Ultimate Guide to Disney Princess

Most of the Disney Princess Collection: Belle, Jasmine, Ariel, Cinderella, Snow White, and Sleeping Beauty.
Most of the Disney Princess Collection: Belle, Jasmine, Ariel, Cinderella, Snow White, and Sleeping Beauty.
©Disney. All Rights Reserved.

Once upon a time, Ariel, Belle, Cinderella, Jasmine, Mulan, Pocahontas, Sleeping Beauty, and Snow White each ruled her own fairytale kingdom in an animated Disney movie. These days, they are collectively experiencing a different kind of happy ending: They have joined together to become a royal super-sorority known as Disney Princess.

Disney Princess has become bigger than Walt Disney ever dreamed when his struggling studio took a huge gamble to make its first princess movie, "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs." Some 60 years later -- after just six years developing new Disney Princess films, videos, CDs, toys, house wares, electronics, and other merchandise -- Disney Princess has grown to become Disney's most popular brand, overtaking Winnie-the-Pooh and the company's iconic mascot, Mickey Mouse. Six years ago, the princesses generated $100 million in sales. Now Disney Princess merchandise is sold in 90 countries, and it has earned $3.4 billion since its launch.

How did eight modest girls become the most popular characters in the world?

Most of the princesses were first introduced centuries ago in oral folklore and revised fairytales, but they were reinvented by Walt Disney to star in their own now-classic animated movies, namely "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" (1937), "Cinderella" (1950), "Sleeping Beauty" (1959), "The Little Mermaid" (1989), "Beauty and the Beast" (1991), "Aladdin" (1992), "Pocahontas" (1995), and "Mulan" (1998).

Individual princesses have been part of the Disney scene since Snow White first graced the screen in 1937; however, only recently has Disney brought these beloved characters together in a collection of fantasy-based girls' entertainment and products. After the initial releases of the earlier films, the princess characters disappeared from popular culture, living on through occasional film and DVD re-releases. The princesses did not ascend to become all-powerful queens until 1999, when they were united under a royal marketing umbrella called Disney Princess.

Andy Mooney left the sporting goods company Nike to become chairman of Disney Consumer Products. He looked at Disney research and found that girls playing make-believe don't want to be just any princess -- they want to be a Disney Princess, especially Cinderella, Snow White, and Ariel from the cartoon movies.

"Starting with Snow White, the rich storytelling of each of Disney's fairytales has captured the hearts and minds of young girls," Mooney said. "The Disney Princess brand enables a girl to become a part of the world of her favorite princess."

And so Mooney grouped Disney's leading ladies -- Ariel, Belle, Cinderella, Jasmine, Mulan, Pocahontas, Sleeping Beauty and Snow White -- under the banner of Disney Princess and began to develop original movies, music, books, and products. They even have their own "Disney Princess Anthem" to boost their team spirit.

Savvy marketing has been key to the success of Disney Princess. Learn how Disney combines marketing and magic in the next section.

Disney Princess Marketing

Disney Princess is a year-round brand with products such as this DVD.
Disney Princess is a year-round brand with products such as this DVD.
© Disney. All rights reserved.

Disney banks on the fact that little girls never forget their first encounter with a Disney Princess. Even long after they're all grown up, they continue to pass along their love for these heroines, introducing them to their own younger siblings and daughters.

That's the secret behind the magical success of Disney Princess, the favorite brand of girls three to five. Moms embrace it because, in a time when little girls are maturing at a much faster pace, Disney Princess lets little girls remain children for a little longer time. Disney aims to empower girls with the wholesome stories about virtues of integrity, honor, discovery, friendship, and love.

"Little girls are initially drawn to the rich, compelling stories and expect their products to have more than a picture of just any young woman wearing a tiara and gown," said Mary Beech, vice president and general manager of Animation Consumer Products Marketing. "With the reintroduction of the Cinderella and Little Mermaid stories over recent years, everyone is reminded why Disney Princess rises above the others that attempt to imitate."

For a little girl, the desire to feel special is more powerful than a magic wand. She dreams of a place where clothes are spun of silk and gold, where balls are held in her honor, and where princes fall in love at first sight. It is a world Disney has created -- full of fantasy and romance -- where a girl can feel as special as a princess.

