Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Disney’s New Versions of Style

Disney-branded dresses aimed at placing women in the beloved and coveted role of Princess seem to be becoming more common. 
While shopping for wedding dresses last year I couldn’t ignore Alfred Angelo’s line of Disney gowns for brides, bridesmaids, and flower girls.  The bridal line was called Disney Fairy Tale Weddings, and was paired with the hyper-feminized terms of “Disney Maidens” and “Disney Blossoms” for the bridal party. 

"Transform into the beauty you imagined..."    (Link A)

17 different bridal styles are designed to mimic the iconic dresses of Princesses from Snow White to Rapunzel, but it looks like they couldn’t stray too close to the real things because these dresses look, well, like normal wedding gowns.

This is Jasmine.  Duh.    (Link A)

The Maiden dresses are even more loosely tied to Princesses, as they don’t even have Princess names labeled to the styles.  However I can clearly identify which one they were trying to mimic for a few of them.  There is a clear Belle, Ariel, and Pocahontas while the brides dresses only yielded one that KINDA looked like Belle (Pictured above). 

Clearly Pocahontas here.    (Link A)

The Blossoms were even less true to the Princesses’ styles, as I thought one was tied to Belle but in fact was supposed to be Ariel. 

This is Ariel, NOT Belle. Whaaat?   (Link A)
So honestly if I were using these styles in my wedding I’d practically have to announce that it is a Disney themed wedding, because no one would be able to tell on their own based on the dresses only.

For the slightly younger female trying to live out their Princess fantasies, the companies Ashdon and Disney have just announced their first Princess-inspired prom dress line.  The D23 article states that the designs are “inspired by the personalities and stories” of the Princess they are portraying.  Which I don’t really get because the three dresses shown for Snow White, their first Princess, do not really invoke sweet innocent little girl vibes, but tones of sexy and sultry.  So I’m not sure how Snow White’s personality and story reflects in these dresses at all.  The article mentions the red poisoned apple and flora and fauna but I feel like that's kind of a stretch.  So is the "Belle" line going to be half red too, because of the enchanted rose?  I don't get it.

Prom 2013 look out!  (Link B)

The article does go on to say if offers a "fresh perspective" on a classic and there are seven dresses ranging from "sweet and demure to dramatic and intense."  Yeah, cool, but I don't see any examples of sweet and demure in this article so I get the feeling they don't anticipate those to be big hits compared to these.

I know Disney has a way of making females of all ages want to be Princesses, and these seem like a decent way they can live out their fantasies though certain special occasions in their lives.  But with such loose interpretations such as these I wonder if it’s a question of getting too close to the real thing for Disney’s comfort or if the true looks of the Princesses are too modest for today’s fashion.  I can’t really picture today’s prom queens bumping and grinding while wearing Snow White’s getup, floor-length and high collar and all.  I just know if one walked up to me in any of these gowns gushing that it was a Snow White dress I’d be quite skeptical.  Any thoughts?

Tuesday, August 21, 2012


Today we’ll focus on the grey area of women in the park.  Not guests, but the Cast Members of yesterday, designed to fulfill a theme in a certain Land.  Several examples include the hula girl dancers of the long gone Tahitian Terrace restautant in Adventureland, 

See: Link A

the mermaids who sunbathed and played a part in Tomorrowland’s Submarine Voyage show for a few years after its opening in 1959, 

See: Link B
and the cancan dancers in the Golden Horseshoe Revue in Frontierland. 

See: Link C
These are, in short, icons of the immersive environments Disneyland is known to create.  Of course you would find enchanting hula girls in a swanky mid-century Tahitian restaurant and of course there were actually racy cancan dancers in the saloons of the old west. 
But the fact of the matter is they were there to be looked at.  The male guests visiting the Park when these ladies still entertained certainly enjoyed their performances in a different way that women or children did.  But it was a common part of life in mid-century America, and now many would be offended if the dancers and mermaids still worked in the parks, regardless of the intention.

It seems it’s important to ask, is “politically correct” or “expertly themed” better for both Disney culture and society, and what is at stake?  The Disney culture has changed over time, becoming more PC in and of itself, and the lack of these entertainment girls is proof of that.  But in the popular argument, “what would Walt do,” the state of the Park when he was living is proof that he saw them as great immersion effects.

As society changes over time, so do our values and it seems the possible result of objectification of women may put them in danger or perpetuate stereotypes and male-dominant tendencies.  There is no “right” answer, and never will be but looking at a simple element of the Park’s history, such as this, can shed interesting light on social issues and changes.


