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Profiling The Disney Princess

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Disney_Princesses_13Disney’s first animated feature film was Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs which was released in 1937, and since the success of that film, princesses have been Disney’s go to storyline to the vast audience’s pleasure. This November we have the latest Disney film Frozen, which as we reported earlier this year, will be adding the number 12th and 13th princesses to the Disney line up. As the trailer for Frozen won’t be released for a few more days, and even though some of us were able to take a look at the leaked video recording of the trailer, there are still many questions left regarding what kind of princesses they will be, and what direction Disney is now going to take with their princesses. But before we move forward, let’s look back at the qualities Disney has highlighted in their princesses in the past.

Beauty

A Disney princess lives by a certain code, a certain moral standard, but above all that, a certain level of beauty. It goes without saying that Disney has always made their princesses with a well endowed air of beauty. But surprisingly, the Disney princess is never aware of her own beauty, or if she is, she is most definitely not conceited. With the earlier princesses Snow White, Aurora, and Cinderella, their beauty is written directly into the dialogue or narration almost as if this trait merits being a plot point. Most recently, however, beauty takes the back seat to smarts…but more on that later.

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What seems to be the most interesting part about the depiction of beauty in a Disney princess is how, more often than not, the beauty portrayed in the princess reflects society’s standard of beauty at the time each respective film is produced. For example, Snow White is delicate with super thin eyebrows, and a waif-ish physique exemplifying the flapper look which was becoming more commonly accepted at the time. Pocahontas was released in 1995, at the height of Baywatch‘s popularity, resulting in a physique that emphasized Pocahontas’….busty assets to put it kindly.

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The most recent batch of Disney princesses tend to focus on replicating the likes of Emma Stone and Zooey Deschanel, by giving Rapunzel as well as Merida large colored eyes and freckles. As for the princesses of Frozen, we again see large colored eye and freckles, as well as an adorable sense of imperfection in Anna’s slightly too-together eyes, and a very fashionista sense from Elsa.

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Rebellion

It may be safe to say that women at the beginning half of the 20th century were expected to be demure, innocent and subdued exemplified by such role model princesses as Aurora and Snow White, and it thrills me to say that this is no longer the case.

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Beginning with Ariel in 1989, there has been a new streak of rebellion that runs deep with the Disney princess. Though initially the rebellion was in the name of romantic love (I’m looking at you Ariel, Belle and Pocahontas!), the best and more touching acts of rebellion were in the name of self worth, paternal love, or self discovery.

When Mulan decided to commit a crime punishable by death, it was in order to save her father’s life. Rapunzel did not choose to leave her tower in order to be with Flynn Rider, she left in order to have an adventure for herself on her 18th birthday, and to discover who she is. And most recently, Merida rebelled against her mother because she was not willing to marry without love in order to comply with tradition, and in the end, gained a better understanding of their relationship together as mother and daughter.

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Without a trailer to draw from (even with the trailer that was leaked last week) it is hard to say what type of rebellion we may expect to see from Elsa and Anna. One thing that does seem to be evident, however, is that much like BraveFrozen will focus on the relationship shared by Elsa and Anna, and may center around why Elsa left the kingdom in the first place…as a potential act of rebellion, the reason why still remaining a mystery…much like the rest of this paragraph as this is all speculation at this point.

Smarts

As mentioned previously, the Disney princess is pretty much always beautiful, but beauty is no longer the primary adjective when describing a princess’s assets. The Disney princess has much gratefully evolved from a demure, beautiful creature, into a self-sufficient, strong individual with, dare I say it?, smarts. The Princess and the Frog’s Tiana did not believe in just wishing to make her dreams come true, she worked hard, and that is the biggest reason she ended up with her happy ending.

In defending China, Mulan showed true ingenuity in the final scenes going up against Shan Yu, who was undoubtedly stronger than she, and yet Mulan was able to defeat him thanks to her training,  self-reliance, and quick thinking.

