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the film criticism aspect of cyber | by maryann johanson

question of the day: Disney thinks ‘Rapunzel’ too girly, renames it ‘Tangled’: good move?

The Princess and the Frog did not do as well at the worldwide box office as Disney expected, and it thinks it knows why. As the Los Angeles Times blog Hero Complex puts it so succinctly:

Boys didn’t want to see a movie with “princess” in the title.

It’s an old argument, and one we’ve discussed here more than once before: Do boys really avoid stories about girls, or is it just a convenient myth that slots neatly into our preconceived stereotypes? (Isn’t it just as likely that The Princess and the Frog didn’t do as well as it might have because today’s kids want CGI-animated movies, not hand-drawn ones? Or that the film’s story was simply too old-fashioned, a retread of the same story Disney’s been feeding us for more than 20 years?)

And how is Disney reacting to this perception?

This time, Disney is taking measures to ensure that doesn’t happen again. The studio renamed its next animated film from the girl-centric “Rapunzel” to the less gender-specific “Tangled.”

The makeover of “Rapunzel” is more than cosmetic. Disney can ill afford a moniker that alienates half the potential audience, young boys, who are needed to make an expensive family film a success.

I’d venture a guess that many — perhaps most — young children have never even heard the word Rapunzel before, and would have no idea that it’s a girl’s name.

“We did not want to be put in a box,” said Ed Catmull, president of Pixar and Disney Animation Studios, explaining the reason for the name change. “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.”

But the original “Rapunzel” is, in fact, a story about a girl! That people of all genders have been appreciating for centuries! But Disney — and Hollywood on the whole — has a bias about who goes to what movies that it cannot see past.

So Disney is taking no chances with “Tangled,” positioned to take advantage of holiday family movie-going when it opens Nov. 24. The studio’s marketing campaign will amp up the role of the dashing Errol Flynn-styled male lead to share the spotlight with the golden-haired namesake of the classic Brothers Grimm story. Hints of swashbuckling action are already being leaked online.

“In our film, the infamous bandit Flynn Rider meets his match in the girl with the 70 feet of magical golden hair,” wrote the film’s producer, Roy Conli, on Disney Animation’s Facebook page. “We’re having a lot of fun pairing Flynn, who’s seen it all, with Rapunzel, who’s been locked away in a tower for 18 years.”

Flynn Rider, of course, is nowhere to be found in the original “Rapunzel” story.

*headdesk*

So: Disney thinks Rapunzel too girly, renames it Tangled: good move?

Of course, there’s no way that Disney can lose here. If the film does well, it could be because of a thousand different factors that have nothing to do with the title change. But the Disney execs will be patting themselves on the back over this move anyway.

(If you have a suggestion for a QOTD, feel free to email me. Responses to this QOTD sent by email will be ignored; please post your responses here.)



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  • LaSargenta

    The name is the least of it. The story change is pissing me off!

  • Michael

    New announcement from the ice cream industry: “Vanilla is the most popular ice cream flavor in the world. Therefore, to cater to the largest possible market, we shall only make vanilla ice cream!”

    *sigh*

  • Dave

    If boys were turned off by PatF it wasn’t by the title. I agree with you the hand drawn look isn’t particularly hip right now and may have turned off a few kids. But the fact that the main male character is a frog (and never not shown as such in any commercial I’ve seen) while everyone else is human left boys thinking they didn’t have a character to relate with. If they had shown the prince in human form more in the advertising the name wouldn’t have mattered.

  • Jeff Polizzi

    I find that title, “Tangled,” disrespectful to not only the Grimm Brother’s title, but to Walt Disney as well. Because that is not what Walt Disney would do when he adapts fairy tales into animated movies. Just because fairy tales that have girlish titles does NOT make it a girlish story. Those people, who complain about fairy tale titles being too girlish, need to understand that those story titles being too girlish happens to be written by MEN before we are even born. Also, they need to understand that they do not write stories just for girls or boys, they write for families to enjoy, learn, and love. I even love the title logo that Disney created for “Rapunzel,” and now they want to change it to “Tangled?” That title does not make any sense, and it is misleading. If they ever do change the title from “Rapunzel” to “Tangled,” I would find Disney’s next CG movie a flop. But, if they leave the title, “Rapunzel,” the way it is, and the title logo that Disney created as well, then I would have high confidence that Disney’s next CG movie could be a huge success. So I say to Disney, “In the name of Floyd Norman, a retired Disney and Pixar animator, and Walt Disney’s ghost, I demand that you change that dreadful title back to “Rapunzel” at once, or else you will all become a disgrace to Walt Disney forever. And you will fall to DreamWorks Animation forever more.”

