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Dorothy Le

Disney Marketing: Gender Appeal

Dec 30 2013, 06:00 AM by

Disney Marketing


It wasn’t until I was about 7 years old did I realize that Disney was not created just for girls, but for boys too. The reason being I was surrounded by girly Disney things: pink Princess pajamas, dolls, backpacks, dress-up costumes, makeover sets. Whenever we walked into the Disney store, I zoomed right to the area that is the most pink and everything else is just background decoration as far as I’m concerned. I’m sure the boys thought that same thing too, but vice versa.

Once I matured and got past the “ew cooties!” stage, I finally appreciated and enjoyed the Disney films that I steered away from when I was younger. It is so funny to see my younger cousins fighting and dividing their Disney belongings based on their gender.

If you noticed that in this generation, the gender stereotypes are not as solidified as they used to be and there is more open-mindedness to how male or female characters are portrayed in media. Men are allowed to show their softer, romantic sides, and women are no longer damsels in distress, but now assertive and fighting on their own. You can even see that stark contrast in the older Disney princesses to the newer ones. Snow White and Sleeping Beauty sang to animals about waiting for their dream prince, while Mulan and Merida were the heroines in their own stories. The latter female characters blend into the types of strong female characters that are dominating the entertainment industry in this generation (we can thank Angelina Jolie for that).

Disney newer Princess movies are gradually taking the focus off the princess’s romantic prospects, and concentrating more towards the inner growth she endures and the obstacles she overcomes. Clearly, movie audiences are over the singing pink princesses and are hungry for a strong, sword-wielding warrioress to be a good role model for their daughters. What would be even better, is if both boys and girls can enjoy the same movies together. In a marketing perspective, it is great to gather more audiences to a film with their ideal characters, but it will be a double win to gather both boys and girls to the same film.

That is where the movie Tangled came in. A the 50th animated movie in Disney history, and with popular stars Mandy Moore and Zachary Levi voicing the characters, producers were striving to make this film one of their biggest hits. However, their previous film, The Princess and the Frog, also had a lot of hype surrounding it, being the first film with an African-American princess. Even though it had rave reviews from critics, the box-office sales fell short of what Disney predicted. It all pointed to the fact that the film title had the word ‘princess’ in it, which automatically alienated boys. So for their next fairy tale animation, producers changed the original name Rapunzel, to a more gender-neutral name. That’s how Tangled was born.

Ed Catmull, the president of Disney Animation and Pixar, revealed, “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 enjoyed by everybody.” So out with the traditional princess moniker and in with a title that encompasses every major points in the film: the tangled version of the film, a tangled relationship between the princess and her leading man, and of course, that tangled mess of a hair.

How did this new marketing direction go? A grand success, raking in $590 million globally, with rave reviews, and even winning an Academy Award for Best Original Song. Even though there were fingers pointing at the marketing tactic, you can’t deny the success of the film, and the diversity of the audiences that went to go see it.

Posted in Tips & Resources, Entertainment

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