The Evolution of Disney Princesses

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Once upon a time… Disney released its debut movie, a princess movie, and they continue to release princess movies now, almost eighty years later. However, these movies are not quite the same as the old classics; Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, Sleeping Beauty, and Cinderella.

In the princess classics some common themes include:being happy in spite of awful circumstances, waiting for prince charming to save the princess in distress, and getting ‘Happily Ever After’ means falling in love and living in a castle.

Examining the classics on just these themes highlights the dramatic shift in princess movies in just the last twenty years.

The more recent princess movies have themes that include, changing unfair situations, taking on larger than life trials, proving female capability, and creating family bonds that are greater than just one family member.

By societies standards, these themes appear to be more positive. Society wants children looking up to the new princesses as role models in the way the old movies will never be for children today.

Entertainment follows societal trends, this includes the Disney princess movies. When Snow White and the Seven Dwarves debuted it was received as a cinematic success. It is credited with winning Walt Disney the Academy Honorary Award for, “a significant screen innovation which has charmed millions and pioneered a great new entertainment field.”

The film is about a beautiful girl who overcame her family to find love, not about a girl who kept house for seven dwarves before leaving with a prince she hardly knew, which is a critical perspective taken by many critics today.

Sleeping Beauty followed societal trends in its very creation; the film took eight years to animate. This was the longest animation period of any Disney movie. The time, however, allowed for more detailed backgrounds, which is something society craved at the time.

Society also longed for another story about a princess who had to run from a villainess, into the arms of some strange new family home (the fairies and the dwarfs). Critics today complain that Aurora herself had only seventeen lines, a sign of inequality, but this movie was about plot and setting not about any one character.

As society demands more equality, Disney answers with new princess films that demonstrate the best and worst parts of growing up. One of these would be Disney’s Brave. A bold young princess defied all societal bounds because she had a talent that no man could best.

This disregard causes tension with her mother, but eventually, after a magical adventure, mother and daughter love each other enough to accept their differences and become stronger from the trial. Brave is an excellent example of how Disney follows society as the princess’s dreams become new.

A princess is no longer a fragile girl who has no control over her own life. She instead can take on new challenges and face her fears head on. That is how she can live happily ever after.