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Disney Princess is a media franchise owned by The Walt Disney Company. Created by Disney Consumer Products chairman Andy Mooney in the late 1990s, the franchise features a line-up of fictional female heroines who have appeared in various Disney franchise.
The franchise doesn't actually include all noted princesses from any Disney media as its name suggested, but only certain members are commonly used, mainly from animated films. The eleven current members of the franchise are Snow White, Cinderella, Aurora, Ariel, Belle, Jasmine, Pocahontas, Mulan, Tiana, Rapunzel and Merida. The franchise has released dolls, sing-along videos, apparel, home decor, toys and a variety of other products featuring the Disney Princesses.
Former Nike, Inc. executive Andy Mooney was appointed chairman of The Walt Disney Company's Disney Consumer Products division in the late 1990s. While attending the company's first Disney on Ice show, Mooney noticed that several young girls attending the show were dressed in princess attire that were not authentic Disney products. "They were generic princess products they’d appended to a Halloween costume," Mooney told The New York Times. Concerned by this, Mooney addressed the company the following morning and encouraged them to commence work on a legitimate Disney Princess franchise.
The original line-up consisted of princesses Snow White, Cinderella, Aurora, Ariel, Belle, and Jasmine, four of whom are royal by blood, while Cinderella and Belle have married into royalty. This was the first time the characters would be marketed in a separate franchise than their original films. Mooney decided that, when featured on marketing advertisements such as posters, the princesses should never make eye contact with each other in an attempt to keep their individual "mythologies" intact. "[E]ach stares off in a slightly different direction as if unaware of the others' presence."
Despite limited advertising and no focus groups, the various Disney Princess items released became a huge success. Sales at Disney Consumer Products rose from $300 million in 2001 to $3 billion in 2006.
Snow White is the first and original Disney Princess. A main character in Walt Disney Animation Studios' first animated feature film Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937), Snow White is a beautiful young princess born with skin as white as snow, hair as black as ebony, and lips red as the rose. She is forced to seek refuge in the home of the seven dwarfs, where she hides from her stepmother, The Queen, who is jealous of Snow White's beauty and seeks her death. Snow White is often described as a kind, optimistic, and happy person who sees the good in everyone. Originally voiced by Adriana Caselotti, she is based on the heroine of the German fairy tale Snow White (1812) by the Brothers Grimm. She has also been voiced by Mary Kay Bergman, Carolyn Gardener, and most recently Katherine Von Till.
Cinderella is the second Disney Princess and the title character in Disney's 12th animated feature film Cinderella, released in 1950. She is often considered the "Leader of the Disney Princesses". Forced into servitude by her evil stepmother and cruel stepsisters, Cinderella dreams of going to the ball. When all seems lost, her fairy godmother allows her to attend, where she meets and falls in love with the Prince. Cinderella is based on the heroine of the French fairy tale Cinderella by Charles Perrault. Originally voiced by Ilene Woods, in recent animated features she is currently voiced by Jennifer Hale.
Princess Aurora, originally voiced by Mary Costa, is the third Disney Princess. She first appeared in Disney's 16th animated feature film Sleeping Beauty (1959). The motion picture is adapted from the French fairy tale The Sleeping Beauty by Charles Perrault (1697) and from The Sleeping Beauty ballet by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1890). Aurora has hair of sunshine gold, lips that shame the red rose and is often described as beautiful, kind, shy and sophisticated. She is also a hopeless romantic. At first, she is seen as a little naive and insecure as a result of being sheltered for most of her life, but unlike Snow White, she is somewhat pluckier and more opinionated. In later media, she is shown to have matured and become more self-assured, independent and confident. She was later voiced by Erin Torpey, Jennifer Hale and is currently voiced by Kate Higgins.
