Disney Tries To Make ‘Rapunzel’ Appeal To Boys


In addition to Toy Story 3, Disney is planning the release of a new animated film based on a famous storybook princess (like their most recent movie release The Princess and Frog) and have set their sights on Rapunzel. But, because The Princess and the Frog didn’t do so well at the box office, Disney has decided to retool the Rapunzel story to make it more boy-friendly (cuz, that’s where the money is? Really?). The film will now be called Tangled and will focus on a swash-buckling male hero … because, apparently, an animated film about a girl with long, flowing hair is not something that boys want to see at the movies:

Disney is wringing the pink out of its princess movies. After the less-than-fairy-tale results for its most recent animated release, “The Princess and the Frog,” executives at the Burbank studio believe they know why the acclaimed movie came up short at the box office. Brace yourself: Boys didn’t want to see a movie with “princess” in the title. This time, Disney is taking measures to ensure that doesn’t happen again. The studio renamed its next animated film with the girl-centric name “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. “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.” So Disney is taking no chances with “Tangled,” positioned to take advantage of holiday family moviegoing 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. In the Grimm tale, a prince riding through a forest is enticed by Rapunzel’s sweet singing and climbs up the tower where the imprisoned girl is reachable only by her golden tresses. The prince is hardly the boastful swordsman type, let alone a charming rogue. And in Disney’s latest version, the demure princess is transformed into a feisty teen. Disney hopes the introduction of the slightly bad-boy character will help it tap the broadest possible audience for “Tangled,” emulating the success of its corporate sibling, Pixar. Pixar’s movies have been huge hits because they appeal to girls, boys and adults. Its most recent release, “Up,” grossed more than $700 million worldwide. “The Princess and the Frog” generated considerably less — $222 million in global ticket sales to date. “Based upon the response from fans and critics, we believe it would have been higher if it wasn’t prejudged by its title,” Catmull said. In rethinking “Rapunzel,” Disney tested a number of titles, finally settling on “Tangled” because people responded to meanings beyond the obvious hair reference: a twisted version of the familiar story and the tangled relationship between the two lead characters. However, some in the Disney animation community think the name change is misguided. Floyd Norman, a retired Disney and Pixar animator, lampooned the new name with a cartoon on his blog that depicts Rapunzel in her tower brandishing a machine gun and declaring “Rapunzel Salvation: This Is Not a Princess Movie.” “The idea of changing the title of a classic like ‘Rapunzel’ to ‘Tangled’ is beyond stupid,” said Norman, who worked on films including “Mulan” and “Monsters, Inc.” “I’m still hoping that Disney will eventually regain their sanity and return the title of their movie to what it should be. I’m convinced they’ll gain nothing from this except the public seeing Disney as desperately trying to find an audience.”

I totally agree with Floyd Norman, this idea to retool Rapunzel IS “beyond stupid”. Since when does Disney think their Princess movies need to be saved by making them appeal to boys? Hello!! Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, The Little Mermaid, Mulan … I mean, the list of Disney films that focus on classic princesses is almost endless! NOW they want to make these movies appeal to boys? In all seriousness, WTF? is wrong with the Disney folks? I, too, hope they come to their senses and stay the course and put out a movie that will at least resemble the original story. This is Walt Disney, for Pete’s sake … they practically created the Princess business! Don’t ruin this classic tale … please?! Help me out people … is this not the dumbest thing you’ve ever heard in your life?


  • Z

    First of all, I don’t think you can call “Mulan” a “classic princess” story. Cross-dressing, talking dragons, the comic stylings of Eddie Murphy… ;) I do agree that the name change seems a little silly but, honestly, I don’t like the classic princess movies – and I grew up w/ them! And I’m a girl! And imagine my shock as I grew up and found out that the Disney movies weren’t fairy tale “canon” anyway. I mean, they’ve been putting their own spin on things for about 80 yrs so this isn’t really that different.


    How does Rapunzel even wash her hair? I think that’s the more interesting part than anything else!

  • “Mulan” should never, ever be considered one of the “Disney Princess” because she WASN’T one. She was a girl who stood on their own and didn’t need to hide behind a crown to achieve that. I hate how Disney markets her under the “Princess” brand.

    *steps off soap box*

  • krissy

    I think ALL of the Disney princesses “didn’t need to hide behind a crown”…that is why there were movies made about them. I mean, especially with the Little Mermaid and Sleeping Beauty, they went into disguise to HIDE their princess-ness. That being said, I don’t think it is bad to change the name. I think that Disney is just recognizing the world we live in. Female focued movies have not been doing well at all. Male focused movies like Transformers get both men and women to go see them. Women will go see a man movie, men won’t go to female flicks. From a business stand point, this just makes sense.

