May 16, 2013 at 3:30 PM ET
It’s the before-and-after makeover heard around the world.
When Princess Merida of “Brave” was crowned the 11th princess at Walt Disney World this weekend, she had a new look that included not only a tiny waist, sultry eyes, and cleavage but also the teal gown that the feisty tomboy so detested in the Oscar-winning movie. It was as if Merida stepped onto the cover of “Vogue” magazine and her rebellious spirit was photo-shopped right out of the red-headed heroine.
Nearly 212,000 of her fans weren’t having it. Through a Change.org petition, “Keep Merida Brave,” girl empowerment blog “A Mighty Girl,” demanded that Disney reconsider the redesign. By Wednesday, word had spread on the Internet that Disney had removed the sexified image from its official princess website, and the movement declared itself victorious.
But much of it has turned out to be as fictitious as the bow-and-arrow-carrying princess herself. The party girl image of Merida was never used on Disney’s official sites or Facebook pages, a Disney spokesperson told NBCNews.com Thursday.
“The artwork used on Merida’s official social media sites has always been the imagery from the movie – there have been no changes," a Disney spokesperson said in a statement. "We routinely use different art styles with our characters and this rendition of Merida in her party dress was a special one-time effort to commemorate her coronation. 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. “
Merida’s new look was created for her "special coronation" and is intended to be used in a limited product line this summer and fall. Her image on her official princess page will remain intact, the spokesperson said.
“For a wedding or prom, even a tomboy is going to dress up for a special occasion,” a source familiar with the product line said, describing the idea behind Merida’s newfound glamour. “That doesn’t change who she is or who she will continue to be or who she remains on the Disney web sites or in most of the products.”
Disney typically creates multiple artwork for each character to use in different platforms for different reasons. But the main look is always the look that everyone knows, the source said.
“It’s not like you walk into the toy aisle and Merida’s flipped over completely to this new look,” the source said. “This was a one-time special occasion effort.”
Still, the backlash against Merida’s transformation is understandable considering that she was created as an “anti-princess” of sorts, a tough and feisty warrior resistant to conventional beauty. Creator Brenda Chapman modeled Merida after her own teenage daughter and wants her to be representative of all teenage girls.
“Merida wouldn’t be caught dead looking like that and I think that’s what’s angering everyone,” Chapman told CNN. They’ve totally lost sight of the character in this new design. I understand, with the toys, that they don’t want to put in a lot more money creating a new body for the dolls. But this is a drawing that’s going to be put on tons of merchandise and it doesn’t cost that much money to put a lot of effort into a drawing that portrays the character as who the character is--as opposed to this grotesque, sexist depiction of her.”
The petition also decries the way Disney has introduced Merida into the Princess collection and calls it a "disservice to the millions of children for whom Merida is an empwering role model who speaks to girls' capacity to be change agents in the world rather than just trophies to be admired."