Welcome to the Princess Profiles series, where we analyze each of the Disney princesses, diving into what makes the special, unique and iconic.
Released in 1937, Disney’s first animated feature film was Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and since the success of that film, princesses have been Disney’s go to storyline to the vast audience’s pleasure. Disney is constantly adding new princesses to the official mix, but before we move forward, let’s look back at the qualities Disney has highlighted in its princesses in the past.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 Brave, Frozen 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.
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.
When it comes to Frozen, this is the area that I am most eager to see; how will Disney modernize its 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.