Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Disney responds

A couple of weeks ago, we stopped by Downtown Disney while on holiday in Florida.  We discovered that the Bibbity-bobbity Boutique not only did not have any Mulan dolls or other items on its shelves but also did not offer a Mulan-themed "Princess Makeover".  I wrote to Disney about this.  As expected, they responded very quickly and courteously.  In summary, they told me:

1. Disney regrets that we had difficulty and understands how important a good experience is for the families and especially the children who visit

2. Mulan may be met "in person" at the China pavillion at Epcot

3. Mulan merchandise is available around the park and via mail order; "Cast Members" can help with this

4. The applicable "team" will be informed of my comments

I don't want to beat up on Disney.  Our brief visit to Downtown Disney was very nice: though there was construction going on, the park was clean, the "cast members" uniformly courteous, the food good, there were plenty of (ahem) retail opportunities for children of all ages (I should mention that my wife had to drag me away from the "Build Your Own Lightsabre" display), and we WERE able to get a limited edition Mulan doll in "Independence Day" garb to put away for a future birthday.  Their reply to my inquiries was, as I have said, very prompt and professional.  We certainly plan to take Caroline to Disney when she's a bit older and have every expectation that she will enjoy it.

Still, it seems to me that they ought to have the Mulan makeover available at the Bibbity-bobbity Boutique along with at least a shelf or two of Mulan dolls.  Perhaps the costs to Disney of doing so (keeping the costumes in various sizes as well as the dolls in inventory, training the makeover people, etc.) are rather higher than I think.

Oh, well: we don't always get what we want.


  1. While I appreciate their courteous response, it doesn't seem like enough. You don't have to seek out the Caucasian princesses. Why do you have to seek out the Chinese one? Even if they don't offer the makeover for every single princess, they should at least have some of the dolls available. That can't be difficult to implement!

    1. Within limits, I understand their situation. According to the 2010 Census(1), Asian-Americans comprise only 4.8% of the US population. It may well be that the bean-counters at Disney ran the numbers and decided that catering directly or broadly to such a small potential customer base simply isn't worth the cost. Additionally, perhaps little girls (the real target audience) are more interested in dressing as a "popular" princess than they are in dressing as one that "looks like them".

      It would be of some interest to know if Mulan is more heavily marketted at Disney Land in California (approximately 1/3 of all Asian-Americans live in that state)(2). Indeed, there are all sorts of questions that one might ask, such as:

      1. What is the racial composition of Disney's senior management?

      2. What are the racial demographics of the visitors to the various Disney parks?

      3. What is the process by which Disney determines the appearance / backstory of its "princesses"? The wiki article about the film Mulan and especially the politics behind its showing in China is quite interesting, by the way

      4. What are the sales numbers for the various princesses?

      5. What do Asian-Americans (or Asians generally) NOT descended from Chinese think of Mulan?

      But I agree: a couple of shelves in the store shouldn't be a problem.


      (1) See Table 1, page 4 at


    2. That's a really interesting way of looking at it. I forget that most of the US is not as diverse as where I live (Bellevue, WA). When we take walks at night, we see multiple ethnicities of people and hear multiple languages. When I visit the library, it's more common for me to hear Korean or Chinese or Japanese than it is for me to hear English. We will probably stand out as being a mixed-race family but if people see our girl without us, they will assume she was born here.

    3. By the way, last week my husband and I ducked into the Disney store in the Bellevue mall. The only non-white princess was the one from Princess and the Frog and she had a very small display compared to the others. I have to admit, I naively thought that because we live in a more diverse area, Disney would stock the local store with more diversity. Nope.

    4. Wow. I would, like you, have thought that a store in the Seattle area would have more diverse offerings. Guess not...

  2. While their response didn't exactly address your concern, I think it's great that you wrote to them. Even if they decide to do absolutely nothing immediately, they now know that there is consumer demand for more Mulan paraphernalia and representation. (Also, Disney World was definitely one of my favorite childhood places)

    1. Yes, they dodged what was to my mind the key point: why is Mulan not represented? I try to be philosophical about this, and it's occured to me that Hispanics are even more out of luck as there is not a Hispanic princess at all.

      I suspect that the Disney execs are in the same place that I was until about a year ago: it simply never crosses their minds.

  3. Speaking of Disney, I'm slightly disappointed in them for giving false ideas of adoption through a show called "Jessie". I'm not saying there is anything wrong with Disney or the show.
    Jessie is about an upper class NYC family with one bio daughter Emma (15-ish), Luke adopted domestically (13-ish), Ravi from India adopted as an older child (13-ish), and Zuri adopted as a baby from Uganda (8-ish).
    I have several adopted siblings. My older brother is 25 and he was adopted from South Korea. My sisters are 13 and 15 and they were adopted as babies from China. I have two more siblings from China who were adopted at the ages of 10 and 12. And a sister with a cleft lip and palate adopted when she was 2 from China. I'm the bio kid and I'm 17.
    The show does not depict adoption accurately. Ravi has a 4.0 GPA and is basically a perfect goody goody. He said once that the day he got adopted was the happiest day of his life. (somehow he magically knew English... I'll let that one slide) We need the Ross family's secret, because Jake and Abbie are sure not like that. Older child adoption is extremely painful. Abbie hit us nearly every day. Jake has severe attachment issues that requires therapy. They days they were adopted were likely the worst, scariest, most painful days of their lives. They have orphanage delays you cannot imagine and it has been the hardest thing we have e.v.e.r. been through. Don't get me wrong, it is worth every tear and I am much better because of it. Even 2 and 3 years later we still have daily struggles. Oh let me add they are many grade levels below where they should be.
    As far as Zuri and Luke go, they are pretty accurate. My older brother and Josie (now 8) and my sisters Marta&Katie are pretty normal. Being adopted at a younger age is definitely much easier, but there sure are struggles, maybe daily ones, that they will forever have. Please understand that any adoption is hard, but being adopted at a younger age is much easier on the parents and adoptee. BUT BUT BUT, Caroline will ALWAYS have struggles she carries with her. It's not the petty (well, not petty, but cliche) things like, "who did I come from" or "I don't look like my parents", but deeper things. You'll see. ;) :) There are some inaccuracies when they talk about their adoptions, but I will let those slide too. But really, the show is not about adoption. It's about a random family who get's in humorous situations. I don't watch it, but Josie LOVES IT and makes me watch it with her. It is a cute show.
    Another huge thing is that their parents are traveling 90% of the time so they live with their 20 year old nanny. Umm, if Jake and Abbie lived a nanny, they would be pretty broken and confused.
    Just my dime's worth.....
    Non-adoptive people can be pretty oblivious to the truths of adoption. It is heartbreaking, gut wrenching, and difficult. At the same time though, it is beautiful, brings joy, plus Chinese babies are pretty darn cute. People either see one or the other. Not both....

    Sophia <3