Following announcements at Disney’s D23 Expo, here at The Edge we’re getting pretty excited about Moana. The first images of the Polynesian princess look like she’ll reflect a healthy and realistic body type – a real rarity across Disney’s history of female characters – as well as adding some much needed cultural and racial diversity to the line-up of leading ladies. This excitement growing, now is the perfect time to look back and ponder the princesses we already know and love. Everyone has a favourite princess; whether it’s their style, story or songs, these ladies have worked hard to earn their places in our hearts.
In a celebration of all things glittery and girly, The Edge’s writers got together to explain why exactly their personal favourite princess is so excellent, and why she takes the crown.
Jasmine is a pretty badass princess. Why? SHE HAS A PET TIGER. Who, might I add, is absolutely huge and there is no way that anyone else would survive in its company. Her relationship with Rajah is adorable, and it’s cute how around her he is just an oversized pussycat, but around others (in particular the unbelievably evil Jafar) he turns into killer wild cat! Their relationship is epitomised when Jasmine scales the walls of the palace to escape and Rajah tugs on her harem pants, with big sad eyes that melts everyones heart.
But Rajah isn’t the only cool thing about Jasmine. The way she fails to give into the Indian culture and succumb to accepting to being apart of an arranged marriage in order to find “true love” is admirable. Obviously Jafar tries his best to manipulate The Sultan and take Jasmine’s hand for his own, but Jasmine (with the help of our dear Aladdin, of course) does not give in and triumphs in the end.
She is also one half of one of Disney’s most iconic duets. Sadly Katie Price and Peter Andre have ruined ‘A Whole New World’ for many people in this country, but the original is still truly beautiful!
What else? Oh yeah, SHE HAS A PET TIGER!
Words by Will Hodgetts
Ariel (The Little Mermaid)
1989 was not only the year that Taylor Swift was born but also the beginning of what is now known as the Disney renaissance with the release of The Little Mermaid which reignited the audiences love of Disney after a series of films that flopped at the box office. Based on Hans Christian Anderson’s fairytale of the same name, The Little Mermaid sees a young rebellious girl grow up over night and truly fight for what she wants from her life. This is what makes Ariel my favourite Disney princess, she is courageous and strong-willed and even when advised not to by her adorable little sidekick friends, she still sticks to her guns and follows her heart.
One of the main reasons that Ariel is my favourite is, before the release of Frozen and the huge anthem that is ‘Let It Go’, Ariel had arguably the best princess song with ‘Part of Your World’. The song shares with the audience Ariel’s hopes and dreams to become human in a beautiful ballad that is later reprised when she saves Prince Eric in the now iconic scene which sees the sea waves come up behind her in a stunning animated sequence. The song is easily relatable as it speaks to those who feel like outsider from social groups. Other songs from the soundtrack, which is reminiscent of Broadway musicals, include ‘Kiss the Girl’ and the incredibly catchy ‘Under the Sea’ which went on to win Best Song at the 1990 Academy Awards as well as a Grammy for Best Song Written for Visual Media.
Even though, The Little Mermaid does not promote the best message for the modern day world, Ariel is still kick-ass – I mean she overcame the most terrifying villain in the Disney pantheon! And also she’s a cool mermaid with beautiful red hair – what more could you want?
Words by Georgia Simpson
Aurora (Sleeping Beauty)
Princess Aurora – also known as Briar Rose – is the third princess to feature in Disney’s animated movies. It is often said that she is the first princess whose appearance is neat : she has a head of perfect curly blond hair, blue eyes and rosy red lips. Aurora also appears as highly free-spirited, seeing as she was not raised in the conventions of royalty. Sleeping Beauty taught us to believe in our own dreams and to never give up even if we think they are out of reach.
Don’t forget that the movie was released in 1959 and therefore Princess Aurora does somewhat represent the ideal women of the period; she is obviously kind, dreamy and a wonderful singer much like Cinderella or Snow White before her. But she also has this special link with nature, represented by her name and her link with woodland creatures including squirrels, birds and owls. I love her freedom and carefreeness while dancing and singing in the woods in her bohemian-style dress. (Talking about dress, Aurora created one of the biggest dilemma among Disney fans: Make it blue? Or make it pink? I’ll leave it to you.) Then, LOVE. She and Prince Philip are the timeless symbol of love at first sight of which most of girls dream.
