Thursday, November 20, 2014

The Walt Disney Company: Princess Merida (2013)

Walt Disney Co. logo
The Walt Disney Company was originally named Disney Brothers Cartoon Studio because Walt and his brother Roy were business partners. Roy later changed the name after a suggestion to Walt Disney Studios. October 16th, 1923 was the formal beginning of the Walt Disney Company. A New York distributor named M.J Winkler agreed to release “The Alice Comedies,” created by Walt Disney. In 1932 the first full color cartoon was made by Walt Disney Studios. The company later won the Academy Award for Best Cartoon. In 1954 Walt Disney opened his first of multiple entertainment parks, Disneyland in California. A surprising detail after researching was that Walt Disney actually passed away in 1966. Roy Disney and other CEO’s of the Walt Disney Company have been expanding ever since then. They have created parks and resorts, producing consumer products based on Disney-owned properties, and creating new films and theater productions. They continue to prosper without the main successor himself, Walt Disney. The Walt Disney Company is ranked 65th in the Fortune 500 Ranking.
The Walt Disney Company does have flaws in small areas that have deeper ethical reasoning. What has been a recent controversy in the world of Disney as of 2013 was Princess Merida's coronation as the 11th Disney Princess. This may sound like an immature topic but as I read through this article it became more of a popular controversy in society today. This Disney Character starred in Pixar's "Brave." After Pixar had made changes to Merida's image thousands of fans were enraged. What Merida stood for was a "fiery-haired independent anti-princess" image being forced to conform to what was your typical Disney Princess figure: thin waist, heavy makeup, very particular cheekbones, and other attributes. After multiple days of no commentary Disney decided to speak out and stated that this was not their intention. Disney also argued that uses many different styles of art to keep up to date with the current time. The 2D version of Merida was only used for her coronation and used for nothing else. Though this may seem as if it should be swept under the rug there is a deeper meaning here. This reaches out to many different people. To begin with are parents.

Merida, Disney Princess created in 2012
Parents of those who watched this happened. Parents are concered of the message that Disney is sending to young girls about what a girl “ should look like.” At first Merida was a “step in a good direction,” says the Huffington Post in an article about how this controversy has sparked change. What is stated in this article is how the typical Disney Princess message is “look pretty, find your prince, and live happily ever after.” When Brave came out some people in society considered the movie to the first of feminist princess movies. Merida in this movie solved her own problems without a prince coming to her rescue. She was known for her independence, “realistic body type.” By trying to alter Merida’s image many people besides parents became enraged. This especially enraged feminist groups such as “A Mighty Girl,” a female empowerment website. This website to it so far as to initiating a petition on Their purpose was to convince Disney to keep Merida as she was. This petition has approximately 200,000 signatures. Now this could be just fans of this princess but more logically it could be those people in todays society that are very concerned about what is being publicized to younger generations: parents, educators, females, and males of all ages. After all this controversy was sparked, as stated before, Disney took responsibility for it. The Walt Disney Company was basically forced to remove the image of Merida after her coronation. Disney did decide that Princess Merida would absolutely stay as she was in the movie Brave in all other aspects of her. A Disney spokesperson stated the following response to the controversy “ the artwork used on Merida’s official social media sites has always been the imagery from the movie. We routinely use different art styles with our characters and this rendition of Merida in her party dress was a special one-time effort to commemorate her coronation.” This is where The Walt Disney Company as a whole came out and supported their efforts and essentially apologized for creating such a large controversy. This represents the ethical standards of the company: they care.

To begin with describing what exactly stakeholders have to do with. Through the eyes of our textbook stakeholder model of corporate social responsibility begins with the insight that every business decision affects a wide variety of people, benefiting some and imposing costs on others. Simply stating that the stakeholder model represents whether a situations actions have an impact on society. In the case of Princess Merida this way of evaluation can be considered in many different aspects. To begin with the simple idea of Princess Merida’s image being changed, it has affected those of the public far and wide. The decisions made initially to change the image of Princess Merida came from the design department business managers. Those people who have more control than the bottom tier employees “produce far-ranging consequences throughout society,” (DesJardins, pg.67). The first impact would go right to the employees. Consider the fact that by changing this specific Princess’s image it put Disney in a bit of a comparison light. To employees instead of showing the world how to imagine and create life through their products, innovations, and ideas they now are put in a position of defense. They are put in a position to ensure the public that their intentions were good and did not expect the backlash for a simple “reconstruction” of Princess Merida. As for the public it becomes a larger situation. The public society has taken matters into their own hands with petitions. The stakeholder model of corporate social responsibility attests to anyone involved in the company’s success is considered owners, investors, or financers. Consequently this hurts all people who involve themselves with the Walt Disney Company. As the stakeholders should be treated, the Walt Disney Company should be giving their stakeholders the utmost respect with value and zero isolation. This essentially holds the most impact on the stakeholders considering the fact that by changing the image of Princess Merida there was no sympathetic response to those who may have been effected in deeper ways such as parents concerned about their children’s thoughts and ideas of what self image really is. This is quite unethical from the stand point of the Walt Disney Company as further described and analyzed the position of the stakeholders seemed to never be put into consideration. Further more the Walt Disney Company should have previously thought of the impact that this small change could have done to their stakeholders.