    • @krissy — This film will not appeal to the “Transformers” audience, no way. I think it’s idiotic to abandon the audience that has always supported Disney films (ie. little girls) in an attempt to lure a new audience (ie. little boys) who would rather see things like Transformers over any swash-buckling cartoons.

  • Donoso

    Feminists of the world, start your engines.

    But seriously, isn’t appealing to boys the reason they bought Marvel? Throw the girls a bone here…

  • Fae

    Disney has done the “princess movie” that focuses quite a bit on a male character … Enchanted. As bumbling as he was, Prince Edward had quite a few scenes … and most of them WITHOUT Giselle.

    Point being … focusing a bit on the male character might not be out of line. However, the name change is flat out stupid.

    I really don’t think the “low” numbers of The Princess And The Frog had anything to do with boys being alienated by the title … imo it had more to do with the fact that it was the first animated film Disney had put out in YEARS … instead, they’ve had nothing but glittery brainless Hannah Montana-esque features instead.

    Disney ‘s choices in the past few years have turned kids on to a different type of entertainment. And now they want to blame the result on a TITLE?

    The problem is, though, Disney’s a giant. What marketing analyst is going to tell them they’re wrong when it’s so much more PROFITABLE to say yes, yes you’re right?

  • Isabelle

    I don’t know about this, but I must agree with Trent. No matter what you do a “princess” movie will never appear to boys.

    Other than that, I must say that my favorite “princesses” are Pocahontas and Mulan, because they don’t sit on their arses all their lives waiting for prince charming to come. And they actually existed. And maybe you might notice that they never (or rarely) feature on disney princesses posters, bedsheets, etc…(Yeah, I have a 5 year old girl at home). I’m not sure what they’re trying to promote…Sit down shut up and be pretty ?

  • Sam

    Mulan is not a princess.

  • E

    Agreed Trent. I hate the idea.

  • periz

    how stupid… little boys do not like princess movies end of story. and i personaly couldnt get out of my house the weeks that princes and the frog were in the theater near me due to mountains of snow being dumped on southern iowa… I LOVE princess movies and i am a senior in high school grrr they should not do this to rapunzel it will get rid of the most important line…

  • Robin

    It’s not the change that bothers me, but moreso the reasoning behind it. The idea that they need to change things to appeal to boys because the most recent, Princess and the Frog wasn’t as lucrative as they had hoped is insane. If they were trying to find the best way to approach the movie based on sales, they should look beyond the film itself and think of the merchandising behind it.
    If anyone has been to a Disney Park, we know it’s not the boy majority begging their parents to spend ridiculous amounts of money to get made over into their favorite character. It’s also not the boys who are going to buy a doll of their favorite movie character 10 times over just because this time, it is in a different outfit. They lose that market with this film if the princess isn’t an integral character in her own fairytale.
    I would understand the changes more if they had simply said they ran out of good ideas.
    Now I have “Let’s hear it for the boys” stuck in my head.

  • krissy

    Trent, I wasn’t suggesting that the Transformers crowd would go see a Disney animated movie, I just used it as an example of how girls will see a guy movie, but the reverse doesn’t happen. I guess a better comparison would be Toy Story. That has male and female lead characters, and little boys AND girls will go see it. When it comes to little kids, I think a lot has to do with their parents choices. Perhaps parents don’t want to take little boys to “princess movies”.

    • @krissy — Yes, I see your point. I just think the whole matter is silly. Little kids aren’t as hung up on gender stereotypes as their parents are, perhaps that’s where the trouble lies?

  • babybunny

    I have been wishing for them to do Rapunzel since I was like 12. Now Im really sad that they are making this into something else, rather than the classic story I loved as a child.

  • Kim

    When I was in grad school, I remember reading an study about how young girls tend to empathize with both female and male characters while young boys tend to only empathize with male ones. Nature or nurture? Who knows. I still think Disney should just stick to princesses. Someone’s got to focue on the girls, because television sure isn’t: http://thatguywiththeglasses.com/videolinks/thedudette/nostalgia-chick/16616-the-smurfette-principle

  • Brenna

    The Princess and the Frog didn’t do well because it sucked. It lacked classic music and songs little girls can sing along to. The princess in the movie WAS A FROG FOR MOST OF THE MOVIE. My three-year-old daughter likes sparkles and crowns, not frogs.

