Much to the delight of children everywhere, DISNEY/PIXAR have finally released CARS 2, the sequel to the 2006 hit that features a host of colorful anthropomorphic autos on a globetrotting adventure. As goes with the territory, there's a merchandise explosion, with nearly every store bursting at the seams with licensed CARS 2 toys, clothing, games, and more. While the film features a female 'lead' of sorts with the purple car HOLLEY SHIFTWELL (voiced by Emily Mortimer) joining the story along with SALLY CARRERA (voiced by Bonnie Hunt) and LIZZIE (voiced by Katherine Helmond) from the original CARS - good luck finding any tie-in merch aimed at little girls.
My daughter (almost two) absolutely loves CARS. We have the first movie on DVD, and she pulls it from the shelf and carries it around the house saying the word "cars" in her sweet little voice to anyone that will listen. When the TV spots for CARS 2 come on TV, she shout's "Cars!" as a big smile overcomes her face. She has a set of toy cars (not from the movies) that she loves scooting around with on the floor. With all the hype surrounding the new film in recent weeks, I had every intention of getting her something from the new film - and that was a feat easier said than done.
I was shocked to discover that in Wal-Mart and Target, there are NO products associated with CARS 2 being sold for girls. With dozens of items available, you'd think there would be a HOLLEY SHIFTWELL t-shirt around - perhaps a group shot printed on pink or purple or even white? Nope. All of the clothing is marked "boys," even that which could be considered unisex. Well, how about a HOLLEY SHIFTWELL toy car? Since there's a few different versions printed on the back of other packages, you'd think there would be one somewhere in the store, right? Nope. An entire section devoted to the merchandise in the front of the Supercenter, two full pallets in the main aisle, and a full section in the toy department - not a single HOLLEY anywhere.
A search for CARS 2 "GIRLS" products on the Toys R Us website brings up only some old-fashioned, wooden block style cars, while a search for"CARS 2 HOLLEY" features five items (one is the wood block car). The same search at Target displays a whopping one item - out of stock. While most of the toys actually seem to be poorly made, especially the $20-a-pop larger age 3+ cars made of plastic with paper decals on them, my main interest was to find my daughter a CARS 2 t-shirt of some kind. What better place than The Disney Store, right? Wrong again. There they at least have "boys" and "kids," at least acknowledging that it's ok for everyone to like cars, but in the end I ended up back at Wal-Mart for a CARS 2 character shirt printed on the fairly neutral color of green.
This is the first time I've experienced this first hand, but the lesson learned seems to be that consumer culture starts fueling exclusion at a very young age.
In a world where some girls grow up to be racecar drivers like Danica Patrick, it's foolish for companies to think that little girls wouldn't like CARS 2.
Has anyone else had an experience like this?
About James: A work-from-home Dad with a pair of daughters (Released in 2009 and 2012) - James Zahn is THE ROCK FATHER™.
Bringing over two decades of experience in the entertainment industry into the family realm, Zahn is an Illinois-based Entertainment Writer, Media Personality and Commentator.
He serves as a PBS KIDS VIP (Very Involved Parent), has made guest appearances as a member of the Sprout Kindness Crew, was featured in the Father's Day issue of Lake County Magazine, and is a former contributor to Chicago Parent.
Creatively, James has directed/edited music videos, lyric videos, and album trailers for the likes of FEAR FACTORY, DIRGE WITHIN, PRODUCT OF HATE, ARCANIUM and others, has appeared as an actor in feature films and commercials, written comic books, and performed in bands.
James and/or his work have been featured in/on CNN, NBC, G4, The Chicago Tribune, Blogcritics, Fangoria, Starlog, The River Cities' Reader. Slowfish, Oil, and more. He's appeared as a music expert on CNN's AC360, and in 2013 he's been quoted on CNN, Babble, The Huffington Post, and The Good Men Project, in addition to making appearances on ABC News and WGN.
Learn more here.