Snow White, Cinderella, Aurora, Ariel, Belle, Jasmine; we know who they are, they are the original six Disney Princesses. But wait, there are more, we can’t forget Pocahontas, Mulan, Tiana, Rapunzel, and Merida. These are the eleven official Disney Princesses.
What makes a Disney Princess?
There are three requirements to be an official “Disney Princess”. A) have a primary role in a Disney animated feature film, B) are human or mostly human-like (e.g. Ariel), and C) does not appear primarily in a sequel. It isn’t necessary to have the title “Princess” (or equivalent), but it does help.
These princesses who we love may have their own movies, but they also share some similarities. Most princesses can communicate with animals, even though the animals can’t talk back (except Cinderella’s mice). The princesses are also known for their inner and outer beauty. They are known for their amazing singing voice (except Merida). Lastly, they have a romance that comes true at the end (except Merida).
If you would like to group these princesses there is a way to do so. There are four groups or eras. The first era has the first three princesses: Snow White (1937), Cinderella (1950), and Aurora (Sleeping Beauty (1959). Not only do we know these princess stories, but we can also tell the song just by the first note and all the names of the sidekicks. Being the first three princesses, they also have other things in common. Not only can they talk to animals but they also graceful, classy, quiet, and have romantic daydreams; but most importantly they play the “damsel in distress” role.
Now we will jump to Disney Princess Renaissance Era, the rebirth of princess movies and the last three princesses of the original six: Ariel (The Little Mermaid,1989), Belle (Beauty and the Beast, 1991), and Jasmine (Aladdin, 1992). These three are very different, in personality, dreams, and roles. All three are independent, feisty, and they have different dreams than the original three.
Ariel can talk to sea creatures, (but I’m sure that it’s because she started out as a mermaid), she does what she wants despite her father’s disapproval (visiting Ursula), and dreams not only for love but to be human (not just because Eric is human).
Belle is the most different of the six, she dreams about love but doesn’t fall for the first guy she sees (Gaston), she is very witty and loves books (When Gaston asks how she could read without pictures she responds “Some people use their imagination”), but mostly she dreams of adventure and getting out of peasant life.
Jasmine is the feistiest of them all. Jasmine is her own person who doesn’t need a man (She tells her father that if she does marry she wants to marry for love), Jasmine feels trapped all the time because her father tries to find her a suiter (picking princes for her to marry), she tells people that she is not “a prize to be won”. She dreams of true love and being free, her only friend is Raja (her pet tiger).
Next, we have the “Revival” Era, these princesses are Pocahontas (1995), Mulan (1998), Tiana (The Princess and the Frog, 2009). These girls are a lot different from the original and renaissance princesses. But they still fit the profile.
Pocahontas is an interesting princess, not only because she was the first princess story that was set in America but because she was an actual person so the animators had to find pictures of her which were hard to find because she lived in the 1600s. Pocahontas is the first princess who didn’t dream of true love. Instead, she was adventurous, curious, and a peacekeeper. The romance with John Smith emerged while getting to know each other.
Mulan is not a princess but fits the three requirements. Mulan wasn’t based on a fairytale or a real person (Pocahontas). She was based on a poem The Ballad of Mulan. Mulan’s only dream is to bring honor to her family after the matchmaker says that she will never find a man to marry. After hearing that the Huns were invading China she pretends to be a man without anyone knowing and takes her father’s place since he has already fought in a past war. She doesn’t dream about love but when she meets Li Shang (in Chinese culture you call a person by their last name first), Shang ends up liking Ping (Mulan’s alias) and falling in love with Mulan after it is revealed that she is a woman, and saves China.
Tiana is based on the fairytale that is well known “The Frog Prince”. Tiana’s dream is simple, owning her own restaurant. She doesn’t dream about love, but after she turns into a frog and must find a way to become human again she starts to get to know Prince Naveen (who turned her into the frog by her kiss) she falls for him.
Lastly, we have Rapunzel and Merida they are the “Modern” era princesses. They are some of the most interesting of all.
Rapunzel is a princess from the fairy tale of the same name. All Rapunzel dreams about is being free and able to explore the world outside of her tower. She had never been outside the tower because Gothel, (Mother Gothel in the fairy tale), told her that the world is a cruel place. Her dream finally comes true with the help of Flynn Rider. During a long adventure to see the “Floating lights” which only happen on her birthday she gets to know Flynn and they end up getting married.
