1) Maleficent is Disney - the same Disney that has made a mint on princess culture propaganda and
2) the original animated film is considered a "princess movie" (despite having possibly THE best Prince ever created in the Disney canon, which is going to be doubly ironic when the live action version is so two dimensional - hah!)*
Despite my misgivings at what seemed to be an obnoxious approach, the humor of the Olaf and Sven short did, indeed, catch the attention of little boys and they weren't disappointed when they saw Olaf, Marshmallow and Sven on the screen. They even enjoyed seeing Elsa using her powers and her character be a little conflicted about the whole thing. But then, Disney kind of shot themselves in the foot (as far as marketing to boys, anyway), as there was hardly any merchandise suitable for a boy who loved the movie to acquire, keep and play with. Instead, it was Princess-city. Even the Olaf plushes were kept in the "girl's aisle" with very "girly" packaging!
Enter Maleficent and the wide array of marketing happening for this film.
But this is still all pre-release, and Frozen did fine with their approach as well. What I'm already seeing as being a huge plus for my son is that, while there still isn't a whole lot, there is merchandise just for boys. While I hope there's more, here I'm talking specifically about the Stella McCartney Maleficent children's line, who Angelina Jolie collaborated with in designing, as well as Disney, of course. (My son has already grabbed his various lego dragons, including his version of Smaug, and enacts battle scenes where the dragon wins. Having recently also watched Epic (bad name, pretty good movie), he's very interested in wild nature both in weather and in growing things and gets annoyed when people clip their trailing vines or cut down their trees.) What he's going to want, though, is a piece of Maleficent he can take home for himself, and the Stella McCartney boys' options do exactly that. (In fact, he's already begged me for both shirts, "...but if you can only choose one, Mama, please choose the trolls.").
It reads as follows (emphasis in bold is only for the blog post here):
To Whom It May Concern at Stella McCartney,
A quick note to say thank you for designing some great Maleficent stuff for boys too!
With all the marketing thrown at little boys for Frozen and hardly any Olaf products in sight my son went from loving the Olaf & Sven parts of the movie, to believing it must only be for girls, because, there was only "girls stuff" available to purchase (mostly anyway). Maleficent, with all the trolls, ents, dragons and knights etc is great for boys to sink their fantasy teeth into and seeing these products he's already more excited about seeing the film.
I wish more people understood how much impact these items have on kids perceptions of a story and film. The merchandise they (kids) see afterward helps create the lasting associations they have with the film, and if boys are going to tap into mythic stories, we need to cater to them too - so, again, thank you.
Sincerely.(I should note here also, that Stella McCartney is sending a percentage of all sales to help disadvantaged children as well, which is another reason I'm considering pinching pennies and saving for one of these shirts my son wants so badly, when normally I wouldn't consider spending anywhere near that much!)
In fact, I would be so very happy if legos bought the rights to making a mainstream (not a "Lego Friends" version *shudder*) construction toy for Maleficent. And then they made a lego video game... (I think I might have to go suggest this to them.)
* I'm actually wondering if Angelina Jolie, who is always thinking of her own children and continues to be a strong advocate of all children everywhere, had something to say about making sure her boys would love seeing the movie as much as the girls. I know she had a huge influence on almost every other part of the movie - from costumes and casting to directing and music - and it certainly feels that way to me. If that's the case, I am sincerely grateful to her on behalf of mothers of all little boys everywhere.