No word yet on whether Merida will be added as the 11th official Disney Princess – but it’s looking good so far! I did some research, and found some interesting info at the Official Disney Store Blog. This phrase caught my eye:
Is Merida your new favorite Disney Princess?
This isn’t conclusive evidence, of course, but let’s consider what it might mean. The OFFICIAL Disney Store blog asked readers if Merida is their new favorite Disney Princess. Not Disney princess with a lowercase p, but Disney Princess. The use of caps implies that they are referencing the Disney Princess franchise, and not just the various Disney princess characters. Am I reaching? Probably. Do I care? Not a bit.
Next up – the Disney Animators’ Collection of dolls. Currently there are only ten dolls in this collection, which is described as “your favorite princesses re-imagined as toddlers and created under the guidance of Disney animators Glen Keane and Mark Henn.” Ten dolls = one for each official Disney Princess. There is no doll specifically labeled as the “Disney Animators’ Collection Merida Doll”, but there is a “Toddler Brave Merida Doll” that looks just like the others in the line-up. The Merida doll is also the same height (16″), made from the same materials (plastic/polyester), and the same price ($24.50) as each of the dolls in the official Disney Animators’ Collection. I did notice that all of the Disney Animators’ Collection dolls come with a plush friend that relates to their movie, but Merida is thus far empty-handed.
So we have a doll that clearly belongs in the collection, but the collection is currently limited to “your favorite princesses”. This most likely means:
Merida’s market value is being tested thoroughly before she’s included in the Disney Princess franchise (can’t have an unpopular princess, and Disney can easily measure popularity via licensed product sales)…
– and/or –
Merida is being discretely prepped for Disney Princess status but no definitive branding can occur until Disney makes it official.
But why wouldn’t Disney make it official from the get-go, saving themselves from re-packaging and re-branding later?
Again, we go back to a sort of trial period to determine her ability to generate profit. The movie doing well isn’t enough on its own – the individual princess accessories, dolls, costumes, games, etc need to be making money also. That, more than anything else, is what excludes other (seemingly qualified) princesses from reaching official status.
Merida is being tested right now, but this time she isn’t fighting for her own hand – she’s fighting for recognition as a legitimate princess. The battlegrounds include The Disney Store, Disneyland, Disney World, and every movie theater currently playing Brave.
It isn’t about whether the character is official royalty – Disney’s guidelines specifically note that, to qualify as an official princess, she must be “either royal by birth, royal by marriage, or considered a “princess” due to their significant portrayal of heroinism in their film and/or of a very high status in their country/region.”
It isn’t about whether the character has songs or a musical movie – I’m pretty sure this is irrelevant. What is relevant, though, is that Disney animated musical movies have historically outperformed their non-musical movies. Correlation doesn’t prove causation, remember?
It isn’t about whether the character is animated or CGI. Rapunzel’s inclusion refutes this theory.
It’s about the money, that’s it. So IF the movie does well and IF the merchandise sells well, the princess is likely to be included on the official list. And, once they’ve been properly vetted and all criteria has been met, Disney can get additional media exposure, interest, and (presumably) sales in response to the character’s upgraded status. Rapunzel was welcomed into the sorority with open arms – and a lavish coronation ceremony at Kensington Palace in London. This happened nearly a year after her film came out – why?
That event was carefully timed for maximum brand benefit. I don’t have proof of this or anything but it sure seems like common sense to me. Disney marketed the hell out of Tangled, and then rode out the peak of the interest wave. By waiting until almost a full year later, they were able to reignite interest that may have waned. And the official coronation then offered new products, new events, and new merchandising that has kept Tangled/Rapunzel relevant long after the movie left theaters. That’s how I would time it if I were them, anyway, and I’m pretty sure Disney knows more about effective branding than I do.
If Brave and Merida follow the same pattern, Disney will wait until sales/interest have died down a bit before making Merida an official Disney Princess. Then they can keep her franchise relevant for years to come, just like they’ve done with all the others!