Ariel is the fourth Disney Princess, as well as the title character in Disney's 28th animated feature film The Little Mermaid, released in 1989. Daughter of King Triton and the youngest of seven sisters, Ariel is a princess in the undersea kingdom Atlantica (according to later media in the franchise). Fascinated by the human world and tired of life under the sea, Ariel makes a deal with a sea witch, trading her voice in return for the ability to walk on land. Based on the Danish fairy tale The Little Mermaid by Hans Christian Andersen, Ariel is voiced by Jodi Benson. The character was inspired by the protagonist in Andersen's story, but was developed into a different personality for the film. Ariel is distinguished by her red hair and bright blue eyes.
Belle is the fifth Disney Princess, first introduced in Walt Disney Picture's thirtieth animated feature film Beauty and the Beast (1991). Based on the heroine of the French fairy tale by Jeanne-Marie Le Prince de Beaumont, Belle was created by screenwriter Linda Woolverton and originally animated by James Baxter and Mark Henn. Originally voiced by Paige O'Hara, Belle is currently voiced by Julie Nathanson.
Frustrated with her provincial village life, book-loving Belle longs for adventure. When her father Maurice is imprisoned by a hideous beast, Belle sacrifices her own freedom in return for his. At first frightened by the Beast's physical appearance and repulsed by his selfishness, Belle learns to appreciate him after he rescues her from a pack of hungry wolves, expressing her gratitude by tending to his wounds. While the Beast's love for Belle gradually results in him adapting a more friendly and civil manner, Belle befriends him, eventually managing to fall in love with him by the time the last petal falls off an enchanted rose, which ultimately breaks a spell cast on him and transforms him back into a handsome prince.
Personality-wise, Belle has been regarded as an independent, intelligent, courageous and headstrong, as well as a feminist. The character has been universally lauded by critics, garnering specific praise and recognition for her intelligence and bravery. The Los Angeles Times hailed Belle as one of the Disney Princesses responsible for "break[ing] the bonds of convention". The Globe and Mail praised the character, complimenting her intellect and labeling her the "main attraction of Beauty and the Beast". Entertainment Weekly highlighted the character's independence, calling her "the hero" of the film and accrediting her with making Beauty and the Beast the best Disney Princess film. The Washington Post described Belle as "more mature, more womanly and less blandly asexual" than previous Disney heroines. The American Film Institute nominated Belle for its list of 100 Years...100 Heroes and Villains. Belle remains the best-received Disney Princess to-date.
Jasmine is the sixth Disney Princess and the leading lady of Disney's 31st animated feature film Aladdin (1992). Jasmine hungers for independence, tired of the restrictions laid before her by her father. She falls in love with Aladdin while he is disguised as a prince, after he takes her on a romantic ride on a magic carpet. Aladdin's genie companion is summoned by Jafar, who uses the genie's magic to tyrannically overthrow Jasmine's father, the Sultan. Luckily, after Jafar's defeat, the Sultan permits Jasmine to wed Aladdin despite his lack of royal heritage. Princess Jasmine is voiced by Linda Larkin, and her singing voice is provided by Lea Salonga (in the feature film) and Liz Callaway (in the direct-to-video sequel).
Pocahontas is the seventh Disney Princess and first appeared in Disney's 33rd animated feature film Pocahontas (1995). Based on the Native American chief's daughter, Pocahontas (c. 1595–1617), and the settlement of Jamestown, Virginia in 1607. Pocahontas is displayed as a noble, independent and highly spiritual young woman. She expresses wisdom beyond her years and offers kindness and guidance to those around her. An adventure and nature lover, in the film she appears to have shamanic powers since she was able to commune with nature, talk to spirits, empathize with animals and understand unknown languages. In the sequel, Pocahontas seems to have grown after hearing of John Smith's assumed death. She keeps her independent spirit and playfulness, but is much more mature and self-assured than she was in the first film. During her stay in England, she nearly loses herself in the hustle and bustle of the new world and is almost turned into someone she's not. But in the end she bravely intends to sacrifice herself for her people's safety and returns to her homeland, finding herself, and love, once again. She was voiced by Irene Bedard while her singing was provided by Judy Kuhn.