    I understand why they called it “Tangled.” Not just to get the boys well entertained, but there are scenes in the synopsis that have created an example of the word “tangled,” such as the bandit, named Flynn Rider, who gets “tangled” with Rapunzel after she made a deal for her freedom. Flynn and Rapunzel’s romance can be “tangled.” Even Rapunzel’s hair can be “tangled” as well famous for her 70-feet of golden hair or blonde either way.

    I watched the teaser trailer of Disney’s Tangled, it is very cool, but did not show the name of the story. Which means that Disney COULD, but that depends on their version of the story perhaps, change the title back, even though changing the title from “Rapunzel” to “Tangled” is official. However, on the leaked trailer before the teaser trailer that I have watched as well, it has revealed the title based on Disney’s title change. It is really cool, but I do not have the taste buds on the new title that Disney made. In fact, I love the title logo that Disney made for Rapunzel; it is very beautiful, and entertaining. It makes me want to see it so much. But since they changed the title from “Rapunzel” to “Tangled,” perhaps I could see it, but I would find it a flop.

    To tell you the truth, I find that title, “Tangled,” misleading, funny, but misleading. To me it is like watching a parody of Shrek, Hoodwinked, and Happily N’ever After put together. But I understand that Disney is sticking to one fairy tale by the Grimm Brothers, but I am afraid what they are doing is disrespectful to not only the Grimm Brothers, but to Walt Disney as well, because Walt Disney would never change titles on fairy tales. He probably does not care about people, like boys, who complain about fairy tales with girlish titles being too girlish, the only thing that Disney cares about is not only making dreams come true for FAMILIES by adapting fairy tales into animated movies, but to fulfill famous fairy tale writers who has shaped the world of entertainment for every family around the world.

    Also, those boys need to “Dig a Little Deeper (according to the song from “The Princess and the Frog”),” on the story of fairy tales with girlish titles, because what if Disney arranges the story to make it more interesting than typical? Maybe then, even though fairy tales have girlish titles, but it can have an excellent story for not just girls or boys, but for FAMILIES to enjoy, learn, and love. The only way that fairy tales could be too girlish, including the title, is if the story is too girlish. But through Disney’s experience when it comes to adapting fairy tales into animated movies with girlish titles, they are all FAMILY. That is what makes Disney very special.

    By the way, I have no problem with “The Princess and the Frog,” that I saw. I give that movie infinite A+, especially when Dr. Facilier is a fun villain, evil, but fun. But I can say this, if changing the title is what Disney wants to do to get the boys well entertained along with the girls, it is their movie. But I have a little bit of a bad feeling that their next CG movie could be a flop based on the title change. But if they decided to change the title back to the way it is, then it could be a financial success…I hope.

    One more thing, it is not the title that bothers boys, it is the story itself that is not strong enough. Some times, Disney probably accidentally made the story a little too girlish for “The Princess and the Frog,” than trying to make it a family type, especially when some of the characters that Disney has created are not receiving enough roles. My advice for Disney is that the next time they want to adapt fairy tales into animated movies; they should try to make the story strong to fit to the title based on the fairy tale, instead of changing the title.

  • Jim Mann

    Hmm … this never seemed to hurt Alice in Wonderland. Or for that matter Snow White, Beauty in the Beast, etc.

    Jim

  • I suppose they want to duplicate the success of their worldwide smash hit, The Little Mer-Person.

  • markyd

    Yeah, I think this whole name change thing is idiotic.
    Then we have the is Flynn Rider character, which is just as idiotic.
    I have a 9 year old whom I think I have done a good job of teaching him to appreciate a good story, regardless of what or who it’s about.
    We all went to see Coraline together and enjoyed it. He wants to see Alice in Wonderland, despite “Alice” being the central character.
    He did NOT have interest in Princess and the Frog, though. Heck, I didn’t either, honestly. Nothing to do with the princess. The setting and story looked blah to me. Not sure about his thoughts on the matter.

    The classic Disney movies like Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, etc. may not work now like they did back then. Great movies, but if they were released in the current environment, would they do well?

    I kinda get how Disney wants to attract as wide an audience as possible, but changing the title is insulting to all the people working to make it a great movie. If it’s good, and marketed well, the title shouldn’t matter.