A. TT Dancers
B. Mermaids
C. Cancan Dancers

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Of Pirates and Princesses... and Pirate Princesses

This is a subject I’ve been wanting to write about for a while now.  Two new experiences in the Disney parks have caught my eye, and not in a good way.

First, Disney Parks Blog has announced that guests between the ages of 3 and 12 can now be photographed in a way that allows their face to be reproduced on the head of a princess of their choosing, at the Downtown Disney Marketplace. 

At first glance, this seems like an original way to make a “Disney memory.”  But should you delve in deeper to this “D-Tech Me” thing, the pictures almost say it all.  The child in question can choose to become Ariel, Tiana, Belle, Cinderella, Snow White, Aurora, or Rapunzel.  Their skin and eyes match their own, making a pale white Tiana or a Hispanic Cinderella an easy possibility but a rather unsettling visual rendering, if I may say so myself. 

Look, even the body proportions are off!

Now I want to clarify that this is not a race thing.   This is an example of an ever pervasive trend in the Parks of souvenirs that relate to narcissism and privilege.  I’m not saying other instances of this don’t exist elsewhere in the parks.  They most certainly do, and we will explore them with time. 
No matter how unnerving many would find this, plenty of young guests with a Princess obsession (no thanks to Disney marketing, I’ll get to that in a later post) would be attracted to owning one of these.  For a mere $99.95 plus $15.95 US shipping, any kid with parents with that kind of money can be plastered onto the same doll that the next privileged child will.  Any kid with parents without that kind of money? Tough luck, sorry.
Said privileged guest will then have to wait 5-6 weeks to see the final product.  Will they still find the doll awesome, or will they be disappointed that something’s kind of off about their beloved Cinderella? 
Either way these children are having the idea that they’re special princesses reinforced, creating a sense of narcissism and when the day comes they realize the rest of the world thinks otherwise, that doll will long be packed away in an attic or box somewhere with all their other objects of privilege.
One question I have is whether this experience will be available for children of any sex or gender.  The blog article’s language does not ever assume the guests will always be female, so I wonder what the response would be should an unexpected child want to experience princess-cloning.

Secondly, something called The Pirates League will debut September 1st at Disneyland park in the quiet spot in New Orleans Square called the Court of Angels.  Thankfully this is a limited-time offer and this beautiful spot can return to sanity one day.  This experience entails a “transformation” (which seems to be a pirate version of the princess makeovers at Bibbity Bobbity Boutique,) an interactive experience of learning to “swashbuckle,” and pledging an official Pirate League Oath. 

As another experience available only to those of privilege, the packages range from $29.95 to $34.95 and can sing to the tune of Jake and the Never Land Pirates, First Mate, and Empress. 
The blog article specifies that Empress is especially for the “pirate princesses.”  Which begs the question, can female pirate fans just be pirates? Or must they partake in another Princess cloning?  Does the makeover involve mandatory hot pink as the picture suggests?

I’m just so lost on this “purchase a cookie-cutter experience within an experience” vibe that I’m getting from these new offerings that seem to be popping up everywhere.  It separates these children of privilege from the have-nots of the parks, the ones that may be there on their first and last Disney trip ever due to financial situations.  The early days of Disneyland, besides the different levels of ticketbooks, presented a level playing field, where everyone who bought an admission could experience the same magical moments as the next guy.
Additionally, the most magical Disney moments for me as a child were not the amount of things or extras purchased for me, but the little bits of attractions that spoke to me and made me feel special.   My first Jungle Cruise made me feel extremely lucky to have such a hilarious skipper, and it wasn’t until much later when I realized they were all following silly scripts!  Catching the very last private car in the Monorail made me feel like a VIP.  In my humble opinion, t’s the little bits of Disney magic, not the tacky Disney Magic (TM) that is now forever popping up to scream in our faces, that make it a golden culture.


Hello, and thanks for stopping by!  This blog is my own outlet: my way to express my views on Disney, well, everything.  I’ll say it again: these are my views and I love hearing other views as long as they are presented in a civil manner.  I mostly follow the current state of Disney parks but I have a social-science-colored lens through which to view them and compare them to the past.  Of course I’m a biased nostalgic but I’ll try to keep that to a minimum and stick to what I’m educated in.   So begins Psychology and Sociology of the Disney culture.

The journey begins!