FUCKIN MEGA SLAM
Today’s post is an unusual one, and it particularly concerns our rat princess friends in Australia.
As most people may know, the Disney corporation likes to send out Cease and Desist notifications to some character companies, if and when they feel that party princess companies are infringing on their copyrights. This is important to do when there is a chance that an unaffiliated company may be mistaken for someone who works at the Disney parks, or is otherwise employed by Disney, because Disney can’t control the behavior of those people and may accrue bad press because of it. We get that, and that’s why we in the ‘rat princess’ trade make attempts to distance ourselves from the official Mouse Princesses…different names, altered costumes and “not affiliated with Disney” notices on our websites.
However, in a recent attempt to enforce their copyrights, Disney has decided to make it rain an especially strange sort of C&D on the party princesses of Australia. For more information on this, I interviewed an Aussie party princess and performing mermaid who, for the purposes of anonymity, will go by the name Claire in this post.
BPP: Please introduce yourself and tell us a bit about how you became a princess and a mermaid!
Claire: Hello! My mermaid name is [withheld], I live in Australia and I’m 25 years old! I started mermaiding just for fun about 4 years ago, and not long after I decided to try my fins at entertaining. I’ve got a background in theatre and dance, so it wasn’t a huge leap from my usual life! About a year ago, I was approached by a local business to do some contract work, and since then I have been working for them as a party princess/fairy (and my mermaid self!). Its honestly the most amazing job I could ever ask for. I still have to work full-time throughout the week, but every weekend I look forward to donning my costumes!
BPP: How long have you been in the business?
Claire: I’ve been a professional mermaid for three years, and a party princess for one! It was an interesting change to go from fins to gowns, but surprisingly not much of a stretch between the two! The only differences would be that mermaiding requires a lot of fitness (try giving mermaid rides to 15 children in a row… oh goodness!) and princessing is more intense.
BPP: What have you recent experiences been with the Disney corporation’s crackdown on party companies in your area?
Claire: Australian children’s entertainers and party companies have recently been receiving letters from a lawyers’ firm working for Disney, which at first we all thought was a scam…[U]nfortunately it’s been discovered that indeed these are legitimate letters. Worst of all, some of these local businesses seem to have been ‘dobbed in’ by rivals… it’s a petty world sometimes, children’s entertaining. [Note to our non-aussie friends…I believe “dobbed in” is the same as “ratted out”, i.e. squealed on, snitched, reported to Disney.]
BPP: What kind of letters are being sent out and what are Disney’s demands in them?
Claire: As I mentioned above, at first we all thought it was a scam. The letters were emailed, not posted. And in them they demanded some pretty ridiculous things: the most ludicrous being that the offending business send all of the costumes they use for profit that “resemble Disney’s characters” to Disney. On top of this, they were told to pay a fine of $1000.
[Note: for real, Disney? Confiscating private, homemade property and issuing fines? You can’t actually legally do either of those things, as you’re a toy company, not your own legal court.]
BPP: Do you personally know of any companies that have been shut down, or has your own company felt threatened by the Cease and Desist letters?
Claire: Luckily, no businesses in our local area have been shut down. However a local party place was sent a similar letter regarding their use [of similar characters]; it seems the most damage is being done in the bigger cities of Australia. It has certainly sent a shock-wave through the party princess community here! As far as we were aware we weren’t breaking any laws- we use different names for the prinesses and never advertise as affiliated with Disney. Now it feels like we just have to sit and wait, and hope we are not served.
BPP: How has this differed from the party company atmosphere of recent years? Or has it always been this strict?
Claire: This is the first time any party companies or princess businesses have ever been sent these kinds of letters, so to be honest, I’m not sure how it was handled in the past! It’s been surprising that Australia has such different laws: it’s about protecting the big companies here, not the small businesses.
BPP: What do you do to protect your own business/personal job from upsetting Disney lawyers?
Claire: At the moment there is not much we can do, other than continue to use different names. Unfortunately the laws here claim that “if the costumes resembles or can be mistaken for a Disney character, it is considered copywrite infringement”. Which is ridiculous in itself- anyone in some scale leggings with red hair can be mistaken for Ariel by children, how on earth can they copyright that? For now it’s a waiting game, and hopefully we can all be left in peace to continue our amazing jobs!
BPP: Other than party companies, what other resources to Australian parents have available to see rented characters/live Disney-like princesses, etc? Parks, stores, cruises?
Claire: There are no Disney attractions in Australia currently: no Disney parks, cruises or stores! Merchandise such as party plates/balloons and dolls can be purchased almost anywhere, but that is all. It looks like they have some plans for Disney Cruises in the future, but there is no information when this will happen! For now, party princesses are as close to the real thing as families are able to get without flying overseas.
[Note: Again, really Disney? You expect Australian kids to pay a thousand dollar plane ticket to go see a princess in person on another continent, and that’s the only way they get to see them? Even hospital charity visits in Australia are in jeopardy now, because of these draconian new tactics.]
BPP: How do you think Disney’s actions have affected the rights of small business owners?
Claire: It’s scared a lot of us. It personally got me considering avoiding adding…[red-haired mermaid characters] to my own mermaid business- the idea of my hand-made costumes being taken away is terrifying! It’s really shown that if there is a loophole, the bigger companies will do what they can to take from the smaller ones, and unfortunately our laws allow that to happen.
BPP: Anything you would like to add?
Claire: Despite all the drama, I am so grateful to be able to do such an amazing job! It won’t stop me from making people happy, or making costumes or dressing up! If all goes well, the lawsuits will subside for a little while and let us all get on with what we love doing. In the mean time, I’ll still be swimming around!
So yeah, there you have it. In a country like the US, where park princesses are prevalent and entertainers can easily be mistaken for them, this sort of copyright enforcement makes sense. But on a continent on the other side of the planet, where there are no parks, stores or live presence at all, and where the princesses are just as careful to use public domain names and designs, it just comes off as needless bullying.
On a related note, I was describing my job to a male friend the other day, saying how we can use the name Cinderella because Disney doesn’t own such a public domain fairy tale, and he actually replied with, “Oh, they don’t?” in the most genuine tone imaginable. He actually thought that Disney might have done some legal manipulations in the past to secure to the rights to a fairy tale that’s universal and hundreds of years old. He’s not a stupid man for thinking this. Disney is just such a pervasive and domineering force that they can easily convince the average layperson that they own the name Cinderella. Or that they have the right to confiscate private property, or issue fines without an intervening judge, or shut down companies that don’t claim any affiliation with them.
Seriously, Disney. Get your shit together. If you don’t want the rats of the world stepping on your Mousey toes, stop trying to convince the world that you own all the fairy tales forever. There is room enough for both of us. Stick to your glittery mouse palaces and your parks and let the rat princesses of the world hustle their sparkle on the streets of Adelaide. Because if you cared about kids as much as you say you do, you wouldn’t demand that they fly halfway across the world just to meet a princess.
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Many thanks to Princess Claire for her time and effort in granting us this interview!
THIS IS SO CUUUUUUTE! Are you going to be drawing more of these??? :D
twist my arm why dontcha
(someday I will be able to draw a decent Raven, that day is not today :I)
pinky fingers up, cough lightly and throw a lit molotov cocktail on them while they’re turning around. then when they start screaming and trying to beat the flames off, get flustered, blush, and apologize profusely while doing absolutely nothing to help in any way.
people will think you are an adorable cutie pie who is quirky and only ~*that special someone*~ could truly give them what they need.