Nothing enrages the internet like a character overhaul. Whether it’s a cartoon animal, a video game character, or even an advertising personality, their visual appearance is part of their personality, forever ingrained in the minds of fans right down to the smallest details. Adjust the color of Mickey Mouse’s pants and it will be hell to pay. Put Minnie Mouse in pants and… well, we’ll see what happened there.
There are reasons why most cartoon characters never change their clothes. This makes them instantly recognizable and also helps ensure consistency between animators. Sometimes we think a change can be refreshing and add new depth or interest to a character. Here we round up some of the most controversial character designs of the past year, from the Green M&Ms to Detective Jessica Rabbit and Ms. Pac Man’s transformation into Pac-Mom.
You might immediately notice a trend emerging – it seems like the internet really doesn’t like its cartoon or video game heroines losing their apparent femininity or sex appeal, even if it’s a rodent, a candy-covered chocolate button or an 8-bit hockey puck. For more fun design controversies, be sure to check out our roundup of the most ridiculous logo conflicts.
01. Green M&Ms
Who would have thought that changing the character of an anthropomorphic candy could generate such hostility? But the alleged desexualization of Green M&M’s shoes earlier this year got people off the hook. All six M&M characters have been redesigned to make them “more inclusive”, according to Mars Wrigley, with changes to both their physical appearance and personality.
But it turns out Green M&M was a major sex symbol with her go-go boots, lip gloss and thick lashes. She was the Kim Kardashian of confectionery, in fact. And by transforming her into a woman ‘known for more than her boots’, Mars Wrigley actually created, in the eyes of one Twitter user, ‘an old girl’ in ’40-50-year-old aunt sneakers’ . The company has been accused of everything from “reverse yassification” to slut-shaming. Rolling Stone magazine even demanded in a headline: “Let green M&M be a mean little bitch” No, Mars Wrigley didn’t listen to them.
02. Minnie Mouse
Just a week later, the internet was angry again. And this time, the fiercely debated re-clothed animated non-human character of the week was none other than Disney’s Minnie Mouse. Disneyland Paris has unveiled a new outfit for our favorite female rodent, replacing Minnie’s iconic red and white polka dot dress with a funky pantsuit. It wasn’t just any budget outfit, it was a Stella McCartney design based on her famous blue tuxedo and made from responsibly sourced fabrics, but that wasn’t enough to avoid a backlash.
Minnie Mouse in pants, and durable pants too? That was too much for some corners of the internet. “No more woke BS. We’re talking about a character that’s almost 100 years old,” one user tweeted. “People have an attachment to the usual Minnie Mouse outfit,” another person shared. “Her whole style is cute and overtly feminine, to set her apart from the way Mickey Mouse is drawn. She went from a fun red dress to an ugly pantsuit (sorry, it is).”
Luckily, for Minnie and McCartney, you were plenty of champions in that as well, and a lot of people loved the “I just emptied my inbox” look. The actual version of the costume was worn on location in Paris by the real Minnie (what do you mean someone in disguise?) throughout March to celebrate Women’s History Month and the 30th anniversary of Disneyland Paris (look at its pretty logo).
03. Rabbit Lola
More cartoon controversy, this time from Warner Bros. Last year Space Jam: A New Legacy brought back the Loony Tunes crew for a sequel to the 1996 original. were NOT happy with Lola Bunny. And yes, once again, it was desexualization that caused the storm, with the new iteration of the basketball-playing bunny significantly less curvy and dressed in looser clothes.
Some people on Twitter had seen enough. “Let’s get rid of anything that has sex appeal because it offends a small percentage of people. Let’s pretend busty women don’t even exist.” Or even bunnies with big boobs. The film’s director, Malcolm D. Lee, was forced to explain himself. “It’s 2021,” Lee said. “It’s important to reflect the authenticity of strong, capable female characters.”
04. Jessica Rabbit
You can probably already see what’s coming here. A few months after the Lola Bunny controversy, Disney revealed that it was going to make one of its characters “more relevant,” and this time a human — well, sort of. In this case, it was the sultry-voiced Jessica Rabbit from the groundbreaking 1988 action/animated comedy Who Framed Roger Rabbit? Disney pulled her from a scene in Roger Rabbit’s Car Toon Spin ride at Disneyland Park in California to turn her into a detective.
Her original animatronic appearance in the ride was strapped into the trunk of the car waving her leg around, as she was kidnapped by a weasel. The theme park decided that was problematic and instead they would make the main protagonist of the ride out of here, as a detective rather than a kidnapping victim. But some have argued that Jessica Rabbit is actually a refreshing take on the femme fatale stereotype and an empowered female character in control of her own sexuality. Others enjoyed a change meant to focus more on her strength and intelligence, but can’t she still dress as she pleases?
05. Ms. Pac-Man
So this one might not technically be a character redesign, but a character replacement. Earlier this month it emerged that Pac-Man, everyone’s favorite pizza-shaped yellow ball, had changed wives in the Nintendo Switch re-release of Pac-Land. It looks like the original Ms. Pac-Man was dispatched due to some maze-like legal issue (apparently the rights to the character had been sold to AtGames) and replaced by Pac-Mom.
We assume the character is still intended to be Pac-Man’s sidekick, with her name referring to her being the mother of Pac-Man’s child rather than her being Pac-Man’s mother, but who knows? She still looks like Pac-Man, but instead of Ms. Pac-Man’s bow and red boots, she wears a pink hat, gloves, and shoes. A small change? It certainly has little impact on gameplay, but fans on Twitter were predictably miffed.
“This franchise isn’t the same without Ms. Pac-Man. I hate you so much AtGames for killing off my favorite childhood franchise,” one user tweeted. “I’m so not here for the Ms. Pac-Man erasure,” someone else added.
Pac-Man himself was recently revealed as the sixth most popular video game character according to the Guinness Book of World Records. Suffice it to say Pac-Mom wasn’t on the list. Random fun fact? Pac-Man was originally called Puck-Man because he looked like a hockey puck, but someone suggested the name be changed to prevent people from defacing arcade machines to change the P in F. Spoilsport.
These are just a few of the character redesigns that have outraged fans online over the past year. We could go on. Just last week, players were taken aback by Sora’s tamed outfit change in the upcoming Kingdom Hearts 4. And players again – yes, they’re picky – were also rather impressed with the interpretation. of a character in the new Paramount + Halo adaptation (maintainers really should check out our selection of character design tips).
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