  • Jester

    Er… yeah. What Jim said, just with a bit more emphasis:

    * Jasmine’s role was greatly expanded from the original Aladdin story for the film.
    * Megara’s role was greatly expanded from the original Hercules legends for the film (and she isn’t brutally murdered by Hercules, which is a nice bonus).
    * A female characters not present in the original Tarzan story was added (Terk), and Kala and Jane’s roles were expanded from the original material for the film.
    * I don’t recall Ophelia and Gertrude leading an army of women against Claudius in Hamlet (The Lion King climax).
    * There is no Li Shang character in the Ballad of Mulan.
    * Eric’s role was almost completely rewritten from the original Little Mermaid story, as were just about everyone else’s roles.

    As a matter of fact, the only modern Disney movie that I can recall that keeps the male-female dynamic of the original material intact is, somewhat ironically, The Hunchback of Notre Dame.

    So, why get overexcited about this particular movie?

  • Left_Wing_Fox

    Name change dosen’t bug me.

    Changing the focus of the story away from the female protagonist does. A Lot.

  • But the original “Rapunzel” is, in fact, a story about a girl!

    As others have pointed out, half of Disney’s most popular movies are stories about girls: Alice in Wonderland, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Beauty and the Beast, Lady and the Tramp, The Little Mermaid, Mulan, Pocahontas–all have at least one title character who is obviously female. And I seem to recall most of them were pretty successful.

    What’s funny about this is that I still remember being surprised a few years ago by the number of people who had no problems with their kids seeing Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride–and one would think that the subject matter of that movie would have been a lot more problematic than the story of Rapunzel.

    The times are indeed a-changing–and not for the better…

  • So apparently the real reason The Iron Giant flunked out at the box office a decade ago was all those damn female characters mentioned in the title.

    And let’s not forget the failure of that obviously female-oriented flick Treasure Planet. Because “planet” undoubtedly sounds just like “princess”…

  • LaSargenta

    Tonio, you forgot Space Hunter!

  • Was Space Hunter released in the States through Disney?

    If so, my bad.

    Though I note from its credits on IMDB that it isn’t a typical Disney project.

  • MK

    I really am getting tired of people ragging on “Princess and the Frog.” It was the best, smartest screwball comedy in recent memory. I do think they goofed by not just calling it “The Frog Prince,” since boys might have been more easily enticed to see a movie with that title– most of the main characters are male anyway. The movie is funny, cute and tugs at the ol’ heartstrings WITHOUT being a retread. As a mom of young kids who cannot stand to watch Cinderella or Little Mermaid (the belittling of the female leads makes me so angry), I just love our Blu-Ray of TPATF. The characters are more fully realized and the film strikes a stronger emotional cord than all of Avatar’s cliched nonsense. Did people not give it a chance because the characters aren’t all white?

  • Tim

    Flynn rider should have been changed back into Bastion because i think Flynn Rider would be one of worst movie characters since, Jar Jar Binks. BTW rapunzel should stop acting like a crimefighter!!!

  • sophronia

    As MK mentioned, the original title of the story is The Frog Prince. First Disney changed it to play up their princess franchise, then they decide that putting Princess in the title scared off all the little boys. What was that, a self-fulfilling prophecy?

    I think the movie was very badly marketed. Not a lot of people knew the original story the film was based on. More recent Disney films have emphasized great animation and/or exotic settings, but the campaign for this movie didn’t, instead concentrating on the princess character. The princess merchandise has been very profitable for Disney but there have been many terrible straight-to-DVD cartoons made to cash in on the princess trend and I’ll bet a lot of parents figured it was another insipid princess movie and didn’t want to shell out the money.

  • Paul

    And we all know what a flop “Princess Bride” was. I know, I know, not Disney. I could tell by the lack of singing.

    People can’t handle chaos. They see ups and downs and try to micromanage when really it’s just life going up and down. You can see it watching the news on TV. Stocks are up because Obama did this! Stocks are down because Obama did that! Yeah, right, the stock market day traders are a bunch of nerves nellies who get commissions based on how many trades they make, not the quality of the decisions, so why the hell should that indicate the health of the economy?

    When a movie goes into the red, the marketing guys blame the production crew and the production guys blame the marketing crew. Is it because there aren’t enough men? Not enough whites? Not enough sword fights? What, do they think there’s some sort of formula and if they just find the perfect marketing balance they can ensure massive profits from every movie?

