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.


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.

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