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Friday, October 12, 2012

A Woman Who Takes Matters Into Her Own Tentacles!

The first Disney princess film I was exposed to in a movie theater was none other than The Little Mermaid. I don't remember that day as I was only 2 years old, but my mother certainly does.

Parents like telling stories about their children, and my mother is no exception. A favorite of hers (and mine) is that back when The Little Mermaid came out in 1989, she, my father and I took a trip to the local movie theater to see it.

My father and I didn't stay for very long, though. Unfortunately, early on in the film when Urusla laughed evilly and filled the whole screen, I got scared (as small ones often do) and started crying. My mother wanted to stay and watch the remainder of the film, so my dad took me home while my mother finished watching what became a Disney classic.

Something that not too many people know about Ursula, though, is that she is actually King Triton's sister and therefore Ariel's aunt. In the original score for "Fathoms Below," there is more back-story given to the turmoil brewing between Triton and Ursula, but a sizable chunk of the song was cut from the film. It eventually was brought "to the surface" for the Broadway show, and therefore Ariel and Ursula's familial relationship was further explored.

But that adds in an interesting dimension, doesn't it? It almost adds more urgency in Ursula's drive and plotting. We knew she was used to palace life but it must have hurt that much more to be kicked out of your home by your own brother (even if you were trying to take control of the ocean). Using his precious daughter who gets palace pampering every single day to use as a negotiation tool? Very, very clever. Ursula even feels a little bad about it after she turns her back into a mermaid. "Poor little princess, it's not you I'm after, but a much bigger fish." Triton was cruel to both of them - Ursula could sympathize with this poor unfortunate soul.

Speaking of bigger fish...can I just say how much I love the fact that Ursula isn't some super-skinny character? Her curves are almost empowering to her personality. It adds an extra zest of charm. The animators that worked on the film experimented with all sorts of body types, but said that they just couldn't help but love the fat Ursula concepts.

Original concept art for Ursula. VERY reminiscent of the era!
That's why it kind of disappoints me that they made Ursula thinner for the Broadway show. I mean, I understand Alan Menken's reasoning - he says that Ursula complains about "wasting away" and yet fat Ursula doesn't seem to reflect that visually. But part of Ursula's personality and charm is in her body - her body works harmoniously with her strong, bold voice. A thinner Ursula just isn't, well...Ursula. But that's just my opinion. No disrespect to any of the lovely actresses that have played Ursula on-stage, of course - I just naturally want to hear something akin to Pat Carroll.

Sherie Rene Scott as Ursula.
Disney seems to be on the attack of big and beautiful Ursula, lately. I and many other women that I've talked to (none of us with quite as much curves as Ursula) were pretty disappointed when we saw the look of her Designer Doll.

A nip here, a tuck there...
I mean - what?! Bleh. It's kind of ironic that it feels like Disney is trying to subtly say that Ursula's curves make her ugly when this skinny version is just way more unappealing to the eye (well, mine anyway). And in some ways, it feels like an insult to the animators that created her. I understand artistic licence but you need to also give your audience what they want. (I will say, however, that her outfit is fabulous.)

To be honest, the Disney Villains line surprises me in that Disney is essentially taking the same approach they take with the princess line - I'm not sure that that is the best way to go. Yes, there are Disney fans that love both worlds, but not all of them do. I think that the hardcore villains lovers are different in their tastes in fashion and style...while the outfits the dolls are wearing might fit that direction, I'm unsure about the available fashion for living, breathing women.

A girlfriend of mine said to me that she's always been more of a villains girl her whole life, but upon seeing Disney's designs for fashion felt that they were overall still too frilly and girly for her taste. I can't say that I disagree with her. Sequins, lavender and a floral motif?

Jumping back to skinny Ursulas, though...there has been some recent drama over a certain sexy Ursula costume that doesn't come in plus sizes. I came across the story at the Huffington Post.

The offending costume.
Yes, the costume is officially sanctioned by Disney, though not sold directly under the Disney brand name. It's not the best Ursula costume I've ever seen (to be honest, I really wonder why they thought the tiered crinoline look was a good idea - several have voiced their opinion that the costume was poorly and cheaply made), but the Disney Store isn't offering anything this year. I believe that this costume was available through them last year:

Anyhow...some people are upset that Ursula, a fat character, only has a costume available for people that fit a small, medium or large. That it is sending a message to women everywhere that even Ursula, who seems sexy in her own way as she was originally created, just cannot be sexy enough to warrant a sexy costume without sending her look on an extreme diet, and therefore that fat women just cannot be sexy, or fashionable, if you bring the Designer Doll into the discussion as well.

I think that anyone should be whatever they want to be for Halloween. Certain body types have it hard enough to go shopping for clothes - why take Ursula away from the bigger women? I read a few chauvinistic comments related to the extra curvy wearing more revealing clothing like said costume, but you know what? As long as nothing is being illegally exposed, someone can wear it. You can't tell someone you don't want them to wear something that is okay for other people to wear just because you are not comfortable with it.

Some might even say that this is "stupid" to express outrage over. News flash: no, nothing is stupid to express concern over if it truly hurts someone. Not everyone knows or understands what certain demographics are exposed to when it comes to sensitive issues for themselves, and the truth is that body weight is one of those serious issues for girls. Yesterday was International Girl's Day (the first ever) - it's dismissive attitudes like this that make it necessary for the UN to declare a day like this.

This costume's creation has nothing to do with sending a message of "being healthy" as some might try to excuse it as - no, there is a market for women wanting to dress as naughty versions of Disney characters. I don't necessarily think that Disney is trying to tell women that if they are plus size they are "too ugly" to be allowed to dress in an outfit like that in public - I just think that it was a miscalculation considering who the actual character is.

And don't underestimate the importance of body language!
As for the Designer Doll? Well...that would be part artistic choice but was also probably a financial one. Having to use a different mold just for the Ursula doll would have cost Disney more. But in my honest opinion, if they didn't want to spend the extra money to create a more authentic doll, they probably should not have included Ursula at all.

If you're looking for a great Ursula costume, I'd suggest going to websites like Ebay, Etsy, doing a search for cosplay, or heck, just make it yourself! There are a bunch of women that have already done it and, quite frankly, all of their costumes look fantastic. These options might be more expensive, but you'll have a serious wow factor when you step out in those tentacles! Oh, and speaking of tentacles -

This seller makes earrings like these in all sorts of colors. Check out the Etsy listing here.

Maybe you would rather have something more along the lines of Ursula's actual accessories? Maybe the very nautilus shell carrying Ariel's voice, perhaps?

Besides the Ursula Inspired Sea Shell Necklace, this seller also sells recreations of Ursula's earrings! Very cool.

As for the Disney Store, you can purchase a fat Ursula doll, amongst a few other items. My personal favorite is the ornament (kind of in love with this new character ear line)...

Well, that does it for today. I'm Sea Witch-ed out! So, what do you think about this whole thinned-out Ursula business? Talk about it here!

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