Wonders never cease: After 73 years of romantic swooning, Disney is closing the door on the genre that helped make them famous -- the fairy tale.
The LA Times reports that after 'Tangled,' the Mouse House is shutting the door on fairy tales and princesses for the foreseeable future. Though they can never say never -- because the future can bring any number of surprises -- the company wants to keep up with the times, and the times aren't too keen on romantic stories of unstoppable princes saving desperate, pretty princesses ...even if they are a cornerstone of the company's business, from the castles that adorn the logos to Princess merchandise lines and spin-off Broadway musicals.
Animation heads Ed Catmull (Pixar) and John Lasseter (Disney) believe that "films and genres do run a course. 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." In fact, as part of this fairy tale-free future, they've killed the other two films that have been in development -- 'The Snow Queen' and 'Jack and the Beanstalk.'
What will be a blow to many should seem like a blessing to masses of others. Over the years, the Disney princesses have struggled not only with limited and waning interest, but also ongoing critical discussion of the questionable themes and representations they relay, like critiques of its romance-based message and the representation of other cultures. Yet this thematic change has its own cross to bear.
After the disappointing performance of last year's 'The Princess and the Frog,' the princesses have to make room for the 'Toy Story' folks, Jack Sparrow and superheroes -- stories resting on male characters. It ties back to the early controversy surrounding the current film, as references to Rapunzel were scrapped for the so-called "gender-neutral" name of 'Tangled' and the focus was switched to the male co-star, so that the young boys of the world wouldn't be turned off by the story. In fact, the entire film was re-worked with action and banter, a lead who was a thief instead of a prince to give it Sparrow flavor, and a number of twentieth century notions like Joni Mitchell tunes and a 'Mommie Dearest' mom who tells her daughter that she's "getting kind of chubby."
Disney isn't pushing a new era for female fare, but rather a so-called gender-neutral framework that seems more interested in focusing on male heroes (Buzz, Woody, Jack, most of the superheroes) than reworking the now-dated approach it has been championing for decades. Instead of offering up new and modern dynamic women for the old fairy tale fans to run to, the company is focused on not alienating the male audiences with "female fare."
It's not surprising considering the boy's club that is Pixar, but one has to wonder what will happen with 'The Princess and the Bear' in the wake of this change. In fact, reference to this project is surprisingly missing from the news piece. The film has already lost Brenda Chapman, who was to be Pixar's first female director. One has to wonder why the animation house who has always worked to be the more modern source of animated fare would continue with fairy tale worlds once Disney acknowledges that they're antiquated. Perhaps the celtic heroine will be the next on the chopping block.
Now that fairy tales and classic Disney fare are relegated to slightly older audiences, like Little Red Riding Hood becoming a 'Twilight'-esque tale of romance in 'Red Riding Hood,' is it a good thing for Disney to move on from princesses? What should that hole be replaced with? Will Disney lose its hold on little girls, or finally give them so more worthwhile heroines to love?