  • lo

    it’s a family movie, so families as a whole are going to go see it. as kim mentioned, little girls are more likely to be okay with seeing a boy or non-gendered movie vs. a boy going to see a princess movie.
    hold up… maybe we’re wrong and these are only princess movies because we are limiting our perspectives. there are 2 sides to the story. as nice as it is that rapunzel is stuck in the tower, the real story is about how she gets out. enter the prince’s story. the name is irrelevant. its a new spin on an old tale and i personally welcome it… wouldn’t it be silly if transformers was named sam whitwicky?

  • Madison

    While children aren’t hung up on gender stereotypes, their parents are, and their parents are the ones who control what movies are watched.

  • Christine

    I don’t see why it is so bad to appeal to boys by having more of a male lead… Instead of retelling the same old story they are showing it from a different point of view.

  • Maddles

    @Brenna: I agree, my daughter wasn’t very interested in the long frog caption of the movie, Princess and the Frog. The songs were not catchy or very impressive. Otherwise, it was just ok.

    On the subject of the ‘Tangled’ movie, I find the reasoning for the name change understandable. Times have changed since the princess movies were made and I think the Pixar company will always have more customers seeing their movies as they cater to everyone. Their comedy is not ‘childish’, their characters are flawed in different ways that people can relate to and their movies are very creative, not only based on human characters.
    I believe though, if Disney could have made the recent movie, Princess and the Frog, more like their previous award winning animated movies, they would have seen a higher profit..

  • Pico

    I am so happy that they are doing this with the story. We are taking our five-year-old son to Disney World in May, and I am so disheartened that so much of it caters to princesses, princesses, princesses. It makes me want to puke (I’m a girl and don’t like princesses). While planning this trip, I was worried that Disney has left behind the magic that appeals to everyone, but I have found that isn’t the case.

    I appreciate that they are trying to appeal to the WHOLE population. This will be an exciting twist on an old story (“Wicked”, anyone?).

  • Lisa

    Disney needs to let go of the silly comedy (like the ones I saw in the Princess and Frog preview.. didnt see the movie) and reach out to the heart-felt storylines. Like Lion King or Beauty and the Beast.

    Heartfelt… and maybe even reach out to Disney-loving adults as opposed to kids. Then, adults will take their kids to see the movie too!

  • Isabelle

    Like Lisa said: do more things like the Lion King (I cried SO much),The Fox and The Hound …those are my favorites (and they’re about animals, so … No gender problems here.
    For the record: I was bored to lethargy and apathy when I went to see The Princess and The Frog with my daughter.

  • korpsy

    If they want to appeal to little boys, they should make more movies like The Lion King, Aladdin (which although has a princess, was more about Aladdin) and Pinnochio…. which had boys as main characters.

    Keep the princesses as they are! Boys have enough selection already!

  • Bubblegum

    I’m disturbed that $222 million is not considered to be a success. I’m assuming that was still quite the profit. And think of all the classic, timeless disney movies that children still watch now. Kids still LOVE the little mermaid, beauty and the beast. They still make tons of money off those! So, now instead they will start spewing out pop-culture reference, over-the-top humor and computer animation that will seem dated. Maybe that is not the case, since UP was a really wonderful movie, even though it was high-tech animation. But, I fear that they will get far away from the classics!

  • Amanda

    @ Pico: if you really gave a shit about anything appealing to the whole population, you’d open your eyes and notice that EVERYTHING is catered to the male gender, and wishing that even more of it was is ridiculous.

  • Tiffany

    Didn’t read all of the comments but this is BS! I think the Princess and The Frog didn’t do well in my eyes because it stepped away from the classic storyline but whatever. The damage is done. And now to turn a girly movie into a boy movie? LAME!

  • Pico

    What an ugly (and paranoid) response to my expression of delight over this new movie! So sad that some people are so forceful and negative with their comments. I have never been treated (or paid) differently than my male aerospace engineer coworkers, friends, or family, so I certainly have never seen the world as a man’s place. Lucky me, I guess!

  • Jessie Nicole

    I think they should use `Tangled`as a sub-name, kind of like Pirates of the Caribbean: the Black Pearl, that way people would know that there is more to the story then just `Rapunzel,Rapunzel let down your hair`, but at the same time i keeps it`s fairy tale roots and in addition is also respectful to Walt Disney and the Grimm Brothers, like it could be something like `Rapunzel: the tangled years` or `Rapunzel: A tangled tale of epic proportions` or `Rapunzel: prepared to get tangled`

    the options are endless, and in my opinion it`s a very ideal compromise.