New Disney Ursula doll sparks outrage in battle with body image

From revamped advertising to celebrity endorsements, the war against body-image insecurities has taken the nation by storm. However, Disney has taken a step back in this battle with its latest line of dolls, slimming down the full-figured sea witch of "The Little Mermaid."

Disney will be releasing the Disney Villains Designer Collection in September 2014. The collection includes six menacing villains of the classic stories, including Cruella de Vil of "101 Dalmatians" and Maleficent of "Sleeping Beauty."

Also in the line-up is a skinny figure meant to resemble Ursula from "The Little Mermaid," yet skin and bones replace the villainous curves of the original queen of the sea.



“In both her reincarnation as a doll and in the illustrations that adorn the cosmetics line, the evil character shows no trace of the double chin and plump mid-section sported in the 1989 movie but instead has been slimmed down dramatically,” Victoria Wellman said in the Daily Mail.

Her design includes a number of hard lines and sharp edges, giving her a menacing aura. Disney is going for a couture theme in its latest line, giving each villain an elevated sense of poise and grace.

So, what’s the problem?

Disney redeveloped a character solely because her weight did not match the norms of rest of the dolls on the market. Skinny does not mean beautiful or more powerful. This drastic change has angered many who connected with Ursula, one of the few characters who shows pride in her voluptuous physique.

“And while you may not have had the waist-line of a princess I'll be goddamned if you didn't have the swagger of a Queen,” Melissa May of Button Poetry said in a slam poem.

Ursula was not skinny in the original tale, as her shape helped define her self-confidence and personal “swagger.” By stripping her of the iconic curves, Disney has taken away the originality of her features.

While some may think this is just a doll or a freedom of artistic expression by Disney, we can’t help but ask: What message is Disney trying to convey? Ursula’s new figure is not only thin, but also verging on unhealthily underweight.

“Disney is clearly trying to make their traditional evil women into hip ladies that younger women want to aspire to be like — or at least look like,” Emma Gray of Huffington Post said. “I wonder why that vision couldn't include some body diversity.”

It’s a shame on Disney for releasing this doll, especially in a world trying to convince girls to love their bodies. When characters in the movies children grow up with must be altered to fit the general standard of “beauty,” it’s no mystery why young girls suffer from their own anxieties.

Ursula, just as any other doll or character or individual, should not be bullied by the dominating image of body perfection to which our society has become so accustomed. Rather, they should find strength and self-assurance in their own skin, without any alterations.

“And I pity the poor, unfortunate soul who would dare paint you as anything less,” May said.

Reach the columnist at or follow her on Twitter @BeccaSmouse

Editor’s note: The opinion presented in this column is the author’s and does not imply any endorsement from The State Press or its editors.

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