How Disney Princess Succeeds

To give little princesses everything they've always dreamed of, the Walt Disney Company develops, produces, and licenses the Disney Princess line year-round through consumer products, merchandise, theatrical releases, home videos, television, theme parks, a website, radio air play, and live entertainment.

Disney Consumer Products is the business division of The Walt Disney Company that develops products based on Disney film, TV, and music properties. The division's origins trace back to 1929 when Walt Disney personally licensed the image of Mickey Mouse for use on a children's writing tablet. In 1932, Kay Kamen took charge of what then became Disney Licensing, setting the industry standard. Today, it's the Disney Princess line that produces the brand designed to touch every aspect of girls' lives.

The Broad Reach of the Disney Princess

Some of the highlights on how well the brand works in different areas:

  • Disney Princess films are five of the top six Disney video releases of all time.
  • Disney Princess titles are four of the five top direct-to-video premieres of all time.
  • Disney On Ice presents Princess Classics is on a five-year global tour with an attendance of 2.5 million each year.
  • An estimated 24 million people have seen "Beauty and the Beast" on Broadway.
  • Walt Disney Records' "Disney Princess Collection" achieved platinum status and consistently maintains top 25 status on Billboard's Children's Chart with its three CD releases.
  • Top selling Disney Princess products include: the top licensed Halloween costume assortment for the last three years; the top girl's book; and the top kid's room paint color ("Disney Princess Pink").
  • $2.6 billion in box office revenue worldwide for Disney Princess animated films
  • Disney Princess was nominated as Property of the Year for the Fifth Annual Toy of the Year Industry Awards by the Toy Industry Association, Inc. (TIA).

Each young girl has her favorite princess. In the next section, we'll talk about Snow White.

Snow White

Snow White is one of Disney's most famous creations.
Snow White is one of Disney's most famous creations.
© Disney. All rights reserved.

The Disney Princesses -- Ariel, Belle, Cinderella, Jasmine, Mulan, Pocahontas, Sleeping Beauty, and Snow White -- represent a variety of personalities, traits, talents, ethnicities, and national and cultural backgrounds. But each shares the distinction of staring in her own Walt Disney Pictures animated film featuring the same plot attributes: fairytales, fantasy, romance, royalty, and transformation. This gives them a common background and audience. Their shared character traits -- grace, kindness, loyalty, modesty, inner (and outer) beauty, honesty, fairness -- make them universally appealing and define them as beloved role models.

"Until a character becomes a personality it cannot be believed," said Walt Disney himself, explaining why he devoted so much of his life to the painstaking creation of unique cartoon characters. "Without personality, the character may do funny or interesting things, but unless people are able to identify themselves with the character, its actions will seem unreal. And without personality, a story cannot ring true."

Meet Snow White: Her Story

Snow White's story is one of the most well known. Once upon a time, there lives a lovely little Princess named Snow White, whose wicked stepmother, the Queen, fears that one day Snow White's beauty will surpass her own. The Queen dresses Snow White in rags and forces her to work as a maid. A prince falls in love with her, infuriating the jealous Queen. So that she can be the "fairest in the land," the Queen instructs her huntsman to kill Snow White. He cannot force himself to do it, and he lets Snow White flee.

She takes refuge in the cottage of the Seven Dwarfs, until the wicked Queen discovers she still lives and transforms herself into an ugly hag to murder Snow White with a cursed, poisoned apple. Her plan succeeds, and Snow White "dies," though she can be rescued from death by "true love's first kiss." Surrounded by grieving dwarves and animal friends at her funeral, Snow White is rescued by the prince on his white stallion.

Snow White herself is a technical marvel. The part was played by 18-year-old Marjorie Belcher who mimed the role for film so the animators could draw realistic movement. During the early stages of production for "Snow White," Disney wrote: "The artistic development of the cartoon is remarkable. We make our characters go through emotions which a few years ago would have seemed impossible to secure with a cartoon character. Their facial expressions and actions are worked out very carefully to be certain that they will not be overdone to the point of being silly ... it must all appear natural to be effective. It has been said that some of the action produced in the cartoon of today is more graceful than anything possible for a human to do."

