grave if he new what was going on. Shame on Disney for taking them away. Amy

  4. Gabe says:

    ok… well this is a strange article, is someone forgetting that disney-pixar is developing brave. http://pixar.wikia.com/Brave

  5. Rebecca Menes says:

    Traditional fairy tales were stories invented by women for little girls (and boys.) If you read them, instead of just opining about them, you will find they are not about being "saved" by a Prince (or Princess). In the classic fairy tale a young girl (or boy – lots of them feature boys as heroes) suffers, struggles, and EARNS a better life. That better life generally includes a well-born spouse, but in most cases the spouse does not "save" the heroine (or hero). The heroine, or hero, earns her (or his) reward by doing the right thing. What is wrong with this?

  6. Caitlyn says:

    "by the time their five or six their not interested in being a princess"
    Well i happen to know that at the age of 18 i still love thinking about being a princess, not wanting to be "hot" or whatever else adults think kids want now. Fairy Tales are cute because they are fairy tales whats cooler than a girl who kicks butt with her pretty hair, definatly not miley cyrus. Princess and the frog got bad views because it just wasnt that good, in the songs or the story. Me and all of my family loved tangled because it was cute funny and because i know im ganna go to bed tonight dreaming about being a princess. So just go in a new direction, But for the love of little children with low self esteem everywhere, DONT MAKE ANOTHER HIGHSCHOOL MUSICAL.

  7. Princess Kate says:

    This article really makes me sad. I'm almost 20 and I still dream of being a princess. I do not think that Disney Princess Movies teach little girls anything but to have an imagination and to dream. Also, I actually really liked the Princess and the Frog music and all. Regardless of the direction Disney decides to take I will share with my children the Disney Princess movies so that they can have the opportunity to experience the childhood I had. They can learn to be kind regardless of circumstance like Snow White, learn that anyone can see their dreams come true like Cinderella, and that anyone can overcome any obstacle and find love like Sleeping Beauty. Also, they can learn to be independent like Jasmine, bring about change like Pocahontas, fight for what you believe in like Mulan, to not judge a book buy its cover with Belle, and to work hard to make your dream come true with Tiana. All of these movies have something to teach us. It is when we forget the power that such films can have that we get movies like, High School Musical and Hannah Montana. Lets try to feed the imagination of our children, not fill try to make them grow up too fast. Maybe Catmull and Lasseter have forgotten the story of Peter Pan…let children be children while they still have that sweet innocence. It is because of Disney that I am still able to retain a bit of mine…

    • Blake says:

      Well said. I'm 20 and I consider Disney Princess movies to be among my favorites. They're certainly my most watched. I refuse to believe little girls are "over" princesses. My favorite thing about my birthday to this day is it's my only excuse to wear a crown. It's like they're trying to take the magic out of Disney.

  8. Sherri,Isis&Aurora says:

    I saw nothing wrong with The Princess and the Frog both my kids (6 and 15months) love it. It is a great movie. And shame on the people that only see a pretty girl getting saved by the handsome boy. Maybe you people should go back and watch the movies again. I agree with Princess Kate. Just read her comment and you will see what well all can learn from each of the Disney Princesses. I am almost 31 and I still see myself as a princess and don't rely on my man to do anything for me. So Disney please keep bringing us more Disney Princesses my girls need them, heck I need them. It will be a disappointment if the last princess my girls get to see it Rapunzul. I am sure there are more they can do. Keep up the great work Disney.

  9. Mickey says:

    Why do they want to stop making princess movies? The movies do not show girls being helpless. Look at Mulan. She became a soldier. Rapunzul was no helpless thing either. Look these stories are beutiful and they should not stop.

  10. Tony says:

    That's too bad about Disney not doing anymore princess movies. I'm one of those rare guys over 20 who likes that type of thing. If that makes me some kind of weirdo then so be it. I still watch Beauty and the Beast when it's on. Personally, however, I do like the stronger female characters a lot better than the helpless ones.

