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The End of the Disney Princess?

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Don’t worry, classic female Disney characters like Belle, Cinderella, and Snow White aren’t going anywhere. Those characters and their stories have a gigantic presence in the Disney theme parks, Disney films old and new (hello 2019 Aladdin film with Jasmine), and in an endless stream of merchandise from plastic tiaras to designer handbags. That stuff is all here to stay. What I think may be going away is the “Disney Princess” branding.

“Disney Princess” was a brand created in the early 2000s by former Disney Consumer Products chair Andy Mooney. The OG squad included Snow White, Cinderella, Aurora, Ariel, Belle, and Jasmine. Tinker Bell was briefly a member, but she was later replaced by Tiana and Pocahontas. Later Merida and Rapunzel were “inaugurated” into the pantheon with elaborate ceremonies. Moana was added with less fanfare much later. The Disney Princess branding spawned a thousand parodies and memes: Disney princesses with careers, Disney princesses grown old, real housewives of Disney princesses on SNL, and on and on. The cultural impact could not be overstated.

But then cracks in the monolith began to appear. Indication of the diminished importance of the Princess brand started showing when Frozen’s Anna & Elsa did not, as had been widely expected, make it onto team princess. Perhaps they were a strong enough marketing device on their own to not need the support of a cobbled-together group of girls. Or maybe Elsa’s status as a queen set them apart from the others. Or maybe the brand was becoming less relevant.

More recently, we’re seen a slow dismantling of the princess domination. The large center room at the Magic Kingdom’s Emporium had reigned as the epicenter of princess gear for more than a decade. But now the price of princess costumes has dropped and the princess room turned into a sales point for tee shirts.

And new terminology is appearing — Disney Heroines. Our reporter Christina Harrison encountered this when researching pressed pennies. And this summer’s offering of Disney-themed girls’ tees at Uniqlo was also branded with Disney Heroines, not princesses.

The Heroine language allows for more flexibility. Minnie Mouse is not a princess, but she is a heroine to many – and she’s the first of the non-human characters to start making her way into the new group. Is Nala next? What about other strong female animals in the Disney films? Or is this the way to welcome Elsa? Or any of the Star Wars or Marvel women who save the world?

Like I said, Cinderella is not going anywhere. I mean, have you see that castle? But I have a feeling that in the next decade we’ll be calling her a heroine before calling her a princess.

What are your thoughts about this change? Let us know in the comments.

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Erin Foster

Erin Foster is an original member of the Walt Disney World Moms Panel (now PlanDisney), a regular contributor to TouringPlans.com, and co-author of The Unofficial Guide to Disney Cruise Line. She's been to WDW, DL, DL Paris, Hong Kong Disneyland, Aulani, DVC Vero Beach, and DVC Hilton Head. She's a Platinum DCL cruiser and veteran of 10 Adventures by Disney trips. Erin lives near New York City, where she can often be found indulging in her other obsession - Broadway theater.

11 thoughts on “The End of the Disney Princess?

    • Wow thank goodness you’re here to save women from feminism, Keith!

  • I’m still po’d that Giselle from “Enchanted” isn’t a Disney Princess! She left her fairy tale world & came to the REAL world, & dealt with it the best she could. And ended up doing a hellava good job!

  • I like it. Mulan is a warrior, not a princess, in spite of being included under the “Disney Princess” umbrella. And I see Alice in the coin collection above — always a favorite, even though she’s never been a princess. Nothing wrong with princesses, but heroine is a title my girls can aspire to.

  • “Princess” isn’t nearly as empowering as the term “heroine”, and as we are in a new age of women’s empowerment, now is the time to change the term. And it simply is easier to add many characters under that moniker: Elsa, Nala, Alice, Minnie, Vanalope (even though she technically is a princess), Megera, and probably countless others that I can’t think of offhand could be rebranded as heroines.

    • I’m not sure why we need to move away from princesses and pretty dresses in order to empower women. Why can’t a princess be a strong, independent & successful woman? Why does a dress and a tiara suddenly have to make a woman weak and needy? It’s ridiculous. My little girl loves glitter, pink, tiaras and princesses. But you will regret it if you try to mess with her! She is a strong, brave and independent PRINCESS

      • I think the princess scene in “Ralph Breaks the Internet” explains it best: all the princesses (except for Merida, ironically the one from “that other studio”) had a big, strong man come save them. I think Disney moving toward the term “heroine” will help break that stigma, one that Disney obviously knows exists since that idea is parodied in Ralph Breaks the Internet.

      • My point is, instead of making them all “Heroines”; Change the stigma. Show little girls that you can be a dress-wearing, sparkly princess and still be fierce and independent.

      • I think the addition of the Heroine umbrella CAN empower the sparkly tiara wearing princesses and open up the examples of powerful and important female characters at the same time. Including princesses under the Heroine title calls them out as being powerful and lets them still sparkle and wear pink. They aren’t stopping calling the ones that are princesses princess, they’re including the ones called princess in a new group that is a broader collection of all kinds of powerful female characters.

      • @TwoBits Merida is 100% Disney Princess.

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