Saturday, February 25, 2012

Disney Princesses: From Movie to Line Up

I was originally going to use this for a tumblr post, and I might still, but in the process of making said post I realized I had a lot to say about it so I thought I'd do a more in-depth post here! The princess lineup is an interesting topic for a lot of reasons. It's something Disney pushes a lot, in fact it's pretty much all they market to girls these days other than the occasional Minnie, Tink, or Alice merch. I've also seen a lot of discussion about the effect this sort of merchandising has on little girls. I haven't quite decided how I feel about that whole discussion, so that's a post for another day. There's also a lot of problems with balancing which princesses get the most merchanidse, who is an official princess and why, and some of the crazy outfits they put them in for kicks (I'm looking at you, crazy gold nonsense)

I will say that I'm a fan of the princesses personally, I think all of them have something great to offer, but I will definitely admit that there are some problems with their marketing. I threw together this little graphic to demonstrate a little bit of the discrepancies between film and official Disney Princess-ness. This was pretty much the standard set of girls until The Princess and the Frog and Tangled came out. So we'll start from the left and work through.

First up is Snow. Her's is probably the most significant change, and I can definitely understand why. I had a hell of a time finding a screen cap to represent her with where she's got her eyes open and isn't making a crazy face. She looks lovely when animated, but the style doesn't do well in stills. Her face has slimmed down, and the colors of her dress have become more vibrant. I do like that she's retained her sweet look though. She definitely looks younger than the other girls.

I've heard so many complaints about Aurora, but honestly, looking at a direct comparison she didn't fare too terribly in comparison to some of the others. Her hair is significantly more yellow for reasons I can't quite grasp, perhaps they wanted everything more vibrant? But her facial features have faired pretty well. I can't say the same for the dolls of her, but that's another discussion. The dress is a big bone of contention for some people. For most of her presence in the movie, she's wearing her Briar Rose peasant dress, and for most of the time she's wearing her gown it's blue. Personally I don't mind her in pink. It helps to differentiate her from Cinderella, and it adds another warm color which especially helps when Ariel is a mermaid. Don't ask me what the hell is going on with her left hand though.

I was pretty delightfully surprised with how well Jasmine weathered this process. She is one of the newer princesses, which helps I think, but I was pleased to see how her nose and eyebrows have stayed the same. The screen cap I used had quite a bit of gold/red lighting, which is why the colors look so different from one another. It does suck a lot that she's so often used as a token though, Jasmine's an awesome character and I often think they include her just so it won't be a line of white girls. This has changed somewhat with Tiana joining the lineup (she has an appropriate princess dress and is actual royalty so Disney is cool with having her in things) but it's still not okay. She's also the first indication of what I like to call "Princess Lineup Personality Drain Syndrome" It's totally in Aurora and Snow's characters to stand around looking pretty and smiling, but Jasmine spends most of Aladdin being angry or dismayed. Not to say that's uncalled for, she totally has the appropriate emotional reactions to situations, but it means that she looks really strange just smiling serenely. It looks kind of like those school pictures you had to smile in as a kid but you really just wanted to get to lunch so you could eat your Dunkaroos.

Ariel fared pretty well looks-wise as well. Her hair is still ridiculous and awesome, and that dress still clashes with it terribly. She's pretty often shown as a mermaid, but when she's not it's giant pink dress. I much prefer the seafoam green version she wears at the parks, but I understand the need for less green/blue and more warm colors. She has the worst case of PLPDS I think. In The Little Mermaid Ariel acts like...well she acts like a fangirl. So most of the time she is FEELING ALL OF THE THINGS. Especially when she loses her voice, she has to overact to show her feelings. So when she is happy she is THE HAPPIEST PERSON IN THE WORLD and when she is sad she is SO DAMN SAD. To have her smiling politely feels really disingenuous to her character.

I have no idea what happened to Belle's face. We had a pretty good track record thus far, but Belle definitely looks off. I will say that Belle does not look this different in all of the lineup art, this is an unfortunate circumstance for her. I think it's mostly the way the eyes are angled, something is weird there. Anyway! Her hair and dress fared pretty well, even down to the middle seam on the bodice. While I don't think smiling nicely is uncharacteristic of Belle, I do kind of wish we saw her making snarky faces more often. She makes some awesome snarky faces.

Cindy got a lot of TECHNICOLOR CRAP HAPPENING. For some reason her hair was made yellow-blond instead of strawberry blond and her dress was upped to super blue instead of silver with a tinge of blue. For the dress, I can kind of understand the angle that they would want a big difference between regular dress Cinderella and wedding dress Cinderella, but I have no idea why the big difference in her hair. The weirdest part of these differences is that if they had kept Cindy in her original color scheme then Aurora could have her blue dress and the differences in hair and dress color would probably be strong enough for people to distinguish between the two. At least her face is still pretty similar.

I think a lot of these discrepancies are for a couple of reasons. They want the girls to look like a cohesive whole, so a lot of the facial changes help with that. They also want a nice balance of color, so that it's both visually pleasing to see them all together and also they can kind of assign a color to each of them. The color assignment helps with both children picking their favorite and with all of the merchandise matching so that it looks nice on a shelf. Also instant recognizing of princesses, if you go to the Disney store and see a pink tiara, a yellow tiara, and a blue tiara, you're going to know that's Aurora's, Belle's, and Cinderella's automatically.

Some of the differences seem really arbitrary though, especially in hair color. Vibrancy is a consideration I suppose, but with plenty of the girls having black hair that doesn't seem to work. Honestly the thing that bothers me the most though is the plastic smiles on everyone. I would love to have art where it looks like the princesses are actually interacting with each other as friends! Even something a simple and stereotypically feminine as them sitting around having tea would be a more relaxed-looking and natural atmosphere that would let their personalities show a little bit. Less like they're copy and pasted next to each other and more like they're actually hanging out. What do you guys think?


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  2. someone once told me the reason all the Princesses don't seem to be interacting or ackowledging one another's presence is because Roy E. Disney was against the Disney Princess line because he claimed that they were all from different time periods and worlds so to combine them all would be completely nonsensical. As a sort of nod to him they make it so that the Princesses don't interact or acknowledge each other since they all are from different worlds. The only times where they do are in the parks or in some art in a stereotypically girly princess setting since those are worlds specifically created to have all of them. But you wouldn't find Aurora in Beauty and the Beast or Snow White in Rapunzel's kingdom that sort of deal.

    1. I've heard that rumor and I've never been able to find a source for it. It also just doesn't make a whole lot of sense to me. For one, world-crossing is something that Disney has done in the past, like through House of Mouse and as you mentioned, park interaction. Also, if the historical implications would make a lot more sense if Disney was remotely concerned about historical accuracy, which has never been one of their strong suits.

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