Some say that the impact of so-called “culture wars” on studio results and box office success is exaggerated. The conversation developing around Snow White would seem to disprove that, as branding experts are now weighing in and warning that a developing backlash could ruin the chances of Disney’s big-budget remake at the box office. These experts predict executives will be having “crisis talks” already and planning to win back fans ahead of the 2024 tent-pole release.


The issue? In various interviews that were actually given some time ago, lead Rachel Zegler made a number of statements about how they were making changes to the character and the themes from the Disney classic, including the now-infamous statement “It’s not 1937!” Here is one of the interviews:

In Zegler’s defense here, she does seem maybe a little overwhelmed and overcompensating to start with, but as she warms to her subject she delivers comments with that unshakeable confidence of a Gen-Z who thinks they have all the answers, including the body language. Anyone who deals with this generation in the workplace daily will know it well. Resurfaced interviews included her speaking negatively about the original film, and saying of her character:

“She’s not going to be saved by the prince and she’s not going to be dreaming about true love.”

Other zingers included saying that instead of dreaming about truer love, this version of Snow White is

“…dreaming about becoming the leader she knows she can be and the leader that her late father told her that she could be if she was fearless, fair, brave, and true…”

Of the original story, and the character of Prince Charming, she had this to say:

 “The original cartoon came out in 1937, and very evidently so. There’s a big focus on her love story with a guy who literally stalks her. Weird! Weird! So we didn’t do that this time.”

The backlash was predictable, with Zegler being accused of being a “fake feminist”, and some critics calling it “gaslighting”.

Proving that words do have consequences now in the world of movies and their touchpoints with culture, branding expert Carla Speight has weighed in and says:

“Whilst it’s been clear that the original Disney Princess films hold old values, Disney have fallen for the trap of going to the opposite extreme to inflict strong and loaded messaging on the viewers – believing that’s empowerment.


“There was a time when Disney actors were media trained and were thoughtful about the impact of their words, whilst sticking to key messaging about the films, but it seems with this total rewrite of Snow White, picturing her as a “boss girl” has gone to the heads of their stars.


Disney will need to be careful with how they have portrayed Snow White and what they do and don’t allow their actors to say about it going forwards. They simply cannot repeat the same mistakes and allow their actors to be so vocal in their own personal opinions during promotions.


It can have a huge impact on ticket sales, especially with the amount of negative backlash so early in the promo trail.


They need to get the key messaging and strong selling point into a brief for the cast of the film and ensure they stick to it. If they don’t, it’s a disaster waiting to happen and the backlash will keep growing.


It’s possibly a good idea to get Rachel to clarify what she meant and highlight it was her own personal opinion, not a slight on women.


They should highlight the important message that it’s okay to be who you want to be. After all, Disney has been famously telling us that they’re the place where “dreams do come true” and have never actually defined what those dreams should be. Neither should their actors.”

PR expert Nick Ede agrees with this point of view and even went as far as saying that perhaps Rachel:

“…isn’t the best person to promote the film.”

So there you have it. The experts agree. Disney has scored yet another spectacular own goal and this will affect their beleaguered bottom line even further if they don’t do something to rectify this. Efforts have already started. Zegler herself posted a series of emotional tweets and a video. In these, she spoke directly to Disney fans and said:

“I love you very much. forever and ever. remember to be kind. treat each other with patience and empathy. remember that you are loved unconditionally, no matter your mistakes, no matter your misunderstandings. you deserve it. You deserve love. You deserve to live without fear. I hope the world becomes kinder.”

Look for serious, ongoing, PR efforts to start around Snow White, and a complete change of messaging from Zegler and her co-stars as they attempt to repair the damage.

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