Brave creator slams Merida makeover as ‘atrocious’

Disney Pixar's Merida, left, as seen in the film and the updated version used in the merchandise range, right. Picture: Complimentary
Disney Pixar's Merida, left, as seen in the film and the updated version used in the merchandise range, right. Picture: Complimentary
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THE creator of the Disney-Pixar adventure set in the Scottish Highlands has branded a controversial makeover for the main character Merida “atrocious.”

Brenda Chapman has accused Disney of acting irresponsibly by unveiling a new slimline version of the character, who has been stripped of her bow and arrows in favour of a sparkly dress for a new merchandising range.

Chapman, who penned the initial storyline for Brave and was at the helm in the film’s early stages, said Disney should be “ashamed” of themselves for the move to give Merida a more refined look, which will now be used on packaging and merchandising for all goods in the Disney Princesses line.

Almost 120,000 people have signed a petition protesting against Merida’s makeover, which was unveiled shortly before an official “coronation” ceremony for Disney’s 11th addition to its princess collection.

Chapmen was controversially ousted from the director’s chair during the lengthy production process on Brave, with her co-writer Mark Andrews eventually taking over the film, about a rebellious princess who sparks chaos in her kingdom by flouting ancient traditions.

The film, which had its world premiere in Los Angeles almost a year ago, was at the centre of a £7 million campaign by the Scottish Government and VisitScotland to capitalise on Brave’s Highland setting, the iconic locations which inspired the story and the film’s star-studded cast.

One of Scotland’s leading actresses, Kelly Macdonald, landed the lead role of Merida after American star Reese Witherspoon pulled out of the film. Co-stars included Billy Connolly and Robbie Coltrane.

The pair took to the stage together at the Academy Awards earlier this year when Brave, which was the closing gala at last year’s Edinburgh International Film Festival, was named best animated feature.

Chapman has wrote a letter to her local paper, the Marin Independent Journal, revealed she had given Bob Iger, president of Walt Disney International, “a piece of my mind” for the entertainment giant’s decision to give Merida a makeover.

Merida had been viewed by many female fans as a feminist icon thanks to her defiant behaviour and rebellious attitude. Her new look includes the tidying up of her fiery tousled hair and a low-cut sparkly gown.

Chapman was responding to the furore over the makeover stirred up by the protest petition, which branded it a “tremendous disservice to the millions of children for whom Merida is an empowering role model who speaks to girls’ capacity to be change agents in the world rather than just trophies to be admired.”

Chapman said: “I think it’s atrocious what they have done to Merida.

“There is an irresponsibility to this decision that is appalling for women and young girls.

“Disney marketing and the powers that be that allow them to do such things should be ashamed of themselves.

“When little girls say they like it because it’s more sparkly, that’s all fine and good but, subconsciously, they are soaking in the sexy ‘come hither’ look and the skinny aspect of the new version. It’s horrible!

“Merida was created to break that mould — to give young girls a better, stronger role model, a more attainable role model, something of substance, not just a pretty face that waits around for romance.”

Brave’s co-director Mark Andrews last year said Merida had been designed to be an “anti princess.”

‘She isn’t your typical princess,’ he said. “She doesn’t wear nice clothes except in a couple of scenes when her strict mom, Queen Elinor, makes her do it for special functions.”

However a statement released by Disney said: “Merida exemplifies what it means to be a Disney Princess through being brave, passionate, and confident and she remains the same strong and determined Merida from the movie whose inner qualities have inspired moms and daughters around the world.”

And Mike Cantlay, chairman of VisitScotland, said: “The adventures of Merida continue to capture the imagination of millions of film fans around the world, highlighting our country’s splendour in new and exciting ways. We are delighted that Merida has now been officially recognised as a Disney princess.”