The Original Disney Film

Of all the Disney princesses, Snow White is perhaps the least beautiful princess. Walt Disney preferred that she appear girl-next-door-pretty, innocent, and quite young -- somewhere between 12 and 14 -- with a trace of adolescent plumpness. He also insisted that her voice sound young and rejected such famous actresses of the '30s such as Deanna Durbin in favor of operatic-trained Adriana Caselotti, the daughter of a Hollywood singing teacher. During production, animators had to talk Disney into letting them make Snow White look older so that she wouldn't seem too young to fall in love.

"They didn't want her to look like a princess," said Grim Natwick, one of two animators in charge of drawing Snow White. "They wanted her to look like a cute little girl who could be a princess…sweet and graceful. Nobody had ever done a human character like this. It was new for all of us."

The simple story made history when it was first released on December 21, 1937, and has since become an incomparable screen classic. It was the very first feature length animated film ever made, and Walt Disney did it when everyone else said it was foolish. Drawn completely by hand, it took three years and more than 250,000 pictures made by 750 artists (who actually drew more than two million images in all).

It cost a fortune to make -- $1,480,000 when Disney originally planned to spend just $500,000 -- though no one knew if an audience would even be interested in a full-length cartoon since they were used to cheap shorts. The smash success of "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" upon release was especially sweet. A technical and artistic masterpiece, audiences loved it, and critics called it "the greatest moving picture ever made." The film earned an astonishing $8,000,000, saved the studio from collapse, and mapped out the future for Walt Disney Pictures.

On the next page, we'll look at two of the most popular Disney princesses, Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty.

Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty

Sleeping Beauty is one of the most-loved Disney Princesses.
Sleeping Beauty is one of the most-loved Disney Princesses.
©Disney. All Rights Reserved.

Cheerful, beautiful and sunny, it's no wonder that Cinderella is the most famous and beloved princess of all time. Unlike most other Disney princesses, Cinderella is not born of royal blood -- she marries into her royal role. Sleeping Beauty, on the other hand, is a more typical Disney princess because she comes from a royal line. Here's a look at both of these classic Disney characters:

Meet Cinderella: Her Story

Like all classic fairytales, Walt Disney's "Cinderella" begins once upon a time. A wealthy widower decides to marry Lady Tremaine so his young daughter can enjoy a mother's love. His new wife, however, refuses to share her scant affections with anyone but her own two comical but mean daughters, Anastasia and Drizella. When the widower dies, the cruel stepmother enslaves Cinderella to work as the trio's kitchen maid. Lonely Cinderella carries out her duties honorably and is befriended by some mice and bluebirds, Bruno the dog, and Major the horse, much to the dismay of the spoiled and hostile Lucifer the cat. Cinderella's routine is disrupted when she hears of a royal ball. The King wishes for his son to marry, so orders the grand Duke to gather every eligible female in the land.

The competitive "ugly" stepsisters lock away Cinderella to better their chances to win Prince Charming's hand in marriage. Still hopeful, Cinderella and her animal friends assemble a sweet gown from scraps and one of her mother's old gowns, only to have it shredded to bits by the jealous stepsisters. Dejected, Cinderella is visited by her fairy Godmother who magically makes the dress into a masterpiece, a pumpkin into a beautiful carriage, white mice into horses, and the dog into a footman. But Cinderella is warned: the magical spell ends at midnight.

At the ball, Prince Charming falls in love with Cinderella at first sight, though her identity is concealed. As he is about to propose marriage, the clock strikes midnight and Cinderella flees, losing a glass slipper. The prince finds it and, heartbroken, vows to try it on every foot in the kingdom until he finds the girl who it fits. When Prince Charming and the royal Grand Duke reach Cinderella's house, the cruel stepsisters try to hide her away, but they cannot pull off the charade. Cinderella appears, reveals the matching slipper, and wins his heart.

The Original Disney Film

Walt Disney's animated feature film "Cinderella" debuted on February 15, 1950, and audiences responded with a tremendous Valentine's gift: their kiss of approval. After a string of animated films that failed to earn back their costs -- notably "Pinocchio" and "Dumbo" -- it became one of Disney's all-time greats, reaffirming the studio's reputation for exceptional filmmaking, and again rescuing the studio from financial ruin. In its original release, "Cinderella" earned even more at the box office than "Snow White," though it was never given the same critical respect.

