Today: May 28, 2024

Janet’s Animation Corner: Plucky Princesses

Since Disney released new 3D footage of the latest Princess Moana, the animation circuit has been abuzz. Due to hit screens at the end of next year, the tide-riding, Polynesian Moana will be the 14th princess to date … if you include the official princesses-in-waiting, Elsa and Anna, who have yet to be crowned in the official Walt Disney World ceremony… Yes, there’s really a ceremony.

Like the more recent princesses, Moana appears to have ditched the ball gown and the rescue-me status of the more traditional princesses in exchange for a risky voyage across the South Pacific. Intent on proving herself a worthy wayfinder, Moana is determined to explore the new islands of Oceania. Sounds gutsy. Now that’s my kind of royalty.

Moana, like few before her, seems to be heralding in some kind of modernisation as far as our Disney princesses are concerned. So far from where the very first Disney princess (Snow White) began, that you have to wonder whether the animation studio is making some sort of statement? Is this Disney’s version of the women’s right movement? A movement in which all women, of all faces, are strong and independent with ambitions and goals exceeding finding their one true love (or at least not primarily). More importantly, have we seen the last of the ‘traditional’ princess breed?

One look at Moana and I would have to concur (with myself…that was easy). Moana seems to have that feisty new age princess thing covered. Not to mention her Polynesian heritage, makes her the fifth ethnic Disney princess to date. Compare her with the likes of Tiana – arguably the most recent of the old-style princesses – and there is a stark difference.

While keen to make her own, independent stamp on the world by opening up a restaurant, Tiana’s Princess And The Frog still shares many of the traits of the old school Disney princess movie. Despite being a gutsier take on a traditional fairytale, the film was traditionally animated and based on a classic Brothers Grimm tale. Unfortunately, it’s a combination which modern day audiences seem to have fallen out of love with. Despite the fact that all her dreams came true when she transformed into a princess over night, Tiana and her Prince Naveen failed to wholeheartedly enchant the audience.

Enter Rapunzel. Disney’s first CGI animated princess and it’s as if the audience was suddenly seeing things with new, excited eyes. It was a film of self-exploration and finding one’s place in life. Yes, it is a classic tale and love was a factor, but it certainly wasn’t the driving force. Rapunzel was even the heroine of the piece.

Brave followed and although it wasn’t an outright hit, it remains one of my ultimate favourites. Another headstrong girl, with an adventurous spirit and a craving to find her place outside of societies’ limited expectations, which includes suitors and marriage. This was, of course, followed by Frozen. A game changer for Disney, Frozen has set a precedent for princess movies, reaffirming the need for them to be strong, no-nonsense women who can stand on their own. Love was a strong catalyst for the events which spun Elsa and Anna’s lives out of control, yet the strongest love in the piece was not romantic but the one of sisterhood. Encapsulating the idea that a women’s achievement doesn’t end with marriage. Or so I believe. Anna was able to use the love she had for her sister to become, like Rapunzel, the heroine.

Personally I’ve always been keener on the braver type of princess, even as a kid favouring Ariel who ditched her comfortable life, risking it all to explore new worlds (though her motives were driven purely by love…). She was much more interesting to me than say beautiful, dull Aurora who shifted from one rescue-me status to another, her flouncy ball gown trailing behind her.

My fondness for the classics shall remain, however it’s difficult to envision ever having another princess without the sass, we’ve not only become accustomed to, but welcomed enthusiastically. I guess when it comes to the 21st Century princess, I’ll take mine with four heaped tablespoons of pluck and just a hint of genteel. One look at Moana would suggest Disney is more than happy to oblige.

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