(Pocket Princesses, a comic I love. Look them up!)
There are a lot of arguable Disney princesses, but only a few in the Disney Princess line, which is a collection of the most elite, popular, and franchise-able characters (Snow White, Cinderella, Aurora, Ariel, Belle, Jasmine, Pocahontas, Mulan, Tiana, Rapunzel and Merida). But none of these people (with the exception of Mulan) are favorite Disney heroines of mine.
It’s kind of unfair, because they’re chosen for overwhelmingly commercial reasons.
So here’s a ranked showdown of all of the Disney princesses I could come up with. The princesses are ranked on a few basic qualities: 1) born into or marries royalty, 2) has animals sidekicks, 3) sings songs, 4) inspirational/powerful.
Honestly I think Disney is a little too focused on the ‘princess’ designation- there are so many more things to celebrate about women than royal status. I’m rewarding half points for incompletely achieved criteria.
Mimsy’s Favorite Under-Appreciated Princesses (Les Animales):
- Nala, The Lion King
One point for being born into and marrying royalty, no points for animals sidekicks (Simba is the focus of Lion King, so he has the animals sidekicks- arguably he’s more of a princess than Nala is), one point for singing songs (CAAAAN YOOOUUU FEEEEEL…), and one point for being an inspirational lioness badass. Nala is only not a recognized Disney princess because she doesn’t wear marketable clothes (or any clothes). In some ways, Nala is the first black Disney princess- Nala cub is voiced by a black actress. Buuuut the adult voice actress is white? Which pisses me off. Also annoying that the characters we would identify as black (Nala and Tiana) spend most or all of the movie as animals. I have a problem with that, but it’s not one I can hold against Nala, whom I love.
- Faline, Bambi
Faline marries the Prince of the Forest (i.e. Bambi) so she’s a princess. Period. Mostly she acts cute and flirtatious, she’s a flat character (again, Bambi is the really Disney princess here, with animals friends and such), but I still love her because she’s a woodland creature. And so much like a real deer, the animation in Bambi is really astonishing. Just compare Bambi and Faline with the deer animations in Snow White. So Faline: 1 point for royalty, .5 for animal friends (I firmly believe the bunny and skunk Thumper and Flower fall in love with are members of Faline’s forest prevention guerrilla girl gang. And I want a spinoff. With songs, because then Faline can get 4 stars.)
- Snow White, Snow White and the Seven Dwarves
I wish I could subtract points for her irritatingly quavering voice. Animal friends: mute forest creatures and dwarves. Are small people animals?
- Cinderella, Cinderella
- Aurora, Sleeping Beauty
Marries Prince Philip, my favorite of the classic Disney princes, mostly for his horse.
- Ariel, The Little Mermaid
Ariel’s motivations don’t hold much water (pun intended). Not talking about Ariel’s daughter. No.
- Belle, Beauty and the Beast
Cutlery and flatware are animals, right?
- Jasmine, Aladdin
She is not a prize to be won! Accept she’s completely objectified throughout the whole movie. Points for having a tiger.
- Pocahontas, Pocahontas
The half point comes in because I have qualms about the story. John Smith is a colonialist asshole and she should murder him. So only half inspiring.
- Megara, Hercules
Pain and Panic are Hades’ animal friends. Hades and Hercules are the real Disney princesses (this is a trend?). But she’s fairly badass. A few steps more progressive than Jasmine. It helps that she’s actively trying to get Hercules dead for some of the movie? I don’t know, does switching allegiances between men you’re indebted to equal agency?
- Mulan, Mulan
Mulan is everything. Except actual royalty. She’s a member of the Disney Princess line (because she’s made royalty by the Emperor bowing to her). Not completely buying it- half a point.
- Jane, Tarzan
Tarzan, another man-princess. Tarzan is King of the Jungle, yes? So Jane is a princess by jungle law. I think she’s inspiring. She’s a woman in STEM. It’s tough work.
- Kida, Atlantis
Exorcized and flat, but royalty.
- Esmeralda, The Hunchback of Notre Dame
A point for Dali the magical goat and God Help The Outcasts. Half a point for being inspirational and strong, but the movie really is all about Quasimodo. Esmeralda is a bit of an object throughout (see: Hellfire).
- Lilo, Lilo & Stitch
Lilo is super inspiring. And Stitch is an animal friend. Come at me.
- Tiana, The Princess and The Frog
Our only 4/4! Congratulations Tiana! Fireworks! She has a dream, she’s inspiring, she’s a princess by marriage (and also so indisputably classy!) Almost There is a pretty bomb song. Her lover is an animal friend! The alligator is cool but the firefly is my soulmate.
The Computer Cookie Cutters: (You know they all look the same)
- Rapunzel, Tangled
- Merida, Brave
Merida is Scottish royalty. Check. Half a point for animal friends (if you turn your human friends into animals you have animal friends, I guess… or maybe just animals, because if you turn friends into animals they might stop being your friends). Half a point for being inspiring. Because she’s really mean to the poor possibly disabled boy who can’t shoot an arrow. She’s kind of mean.
- Elsa and Anna, Frozen
3/4 and 2.5/4
Both are singing royalty. Elsa is inspiring. Anna is a ditz, but she does have animal friends (but only Olaf and that’s only half because he’s annoying comic relief.)
- Moana, Moana
The most recent movie I saw in the theater and a very lovely movie. The place where she lost half a point? Lackluster animal sidekicks. That. Chicken.
The Dark Ages:
- Maid Marian, Robin Hood
Because Robin Hood is the Prince of Thieves in some stories, right?
- Eilonwy, The Black Cauldron
- Ada and Dot, Bug’s Life
Not a bad movie, but not interesting female characters. Although the queen ant is pretty badass.
- Giselle and Nancy, Enchanted
3/4 and 1/4