In the Disney film, the highly sympathetic Cinderella is endlessly kind, patient, hard-working, and unassuming -- no matter how cruelly she is treated by her exaggerated, cartoonish foes. Unlike Disney's passive, naive Snow White, Disney's Cinderella is a princess who decides to take charge and change her life for the better, rather than just wait for things to happen that might solve her problem. Her savior -- Prince Charming -- is little more than an anonymous character or prop, a symbol of love, happiness, and wealth. For comic relief, Disney invented several sidekick characters, including animal friends.

"To some stories a film version can give wider scope and even add characters without damage to the original," Disney said at the time. Regarding Cinderella herself, Disney said, "I see her not as goofy or stupid, but rather as having a wonderful sense of humor…She has to be real and she has to be someone that you can feel sympathy for."

Meet Sleeping Beauty: Her Story

Sleeping Beauty's "real" name is Aurora, named by her overjoyed royal parents for her hair, the color of sunrise. Her father, King Hubert, promises that she will one day wed Prince Phillip, the son of a neighboring king, to unite the two kingdoms.

Three good fairies are invited to Aurora's birth celebration, but not the evil Maleficent, who gets even by cursing the baby princess to die before her 16th birthday by pricking her finger on a spinning-wheel spindle. To save her life, the good fairies hide her away and raise her secretly under the name Briar Rose in a wooded cottage. Not knowing her royal heritage, Briar grows up safe and sound but lonely for company. When a handsome prince, who happens to be Prince Phillip, rides through Briar's woods one day, they fall in love and plan to meet again that evening.

Unfortunately for Sleeping Beauty, it is the night of her 16th birthday when the fairies are instructed to return her to her royal life at the castle where she will be crowned princess. She is hidden away, but the still-vengeful Maleficent lures her up a winding staircase to a room housing the kingdom's only spinning wheel. She pricks her finger and falls into a deep sleep, thanks to a good fairy's protective spell. Only the prince's kiss of true love will awaken her and assure they live happily ever after.

The Original Disney Film

Does the plot sound familiar? Walt Disney chose to make "Sleeping Beauty" because its plot was nearly identical "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs," a film that was so successful it saved the studio. After World War II-time films like "Pinocchio," "Dumbo," and even "Bambi" lost money, Disney needed another hit very badly.

Walt Disney Studios released the animated feature film "Sleeping Beauty" on January 29, 1959. It took nearly ten years and $6 million dollars to make: more than any other animated cartoon that preceded it. Although Disney didn't realize it at the time, it would be the last of the great fairytales ever produced by the studio, mainly because it performed rather poorly, earning bad reviews and less than $8 million in its first release. Today it is considered one of the finest films ever produced by Disney, and the film's royal star, Princess Aurora (aka Briar Rose, performed by Mary Costa) reigns as one of Disney's most popular female characters of all time.

"'Sleeping Beauty' is a milestone of a certain type of film that we never did again," said Marc Davis, one of the film's directors and principle animators. "We did a lot more design with the characters than we had ever done before. Sleeping Beauty herself was designed in a two-dimensional way." She was made even prettier and more mature than Cinderella to make the film Disney's most romantic to date.

Now let's consider the princesses Ariel and Belle. They're examined in the next section.

Ariel and Belle

Ariel, the Little Mermaid, is a more recent Disney creation.
Ariel, the Little Mermaid, is a more recent Disney creation.
© Disney. All rights reserved.

In the late 1980s and early '90s, Disney reinvented the princess-themed movie with two smash hits, "The Little Mermaid" and "Beauty and the Beast." Both main characters -- Ariel from "The Litttle Mermaid" and Belle from "Beauty and the Beast" -- embodied the new Disney ideal: princesses who were smart, fiesty, and beautiful.

Meet Ariel: Her Story

Ariel -- the red-haired, fun-loving mermaid and youngest teen daughter of King Triton -- is enchanted by all things human. Disregarding her father's order to stay away from the human world, she swims to the surface and, in a raging storm, rescues Eric, the prince of her dreams. Determined to become human and live happily ever after with her prince, she strikes a bargain with her father's enemy, Ursula, the sea witch, and trades her beautiful voice for legs. To regain her voice, Ariel must win the prince's love and save her father's kingdom in only three days.

