Thursday, February 11, 2010

Disney Films - Boys vs. Girls

I read over on Blue Sky Disney that Disney is scrapping their plans to make an animated feature called "The Snow Queen", and have also begun contemplating changing the title of "Rapunzel" to something less fairytale-ish, like "Tangled". (The specific posts are here (The Killing of a Queen By A Princess) and here (Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow).

The discussion in the "Comments" section of that first post (especially) was interesting to me, because it dug into possible reasons for the killing of the project. It seems that "The Princess and the Frog" has not done as well as Disney hoped, and they believe in large part it is because boys had no desire to see it.

Being a big Disney fan, and having two boys 7 and 9, I can attest to the fact that there was a bit of reluctance on their part to go see TP&TF. Some of that was related to the fact that we just don't go to very many movies at the theater, and they recognized that there just weren't that many opportunities to go to see what was out there. And what they really wanted to see was "Alvin: The Squeakwel" or whatever it was called exactly.

But in the end, I was paying, and I was driving. :-) So I told them that I REALLY wanted to see the Disney feature in the theater, and that Alvin would be the same on DVD (and cheaper by a few dollars if we buy the DVD when it is first released at Best Buy or Target). I also told them that if the opportunity presented itself, we'd go see Alvin next. They bought into this; they agreed to go to see the Princess.

But they didn't put up too much resistance, either, because they are accustomed to Disney features being entertaining - even the ones they might not get excited about seeing like "Sleeping Beauty" or "Snow White". They realize that they're in for a treat when they view almost any Disney feature.

As I think about it, we've let our kids' entertainment expectations become segmented - it is definitely harder to satisfy everyone nowadays. Boys are used to fast and sometimes even violent action in video games and movies. A "Princess" movie just doesn't appeal to them as much as it may have in the past.

One poster pointed out that today is not the same as the time when Snow White and Sleeping Beauty were released, that there are different expectations, and also many more options. I think there is a lot to this. Just like we had a choice between Alvin and TP&TF, there are other choices too. Not only that, but there are so many choices on cable or satellite. Disney, Pixar and Dreamworks features are easy to find on HBO, Showtime, or whatever else there is. Then of course there are the DVD's in the collections. The other night I asked my 9 year old what movie he'd like to watch and he immediately picked "Meet The Robinsons". Pulled out the DVD and there it was.

Then I think some parents might even be afraid to let their boys become too "soft". They want them tough and physical. There are boys in the neighborhood who I can't imagine watching a Disney feature, let alone a Princess feature. I think that's a shame but there's nothing anyone, including Disney, can do about it.

It was also suggested that maybe TP&TF just isn't that great of a movie, and that might account for some of its lackluster performance. I can't comment for everyone, but I thought it was up there with some of the better Disney does not reach the heights of the "Golden Age" films, but it's far better than a lot of the stuff between then and now. I'd see it again, and I'll certainly buy it on DVD or BluRay. (I admit to being a bit of a sucker for Disney films on DVD...have most everything.)

And then there is the commentary about the marketing campaign. I've read that they definitely directed too much of their marketing efforts at young girls, and not enough at attracting the entire family. That could be true. My own desire to see it came from my pre-existing love of all things Disney, and my reading of Disney blogs like Blue Sky Disney, who were hyping it before it was even released. I had some expectations, and I felt they were met. Had I only seen the TV marketing campaign stuff, I may have been less inclined to go see it. But even so - Disney's commercials tie in to some deeper emotional attachment I have to their products, an attachment that was formed YEARS ago. I don't know how someone without this attachment would react to them.

Anyway, I think there are likely a myriad of reasons that it didn't do as well as Disney hoped, not the least of which is just the poor economy and the knowledge that we will soon be able to buy the DVD for less than the price of three matinee admissions to the theater. I wish that Disney would still see value in creating from-the-heart animated features, the kind of features they still do the best in the world. Stuff like Rapunzel and The Snow Queen, probably.

By the way, we did also go see Alvin: The Squeakwel. It was about what I expected. Somewhat entertaining, but nothing really for me (though my boys enjoyed it as much as TP&TF).


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