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When it comes to Frozen, this is the area that I am most eager to see; how will Disney modernize their two upcoming princesses so that they no longer have antiquated character traits, but instead are filled with not only beauty,  but smarts, rebellion, and charm. Having had the opportunity to watch the leaked trailer, and after a lot of reluctance, I am finally looking forward to what Disney might bring when it comes to the Frozen princesses as is the rest of the Rotoscopers team. In the coming weeks leading up to the November 27th release of Frozen, some of the writing team will be taking part in what we are calling the Disney Princess Profiles where one writer will be looking at one Disney princess and analyzing in depth what makes her awesome and memorable. Feel free to share your thoughts on both this article and the upcoming Disney Princess Profiles.

Read more Princess Profiles:

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  • James

    Cannot wait for Frozen, and cannot wait to read these Disney Princess Profiles!! Thanks Rotoscopers!

  • Fadi Antwan

    With the addition of Anna and Elsa, there will be 3 Scandinavian princesses (I’m counting Ariel too because all sources refer to Denmark), more than any other nationality. I just thought this is interesting. The previous record was a draw between France (Belle and Cinderella) and Germany (Snow White and Rapunzel).

    • Mayra Amaya

      That is a really interesting observation. Although, for me personally, I don’t necessarily associate the princess with their country of Story Origin. Because it’s always considered an adaptation (and everyone usually has American accents), I always tend to think of them as American. But I like this point. Something to think about for sure!

      • Dylan

        I Think it really depends on the princess’s themselves and how they are protrayed by the actressess, for me, I Don’t like Belle,Airel or Repunzel, its that there actress where bad, I love Jodi, Paige [now Juile] and Mandy is just beaming to be a disney princess since she came on the sence back in the 90’s. its how the characters themselves really don’t seem to be all that interesting, fun, or anything. I Am excited to see more of these princess profiles though. This is going to be interesting.

        • Wait what? You don’t like Belle, Ariel and Rapunzel! These are some of the best (in my opinion) Disney Princesses!

          • Dylan

            to me they are some of the worst. however thats my opinion, and you have yours.if you like to know why i think they are the worst you can just ask. I Do like the animation in the films [with the exception of Tangled].

      • Fadi Antwan

        In reality they’re all American, haha. But my nerdy self just likes to research their origin to keep everything organized :P.

        • Brianna

          It’s funny you say that, because to me, I don’t really view any of the Disney Princesses as American except for Tiana since her story takes place in New Orleans (and of course Pocahontas is Native American). I mean, Belle is French. Mulan is Chinese. Jasmine is Middle Eastern (I know it’s in “Agraba”, but it was originally going to be Baghdad, Iraq). Maybe Ariel, Cinderella, Aurora, Rapunzel, and Snow White could be American – but even in those cases, I still get a very European feeling. Especially since there aren’t really any “castles” in the US – and there aren’t really any true storybook cottages here either if you know what I mean.

        • Mayra Amaya

          No I love that you pointed this out! I’ve always felt Disney was a little simple when it comes to the layers on their characters and such, so it’s nice to look at the big picture and see what’s going on. Thanks for that!

      • Brianna

        It’s funny you say that, because to me, I don’t really view any of the Disney Princesses as American except for Tiana since her story takes place in New Orleans (and of course Pocahontas is Native American). I mean, Belle is French. Mulan is Chinese. Jasmine is Middle Eastern (I know it’s in “Agraba”, but it was originally going to be Baghdad, Iraq). Maybe Ariel, Cinderella, Aurora, Rapunzel, and Snow White could be American – but even in those cases, I still get a very European feeling. Especially since there aren’t really any “castles” in the US – and there aren’t really any true storybook cottages here either.

        • Fadi Antwan

          I think you were meaning to reply to my second comment, so let me make this clear. I meant that the voice actresses are American. That’s why I said “in reality.

          • Brianna

            No, no. I meant to respond to Mayra! Sorry, again!!

          • Mayra Amaya

            Ah! No worries, it happens all the time I’m sure 😉

            Yeah, you bring up a great point. I guess what I meant is that Disney actually does a really good job of making the princesses transcendent when it comes to nationality, at least from my American point of view, I can just really relate and be empathetic towards the characters. So I forget all about their nationalities.

  • The Animation Commendation

    I’m not a huge “rebellion” fan, but I may be a minority in that. I wonder if Eilonwy and Kida will ever be official Disney Princesses.

    • Mayra Amaya

      I haven’t seen The Black Couldron so I can’t really share an opinion on that. But as far as Kida goes, I don’t know. I mean, It’s been so long I would have thought that if this were a possibility they would have already done it.

