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 spotlights a line-up of fictional female heroines who have appeared in various Disney animated feature films. The franchise is currently comprised of thirteen female protagonists from twelve different Walt Disney and Pixar films who are either royal by birth, royal by marriage or considered a "princess" due to their significant portrayal of heroism in their film. Most of the unofficial Disney Princesses doen't join the line-up because their merchandise doesn't do well, their movie is a box office flop or they're too young.
The Disney Princess line-up features: Snow White, Cinderella, Aurora, Ariel, Belle, Jasmine, Pocahontas, Mulan, Tiana, Rapunzel, Merida, Anna and Elsa.
The Disney Princesses are featured in various sing-a-long video series released through The Walt Disney Company. In addition, the franchise includes dolls, miniature castles and other toys. The princesses are also featured very prominently at the Disney theme parks.
In early 2000, when Andy Mooney was hired by the Disney consumer-products division to help combat dropping sales, the idea for the Disney Princess franchise was born. Soon after joining Disney, Mooney attended his first Disney On Ice show. While waiting in line, he found himself surrounded by young girls dressed as princesses. "They weren't even Disney products. They were generic princess products," he mused. Soon after realising the demand, the Disney Princess line was formed.
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. Today there are over 25,000 products based on the franchise.
The princesses to be featured in the line were chosen from classic Disney films. The characters were not chosen specifically for their royal titles, but rather for how well they fit into what Disney executives deemed "the Princess mythology". Mulan is an example of this concept; she has no familial ties to royalty, but is still included in the character list. Tinker Bell was once included under the same principle before it was decided she was not suited for the "mythology". Recently though, Tinker Bell has starred in her own Disney franchise, Disney Fairies. Other fairies were created specifically for the franchise. The line began with a book series by Gail Carson Levine, and has since spawned toys, direct-to-video movies and other products based on the characters. However, the franchise may have began much earlier, perhaps in the mid-to-late 1990s, where all of the Princesses up to Pocahontas were already included (Mulan would be added much later). Also, at one point Esmeralda and Jane Porter were both considered to be included in the line-up, but were never realised.
The characters themselves, despite appearing in separate films, have distinct similarities. The princesses show good will towards all creatures, evidenced by the common ability to communicate with animals. The princesses are known for their inner and outer beauty, as well as having beautiful singing voices, apart from Merida, who only sings a song with her mother when she is little in her film.
Each princess, excluding Merida and Elsa, has a romance that is resolved by the end of her debut film; the male counterparts known as Disney Princes. There charismatic girls carry a similar personality in their eras, in the beginning with the first three (Snow White, Cinderella and Aurora), their characteristics were well known as classy, graceful and romantic daydreamers, who suffered from the actions caused by others. They held an inner strength through compassion, love, kindness and, particularly with Snow White, a strong sense of resilience.
After the Renaissance Era, these popular heroines became more active than reactive with Ariel, Belle, Jasmine, Pocahontas and Mulan. Their characteristics were known to be strong-willed, adventurous, feisty, cunning and determined. As well their goals focused more on adventure and freedom than love, and these girls were more fighters for their dreams than the first three. They also existed in worlds which were more self-aware of the traditional and changing role of women; particularly Ariel, with her villainess assuring her that women on land should keep silent, Belle, with her villain assuring her that "it's not right for a woman to read", and Mulan, with her peers extolling masculine traits in addition to those of the ideal wife. The latest ones, Tiana and Rapunzel, are in the modern era; Tiana, an original character, is much more a realist than the others, she doesn't want magic to make a dream come true but with only hard work, whereas Rapunzel is much more like the idealistic ones than Tiana.
Snow White, Aurora, Ariel, Jasmine, Rapunzel, Merida, Anna and Elsa are born royal heritage as daughters of kings and queens. Pocahontas can be considered as being of royal heritage, as she is the daughter of a chief and considered Native American royalty by the English. Cinderella, Belle, Mulan and Tiana become royalty by marriage.