Her story shows that best things can come unexpectedly, while Sleeping Beauty herself taught us to believe in our own dreams and to never give up. Finally, wouldn’t that be great to sleep as long as we can while at the same time being a beautiful princess ?
Words by Lisa Veiber
One of Disney’s more recent endeavours, Tangled, was released in 2010 and told the tale of Rapunzel, a story and character ingrained in us all at a young age. And with the release of the film arrived one of the best princesses to grace Disney’s prestigious stage (not to forget its sterling soundtrack as well).
Trapped in a tower under the possessive power of her “mother”, Rapunzel dreams of seeing the lights that magically appear in the sky once a year on her birthday. What’s most poignant about the tale that follows is nothing about the potential or search of romance that often saturated the lives of the Disney princesses before her, but more lies with its theme of self-discovery. With a runaway criminal under her thumb, Rapunzel takes control in order to break boundaries and discover the life that has otherwise been kept secret from her. What seemed like unrealistic aspirations manifest into a journey led by a head- strong princess, the whole narrative becoming a rite of passage to find herself.
As well as determination, confidence and dedication, there is one other thing that makes Rapunzel stand out from the rest of the Disney Princesses. Her hair. It’s mind-blowingly long, incredibly shiny and magical. I’d like to see Cinderella try and cure people through her hairdo…
Words by Lewis Taplin
This Native American heroine is rarely featured in the traditional Disney princess line-up, but she’s the daughter of the chief of her tribe – ergo, she’s a princess. Pocahontas is a strong willed feminist who refuses to be married off easily by her father to a great warrior of the tribe because she doesn’t love him. She doesn’t believe she needs a man at her side to help her rule when she takes over from her tribe, and this is why Pocahontas is perhaps the most inspiring Disney princess.
Did I also mention she has a hummingbird and a raccoon as friends? She also canoes down waterfalls and talks to a willow tree for guidance. What’s not to love? However, undoubtedly one of the reasons we love Pocahontas is because she’s in touch with nature, she’s unpretentious and she literally runs around barefoot with her hair blowing in the wind. Combine this with one of THE best songs in the Disney franchise – ‘Colours of the Wind’, which won the Academy award for its singer, Tony winning theatre actress Judy Kuhn. Pocahontas understood global warning before we did and she’s not afraid to take on the British colonists in order to stop it. She runs through forests, isn’t scared of anything and plays with every animal including bear cubs; there’s no reason not to love Pocahontas! Set in the 17th Century this princess was way ahead of her time, had a hunky man to look at (who doesn’t love John Smith?) and then promptly give up for both his safety and her tribe. What a woman!
You can keep the glass slipper; this girl doesn’t need somebody to save her!
Words by Natalie Fordham
A princess usually has to have certain criteria to qualify as a Disney princess, but not Mulan. Mulan and her family are living under the Han Dynasty , and fearful that her ageing father will be conscripted into the Chinese army, she takes his place. Living in a patriarchal society, Mulan does not technically qualify to fight in battle against the Huns, so she disguises herself as a boy.
Mulan is pressured into meeting the Chinese female stereotypes, but she fails at the feminine tasks requested of her by the matchmaker, such as pouring tea. The irony in Mulans beautifying transformation for this scene which is reminiscent of Cinderella, is that it makes her even more aware of that fact that her true self is completely opposite to this. Her feelings towards this are expressed beautifully in the song ‘Reflection’, where she asks ‘when will my reflection show who I am inside?’.
Mulan’s strongest quality is that, unlike most Disney princesses, she does not rely on a man throughout the movie. Although she does eventually fall for Shang, she is completely independent in her actions and choices. She challenges female stereotypes, and is undoubtedly the most unique of the Disney princesses. She is resourceful, quick on her feet, determined, and most importantly she speaks her mind in a culture which does not allow her to do so.
Mulan is a real heroine, a true female warrior who embodies all of the qualities of a strong, determined young woman.
