It is by no means bold for me to say that I love Disney. The House of Mouse, despite its many problems, holds a special place in my life and has ever since I first started watching things like The Aristocats with my grandmother as a tiny little kid. To this day seeing the Disney logo before a movie can send pleasant chills down my spine even if the movie itself doesn’t hold its own next to the studio’s classics.
This is one of the things that led to my curiosity, excitement, and trepidation about the upcoming Disney Infinity, a new gaming project from Disney Interactive. Following a similar concept to the Skylanders series from Activision, players will be required to purchase a variety of figures and tokens in order to experience the game’s full potential.
Following the purchase of a $75 starter pack – which gives the player a copy of the game itself, three figures (Mr. Incredible from The Incredibles, Sully from Monsters University, and Jack Sparrow from Pirates of the Caribbean), a few random gameplay tokens, and the game’s portal (on which the player sets their figures and tokens to have them unlocked in the game) – fans will be compelled to buy a variety of extra figures available in both single and multi-character playset packs as well as card game-esque packs of random tokens.
And that part of the equation is all completely fine. Though some people will groan at the high price of entry while others scoff at how the game’s collectible aspect resembles on-disc DLC, the fact of the matter is that Disney is not being deceptive in their marketing and are creating a product that kids can enjoy in multiple aspects, both when they’re hooked into their game system and when they’re not.
In fact the game’s concept actually sounds really cool. Each character has a full world they can explore based on their respective property, allowing for Disney to create nicely-sized, unique games based on movies and shows that otherwise wouldn’t get them. And, since they all revolve around similar concepts and are made in the same engine, chances are high that, so long as Disney Infinity itself is good, most of the individual games will be good as well, circumventing the problem most movie-based titles tend to have.
The biggest and coolest part of the game, however, is its Toybox Mode, which allows the player to mix their characters together and both explore and make their own Disney world. The player can then utilize both in-game unlockables and the collectible tokens to customize their world and character and introduce new items to play with.
Despite how good the game sounds, however, there is one major issue I have with what has been announced: where are all the girls? For a game bearing the name of a company known for their Princesses, Disney Infinity seems to have a striking lack of women in the game. There have been a few playable girls shown, most notably Elastigirl and Violet from The Incredibles and Jessie from Toy Story, but they are few, far between, and not the protagonist of their respective series.
Though there will be plenty more to come, the announced characters that have been featured in official art and in-game footage include The Incredibles, Monsters University, Pirates of the Caribbean, Toy Story, Cars, Phineas and Ferb, Wreck-It Ralph, and The Nightmare Before Christmas. A few sites have claimed that Tangled will be an upcoming playset but the only elements we have seen from the film are a piece of character equipment (the frying pan), Tangled-based scenery, a Rapunzel token, and the film’s castle in the background. Rapunzel and her beau Flynn are missing in action.
And it’s not just Rapunzel missing either. For a game designed around collecting and using different Disney characters, Disney Infinity has a surprising lack of characters from Disney’s main animation studio, the aptly titled Walt Disney Animation Studios. In fact, the only film from their flagship production company represented is 2012′s Wreck-It Ralph, the rest all being from their separate studios like Pixar. While I didn’t necessarily expect all the older films (like Pinnochio) or less-beloved films (like The Aristocats) to be represented, you would think they’d choose at least one of their major franchises to kick it off with.
While I heavily disagree with companies targeting specific genders with their work it’s undeniable that Disney does just that. Aside from a few exceptions found in films like The Lion King, Disney Animation tends to market themselves toward girls, as seen in their massively successful Princess and Fairies franchises. The House of Mouse has dominated in that field ever since they released Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs in 1937 and, as their heavy reliance on love stories and fairy tales over the years indicates, they haven’t let up.
Inversely, Disney has recently begun to rely on Pixar, their live action studios, and now both Marvel and Lucasfilm to market to boys. And it seems that Disney Infinity is just that: a game targeted at boys. Though it has room to expand, the Disney Infinity we have seen so far is a digital “Boys Club,” filled to the brim with the Disney characters marketed at younger boys, like Lightning McQueen, Captain Jack Sparrow, and Buzz Lightyear.
While girls are certainly welcome to play, with elements from films like The Little Mermaid, Cinderella, and Alice in Wonderland available in token form, they are certainly not being encouraged to. The lack of properties aimed at them serves as evidence of that, with the Princesses oddly absent, Tinkerbell and her gang nowhere in sight, and even Disney’s “cooler” or more “kick-ass” heroines like Rapunzel and Mulan seemed to have missed the cut.
It seems that, at least in Disney Interactive’s eyes, Disney Animation is simply “too girly” for their game and, instead of giving equal coverage to all of Disney’s franchise types, have stuck only to the boy-targeted ones. For accuracy’s sake, the game probably should have been called Pixar Infinity featuring Jack Sparrow.
While I love Disney’s “boy-centric” fare, I tend to prefer watching their Princess films more. They may not always be better, but things like Beauty and the Beast are simply more up my alley than, say, The Lion King, and I’m sure many people are the same way. And, as someone like that, Disney Infinity’s debut characters simply feel like a slap in the face. I can’t help but think “the people who prefer Disney’s traditionally ‘boyish’ fare are represented multiple-times over, but I’m not represented at all? They get tons of characters, and I get a few tokens?”
I love Disney and am often the first to defend them against claims of sexism, but here it is just too obvious to ignore. Disney Infinity is, in Disney’s eyes, a game for boys. And it shouldn’t be. It should be a game for everyone, where all types of Disney fans can come and have a great time. A digital version of Disney World, essentially. I can only hope that, over time, it will become that.
Images Used under Fair Use for the Purpose of Commentary