Fa Mulan is the eighth Disney Princess and first appeared in Disney's 36th animated feature film Mulan (1998). The movie is adapted from the legend of Hua Mulan (386–534). She is the only member who is not actual royalty through birth or marriage so far, while the actual princesses in this story are Ting-Ting, Su and Mei. Mulan, atypical and unlike most previous female roles, is courageous and more self-reliant. She also does not fit in with the expectations of a young Chinese girl of the time; despite her natural beauty, she is clumsy, outspoken, and independent rather than graceful, silent and demure. Her meeting with the matchmaker ended in chaos because of this, (with help from a certain cricket), and the matchmaker claimed that even though she had the looks of a bride, she would never find a match. However, her courage, intelligence, and determination helped her through her adventures. She was voiced by Ming-Na while her singing was provided by Lea Salonga.
Tiana, voiced by Anika Noni Rose, is the ninth Disney Princess character to be incorporated into the franchise, appearing in Disney's 49th animated feature film The Princess and the Frog (2009). Her film is loosely based on the novel The Frog Princess by E. D. Baker, which is in turn based on the Brothers Grimm fairy tale The Frog Prince. Tiana is notably the first African-American Disney Princess, portrayed as being a hardworking, ambitious, and beautiful young woman who has no love interest (at the start of the film). Living in New Orleans, Louisiana, during the 1920s, Tiana strives to achieve her goal of opening her own restaurant. However, she is transformed into a frog after trying to break a spell cast by a Bokor on Prince Naveen that had changed him into a frog also. Throughout the film, the pair must embark on a quest to find a way to break the spell.
Rapunzel is the tenth Disney Princess. First appearing in Walt Disney Picture's fiftieth animated feature film Tangled (2010), Rapunzel was based on the heroine of the German fairy tale by the Brothers Grimm. Created by screenwriter Dan Fogelman, Rapunzel was originally animated by Glen Keane, and is voiced by recording artist and actress Mandy Moore. The character was "coronated" and officially inducted into the Disney Princess franchise on October 2, 2011 at Kensington Palace in London, England.
A princess born with long, magical golden hair, Rapunzel, stolen from her parents at infancy, is raised by Mother Gothel, a vain woman who exploits her hair to remain young and beautiful. Incarcerated in an isolated tower for eighteen years, Rapunzel enlists the help of a wanted thief named Flynn Rider to see the floating lanterns in time for her eighteenth birthday.
Rapunzel is notably the first Disney Princess to appear in a CGI film, but is frequently revamped to a traditionally-animated design when appearing in merchandising alongside fellow, classically-animated Princesses.
The character has been generally well received by most critics. Particular praise was awarded to her spirited personality and contemporaneity. The Los Angeles Times described Rapunzel as "a very modern young woman". The New Yorker called Rapunzel a witty and intelligent character, while USA Today wrote, "Rapunzel is more believable in her teenage histrionics" than previous Disney heroines. However, some reviews, such as the two provided by Time Out, were less favorable in their opinions of the character, describing her as both a "bland" and "synthetic" character.
Merida, voiced by Kelly Macdonald, is the eleventh Disney princess, first appearing in the Pixar film Brave (2012), created by director and screenwriter Brenda Chapman. Merida is the 16-year old daughter of Queen Elinor, who rules the kingdom alongside King Fergus. Queen Elinor's expectations of her daughter make Merida see her mother as being distant while also causing friction between the two. Despite Elinor's desire to see Merida as a proper royal lady, Merida is an impetuous girl who wants to take control of her own destiny. She has honed her skill in archery, and is one of the most skilled archers ever seen. She is also skilled in sword-fighting and cross-country horseriding on her horse, Angus.
She is the first Disney princess in the line-up to not have a love interest in her film. She is also the first Pixar and the second CGI princess.
Anna, voiced by Kristen Bell from the forthcoming Disney film Frozen (November 2013), will be added to the Disney Princess franchise as the twelfth princess in 2014. Frozen is inspired by Hans Christian Andersen's fairy tale The Snow Queen.