Walt Disney Co. CEO, Bob Iger

According to the Case Manual, the ethical rule of individualism is business actions should maximize profits for the owners of a business, but do so within the law. Individualism takes the perspective of the business’s best interest for being a successful profiting company. The business must follow all protocols of the business and obviously follow the rules and regulations of the law. Analyzing the controversial case of Princess Merida and the Walt Disney Company through individualism is very simple. Through the eyes of the Walt Disney Company the transformation of Princess Merida was simply an act of presentation. They believed that by changing her image for her coronation as the 11th Disney Princess she would better coincide with the other 10 princesses. Thus essentially creating a possible profit maximizing change. By changing her image there would mean there would be a whole launch of her new look in the product line of Princess Merida’s already existing products. This would increase profits dramatically, in the eyes of the Walt Disney Company, because why wouldn’t it? Why wouldn’t a change to this Princess’s image to a more “typical” princess look create a spike in profits within the product line? Clearly this plan backfired as to the maximizing of profits. If anything this created a negative rather than positive spike on the Walt Disney Company’s product sales because of the backlash coming from the public eye and opinion. This drew more attention to the flaws of the Walt Disney Company was undoubtedly not the intention of this image alteration. This was an unethical decision because Walt Disney Company depends on the pockets and life of the public to keep their business successfully flowing as it has for years past.

Utilitarianism is an interesting ethical value. The Case Manual states that utilitarianism consists of business actions that should aim to maximize the happiness in the long run for all conscious beings that are affected by the business action. “Happiness of all conscious beings, often interpreted hedonistically as pleasure and the absence of pain, but also sometimes interpreted as the satisfaction of desires.” From a utilitarian perspective, the Walt Disney Company was doing what they believed would be the most successful in the long run for the business. This did not necessarily end in total happiness of all conscious being precisely for the reason of the public reacting the way the did. The utilitarian aims to sacrifice their short-term happiness to encourage the success of long-term ultimate happiness. In this case the Walt Disney Company could have been contemplating the idea of all stakeholders short-term happiness could be sufficed as long as the change of Princess Merida’s image became a success in the long run. This is could be considered unethical because a businessperson who has ethical morals would contemplate not only the short-term effects but also the long-term. What should have been done is the Walt Disney Company should have considered all possible effects on all stakeholders regardless of the outcome, that way this backlash on all accounts could have been avoided.

Brenda Chapman and Mark Andrews, directors of Brave,
won Oscars for best animated film in 2013

The Case Manual states a very good description of Kantianism. The ethical value of Kantianism is to always act in ways that respect and honor individuals and their choices. Don’t lie, cheat, manipulate or harm others to get your way. Rather, use informed and rational consent from all parties. What is also stated is the formula of humanity as an ends in itself requires that humans are never treated merely as a means to an end, but always also as ends in themselves. A good example would be just a human in a lawsuit being innocent until proven guilty to ensure they are due their own dignity. When analyzing the Princess Merida case with the Walt Disney Company under the idea of Kantianism it comes down to the fact that changing the image of Princess Merida was not the most ethical decision. The image of Princess Merida was manipulated to match all 10 other princesses in the Walt Disney Company. With that simply stated that tarnishes the image of Princess Merida’s true persona, one that is very much the opposite of the 10 other princesses. This displays the fact that her true persona wasn’t good enough to become a princess. This tarnishes the image of what children, young girls, believe women should look like. This gives parents a hard time to distinguish what women “should” look like. Essentially this affects the many lives and thoughts of millions of young girls and women. A Kantian would have used rational decision making skills to think of the complete and utter despair that this simple change in image would have on not only the public, but young women who already are influenced by magazines and TV shows. The Walt Disney Company fell under the toxic category of stereotypes of women.

Virtue Theory
The Virtue Theory is the last of the five ethical theories to be considered when analyzing the Princess Merida case. The Case Manual gives a simple definition of really what the Virtue Theory is and means. Virtue Theory is to act so as to embody a variety of virtuous or good character traits and so as to avoid vicious or bad character traits; character traits that promote wellness or flourishing of individuals within society. What this comes down to in the Princess Merida case is the judgment of character of the Walt Disney Company. From the virtue theory prospective this would be very unethical. The judgment of character here would essentially mark the Walt Disney Company is hypocritical because at first the business creates this princess who is independent and does not portray the typical princess attributes of many past Disney princesses. The Walt Disney Company then proceeded to change this different or more realistic princess’s image to make her more like the others to make sure she doesn’t look set a part from the rest. The character and integrity of the Walt Disney Company becomes questioned because of this somewhat drastic attempt at showing society what this company really thinks of a young woman’s image should look like. This is somewhat shallow pertaining to the idea of the company being so young, innovative, and imaginative; they promote imagination and free spirited ideas and then act just the same as all other stereotypical companies showing the world what a woman’s image should be and not what the reality of young women are.

Disney retreats from Princess Merida's makeover after widespread criticism . (n.d.). The Guardian. Retrieved October 2, 2014, from
Ethics Statement - The Walt Disney Co.. (n.d.). Ethics Statement - The Walt Disney Co.. Retrieved October 4, 2014, from
Management Team | The Walt Disney Company. (n.d.). Management Team | The Walt Disney Company. Retrieved October 2, 2014, from
Robert A. Iger. (n.d.). The Walt Disney Company. Retrieved October 3, 2014, from

Samakow, J. (2013, May 8). Merida From 'Brave' Gets An Unnecessary Makeover, Sparks Petition (PHOTO). The Huffington Post. Retrieved October 4, 2014, from
Walt Disney World Company Business Review in Lake Buena Vista, FL - Central Florida BBB. (n.d.). Walt Disney World Company Business Review in Lake Buena Vista, FL - Central Florida BBB. Retrieved October 4, 2014, from

No comments:

Post a Comment