The direct-to-video sequel, "The Little Mermaid II: The Return to the Sea," is set several years later, when Ariel and Prince Eric are happily married with a daughter Melody. To protect Melody from Morgana, another evil sea witch, they have kept her mermaid heritage a secret. Melody is curious, like her mother, so happily explores the sea. She becomes a pawn in Morgana's power play to steal control of the ocean from King Triton, but all things work out in the end.

Ariel recently joined the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation as the Ocean Ecology Spokes"person."

The Original Disney Film

Walt Disney Pictures' 28th animated feature, "The Little Mermaid," debuted in 1989 and won two Academy Awards -- for Best Score and Best Song (for "Under the Sea"). Surprisingly, it represented the Disney animation team's first adaptation of a fairy tale since "Sleeping Beauty," thirty years prior.

At the time of its initial release, critics hailed "The Little Mermaid" as one of Disney's most entertaining animated features and placed it in the same league as many of the studio's all-time classics. Moviegoers turned out in record numbers, making it the most successful animated film up to that time. The film's universal appeal and box-office success helped to launch a renewed interest in the art of animation and marked the beginning of a new era of productivity and creativity at Disney Feature Animation.

Meet Belle: Her Story

Belle, whose name means beauty in French, comes to the palace of the Beast to save her father Maurice, a poor inventor who accidentally stumbled upon the Beast's lair. The angry Beast instantly swears to kill him, until Belle arrives and begs for his safety. The Beast agrees not to harm Maurice on one condition: Belle must stay with him. And so begins Belle's lesson in the true meaning of beauty -- a lesson that will bring her love and happiness ever after.

Unlike most other Disney princesses, Belle is not born of royal blood -- she marries into royalty. But like all Disney princesses, Belle is beautiful, graceful, loyal, and kind. Like Ariel, Belle breaks Disney's passive-princess mold. She is smart (always has her nose in a book), opinionated (she's downright sharp-tongued), and makes her own judgments (she has no patience for Gaston's shallow vanity and looks beyond the Beast's frightening appearance). Her brown hair and eyes make her one of the most physically identifiable princesses, and her willful stubbornness makes her one of the most real.

The Original Disney Film

"Once upon a time, in a faraway land, a young prince lived in a shining castle. Although he had everything his heart desired, the prince was spoiled, selfish, and unkind…" And so Walt Disney Pictures' 38th animated feature film begins, clearly telling audiences that this is the Beast's story, not that of the enchanting female protagonist. Released November 22, 1991, it is surprisingly only the fifth animated Disney film based on a fairy tale, though Disney first adapted the story forty years earlier. When they couldn't figure out a way to develop the second half, it sat on a shelf until Kirk Wise and Gary Trousdale decided it was worth another try.

Screenwriter Linda Woolverton and composer Howard Ashman discovered that the enchanted objects were the key. Ashman came up with characters for the candlestick, teapot and other objects, wrote wonderful songs for them, and gave the film version the shape it needed. Disney filmmakers also reinvented Belle as a more likeable, less passive heroine.

"We felt we needed to energize the story," said producer Don Hahn, "and so we made our heroine move things forward by valiantly going to the castle on her own to fight for her father's release."

In the next section, you'll meet Jasmine, Pocahontas, and Mulan. While these ladies aren't traditional royalty, Disney considers them part of the princess club.

Jasmine, Pocahontas and Mulan

Jasmine is a modern Disney princess.
Jasmine is a modern Disney princess.
©Disney. All Rights Reserved.

Jasmine, Pocahontas, and Mulan are different from the other Disney princesses because they're not European royalty. Jasmine, from "Aladdin," is a sultan's daughter; Pocahontas is the daughter of a Native American chief; and Mulan is originally from Chinese mythology.

Jasmine: Her Story

Jasmine is a glorious, fiercely independent, sharp-tongued princess, but she's also just a supporting player in the 1992 Walt Disney Pictures film "Aladdin." The star is, naturally enough, Aladdin, a wily street-urchin who lives in the large and busy Arabian town of Agrabah long ago with his faithful monkey pal Abu.

