Thu May 09, 2013 6:06 pm
Just to play devil's advocate for a moment...
I also saw a lot of uproar about this topic online. There seems to be a common misunderstanding of what a trademark is. A lot of the upset comments are along the lines of "Disney shouldn't be able to own a holiday" or "Disney wants to trademark a tradition."
But that's not what a "trademark" is. Literally, a trademark is only a mark (words or logo) used in trade (selling goods/services). Despite what many news outlets have been saying in their panicked headlines, Disney wouldn't be "owning the rights to images of skeleton mariachis or painted faces, marigolds, altars."
Registering a trademark just means that you have the rights to use a word or phrase, to distinguish your specific type of goods/services from another company. With a trademark you can't own the imagery, the ideas, the traditions, the holiday, the culture, etc.
Disney wanted the right to use the name/logo on certain kinds of merchandise promoting the film (clothing, toys, games). But they'd only have the rights for the product types (called a "class") they specified.
I haven't looked it up, but presumably Disney owns trademarks for other films of theirs such as "Brave." But of course they don't own the overall concept of bravery. Just the word, and in certain uses. Different companies have the rights to make "Brave" perfume and "Brave" computer software.
And actually, "Dia de los Muertos" has been trademarked before in other classes too. For example, a company named "The Valence Group" owns the "Dia de los Muertos" name when used for "exhibition of live theater production, stage plays and musical shows." So even if Disney had secured the rights to the name for kids' fruit snacks, they'd never be able to put on a stage show using the name "Dia de los Muertos" since another company already owns that usage.
All that aside, trademark can become tricky if you try to register generic, common use words. For example, you can't own the word "truck" and prohibit all other truck makers from calling their vehicles a "truck." So to many people, "Dia De Los Muertos" is probably seen common phrase that shouldn't be trademarked (even though many companies have already done so, but they're smaller than Disney so nobody caused a stink).
Plus, this holiday has religious and cultural associations that make it even more of a touchy subject. So I think it's smart of Disney to change the movie's name. Maybe something more unique, like the name of one of the film's characters.
I'm pretty interested to see what this movie is all about. The traditions are pretty interesting and I've always loved Dia De Los Muertos imagery. So it's a really cool theme for a Disney movie, as long as it's done with respect. Some may think that Disney is trying to cash in on a sacred holiday, but let's hope the film celebrates the tradition and exposes a lot of children to a culture on which they might otherwise not be educated.
It will be a Pixer movie, and those are almost always great stories with great animation. This one is being directed by Lee Unkrich who helmed Toy Story 3, and also co-directed Finding Nemo and Monsters Inc. That's a pretty good track record.