“Mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the fairest of them all?” 

“You’re in Shanghai. Linabell.” 

“Huh?????” 

On September 29, 2021, Shanghai Disneyland launched its Duffy family’s new character: Linabell. This little pink fox soon became a great hit. Fans crowded around the puppet dolls to take photos. The stuffed toys went up by 20 times on Taobao, and buyers lined up for hours to buy them. It is even said that somebody lined up for 5 hours in the cold winter wind  to buy just two dolls.

I was baffled when I saw my cousin, who is one year older than me, buy two of the same mid-autumn Linabells. I was even more shocked when my neighbor in her late 40s asked her friend to buy a Linabell key chain from Tokyo Disneyland. Why on earth is this pink fox so charming to the public? 

Linabell’s family, The Duffy and Friends’ series, does not have animated movies. They are just characters paired with some simple stories, designed to be cute and attract people from any background. The designer of Linabell is Ethan Reed, a senior designer, who also created other characters from the franchise such as Gelatoni, CookieAnn, and StellaLou. Like all the Duffy family characters, Linabell has a face similar to Mickey Mouse. She has light pink fur, a fluffy tail and light blue eyes. Her introduction story is that she is a smart detective, helping Duffy who lost his way home, by investigating the grass and seeds clinging to his fur. 

It may go beyond normal expectations, but the target audience for Duffy and Friends’ characters, at least in Shanghai Disneyland, are teenage and adult Disney fans. Small children don’t seem to show the same enthusiasm for buying Linabell products. From my observations, children seem to prefer more distinctive characters like Mickey, Judy from Zooptopia, and Winnie-the-Pooh. One explanation is that the Duffy family’s characters all have low saturation color degrees, making them look calmer. Children who prefer bright and vivid colors may consider the Duffy family “not so vivid.” The likeness between Duffy family characters also makes it harder for small kids to distinguish between them. For example, Gelatoni is a cat and Linabell is a fox, but their facial shape is almost the same. Moreover, because theDuffy series is not based on an animated movie, children can not remember the relationship between each character as well as other Disney characters. 

If we dig deeper into this little fox, some interesting facts emerge. The English name “Linabell” is composed of “Lina” and “Belle.” “Lina” means sunlight, which is quite close to her sunny character. “Belle” is a general name meaning beauty. Her light pink fur signifies pureness and conveys a feeling of comfort. These characteristics make her highly acceptable by fans. Her character is also charming to the young adult fans. Her temper is bold and a bit anxious, but that’s maybe what makes her more attractive to the young people than other flawless Disney Princesses. There is also a possibility that the adult audience views Linabell as a cute daughter figure, even giving her a Shanghainese nickname called “Linlin”.

After the pandemic, Disney suffered a number of failures in its production. Some of its new movies like Encanto even failed to break even its budget. Under the current trend of Disney’s failure to create profitable animated movies, the Duffy family finds a new approach to gain people’s attention and money. Targeting the adults who nowadays have limited time and patience to watch Disney movies, Duffy’s family provides a way to charm them by using less money and less time. Using simple “cuteness,” Disney succeeds in gathering its fans’ money. Yet, this will not be appealing to the general audience, especially the ones who can not get her point of cuteness. During the past year, I have witnessed heavy disputes over Linabell. Whatever the context or the result of these arguments are, they bring more attraction to this small fox. With the charm of Linabell, Shanghai Disneyland earns huge amounts of money. But what will happen if one day she is no longer popular? At that time, will Disney create another golden goose? Will we question again who is the FAIREST of them all?