Anna is princess of the kingdom of Arendelle, and younger sister of Elsa, the Snow Queen. Anna is fearless and determined, and sets out to find her sister Elsa when she runs away. Although she may be clumsy and acts before she thinks, she is warm and yearns for true love and companionship.
Elsa the Snow Queen, voiced by Idina Menzel from the forthcoming Disney film Frozen (November 2013), will be added to the Disney Princess franchise as the thirteenth princess in 2014. Frozen is inspired by Hans Christian Andersen's fairy tale The Snow Queen.
Elsa was born with an amazing, but dangerous power. The power to control Ice and Snow. While she grows up, she must stay apart from her family to protect them, for when she shows even a bit of emotion, her powers spiral out of control. On the outside, she appears regal and reserved, but on the inside she is secretly yearning to be free.
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All the princesses are available for meet-and-greets in the Disneyland Resort in California. Additionally, Snow White has her own ride at Disneyland Resort known as "Snow White's Scary Adventures", though this ride was removed from Walt Disney World Resort in 2012 as part of the New Fantasyland expansion. In 2006, as part of the "Year of Million Dreams" celebration, the Fantasyland Theater began hosting the Disneyland Princess Fantasy Faire. The show has Lords and Ladies teaching young boys and girls the proper etiquette for a prince or princess and features appearances by the Disney Princesses themselves. Princesses that have appeared include Snow White, Cinderella, Aurora, Ariel, Belle, Jasmine, Mulan, Tiana and Pocahontas. The attraction closed on August 12, 2012 and work began new Fantasy Faire village. The new Fantasy Faire had a soft opening on March 5, 2013 and officially opened on March 12, 2013.
At Walt Disney World Resort the princesses are also available for meet-n-greets, but in more specific locations. There is a Cinderella based event where she and her others appear at Cinderella's Royal Table in her Magic Kingdom castle, as well as "Cinderella's Happily Ever After Dinner, formerly known as the Cinderella's Gala Feast Dinner, at 1900 Park Fare in the Disney's Grand Floridian Resort & Spa. The other princesses are showcased at the Princess Storybook meal. On September 18, 2013, a new meet-and-greet attraction called Princess Fairytale Hall opened at the Magic Kingdom.
Many shows and parades across the property feature the princesses, including Fantasmic, SpectroMagic, Dream Along with Mickey, the Celebrate a Dream Come True Parade, Mickey's Boo-to-You Halloween Parade and Mickey's Once Upon a Christmastime Parade. A store named "Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique" opened April 5, 2006 at the World of Disney store in Downtown Disney at Walt Disney World. On January 22, 2007, the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World Resort began its first Pirate and Princess Party. This hard ticketed event features "Disney's Enchanted Adventures Parade" and a specially themed fireworks spectacular called "Magic, Music and Mayhem". The parade features the six main Princesses attended by knights and dancers. Each land is themed accordingly to a pirate or princess. Among the themed areas are Jasmine's Court in Adventureland, Ariel's Court in Fantasyland and the Princess Pavilion in Mickey's Toontown Fair. The princesses available for meet-and-greets include Jasmine, Ariel, Aurora, Cinderella, Pocahontas, Mulan, Tiana, Snow White, Rapunzel, Merida, Belle, Anna, and Elsa.
The Disney Cruise Line ships feature musical stage shows which feature the Princesses. Ariel, Tiana, Belle, Cinderella, Mulan, Rapunzel, Aurora, Jasmine and Snow White also appear for children and other fans on the ship. Other popular Disney heroines such as Alice and Wendy also appear for meet and greet sessions.
Disney on Ice has three shows containing the Disney Princesses: 100 Years of Magic, Princess Classics, Princesses and Heroes, "Treasure Trove", "Dare to Dream", and "Rockin' Ever After". The Ice Company also has had shows based on the story of Snow White, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, Pocahontas, Mulan, The Princess and the Frog, Tangled, and Brave.
