For many years, Disney has captivated the attention of both children and adults with their ionic animated princesses. These amazing characters have had an impact, and influence on people in almost every country and have become part of an official franchise which has spawned other sub-lines including Disney ‘Palace Pets’.
Disney Princesses are a group of film heroines who represent all that is whimsical, magical and beautiful in the Disney world. It’s not hard to see why people of all ages have come to be influenced by the powerful phenomenon of Disney Princesses. Disney Princesses have become so globally pervasive, that it’s hard to imagine a world without Disney Princess costumes at Halloween, or without the dreamy, romantic movies that the heroines feature in.
From Snow White to Moana, the Princesses embody everything that is feminine and beautiful, embracing the fantasies of happily ever after and fairy-tale life that girls throughout time, have dreamed of.
The Birth of the Disney Princess
\While Snow White is the first Disney Princess in the franchise, she was actually preceded by Persephone.
Persephone was the first princess Walt Disney created for a Greek mythological tale based on the goddess of the same name. Though Persephone was created before Snow White, she came to have a role later, in the film Silly Symphonies in a short called “The Goddess of Spring”. In the film, Persephone can be seen frolicking around the woods with a bunch of dwarf-like creatures to a tune that has very distinct echoes to the Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs soundtrack.
You can watch Persephone’s section of the film HERE
According to the Walt Disney Family Museum, Persephone’s creation paved the way for the development of Snow White who was based on the female protagonist from the Brothers Grimm fairy tale "Schneewittchen".
Despite common belief, the term ‘Disney Princess’ does not refer to any character in a Disney film that was a princess. Disney Princess is a media franchise created in order to spotlight specific fictional heroines who have appeared in the Disney feature film canon. The franchise currently has 11 princesses, most of who are either royal by birth, or by marriage. There are a few princesses included in the line-up who are not royal by birth or marriage, but who have come to be considered a Disney Princess due to their significant portrayal as a heroine in their own film. There are also some unofficial Disney Princesses who are not included in the line-up because their marketing was not successful, or because their film’s box office takings (Elsa and Anna were too big, requiring a franchise of their own!). The Disney Princesses are also picked depending on their suitability for the Disney Princess Mythology.
The original Disney Princess line-up is as follows:
- Snow White
This was later expanded to include:
Moana is yet to be announced as the next Disney Princess to grace the franchise.
The line now spans dolls, Palace Pets, lunchboxes and drink bottles, miniature figures, child’s costumes, ornaments, bedding and much more. The Princesses are also featured more prominently than any other character within the Disney Parks.
Most of the costumes have been updated for the Princesses, and they appear most often in their redesigned outfits instead of the ones they wore in their respective movies.
(You can read more about this in our upcoming article, “The Evolution of the Disney Princesses”.)
The Princesses have distinct similarities which make them work well as a group, including a love for all creatures, inner, as well as outer beauty, and a beautiful singing voice. Most of the Princesses also have a romance in the form of a Disney Prince. The Princesses characteristics are also tied to the era in which they were created:
- Snow White, Cinderella and Aurora are graceful, romantic dreamers
- Jasmine, Pocahontas, Ariel, Belle and Mulan are strong-willed adventurers who show determination and cunning
- Tiana, Rapunzel and Merida are more realists, focusing more on their goals than romance, and fighting for their dreams
Several princesses who feature in Disney films are not included in the Disney Princess franchise including:
- Eilonwy (movie was not a success)
- Nala (not a human)
- Megara (movie was not a success)
- Kida (movie was not a success)
- Vanellope von Schweetz (rejected her noble title)
- Anna and Elsa (movie was too successful)
- Tinker Bell (removed to create her own franchise, ‘Disney Fairies’)
- Jane Porter (removed because she is too similar to Belle)
- Esmerelda (removed because she was not royal)
- Sofia the First (from a television show, rather than a film)
The Disney Princesses have received an increasing amount of criticism due to concerns over their portrayal of gender, and image, and for the way in which they serve as role models for young girls.
Critics have argued that the Princesses present ideas and characteristics that are oppressive, and which promote unrealistic ideals. Child psychologist Jennifer Hardstein even argues that children are coming down with ‘Princess Syndrome’ and maintains that stories such as Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella encourage the idea that if a girl has an attractive appearance which is enhanced by nice clothing and shoes then she will find love and happiness. An argument has also been made that Disney Princesses have unrealistic body images which emphasis thinness and unattainable features.
However, a close examination of the Disney Princess leads to the conclusion that they are strong female protagonists who send positive messages and set fantastic examples to girls everywhere. The Princesses of the Disney canon are fearless, respectable women who stand up for what is right, for gender equality and for humanity, all while pursuing their own dreams and happiness.