      That, and it doesn’t seem like Disney thinks these two are very marketable, which is key when it comes to the Princess lineup.

      • The Animation Commendation

        I guess I understand the “Disney Princess” title from a linguistic perspective rather than a marketable worthy-of-being-a-role-model perspective.

        • Mayra Amaya

          Oh I’m with you on that! But when it comes down to, that’s what Disney is here to do :/

          • Dylan

            new disney sucks, they are nothing bu just a branding company. No risk, No Fun.

          • Mayra Amaya

            I think they may be on their way to taking some risks. Otherwise Wreck-It-Ralph wouldn’t have gotten made at all, but luckily that was well done. I totally understand your frustrations with Disney, I find myself thinking the same things from time to time, but if Disney wants to remain competitive with the likes of more insightful production companies (Pixar, Laika, Ghibli), they will have to invest in risky projects.

          • Dylan

            pixar owns Disney. and Ghibli is partners with Disney. so manly laika. week0titrlph wasn;t about risk really,it would of been made one way ro the other.

          • Mayra Amaya

            Actually Disney only handles Ghibli distribution and their English dubbing, they have no say whatsoever in their story or execution so their films are entirely their own.

            Also, Disney owns Pixar, but Disney knows that it can not take away the identity Pixar has built up otherwise they end up risking loosing a large market.

          • Dylan

            I Know that.

            no, tis the other way around now, remember back a few years ago, when Steve Jobs was alive and he made a deal behind back doors to keep Pixar and Disney’s relationship going? one of the things in that deal was a majority stock in Disney that Jobs and Pixar own, which pretty much means Pixar owns Disney in stock files. or to put it simply Pixar Owns Disney. So its really the other around to keep that partner ship, or to make it easier Disney is Gus, but Pixar is now Heinsenberg.

            and we all know what happend to Gus.

    • Meg

      I agree, I’m usually not a fan of the whole ‘rebelling’ princess either mainly because I feel like they often get written as too whiny in my opinion. I guess that’s why I prefer Mulan and Rapunzel’s rebelling. They seemed a little less talk and a lot more do. But that’s just my opinion

  • Being from India (the land of mysterious beauty), I think we really need a Disney Princess of Indian origin (no, Jasmine doesn’t count because she’s Arabian). Disney could do a really EPIC Bollywood-style musical set in India, and the story possibilities are endless!

    • I don’t think that will happen, a princess from India could be really cool but I have the feeling if they do that she will look too much like Jasmine or Mulan. Do you think they will ever create another princess with big, red hair? No because people will associate her with Ariel, this also happened with Anna and Rapunzel and they do not even look like each other!

      • LOL so what do they do when they run out of hair colors?

        • Haha, well the reused already some hair colors, but what I’m trying to say is that they will probably associate her with Jasmine and they will make a lot of problems about nothing, just like they did with Anna and Rapunzel.. but I think it’s a pretty cool idea! If they have a good story, they could make an interested film and they could also introduce a lot of people to the Indian culture!

          • disqus_4f0x2ILDgI

            Disney should make an Indian princess film based on Rani Lakshmibai, the famous “Jhansi ki Rani”. She’s like an epic, real life version of Mulan! The best inspiration.

      • I’m with Gary on this one. I would *love* to see Disney do a Bollywood-styled film someday. With the right animators, strong storytellers, and thoughtful research into Indian mythology and artwork, I have confidence that they could create a great film as well as an Indian princess that wouldn’t remind us of Jasmine or Mulan. This is Disney–top notch work I’d expect nothing less!

        True that “Aladdin” was their Arabian-nights tale but it also had a 1940’s Broadway musical feel to it. So I’m guessing Disney would mix some Eastern music with Western styles to appeal to the general audience.

        • Isah

          mixed culture?a filipina princess would work cause philippines is a melting pot…

      • Clay J Pena

        “Princess with big red hair.” Merida immediately comes to my mind, not Ariel. Hehe.

        I think Disney can pull it off, to make an Indian Princess that does not look like Jasmine. They’re Disney animators for Pete’s sake! Let’s give them credit. A tremendous one at that.

