In their attempts to further diversify their corporation, Disney-Pixar is working on an animated film whose theme is taken from the Mexican holiday, Día de Los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, which is a festive celebration held on the first and second of November in remembrance of deceased relatives.
However, Disney ran into a roadblock with this project of theirs by attempting to trademark Día de Los Muertos.
According to the LA Times, Disney filed 10 applications with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office for the phrase “Día de Los Muertos” on May 1. The applications included trademarks for things such as toys, backpacks, clothing items, as well as more interesting things like fruit snacks, jewelry and Christmas-themed Day of the Dead products, reported an article from the Southern California Public Radio website.
Once the public discovered Disney’s plans, an angry roar of criticism toward these plans was heard throughout social media.
Many people were outraged at Disney’s audacity to try to “trademark their culture,” as various different Tweeters and Facebook commenters put it. And, they have a valid point. Culture is the property of all, of the world; it cannot, and should not, be trademarked by anyone, especially not an international corporation giant whose goals are profit-centric.
The public’s anger and outrage is just, but to clarify, Disney’s aims were not to claim the holiday as their own or take away from it in any way. The purpose of their applications to trademark the phrase “Día de Los Muertos” was to legally protect their right to use the phrase on their products.
So, the question isn’t “can a corporation trademark part of someone’s culture,” but “is it right to trademark a portion of someone’s culture;” it’s actually a question of respect rather than a legal capability.
On Tuesday, May 7, Disney decided that it wasn’t right, and revoked their applications to trademark the phrase. Apparently, they realized their fault in trying to trademark a portion of the Mexican culture and decided to respect the culture by ceasing their attempts to trademark such a delicate part of it.
In a statement they released to the public, they explained that the title of the movie is going to be changed, which is probably for the better. “Día de Los Muertos” isn’t exactly an inviting title for a children’s movie, and neither is “Day of the Dead.” But, the creative geniuses at Disney will surely be able to come up with a more appealing and exciting title for their new movie.
This new movie is intriguing, for Disney has yet to release a full-length feature film whose theme is taken from an aspect of Mexican and/or Hispanic culture.
But after the success of “The Princess and the Frog,” with its African-American princess and brown, accented prince, more diversity in their films was bound to happen.
Maybe there is a Mexican princess on the way for us? One who is of course, beautiful, and, keeping in line with Disney’s new “princesses are more than just princesses” campaign, promotes values such as kindness, generosity and friendship. If it’s true, hopefully they don’t name her Maria, though that probably won’t help their image among the public much, especially with the Hispanic community.
Amanda V. Ramirez is a second-year anthropology major. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.