The character of Snow White first originated in 1937 from a Brothers Grimm fairy tale "Schneewittchen" about a beautiful German princess with a jealous stepmother. Walt Disney turned this classic fairy tale into his very first animated feature film. Her true love is Prince Ferdinand, who breaks her sleeping death (caused by the Evil Queen) with love's first kiss. She befriends the seven dwarfs during her stay at their cottage. At 14, she's the youngest of the princesses and is considered to be the leader of the Disney Princesses.
The best-known version of Cinderella is the fairy tale "Cendrillon" by Charles Perrault in 1697. In 1950, it was turned into an animated feature-length film by Walt Disney. Cinderella Tremaine is the second eldest of all the Disney Princesses. She is 19 years of age during the events of the film. Her stepmother turned her into the family's sole servant after the death of her father. With magical help from her Fairy Godmother, she attends a royal ball and meets the prince of her kingdom, and eventually marries him, thus freeing her from her life of servitude.
Best known as the heroine of the 1959 animated classic Sleeping Beauty which is very loosely based on Charles Perrault's "La Belle au Bois Dormant". Although her dress changes from blue to pink thanks to disagreement between two of her guardians, Merryweather and Flora, outside the film she is most commonly seen wearing pink. She was cursed at birth to die before the sun sets on her 16th birthday by the evil fairy Maleficent. One of the three good fairies, Merryweather, was able to weaken the curse by changing death to a deep slumber that could only be awakened by true love's kiss. By falling in love with Prince Phillip, the prince of a neighbouring kingdom, and unknown to either of them, her betroved, she was freed from the curse. Aurora is shown to be one of the taller princesses in the franchise.
The heroine of the 1989 film, loosely based on the Danish fairy tale "Den Lille Havfrue" by Hans Christian Andersen, and the daughter of King Triton, ruler of the sea, 16-year old mermaid Ariel falls in love with a dashing human prince named Eric, an extension of her fascination with all things from the surface world. Her dream of life on land makes her vulnerable to Ursula's offer as her only chance to be with Eric. Ursula persuades her to trade her voice to the sea witch, in order to become a human and be with him forever. However, Ursula cunningly tricks her.
The French commoner who is the heroine of the 1991 animated classic Beauty and the Beast, is loosely based on the French fairy tale "La Belle et la Bete" abridged from the version by Madame Jeanne-Marie le Prince de Beaumont. The name Belle translates from the French word for "beauty". She selflessly trades her freedom for that of her father in a bargains with the Beast and becomes his prisoner/guest. She soon learns to see the good hidden behind his hideous appearance and rough manner eventually falling in love with him over time. By confessing her love at the end of the movie she breaks the spell placed on him by an evil fairy. The Beast and all his household are restored to their human forms and Belle becomes his princess. Belle's prince is named Adam.
The spunky, independent Arabian Princess of Agrabah, who dreams of seeing what's beyond her palace and be freed from her father's constant pestering of arranged royal marriage. She falls in love with the title character in 1992's Aladdin, whom she eventually marries.
She is loosely based on Princess Badroulbadour, featured in the story of "Aladdin and his Wonderful Lamp" from "One Thousand and One Nights" of Scheherazade. Interestingly, the original story took place in China and not the middle east.
Disney's Pocahontas is loosely based on the real-life Native American "princess" of the Powhatan tribe (a name also borne by her father, the chief.) Her real name was Matoaka, since Pocahontas was her nickname and meant "Playful One". She falls in love with a man named John Smith, who helps her prevent a war from commencing between their people. At the end of the film, John is wounded and sent back to London for treatment.
Fa Mulan is a brave Chinese heroine who dresses up like a soldier and goes to war in place of her crippled father, risking death and dishonor.
She is loosely based on the heroine from the well-known ancient Chinese poem "The Ballad of Mulan". She is the only Disney Princess who is not royal by blood or marriage and is literally not one. However, she has the honor of a princess because she achieved honor from the Emperor himself by saving China. During her stay in the army, she falls in love with the captain, Li Shang, whom she starts dating by the end of the film.
