Warning: The above picture may contain content that boys won't like, including a female and that female's really long hair.
Last week I attempted to figure out why, exactly, Disney decided to change the title of their upcoming animated film Rapunzel to Tangled. After sending a couple emails to Disney, the only response I received was that it was "a filmmaker decision". A filmmaker decision ... to change the title of a film from one that immediately has a familiar, built-in audience to one that, in all honesty, is kinda boring? I originally figured the title change may have had something to do with them altering the traditional Rapunzel story enough that it warranted a completely different title, though Disney's weird "can't say anything about that, sorry" reply was just too odd. So I figured, eh -- why make a whole lotta something out of nothing, and I dropped the idea for a story ... until today.
Looks like The Los Angeles Times was in the mood to do a little more digging, and what they found out was that Disney changed the title because they wanted it to appeal to more boys. Not that Tangled immediately shouts out, "Hey boys, there are boys who do lots of cool boy things in this, so come see it!" ... but after the Mouse House apparently blamed Princess and the Frog's box office failures (yes, $222 million worldwide is not good enough these days) on the fact that boys were turned off by the word "Princess" in the title, a move to strip Rapunzel of her identity was commissioned ... because, ya know, Cinderella, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, Mulan, Beauty and the Beast and The Little Mermaid never really had much success with their girl-ish titles either, right?
Says Ed Catmull, president of Pixar and Disney Animation Studios: "We did not want to be put in a box. Some people might assume it's a fairy tale for girls when it's not. We make movies to be appreciated and loved by everybody."
Here's what I don't get. The name Rapunzel doesn't immediately sound like a girl's name, so if you know the name Rapunzel, then you know it because you're familiar with the classic fairy tale. And if you're familiar with the classic fairy tale, then you know it's about a dude who rescues a girl with very long hair from the tower she's been trapped in for years and years. So why would boys not want to see the film if it's called Rapunzel if they already also know that there's a pretty cool dude in there too? I just don't get it. Besides, aren't the kids going to see the trailer ... and isn't the trailer going to show them that there's a -- wait for it -- girl in the movie?
Not sure about you, but I don't know any kids who go to the movies after only hearing the title and nothing else. And if the kid is too young to be persuaded by movie trailers, then they're not deciding which films to see anyway -- their parents are.
To me it sounds like Disney isn't confident enough that kids (not just boys) will be attracted to the film if they know it's based on a fairy tale they've seen or heard of before. Seems to me like they're more interested in appealing to a child's sense of wanting something new, original and unique, then they are going after the kind of built-in audience a name like Rapunzel would bring -- a move that goes against everything we've seen from Hollywood these past few years, but maybe that's just Disney's way of selling you something you've already bought. They're masters at that.
Then again, this isn't all that surprising -- a big reason why Disney acquired Marvel was so they'd have more properties that would appeal to boys. They also probably look at all of Pixar's success and attribute some of it to the fact that all of their films have starred male protagonists. And that's all fine and dandy; I understand Disney already makes a killing off their princesses and those types of films, but is it really smart to start de-girling your movies in the hopes that boys will be interested? Doesn't that feel like a giant step backwards?
What do you think?