    They were going to do the Snow Queen? Aww! I liked that one. I liked the fairy tales from Disney. I would have like to have seen what they could do with Rumpelstilskin as well.

    Also, Reeboot Ralph? Seriously? What has Disney become?

  11. Laer Carroll says:

    "Tangled" made $591 million for a $260 million dollar budget.

    • Bob says:

      Yes, Tangled made $591 at the box office but a good chunk of that money never got back to Disney. It remained with the theatre owners as their share of the box office sales. And Disney probably spent an additional $100 million to market the film all over the world. It wasn't a flop, but don't pretend the film returned double it's cost to Disney because it's simply not true..

  12. Laer Carroll says:

    "Brave" IS about a princess. But she's updated to the 21st Century. She rides a war horse and shoots arrows. So princesses are not passe, merely redefined.

  13. thatsme says:

    wow wat a heated discussion

  14. Sam says:

    Honestly, I've never stopped wanting to be a Disney princess. They're all so brilliant! :3 And, I take great pride in not knowing whatever "cool" is supposed to be.

  15. Minnie says:

    I have never met such sick people in my entire life!

    I know a lot of boys who like the Disney films regardless whether they have a princess or not!

    Those people need to grow up! I would rather be like Ariel and Belle over Lindsey Lohan or Miley who wear half-naked clothes all the freaking time!

    Maybe it was a mistake to bring Catmull and Lasseter to save Disney! I never thought of them to be sexist!

  16. Ginny says:

    Sometimes I feel like adults over-analyze these movies. I grew up with them and I'm 18 now and I NEVER got the message that I should "depend on a man". That sort of message actually isn't very obvious in Disney movies. Other messages—good ones, like Pocahontas telling us not to judge people based on their skin color—stand out way more. Kids don't analyze Disney movies according to the sociology of gender like adults do, so stop being arrogant and thinking that ALL kids are going to have the same thought process as you guys. Adults just seriously have sticks up their butts.

    I love the princess movies. Personally, I think that the reason people like them is because they're CHARMING! It doesn't necessarily have to be a PRINCESS—but the whole idea of a far away land and a castle and magical creatures like dragons… They're just cute. Innocent. They bring back nostalgic memories of being kids and reading fairy tales. Not everything has to be so MODERN and…crude. If you asked a class of high schoolers, "Who here really loved the movie Cars?" you might get, like, 5 hands. But if you ask them, "Who liked Tangled?" I GUARANTEE like half the class would raise their hands and say things like, "That movie was amazing!" "It was so cute!" "One of my favorite movies!"

    I know because I've actually tried this at school.

    There's a REASON my mom AND my dad both enjoyed Tangled (and Brave, for that matter; such a great movie!) but didn't really care for Mars Needs Moms or whatever other idiotic "modern" movie Disney/Pixar produced. There's nothing wrong with letting your inner child out. If I wanted to watch a modern, adult, not-innocent movie…I'd watch live-people action movies like Taken and Skyfall. So let animated movies stay charming! The success of Enchanted and Tangled and, heck, TV shows like ABC's Once Upon A Time PROVES that people still really love fairy tales!

  17. Lori says:

    Little girls will always dream of being a princess. I did it and so do most today. Most but not all, granted and there is nothing wrong with a little girl being a girl. There is nothing wrong with their pretending and escaping into a make-believe land of a 'princess' movie. I loved them growing up and still do and I'm now 50. (My three boys loved them too!) Stop over-analyzing everything and let children be children while they can. They will grow up fast enough – like we all had to.

  18. Darnia says:

    Actually, there's going to be a new disney princess: Anna. She's from an adaptation of the Snow Queen. The movie will be coming in 2014

  19. KnightErrant says:

    One word: Frozen and there was a princess and a queen, Anna was the princess and then there was her sister Elsa. Excellent movie 5/5 for me.

  20. wheresTheOutrage says:

    rofl, and then Frozen came along.

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