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Should Princess Leia Be An Official Disney Princess?

Deadline logo Deadline 1/6/2017 Ross A. Lincoln
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Just under two weeks after her death from a heart attack at 60, the legacy of Carrie Fisher is still coalescing. Iconic science fiction franchise star? Celebrated author and unflappable public wit? Advocate for feminism and mental health? She was all of those, but the father of some ardent young fans is pushing for another angle.

Cody Christensen, a father of five daughters, has started a (where else?) Change.org petition calling for Disney to officially declare Leia a Disney Princess.

“After the tragic lose of Carrie Fisher, we feel that it is only fitting for Disney to do away with the rule that an official Disney princess must be animated and make Leia a full-fledged princess,” the petition reads. “This would be a wonderful way to remember Carrie and a welcoming to one of Disney’s new properties that is beloved by millions.

“What we are asking is that the Walt Disney Corporation hold a full ceremony inducting Leia as the newest Disney princess as well as a special service in memory of Carrie Fisher.”

The petition is just under 5,000 short of its 50,000-signature goal, though reaching that goal likely won’t affect whether Disney considers making Leia its first live-action Princess.

First, because the Disney Princess line isn’t a commemorative campaign, it’s a marketing effort centered around especially iconic animated Princess characters. It was founded in the late 1990s after Andy Mooney, then-chairman of the Walt Disney Company’s Disney Consumer Products division noted while attending a performance of Disney on Ice that a considerable number of young female fans were wearing bootleg princess costumes. That was as it turned out thanks to the fact that Disney didn’t actually market these characters outside of their respective films, which meant it couldn’t tap into consumer demand for Princess-related merchandise.

Mooney had to overcome objections by, among others, Walt’s nephew, Roy E. Disney, but the line launched in 2000 and is now a multibillion-dollar cash cow for the company. But even today, it focuses primarily on those characters who don’t necessarily move the pop culture needle by themselves at the current moment. Frozen‘s Anna and Elsa notably have not been made Disney Princesses, but then, they don’t have to be for now. Frozen earned a staggering $1.3 billion at the box office and, as anyone who’s been around kids in the past three years knows, remains hugely and specifically popular enough to sell billions of dollars of merch without having to be folded into the Princesses brand family.

Speaking of, also a cash cow for the Mouse House? Lucasfilm, which through Star Wars famously invented the modern movie merchandising game and continues to make money hand over fist with toys, tie-in books, cartoons and comics, and yes, costumes. Star Wars merch alone made more than $3 billion in the first quarter of 2016, Disney head Bob Iger said in an investment call at the time. In other words, Leia already is part of a vast commercial empire that does essentially the same thing Disney Princesses does for the parent company.

Another factor to consider, Fisher’s complicated relationship with her most famous character, which she occasionally derided and occasionally embraced but always talked frankly about the negative impact playing the character had on her life. It’s unclear today how much money, if any, Fisher’s estate makes from use of her likeness. But she famously revealed in 2011 that having signed her likeness rights to Lucasfilm when taking the role of Princess Leia, she’d never made a dime from merchandising.

And that’s in addition to the toll the role’s place in pop culture took on Fisher’s mental and physical health. Reducing Leia — and by extension, Fisher — to one of Disney’s official princesses might be a hard sell for those managing her legacy. Especially as it’s a man, not women or girls, behind this petition.

The petition is of course a heartwarming gesture, but the well-meaning father of five probably doesn’t have that much trouble finding Leia merchandise for his daughters. A more fitting tribute to Fisher, and one that would have actual meaning for Disney fans and the company itself? Declare her a Disney Legend instead.

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