When Princess Jasmine gets bored remaining in seclusion in the luxurious palace that overlooks the city, she sneaks out to the marketplace, where she accidentally meets Aladdin. Under the orders of the evil Jafar (the sultan's advisor), Aladdin is thrown in jail and becomes caught up in Jafar's plot to rule the land with the aid of a mysterious lamp. Legend has it that only a person who is a "diamond in the rough" can retrieve the lamp from the Cave of Wonders. When Jafar realizes that Aladdin fits that description, he tries to blackmail him in a plot to marry Jasmine in order to steal the sultan's power.

With double identities and magical wishes confusing everything, Aladdin rises above his moniker as an untrustworthy street rat and finds a way to win Jasmine's hand in marriage to show everyone that he is a prince at heart.

The Original Disney Film

Released November 11, 1992, "Aladdin" was Disney's 31st animated movie and was the year's top box-office hit, earning over $500 million. Its memorable music won two Oscars, for Best Song ("A Whole New World") and Best Score (by Alan Menken).

"Aladdin" is supposedly based on the traditional story from "A Thousand and One Nights," but this is not really the case. It is an original story that owes more of its plot to classic black-and-white Hollywood films like "The Thief of Baghdad," starring Douglas Fairbanks, than the French rendition written about Arabia in the 1700s from a European point of view. The Disney team added a liberal dose of fantasy and surrealism to the basic idea to give the film its stunning visual beauty.

When it was first released, Islamic groups were offended by some of the film's song lyrics that vilified the character Jafar in stereotypically racist ways, causing Disney to wisely and sensitively make changes for later releases. Two direct-to-video movies followed -- "The Return of Jafar" (1994) and "Aladdin & the King of Thieves" (1996) -- and a cartoon TV series.

Pocahontas: Her Story

Unlike any of the Disney princesses before her, Pocahontas is a historical figure not associated with European royalty and so is considered an "honorary" Disney Princess due to her reputation as a heroine and role model. Her fabled life as a noble and brave Native American girl, has largely been fictionalized in various legends, and again her story was altered for the making of the 1995 Walt Disney film "Pocahontas."

In it, Capt. John Smith leads a ship of English soldiers to the New World to plunder gold for English Governor Ratcliffe. Meanwhile, the "New World" native Chief Powhatan has pledged his daughter, Pocahontas, to be married to the village's greatest warrior, much to the disapproval of smart, independent Pocahontas.

A vision of a spinning arrow foretells Pocahontas that change is coming, and it does as soon as the English ship lands near her village. Between Ratcliffe (who believes the "savages" are hiding the gold he lusts for) and Powhatan, who believes these pale newcomers will destroy their land, Smith and Pocahontas have a difficult time preventing all-out war, and saving their love for each other.

The Original Disney Film

"Pocahontas" is Disney's 33rd animated film, and one of the most emotionally moving Disney films of all time. It was very carefully developed with sensitivity to Native American history and culture. It goes even further by delivering anti-racist messages, making this a landmark animated film.

As Disney's first film based on fact, it is a movie that doesn't just entertain -- it has something important to say. The studio wanted a someone with cultural authority to say it, so the voice of Pocahontas was performed by Irene Bedard, a Native American. Broadway singer Judy Kuhn provided Pocahontas' singing voice. Trivia fans will note that "Pocahontas" features the first-ever on-screen death of a protagonist -- the brave Powhatan warrior Kocoum.

While the film received praise for its stunning art, and an Academy Award for the song "Colors of the Wind," it also received considerable criticism for rewriting history for the sake of storytelling. As had become a Disney tradition, the feature film yielded a 1998 direct-to-video sequel, "Pocahontas II: Journey to a New World."

Meet Mulan: Her Story

Like Pocahontas, Mulan is an official member of the Disney Princess club -- but she is, in fact, a multi-cultural heroine, not a true princess. She is a brave Chinese woman based on an ancient Chinese myth that's nearly 2,000 years old. Real or not, the 1998 Disney Pictures film "Mulan" retells the story about a young Chinese maiden who wants to honor her family but seems destined to fail.

She puts herself in harm's way when she learns that her weak father is to be drafted into the army to fight the invading Huns. Knowing that he would never survive the rigors of war in his state, she decides to disguise herself as a man and join in his place. Unknown to her, her ancestors are aware of this, and to prevent it, they order a tiny disgraced dragon, Mushu, to join her and force her to abandon her plan. He agrees, but when he meets Mulan, he learns that she cannot be dissuaded and so decides to help her in the perilous times ahead. In the process, Mulan becomes Disney's most feminist protagonist to date.