Our last princess is Merida. Merida is the most different of all the eleven princesses in the franchise; not only because her story is set in Scotland but because she doesn’t have a love interest and both parents are alive, her mother is through the whole story. Merida and her mother have a huge fight about what a princess is. How they are supposed to act, who they should marry, and what activities they should be interested in. After a spell goes horribly wrong Merida accidentally turns her mother into a bear (and her father starts hunting her believing that the queen was eaten). They go on a journey to try and change her mother back, in the end, they learn about each other and see the others point of view.
Those are the eleven princesses. The ones we know and the ones we love.
Anna and Elsa ARE NOT in the franchise because their movie was so successful that they have their own Franchise (Frozen).
Let’s talk about the three “Classic” Disney Princesses. The three that started it all. Snow White, Cinderella, and Aurora (Sleeping Beauty) started the Princess franchise we hold so dear to our hearts. These three movies were released in 1937, 1950, and 1959. Let’s start with the “Fairest of Them All”.
Snow White is known as the “Fairest of Them All”, but she was also the first of them all.
In 1937 Disney had a vision, to make an animated feature film. Nobody in Hollywood would have thought of doing it, they thought that making a 90-minute full-color movie would hurt your eyes for staring at the screen too long. But Disney was known for taking risks no matter what anyone thought (even his own wife was skeptical about Snow White). Critics and newspapers called it “Disney’s Folly”, which in today’s terms translates to “Disney’s Madness”. But as we can see, with a lot of memorabilia having characters from the movie still around today, Snow White was a huge success and the cornerstone of Disney animation we know today.
Cinderella and Snow White have one thing in common, both lost their parents at a young age (The Queen in Snow White is actually Snow White’s stepmother even though it is never said in the movie). But Cinderella was the first princess to become royal through marriage. Unlike Snow White, (Whose stepmother wanted her dead), Cinderella was forced to be a slave in her own house and obey her step family’s every command.
Cinderella actually saved the Disney Company. Films like Pinocchio, Dumbo, and Bambi didn’t make back the money it took to make the films, leading the company into debt. Walt realized that they had to go back to the beginning, that the audience loves a “damsel in distress” movie, someone to root for.
People say that one of the reasons Walt was so attached to doing Cinderella is because it summed up his own life, going from rags to riches. Walt started out on a farm, then with a lot of different jobs and hard work he eventually built an empire and everybody knew his name.
Aurora, Sleeping Beauty, Briar Rose, whatever you call her we all know the story, a girl turns 16, pricks her finger on a spindle (spinning wheel), and waits for true love’s kiss to wake her. Even though Cinderella was a success, like Snow White, Sleeping Beauty was a risk. Disney wanted something different, so visually it wouldn’t be like anything the had done before. The movie was set in the Renaissance so the artists had to be precise. Advertised as 6 years in the making scripts actually go back to 1951, meaning it actually took 8 years to make. The Brothers Grimm version of Sleeping Beauty (which is the version the movie is adapted from) is only 5 paragraphs long so Disney had to add a few things to make it longer. In the Grimm tale, it was a wait on 100 years instead of one day.
Let’s take a big leap to the next Disney Princess Era; The Renaissance Princesses are Arel, Belle, and Jasmine. This is the era where the “Damsel in Distress” theme fades and characters become more relatable. There was a 30-year gap between Sleeping Beauty (1959) and The Little Mermaid (1989).
The 30-year gap was filled with many great movies that included One Hundred and One Dalmatians (1961), The Jungle Book (1967), and Robin Hood (1973).
Ariel may be in the middle at age 16, (Jasmine being 15 in Aladdin and Belle being 17 in Beauty and the Beast), but she is the first in the Renaissance Princess Era.
The Little Mermaid is based on a book of the same name written by Hans Christian Anderson. With the book being much darker Disney had to “lighten” it up.
Ariel is the daughter of King Triton, the King of Atlantica a fictional city under the sea, Ariel is the youngest of Triton’s seven daughters. All Ariel wants is to live life on land.
Ariel is a complex character and the only princess to not be born human, hence the name of her film “The Little Mermaid”. But human or not she is a free spirit, always up for an adventure, and wanting to learn everything about the human world, despite her father’s disapproval.