Words by Hollie Geraghty
Tiana (The Princess & The Frog)
Hugely underrated, The Princess & The Frog was Disney’s bright and bold return to the traditional animation they temporarily abandoned in the early noughties. Beautifully capturing the colour and rich spice of life in 1920s New Orleans, it provided a unique setting for the first and only ‘modern’ Disney princess – Tiana, who does not quite start the tale as one. A black working woman in a time and society that relentlessly oppresses her ambitions, Tiana works tirelessly in hope of achieving the dream she inherited from her father; to open a restaurant that’ll serve the finest food in all of Louisiana. Things get in the way of her aspirations, however, when a visiting destitute prince (transformed into a frog) demands her help after getting conned by the shadowy voodoo magic of a mysterious witch doctor. Together – if a little more slimey – the two race against time to reverse the spell in a journey which leads the viewer through a swampy bayou that plays host to the rich cultural, musical and visual diversity of the Deep South.
The itself film was fresh; a river city as a kingdom, a broke, knuckleheaded playboy for a prince and two leads who learn and grow alongside one another. But in my eyes, Tiana is its shining star. She is a smart, hard-working young girl but one who often forgets important things, such as love, fun and family. She is different to those who have come before her; far more grounded and a pinch cynical. Still she is forward thinking, happy and kind, the sort that is sincere and sweeter for it. She does not pursue love, nor does it change her – but it betters her, and reflects the way in which any good couple is not one where its parts depend wholly or unhealthily on one another but rather one where they compliment one another, are two complete people side by side. And – spoiler! – I adore that fact that, should a voodoo twist on a Fairy Godmother not intervene, she and her love are perfectly content to live their lives together as frogs.
Warts and all.
Words by Camilla Cassidy
I know what you’re thinking. Meg is not technically a Disney Princess. But as far as I’m concerned, she is a Disney Goddess, and it can’t be denied that Megara (“my friends call me Meg, or at least they would if I had any friends”) is one of the most wonderful and complex female characters in the Disney Pantheon.
With her big hair and Elizabeth Taylor-like violet eyes, Meg exudes the kind of enigmatic sensuality you’d expect from a Bond girl, rather than a Disney character. After Jessica Rabbit, she might just be one of the sexiest cartoon characters around. Hercules is right to be dumbfounded when he first sees her. But what makes Meg even greater, is that unlike certain other princesses, she has more than “true love” on her mind.
While hundreds of Grecian ladies swoon for Herc’s “rippling pectorals”, Meg is decidedly less impressed. Her chequered experience with love (she sold her soul to Hades to save the life of a douchebag who later ran off with another woman), turned Meg into a woman of means. At the film’s beginning, Meg is a strong, independent woman, (“I’m a damsel… I’m in distress… I can handle it – have a nice day”) with some hardcore feminist one-liners under her belt (“You know how men are, they think ‘no’ means ‘yes’ and ‘get lost’ means ‘take me, I’m yours'”). But as the film goes on, and she begins to – semi-reluctantly – fall for Hercules, we see Meg soften as her various vulnerabilities come to light.
Meg ultimately transcends her role as the ‘love interest’, stealing several scenes of the movie with her sharp wit and heart-achingly realistic outlook on romance. Watch her powerful anti-love ballad, ‘I Won’t Say I’m In Love’, and tell me she isn’t cool.
Words by Anneka Honeyball
Maid Marian (Robin Hood)
And, if we’re keeping our definitions of ‘princess’ loose, you absolutely have to mention Maid Marian. Though – and I freely acknowledge this – a fox, she acted perhaps more royal than any truly official princess in Disney’s line-up. She saw her privilege, and though trapped within social convention in an entirely likely representation of English court acted with great altruism to try and better the lives of those who lived under her. Genuinely caring, she had a strength of character and a sense of grace or elegance that made her entirely proper. Then again she was innocent, optimistic, and saw nothing wrong with partying in the forest with a bunch of outlaws. With big beautiful eyes and that an uncanny ability to look good in pink, Maid Marian has all the qualities needed to make her a proper Disney princess.
…Plus a tail.
Words by Camilla Cassidy