High-end retail department behemoth Barney’s New York announced its holiday collaboration with The Walt Disney Company, wherein our beloved characters get the “runway treatment” (Read: slimmed to scary proportions).
The front runners? A truly Skinny Minnie, a drastically dieted-down Daisy Duck, hipster Goofy, and more irritatingly altered versions of the iconic clan. In the short 3-D film titled “Electric Holiday“, Minnie pursues her dream as a fashion model, visiting shows in Paris, wherein she encounters our cherished characters who will be donning designer apparel. Daisy will be decked out in Dolce & Gabbana, Mickey backed by Balenciaga, Snow White by Nina Ricci, and Princess Tiana (minor props for including her) by Proenza Schouler, to name a few, all strutting their stuff down the runway.
Barney’s creative director, Dennis Freedman explained that regular ‘ol Minnie was not in acceptable shape to take on the world of high fashion and would “not look so good in a Lanvin dress.” In an effort to “make it work” they opted to elongate her to the height of 5’11″ and hack off a quarter of her body. “When you see Goofy, Minnie, and Mickey they are runway models, ” explains Freedman. The drawings themselves were engineered by John Quinn, Disney’s own character art director.
With all this focus on transmuting these beloved characters into fashionistas, the larger symbolism of the danger of linking their lithe counterparts with the Disney name is lost. Sure, it’s clever to dress Daisy in dazzling designer duds, but is the Walt Disney Company’s main target market, not impressionable young children?
This comes on the heels of the Disney Villains Designer Collection of beauty products that hit stores in late June and unveiled the previous sea witch, Ursula from the Little Mermaid, in a nearly unrecognizable state. No longer did she exist in her ample, octopus glory, but had instead been slimmed down. The underlying message becomes that there is more commercial value in thinness.
With the media already disseminating such limiting portrayals of women, do we really need our cherished childhood characters following suit? Equally problematic is the reinforcement of this idea of high fashion and an impossible degree of thinness, an unattainable and unhealthy ideal for young girls to aspire.
Lack of size diversity represented on the runway is one thing, but to purposely slim down children’s cartoons in an attempt to make them more fashion-forward reinforces the correlation between a specific size being more sophisticated and stylish than another. It sends consumers the message that there is more commercial value in thinness. It tells women that only certain shapes and sizes are suitable to be clothed in high fashion.
The Disney brand is inextricably linked to childhood, wonder, and whimsy, and has historically stood for wholesome family values. I don’t know about you, but I want my lovable, playful pals of youth to look like their original, identifiable versions. Miss Piggy has been outfitted in Zac Posen and Marc Jacobs with nary a change to her body. I don’t know about you, but I’ll take my bumbling Goofy, cheeky Minnie, and demure Daisy any day over these creepy, catwalk caricatures.