Like normal 16-year olds, she is a bit rebellious and does what she wants despite the disapproval of others. She yearns to be above the sea and on land, she sees the sea as a jail because she is forbidden to go to the shore and on land.
Ariel is also the first princess to have her own TV show that ran from 1992 to 1994 (the show only had 31 episodes). The series was set before the movie, showing her adventures before she first saw Eric. Despite having the attitude of a teenager, the series showed us that she is also kind, caring, and willing to do whatever it takes to help others.
Next is Belle, at the age of 17 Belle is the oldest of the three Renaissance Princesses.
Belle comes from a commoners background, she lives in a small village with her father who is an inventor. Belle’s wish is to get out of her town and stop living the same boring “provincial life”. The only way she can leave her life is through reading, which is why she always has a book in her hand. Due to her intelligence and love of reading the townsfolk think she is strange no question (yes that is a line from the song “Belle” from the movie).
Belle is loyal, outspoken, smart, and has a great capacity for love.
Lastly, we have the youngest, Jasmine. Jasmine is the Sultan of Agrabah’s only daughter. She lives in the palace with her father and pet tiger, Rajah.
At the age of 15 Jasmine is a lot like Ariel; she feels trapped in the palace, she yearns to get out of her cage and see what life is like in the market. She also feels imprisoned by the law of marrying by her 16th birthday, bored by the suitors her father set her up with to try and win her heart, she wants to marry for love.
Jasmine is a firey, exotic, and independent princess who is capable of taking matters into her own hands.
Pocahontas, Mulan, and Tiana are the “Princess Revival”. These three changed the view of the previous six. Although Ariel, Belle, and Jasmine are independent, adventurous, and full of fire, Pocahontas, Mulan, and Tiana changed the look of Disney Princesses in a complete 180. Pocahontas, Mulan, and Tiana are the heroines of their movies (even though Belle did break the curse it doesn’t count because it was love).
Pocahontas (1995) was the first Native American Princess and the first princess movie to be based off a real person.
The 33rd Disney Animated Movie has things that no other Disney movie has had before including prejudice. Filled with excitement, drama, and romance Pocahontas was one of the hardest movies to animate. Pocahontas’ personality has to be true to the real person.
Disney couldn’t be more precise with her personality. Pocahontas was noble, calm, resourceful, brave, bold, free-spirited, adventurous, and headstrong.
a Mulan (from Mulan (1998)) is the second Disney Princess in the “Princess Revival” era. The idea for Mulan came from the poem The Ballad of Hua Mulan.
Mulan is independent, courageous, outspoken, resourceful, creative, and a little sneaky.
Last in the “Princess Revival” Era is Tiana (from Princess and the frog (2009)), the only fairytale princess in this era, who has a bad case of Ranidaphobia (fear of frogs).
From the age of 5, Tiana’s dream was to own her personal restaurant where she was the chef.
Tiana is intelligent, hardworking, passionate (which is why she works two jobs to get enough money to open her restaurant), caring, kind, and very opinionated.
The next four women (3 princesses and 1 queen) changed how we look at Disney Princesses in an entirely different way.
Rapunzel, Merida, Anna, and Elsa have changed Disney in an entirely different way. They are like the six before them (Ariel, Belle, Jasmine, Pocahontas, Mulan, and Tiana) in many ways, but they are also very different.
These four have a completely different angle of life; with secrets, special powers, and talented in many ways, they are the most complicated of them all.
Let’s start with Rapunzel. She is joyful, creative, intelligent, kind, and a bit naïve. Rapunzel is the main character in the movie Tangled (2010), she has many secrets even she doesn’t find out until her journey.
Next, we have Merida. Merida is complicated, she is bold, independent, daring, courageous, strong-headed, and a total tomboy. Merida is the princess in Brave (2012), Merida is to be wed to the “strongest” man, but instead of accepting the idea to be given away to a man of another’s choosing she disguises herself and when she takes off the hood of her cloak revealing that she will be shooting for her own hand.
Lastly, we have Queen Elsa and Princess Anna. They are the royalty in Frozen (2013).
Elsa is very insecure, elegant, quiet, and a bit secluded.
Anna is kind, outgoing, energetic, and the basic opposite of her sister.