Disney Princess is a media and consumer-toy line franchise owned by the Walt Disney company. The franchise was created in the mid 1990s and consists of fictional female heroines from various Disney animated feature films.
The franchise does not refer to every female character from all Disney-based products and films but rather is represented by a select number of characters from certain films. Currently, the franchise is comprised of fourteen members: Snow White, Cinderella, Aurora, Ariel, Belle, Jasmine, Pocahontas, Mulan, Tiana, Rapunzel, Merida, and Moana. The current Live-Action Disney Princess lineup is: Aurora (2014), Cinderella (2015), Belle (2017), Jasmine (2019) and Mulan (2020). Criteria for becoming a part of the franchise vary, but for the most part, there are several "unofficial" Princesses who are only associated with the lineup.
The franchise has released dolls, sing-along videos, apparel, beauty products, home decor, toys, and a variety of other products featuring some of the Disney Princesses. In addition to the main franchise, other sub-franchisees exist, among which is the companion line, the "Disney Prince" franchise, for the male counterparts to the Disney Princess roster.
In the mid 1990s, Disney Consumer Product realized the market potential for the female characters portrayed in the wildly successful Disney movies. Soon after realizing the demand, the Disney Princess franchise was launched.
Requirements to be a "Disney Princess"
Each official Disney Princess must meet the following requirements:
- The character must have a central role in an animated Disney/Pixar film.
- The character must be human, or have a humanoid appearance in the cases of Ariel and formerly Tinker Bell.
- The character should not be the star of a sequel.
- The character must be royal by birth, royal by marriage, or do a heroic deed in cases of Mulan.
- The character's film should not have been an overwhelming success or an underwhelming failure, like solely with the case of Aurora. This explains the absence of Eilonwy and Kida.
- Along with it, the character must have massive appeal and recognition towards viewers and audiences.
In the 2016 film Moana, Maui states that princesses have animal sidekicks. This has been evidently shown to be a common characteristic among the official members. But it is unknown if it is considered an official Disney Princess rule.
Being a separate franchise also affects the status of a princess such as Tinker Bell when she enters the Disney Fairies franchise.
Facts pertaining to the original fairy tales, or comic books upon which the films are based are irrelevant to the versions appearing in the franchise.
The Princesses themselves, despite appearing in separate films, have distinct similarities. Most Princesses have the common ability to communicate with animals (even if the animals do not actually talk back). They are also known for their inner and outer beauty, as well as having beautiful singing voices (the exception to this is Merida, who only sings a song with her mother when she is little). Each Princess (excluding Merida and Moana) also has a romance that is resolved by the end of the film; the male counterparts are known as Disney Princes. The Princesses can also be grouped depending on what era their films debuted. The "original" three (Snow White, Cinderella and Aurora) are quiet, classy, graceful and romantic daydreamers; they play more of a "damsel in distress" role and suffer from the actions caused by others. They hold an inner strength through compassion, love, kindness and (particularly with Snow White) a strong sense of resilience. Critics and parents reprimanded these princesses and think they just want to be "rescued from peril", though Aurora was only in danger as a baby and Cinderella was never in danger, instead not leaving her stepfamily because it was not possible as she had no money.
During the Disney Renaissance Era, which started with The Little Mermaid in 1989 and ended in 2000, the heroines in Disney feature films became more active than reactive and included Ariel, Belle, Jasmine, Pocahontas, and Mulan. These women were strong-willed, adventurous, feisty, cunning and determined. They were less interested in finding love and more interested in finding adventure and freedom. The Renaissance Princesses also existed in worlds that were more self-aware of the changing roles of women. For example, in The Little Mermaid, the villainess Ursula assures Ariel that she won't need her voice on land as men prefer silent women; Belle, from Beauty and the Beast is told by Gaston that "it's not right for a woman to read." And Mulan, who joins an army under the guise of a man, must listen to her peers extol masculine traits while describing an ideal wife who is pretty, obedient and a good cook. The latest Princesses were created within the past decade and are more modern. Tiana from The Princess and the Frog is a young woman who doesn't rely on magic and knows that it takes hard work to reach one's goals; Rapunzel from Tangled, however, is more idealistic and isn't afraid to go after what she wants.
- Main article: List of Disney Princesses
In other media
- Main article: Cameos in other media
- As of 2021, there are a total of twelve Princess films featuring nine Princesses (six by birth, three by marriage), one heroine and two that are daughters of a chief.
- One of the unspoken rules of the franchise is that none of the Princesses ever make eye contact in any official merchandise, keeping their "mythologies" separate. The Disney Princesses were designed to have all the Princesses unaware of each other's presence.
- Roy E. Disney was against the creation of the Disney Princess franchise, as he said, "Cinderella and Snow White could never be seen together because their stories take place in different times and places."
- Going against the marketing strategy of the franchise, the Princesses, along with Vanellope, Anna, and Elsa, interact with each other for the first time in the Ralph Breaks the Internet. The rule violation is slimly avoided, however, given that the Princesses in the film are digital copies, thus not technically the real Princesses from their own universes. Despite this, the characteristics of the digital copies remain faithful to their original incarnations.
- The reasoning for including Anna and Elsa in the film's variation of the line-up was due to the filmmakers recognizing the unofficial Princesses as princess characters that have the strongest association with the franchise, as well as sharing the connection of being from Walt Disney Animation with Vanellope.
- The first issue of the Disney Princess Magazine was published on June 24, 1998 in the United Kingdom. The launch was supported by radio, press and retail promotions, including a cross-promotion with Mattel in Toys 'R' Us and with Panini stickers.
- In Japan, only seven of the dozen Princesses are considered as official (Snow White, Cinderella, Aurora, Ariel, Belle, Jasmine, and Rapunzel) with the excluded Princesses rarely featured in local merchandise and promotional material.
- Disney Princess on Wikipedia