  • Ken

    Disney, if you’re reading, please explain to me this: If you’re so desperate for this movie to make a profit, why are you keeping it as a late November release so it’ll be up against Harry Potter?????? Talk about being in the forest but not noticing the trees!

  • Mel

    Hunchback of Notre-Dame made Phoebus a romantic hero instead of a horrible person, Quasimodo a much more major character (and one who could speak), Frollo into cardboard, and Esmeralda into someone with a spine. Kind of a mixed bag of changes, IMO.

    Re: Alice, I’ve seen the latest movie’s success attributed to the “magical combination” of Tim Burton and Johnny Depp (the latter of which isn’t really that big a character). Even if a movie with a female lead is a hit, the studios seem to come up with ways to attribute that to the men involved. It couldn’t possibly be audiences liking Alice.

  • MaSch

    What, do they think there’s some sort of formula and if they just find the perfect marketing balance they can ensure massive profits from every movie?

    Erm, isn’t it obvious they do?

    Re: Alice, I’ve seen the latest movie’s success attributed to the “magical combination” of Tim Burton and Johnny Depp (the latter of which isn’t really that big a character). Even if a movie with a female lead is a hit, the studios seem to come up with ways to attribute that to the men involved. It couldn’t possibly be audiences liking Alice.

    Well, Alice was a bit of a bland character, after all – I guess in ten years time, people will watch the movie because of Anne Hathaway’s subtly melodramatic performance and of course because of Helena Bonham-Carter’s manic Red Queen. If someone *will* be watching this movie in ten years time, which is probably dubitable. Compare to “Sleeping Beauty”, which is really rather about the three fairies and the magnificent Malificent, rather than the romantic “leads”.

    And to the person who said these fairy tales were written by men: They were written *down* by men (and a bit changed on that occasion), but their sources for the fairy tales were mostly older women.

    WRT this movie, I guess they wont leave the prince’s blinded suffering after fallen from the tower in, will they? A pity, it would have been a possibility to show that they still can do nightmarish stuff at Disney’s …

  • LaSargenta

    Tonio, I’m an idiot.

    Was Space Hunter released in the States through Disney?

    Uh, somehow I didn’t realize that was the common thread with the films you mentioned. *facepalm* I was just throwing out another film that was aimed at an audience that the makers were Absolutely. Certain. Existed. Just. For. This Formula. (and they threw in 3-D) and it didn’t mention girls in the title at all and it bombed in the theater.

    No, it certainly wasn’t Disney, and I’ll just slink away now.

  • BillS

    Can’t wait to see all the shampoo/hair conditioner product placements in this flick…

  • Uh, somehow I didn’t realize that was the common thread with the films you mentioned.

    Well, it was the common thread for the films I mentioned in my first post. The Iron Giant, was the one non-Disney production in my second post and I just threw that out for the same reason you mentioned Spirit Hunter. I hope that didn’t confuse you.

    Anyway, the “formula” they’re coming up with Tangled–a classic fairy tale deconstructed for the little kiddies who don’t know what deconstruction is–sounds suspiciously like the same formula used by the non-Disney production Happily Never After. And that film bombed. Horribly.

    And I’ve seen it. The most charitable things I could say about it is that it gave a lot of otherwise good people paychecks and that it was at worst mercifully forgettable.

    I get that everyone at Disney probably wants like–er–heck to get a share of the Shrek audience but not everyone wants to see a Shrek movie each and every time they go to the movie theatre. Try something new.

  • I get that everyone at Disney probably wants like–er–heck to get a share of the Shrek audience

    “Heck,” Tonio? You had no problem telling Kevin Smith to go to “hell” on the other thread…

    ;-)

  • I choose my language to fit the subject matter, Bluejay. I can also cuss in Spanish but I saw no point in doing so today.

  • I love the movie princess and the frog..

  • If there’s anything I know about Hollywood, it’s that execs are dumb, and make dumb decisions based on dumb logic. That said, this seems like a pretty minor one. Tangled doesn’t mean anything more or less to me as the title of a new movie than Rapunzel. I think if the title was really important, there must be something better than either title that’s actually catchy on its own. Neither existing title strikes me as particularly great: the new one because it tells you nothing, the latter because it doesn’t indicate that the story is in any way updated for the current generation, which, regardless of whether the viewer wants it to be or not, it is.

  • But Rapunzel is a good name for the movie..I hope they won’t change it.

  • Tonio Kruger

    I suspect they would have called this movie Hair if that title had not already been taken.

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