Great Role Models
Frozen quickly became a hot topic on the internet and in newspapers and magazines because of the amazing role models that it has in the characters of Anna and Elsa. 2016 also saw the strong, female-driven story of Moana which is quickly becoming a celebrated success, due to the progressive storyline and headstrong character of Moana. While Disney is being more overt in their attempts to cast their films with strong, female protagonists, this is actually nothing new. Since the birth of the first Disney Princess, Snow White, Disney has been telling the stories of young girls who are oppressed by their step-parents, kept from their true love, imprisoned in castles and towers and who have a dream bigger than themselves.
Disney Princesses tend to be adventurous and feisty, with each having her won qualities which make her memorable:
- Belle is sensible and wise, probably by virtue of her reading
- Jasmine is adamant that she will not be married off as a prize
- Mulan disguises herself in order to defend her country
- Tiana waitresses her way to her own business, determined to better herself
- Rapunzel rejects the limited life she is forced to lead
These women are strong and intelligent, and are the main players in their own stories.That makes all of the Disney Princesses fantastic role models for young girls to look up to.
A Prominent Presence
The Disney Princesses are at the heart of Disney culture – many Disney movies focus around their stories, they are often the titular characters in their films, they sing memorable songs and wear iconic costumes and represent a wide range of female characters that celebrate friendship, womanhood and royalty in a way that is fresh, and inspiring.
The Disney Princess cannot be escaped – it is impossible to not encounter Frozen and its two female leads, and now our social media is filing with hype for Belle’s return in the new live-action Beauty and the Beast. Ask someone you know to name three Disney Princesses and they will name ten, but ask them to name students at Sweet Valley High or the actress who just won Best Oscar and they will struggle. Disney Princesses have become so culturally ubiquitous that we cannot imagine life without them. I grew up in the Disney Renaissance and as a 30-something woman, I still look up to these characters.
- Ariel is the only Princess to have a child
- Aurora is the only Princess to have an arranged marriage
- Roy E. Disney was against the idea of creating a Disney Princess franchise
- Four of the Disney Princesses were not born into royalty: Cinderella, Belle, Mulan and Tiana
- Merida is the first, and only, Pixar Princess
- Mulan never becomes royalty, but was inducted into the line of Princesses because of her high ranking in the Chinese military
- Four Princesses – Aurora, Merida, Rapunzel and Jasmine all celebrate their birthday during their films
- Merida is the only Princess with curly hair
- Only three of the Princesses have siblings (one of those is Cinderella who only has step-siblings)
- With the exception of Cinderella, every Princess almost dies, with one of them actually dying before being revived
- Three princesses – Snow White, Aurora and Ariel are princesses by both blood and marriage
- Three Princesses marry men who are not royal
- Except for Ariel and Pocahontas, all the princesses are seen to do chores
- Only five of the Princesses are married on-screen
- Disney Princess lego and duplo sets are now available
- Three Princesses are not linked to fairy tales – Pocahontas, Merida and Moana
- Two of the Princesses have killed people – Tiana and Mulan. Mulan has killed more people than any other Disney character
- Half of the Disney Princesses have full-length sequels
- Rapunzel was the first CGI Disney Princess
- Rapunzel is the only Princess to have a short film
- Jasmine is the only Princess who is a deuteragonist. The rest are all protagonists
- There were no Princesses created during 1942-1949, during 1967-1988, or between 2000-2008
- Giselle was originally intended to join the Disney Princess franchise but it fell through when it became clear that Amy Adams would be owed royalties for her likeness being portrayed on merchandise
- During events and parades in Disney Parks, the Princess voices you hear are voiced by their film actors
- The franchise ‘Palace Pets’ is a spin-off from Disney Princesses
- Rapunzel is the only Princess to become a playable character in Disney Inifinity
- Only five of the Princesses have the last line in their movie
- Ariel is the only non-human Disney Princess
- Pocahontas is the only Princess to not marry her Prince
- Only four of the Princesses sing a duet with their Princes
- All of the Princesses sing the film’s theme song, except for two
- Moana and Merida are the only Disney Princesses without a romantic interest, though Merida originally had one that was cut during the film’s production
- Merida and Moana are the only Princesses whose stories are not inspired by a written story, or by real-life events
- Brave is the first Princess story to not be a musical
- Ariel’s green dress was designed for the franchise – she never actually wore it on screen
- All of the Princesses, except four, live in palaces
- Pocahontas and Merida have been retired from Disney on Ice
- Disney Princesses are designed to be unaware of each other’s presence, when they are depicted together
- Mulan and Tiana are left-handed
- Every Princess has a non-human sidekick and is represented by an object
- Pocahontas is the first Disney Princess to have a romance with two different people
- Aurora and Mulan are the only two Princesses to have an alias
- Seven of the Princesses have used magic
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