Disney Through the Years: The Evolution of the Disney Princess

Walt Disney Animation Studio released Snow White in 1937. This was the studio’s first full-length animated feature. Since then, millions have flocked to theatres to watch the 53 animated feature films that Disney has released.

Disney isn’t just a company that makes movies; they create fantasy worlds. They have always strived to make movies that interest moviegoers, and incorporate the values that parents want their children to learn. To do this, Disney must create a story that is cohesive with the standards of our current society.

“I think that, as Disney movies have evolved, they have changed us as a culture, but we as a culture have also changed them,” sophomore Sabrina Mather said.

To keep up with our changing social views, Disney has had to transition from princesses such as Snow White, Cinderella and Aurora. These princesses waited to be saved and sat back while their story progressed around them. More recent princesses, though, like

Rapunzel, Anna and Elsa, have taken control of their own destinies and actively participated in the progression of their own stories.

The princesses of the 1930s and 1950s dreamed of a prince, a wedding and a palace. The Disney princesses that graced the big screen in the 1980s, 1990s and early 2000s had goals that they wanted to accomplish, but to accomplish those goals they needed men. Princesses of the 2010s have aspired to follow their own dreams, achieve independence and be themselves. This goes hand in hand with the shift in roles of women in society.

“I think they have kind of changed with the acts of women through time,” junior Vanessa Jones said. “They have gone from doting house- wives to getting out and doing their own thing. I think Disney’s really made that clear, that they have been making these women more indepen- dent. It went from Cinderella and Snow White, the helpless girls who are struggling, to Mulan, who saves China.”

Disney has made plenty of changes, but they have also kept certain aspects of their films the same. The princesses have become slightly more diverse, but most are still the same dainty, doe eyed, beautiful girls. The movies have slightly shifted their focus off of princesses falling in love, but the romantic aspect is still there. Disney has also continued to show non- traditional family dynamics and addressing the loss of a loved one.

“As a parent who showed Disney films to her children when they were growing up, I liked that they dealt with issues of loss,” art teacher Leslie Burwell said. “I think that Disney allows kids to grapple with that idea of death.”

Of course Disney has made several animated films that don’t follow the normal princess filled, fairy tale format of the franchise; some examples are Treasure Planet, Lilo and Stitch and The Emperor’s New Groove. However, the majority of Disney’s most famous films have kept with a similar plot and style.

I would argue that, while Disney has progressed and changed, their movies have remained the same for the most part. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, though. Disney movies have been bringing joy to people all over the world for over six decades, and they have obviously been successful.

“At the end of a Disney movie I feel happier,” Jones said. “I love that it’s kind of a little escape from the rest of the world.”

– By Bailey Miller