Partly inspired from E.D Baker's 2002 novel The Frog Princess, and the original fairy tale "The Frog Prince". Tiana is the heroine of the 2009 animated film The Princess and the Frog and is the first Princess of African American descent. She dreams of opening her own restaurant through hard work. By kissing Prive Naveen in frog form, she is turned into a frog and they are forced to set on a journey to find a way to undo the magic. Eventually, she finds herself falling for the handsome, but spoiled prince and willingly gives up her personal wants to be with him. By marrying the prince, Tiana becomes a real princess and so breaks the spell with a kiss. They finally open their own restaurant at the end of the film.
She is the first and currently only princess who's story was inspired by an original fairy tale, a literature novel and a real life person.
The heroine from the animated feature Tangled is loosely based on the German title character from the Brothers Grimm fairy tale "Rapunzel". Her long hair, which is said to measure 70 feet in length, not only has magical healing powers, but can be used as a weapon. Given the power by a magic golden flower, Mother Gothel kidnaps her as an infant to use her power to keep herself young. 18 years later, Rapunzel sneaks away from her tower with a thief, Flynn Rider, and sets on her own journey to find the flying lanterns that float into the sky every year on her birthday. To free her from Gothel's cluthches, Flynn cuts her hair, thus destroying her power, and she is returned to her family. Rapunzel was "officially welcomed into the Disney Princess Royal Court" during a promotional event at Kensington Palace in London on October 2, 2011. Interestingly, even though Rapunzel's long golden hair is cut off in the movie, changing it from blonde to brown, her redesigned image shows it fully restored back to blonde, although somewhat shorter than its original length.
Merida is the 16 year old daughter of Queen Elinor, who rules the kingdom alongside her husband, King Fergus. Queen Elinor's expectations and demands of her daughter make Merida see Elinor as being cold, unfeeling and distant causing friction between the two. Despite Elinor's desire to see Merida as a proper royal lady, Merida is an impetuous girl with wild, unruly ginger hair and a passionate desire to take control of her own destiny. Merida has honed her skill with a bow, and is the most skilled archers in her kingdom. She is also well trained in sword-fighting and an expert horsewoman, riding wildly across the countryside on her horse, Angus.
She is the second princess from a Pixar film, the first original princess in the line-up that was not inspired by either literature or real-life and the first without a love interest. She also never sings a major song, thus breaking away the traditional line-up, though as a child, she sang a small verse of a song in Gaelic, and Merida's rich Scottish brogue makes her the second Disney princess with an accent other than Standard American.
Anna is the Norwegian heroine of the 2013 animated feature Frozen. Anna is loosely based on Gerda, the heroine from the Danish fairy tale "Snedronningen" or "The Snow Queen" by Hans Christian Andersen.
She is a member of a royal family and the younger sister of Elsa. While Elsa is known to be beautiful, elegant and loved by the townspeople, Anna remains somewhat of a free spirit. Anna is more daring than graceful and, at times, can act before she thinks. But she's also the most optimistic and caring person you'll ever meet. She has a very close relationship with her older sister until this bond is shattered by an accident when they were children. When trying to reconnect with her, Anna messes things up at Elsa's coronation, leading to Elsa revealing her powers over ice and snow and accidentally curses the kingdom. Anna then embarks on a dangerous journey to set things right. She longs to reconnect with Elsa, as they were close during their childhood.
Elsa the Snow Queen is one of the main protagonists, alongside Anna, of the 2013 animated feature Frozen and Anna's older sister. She is loosely based on Kai and The Snow Queen from the Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale "The Snow Queen". She is the first Disney Princess to be considered an anti-heroine.
She was the crown princess of Arendelle, and was crowned Queen until her powers over ice were exposed, causing her to flee and become the feared Snow Queen. However, the bond between her and her sister warms her frozen heart, allowing her to use her magic for the greater good. Elsa is the eldest of the Disney Princesses. She is 21 years of age during the film.