The Disney Princesses' television appearances were compiled into the Disney Princess Collection, a series of compilation DVDs containing episodes from Aladdin, The Little Mermaid and two Beauty and the Beast specials. A later DVD series was released, entitled Disney Princess Stories featuring content similar to the previous release. Princess Party Palace (formerly known as The Princess Power Hour) was a television series on Toon Disney from 2000 until 2007 where it use to air episodes of The Little Mermaid and Aladdin.
In early 2007, Disney announced Disney Princess Enchanted Tales, a new series of direct-to-video features that feature new stories for the Disney Princesses. The first movie in the series, entitled Disney Princess Enchanted Tales: Follow Your Dreams, was released on September 4, 2007. It is a musical film featuring new tales about Princess Jasmine, and the first new tale about Princess Aurora since the original Sleeping Beauty.
Originally, Disney Princess Enchanted Tales: A Kingdom of Kindness was announced as the first film in the series, which contained a different Princess Aurora story, and had a Belle story rather than a Princess Jasmine story. Disney made this change without any sort of notice. Currently, the series is cancelled and only "Follow Your Dreams" exists.
In the TV series Once Upon a Time, some of the Disney Princesses have appeared on the show as main characters and recurring characters like Snow White, Cinderella, Belle, Aurora, Mulan, and Ariel. Snow White and Belle are the main characters of the show and the others are recurring and guest stars. Later on in the third season Rapunzel will appear on the show.
A TV series, Sofia the First, premiered on January 11, 2013 on Disney Junior; to date, Cinderella, Jasmine, and Belle have appeared on the show, and Ariel is scheduled to appear in the upcoming Floating Palace special. There are plans to feature Aurora, Snow White, Pocahontas, Mulan, Tiana, Rapunzel, Merida, Anna, and Elsa in future episodes.
In Kilala Princess, a Japanese fantasy/romance manga produced by Kodansha that debuted in Nakayoshi in April 2005. The plot of the manga revolves around a girl named Kilala and her adventures to find her kidnapped friend with the help of the first six Disney Princesses, who are Snow White, Cinderella, Aurora, Ariel, Belle and Jasmine, though Kilala herself isn't considered part of the franchise.
Disney Princesses have appeared in various other media, such as video games, including Disney Princess, Disney Princess: Enchanted Journey and Disney Princess: Magical Jewels (2007).
In the Kingdom Hearts game series, the seven "Princesses of Heart", are young ladies with entirely pure hearts who would open the way to Kingdom Hearts if gathered together. Five of these maidens- Cinderella, Belle, Aurora, Snow White and Jasmine are Disney Princesses. The remaining Princesses of Heart are Alice from Alice in Wonderland and game series' heroine, Kairi, though the latter is only exclusive to the video game like Kilala. The Disney Princesses make various appearances throughout the series:
The Disney Princess franchise has received generally mixed reception from critics and customers, particularity feminists.
Tension has been present between the Disney Corporation and feminists since the first Disney princess movie came out in 1937. The type of representations of women in Disney films reflect Walt Disney's personal feelings about family life, which in turn also shaped the Disney Company. Another influence was the fact that Disney's attitudes mirrored the patriarchal cultural beliefs of the 1940s about what roles women should play in society.
On December 24, 2006, Peggy Orenstein published "What's Wrong With Cinderella?" in The New York Times. In her article, Orenstein discussed her concerns about the effects of princess figures on young girls. Orenstein used the Disney Princesses specifically to present many of her points. Orenstein also noted the pervasive nature of Princess merchandise and that every facet of play has its princess equivalent. Tamara Weston of Time magazine criticized the franchise, referring to the princesses as "damsels in distress" and negative role models for young girls.
The introduction of different ethnicities in Disney animated features has also faced sceptic reactions, as well as criticism, from authors and media alike. An example is Princess Sofia in "Sofia the First: Once Upon A Princess", presented as Disney's all-time first Latino princess. Dubious reactions to Disney's statement about the Princess being a Latina and the lack of characteristics actually identifying her as such placed the studio under mild fire and fueled discussions in the blogosphere. Similar reactions were evident upon the release of "The Princess and the Frog" regarding the main heroine, Tiana.