    • Well, Disney might not have that on the docket but who knows, maybe DreamWorks’ Mumbai Musical might have a princess. 🙂

      • Oh please, that stars anthropomorphic monkeys -_-

        • An Indian monkey princess? Eh…eh??

          • The Animation Commendation

            Bandar Rani? Sounds interesting…lol

          • Matthew Latham

            Indian Monkey Princess. It’s gonna be big!

        • Fadi Antwan

          LOL I seriously hate anthropomorphic animals. That’s why I am not very excited for Zootopia. Besides, what kind of horrible title is that?

        • The Animation Commendation

          Hey, if they get Amitabh Bachchan as a voice, I’m sold!

    • IvanRider

      I take it, that girl Mowgli meets at the end of The Jungle Book just doesn’t cut it?

  • Fantastic, insightful, thought-provoking post, Mayra!

    I can’t wait to read the rest of the Disney Princess Profiles. 🙂

  • Snow White and Sleeping Beauty may seem docile and dainty by today’s standards but in their defense, they were from some of Disney’s earliest fairy tales and I think it was adequate for the times. Those films weren’t just about the girl-in-the-spotlight, but also the entertaining supporting cast like the Dwarves and the Good Fairies…as well as terrifying villains, beautiful backgrounds and music score.

    That being said, I hope qualities like being kind, insightful, and optimistic can still be used today if they’re incorporated into the story well enough along with cleverness, courage, and persistence. (Rapunzel was a nice combination of qualities for me.) I still give Snow White credit for cleaning up an entire house and getting seven men to wash their hands!

    Of course we don’t want princesses to be useless or annoying characters. I’d say Disney’s challenge for upcoming films is to create a heroine who is likeable whether she’s got swords, a tragic backstory, magic hair, knitting needles, or beignets. I wouldn’t want to see Disney trying so hard to push a “modern day princess” that it trumps everything else that comes from the Magic Kingdom: an entertaining story, likeable supporting cast, sing-a-long music, and of course great animation!

  • Maria

    Disney Princess profiles? Sweet! Can’t wait to read those.
    You guys rock. <3

  • Aliscen Khaw

    For me Anna would definitly have thos modern teen traits, while Elsa would be holding her self so much tat when she’s free she goes wild! XD but i would like to see a south east asian princess!! XD i hope they could do Hang li po,since she introduced a wonderful culture to my home XD

    • Aliscen Khaw

      or my other favourite the fairy princess of mount ledang, another princess with powers would be awesome! XD

    • Isah

      Yes!I would love to see a South East Asian princess too.I would prefer a Filipina princess,but if they won’t consider since the Filipino culture is too mixed,I would still love to see any South East Asian Princess…

  • Christine Huang

    How soon will the others come?

  • Jo

    it ‘thrills’ you that heroines are no longer demure? Well, that’s the saddest thing I’ve heard all day. Frankly I’m sick of the hideously overrated, cliche “anything men can do I can do better”, rebellious teenage girl trope. Let’s have good role models with manners and dignity instead, because people would do well to follow that kind of attitude.

    • Jo

      by the way, I think you’re going to be disappointed about that- Queen Elsa, from Frozen, is most definitely a demure, feminine, selfless, vulnerable character as the first three princesses, I am thrilled to tell you. 😉 I can’t wait for this long overdue if brief return to traditional femininity.

  • Jay

    Seeing as how Disney is currently producing movies, I think they could care less about race or culture of the princesses. In the movies, now, they seem to have almost an amalgamation of all races. I think they’re starting to float away from the whole race/culture aspect.

  • Taylor

    Somebody please, please do another Ariel.

  • Isah

    If you are looking for a princess that practices a mixed western and eastern culture,why not Disney make a Filipina princess,after all,the Philippines is the best example when we talk about mixed cultures.I’m a Filipina too,and the culture most of us practice now is a combination of Chinese(believing in luck and many more),Spanish(Christianity,cards,fiestas,language,etc.),American(democracy,education,language,etc.),native Filipino(superstitions,family ties,language,dance,etc.),Arabian(Islam,magic,etc.),Japanese(flower arrangement,[i don’t want to say the others,it’s kinda negative),South East Asian nations(many to mention),Indian(superstitions,etc.),etc etc.