The Cannes Film Festival is known for celebrating independent darlings, exploratory film and the avant-garde filmmakers that define the festival’s target audience, but it’s also become the center of controversy.
A billboard for Red Shoes & the 7 Dwarfs, an animated parody of Disney’s classic Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and the Grimm fairy tale, has drawn ire over the past few days. The movie follows Snow White on Fairy Tale Island, a world inhabited by celebrities where how you look defines your status. Snow White wears a pair of red slippers that turn her into a thin and beautiful woman who will be accepted by society. It’s through her journey to find her lost father that Snow White begins to accept who she really is.
But that’s not what the marketing hints at. The billboard in question can be seen below and suggests that because Snow White is shorter and rounder than her tall and skinny counterpart, she’s not as beautiful.
Following backlash over the billboard, producer Sujin Hwang issued a statement to the Daily Dot on behalf of the studio, Locus Corporation, apologizing for the ad. Hwang said it had the opposite effect of what the studio was going for, which was to instill a message of body positivity in viewers. The full statement can be read below.
“Locus Corporation wishes to apologize regarding the first elements of our marketing campaign (in the form of a Cannes billboard and a trailer) which we realize has had the opposite effect from that which was intended. That advertising campaign is being terminated.
Our film, a family comedy, carries a message designed to challenge social prejudices related to standards of physical beauty in society by emphasizing the importance of inner beauty. We appreciate and are grateful for the constructive criticism of those who brought this to our attention. We sincerely regret any embarrassment or dissatisfaction this mistaken advertising has caused to any of the individual artists or companies involved with the production or future distribution of our film, none of whom had any involvement with creating or approving the now discontinued advertising campaign.”
Even actor Chloë Grace Moretz, who voices Snow White, issued an apology for the billboard. After seeing the marketing for the film, she said she was “appalled and angry” about the direction the studio went in.
I have now fully reviewed the mkting for Red Shoes, I am just as appalled and angry as everyone else, this wasn't approved by me or my team— Chloë Grace Moretz (@ChloeGMoretz) May 31, 2017
The actual story is powerful for young women and resonated with me. I am sorry for the offense that was beyond my creative control https://t.co/HZP2ydPCAX— Chloë Grace Moretz (@ChloeGMoretz) May 31, 2017
This wasn’t the only instance of questionable promotion the film has had. The film’s teaser trailer starts with a couple of dwarves watching the thin, “beautiful” version of Snow White undress. Everything about the scene is sensual. The thrown look over her shoulder as she slides a strap off her dress is a perfect setup for the film to focus on Snow White’s looks. As the dwarves watch from under the bed, it quickly becomes creepy.
Everything changes, however, when Snow White removes her shoes and transforms into the bigger version of the character seen in the billboard. Unlike the thin, delicate version of Snow White, the “real” version of the character is depicted as less refined, burping after chugging from a mug. The look of surprise and horror on the dwarves’ faces sums up the feelings of the teaser pretty well.
In her statement, Hwang argues that Red Shoes & the 7 Dwarfs is “a family comedy, [that] carries a message designed to challenge social prejudices related to standards of physical beauty in society by emphasizing the importance of inner beauty.” Similarly, Moretz has publicly said the reason she signed onto the movie in the first place is because of the powerful message it sends to young women.
That could very well be the case with the film, but the marketing around the movie isn’t doing anything to promote the ideology. All the billboard and teaser trailer do is reinforce the idea that skinny is the only acceptable type of beauty. Based on the shocked reactions from the animated dwarves in the trailer and the look on the shorter, bigger Snow White’s face in the billboard, the takeaway is that the new version of Snow White is grotesque.
It’s hard to say whether the movie pulls off its goal as a parody, but nothing about the marketing makes it inviting. It doesn’t promote, but shames, and that’s the main issue, especially when the film is targeted at young girls.
Red Shoes & the 7 Dwarfs doesn’t have a release date in North America. Cannes, like other film festivals, is where studios try to sell their movies to distributors, but as of right now, no one has picked it up.