Disney princesses have always been a massive part of the magic. From the fantastic movies where they begin their journeys to the Disney parks where they make dreams come true, Disney princesses have been part of Disney for 86 years.
During those years, the role of the Disney princess has drastically changed. As society and young girls change, we have seen these beautiful princesses also change.
Since Snow White proved that full-feature films could work, Disney princesses have been changing the movie industry in their unique way. As we prepare for the newest female hero, Asha, in the upcoming movie Wish (2023), let’s look at how Disney princesses and their roles have shifted.
From the very beginning, Disney princesses brought viewers simple but important messages and themes. When we look back at Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937), Cinderella (1950), and Sleeping Beauty (1959), we see simple themes throughout the films.
Messages about following their dreams, having hope, working hard, and not trusting strangers are present. Our female heroes now face a lot more complex issues.
Our Disney princesses often face trauma, love, family issues, and more in newer films—a drastic change from early princesses.
Strong Willed Princesses
Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, we saw a new princess emerge. Instead of being rescued, these princesses have their own opinions and aren’t afraid to be a little rebellious along the way.
Ariel, Jasmine, and Belle taught little girls that being different from other girls is okay. Instead of wishing to blend in, these young princesses want to stand out.
Another change came with these strong-willed ladies who needed chemistry and connection from their Disney princes. Where we didn’t learn much about Snow White and Prince Charming or Princess Aurora and Prince Phillip, the relationship between Jasmine and Aladdin, Ariel and Prince Eric, and Belle and her beast swept girls off their feet.
These princesses, while making time for love, didn’t forget about their dreams. They each have specific dreams that they share and work for throughout the film. Ariel fought to be part of the human world, Mulan gave up everything to save her father, and we saw Princess Jasmine’s desire to be able to pick her husband and way of life.
These new princesses drastically differed from the original Disney princesses, and fans loved the change.
No More Damsel in Distress
With the arrival of Rapunzel, it was clear that Disney princesses no longer needed to be rescued. Once out of the tower, Rapunzel showed the world she could manage independently.
This is also seen in Moana (2016) as she leaves her village behind to head out to find a solution. She works with Maui to overcome obstacles and learns from them, but she doesn’t need to be rescued.
In the newest film, Mirabel works independently to save her family. She sets out to find a solution to keep the magic alive.
These new princesses are still waiting for their princes to come and rescue them. They are making things happen all on their own.
Original Disney princesses faced evil villains. We saw outstanding villains emerge, like Maleficent, the Evil Queen, Mother Gothel, Ursula, and Jafar in many films. These villains cause problems and conflict for our beloved heroines throughout the movie.
As new heroines arrive, we see a transition from traditional villains to more internal struggles faced by our beloved characters. Mirabel realizes that her loving, caring grandmother is at the issue’s root.
Moana has to challenge her dad and face Te Fiti, who ends up not being a villain but instead a misunderstood character.
Disney princesses and heroines continue to be a considerable part of the Disney magic. The role they play and their hopes and dreams have drastically changed over the years, and we love it.