The Original Disney Film

Like Mulan, Disney wished to honor Asian cultures by devoting an animated film to an Asian story. Mulan was developed by folktale expert Robert D. San Souci and was released June 5, 1998, outperforming earlier films "The Hunchback of Notre Dame" and "Hercules." It was the first feature made at Walt Disney Feature Animations Florida, Disney's 200,000 square-foot, state-of-the-art animation studio in Orlando.

The artistic approach to the film was based on the Chinese "sing" style of "negative," or empty, spaces balanced by "positive" detail -- almost a "yin and yang" concept. The movie's artistic supervisors spent three weeks in China sketching, photographing, and soaking up the culture. Computer animators used the latest technology to add detail and mimic camera techniques that were previously unavailable in animation -- such as crowd scenes of up to 30,000 people. They used a computer program called "Atilla" to make an incredible sequence featuring 2,000 Huns on horseback. Mulan is portrayed by actress Ming-Na, with her songs performed by Lea Salonga.

If your little princess is driving you nuts requesting to see her favorite Disney Princess scene again, have no fear. We've created a media guide for you in the next section.

A Disney Princess Media Guide

Disney Princess extends into all forms of media. This is from an interactive video.
Disney Princess extends into all forms of media. This is from an interactive video.
© Disney. All rights reserved.

By combining all of the princesses under the single umbrella brand of Disney Princess, Disney has created another media empire for itself. We've gathered the most popular requests in this section. For a full media guide, download the PDF here.

Home Videos

By far the most popular home-video releases starring the Disney princesses are their original feature films, from "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" to "Mulan." The Disney Princess line united all the previously unrelated princesses under one banner that could be used to market all sorts of new media titles and products.

Most Disney Princess home-video titles are produced in-house by the Walt Disney Home Entertainment division, or by independent contractors who, whenever possible, work with existing film footage to create new compilations and montages. As available "in the can" materials have been recycled, producers have had to imaginatively create fresh, novel projects by using simple live action and narration, inexpensively produced animated footage, and bonus multimedia features that include interactive games and printable elements.

All are highly commercial mass-market products designed for a relatively short shelf life to satisfy very young viewers who are hungry for new princess products. Older titles are no longer available, but content from some have been reused to create newer releases. The most popular Disney Princess home video titles -- some available in both DVD and VHS formats -- include:

Disney Princess Stories

  • Running time: approximately 60 minutes.
  • Running time: approximately 64 minutes.
  • Running time: approximately 60 minutes.

Disney Princess Sing-Along Songs

  • Running time: approximately 45 minutes.
  • Running time: approximately 34 minutes.

Disney Princess Party

  • Running time: approximately 60 minutes.
  • Running time: approximately 102 minutes.

Other

  • Running time: approximately 60 minutes.

Not surprisingly, the future of Disney Princess is bright. We'll examine that future in the final section.

The Future of Disney Princess

Disney Princess will continue to refresh traditional stories.
Disney Princess will continue to refresh traditional stories.
© Disney. All rights reserved.

Since Disney Princess is one of the biggest entertainment successes of all time, it's not surprising that Disney is planning many more Disney Princess projects for the years to come. The company supports the Disney Princess brand year-round through consumer products, merchandise, theatrical releases, home videos, television, theme parks, a Web site, radio air play, and live entertainment. Additional kid-friendly electronic products especially made for smaller hands -- such as TVs, wearable VGA cameras, games -- are on the horizon, as is a new emphasis for older 'tween and teen fans.

"Today's kids are growing up with technology, and it is integral to how they play. They want the same functionality that their parents have, not a toy version. But they also want devices that are fun and let them be kids," said Chris Heatherly, vice president of Global Electronics for Disney Consumer Products. "Our electronics line strikes the perfect balance between play and performance, delivering high quality electronics in an undeniably Disney way that kids will love."

In addition to a Disney Princess Enchanted Line in 2007, the princesses' overwhelming popularity has also inspired Disney to gather more of its movie characters into their own supergroups as extensions of Disney Princess. Fairies are first. "Fairy Dust and the Quest for the Egg" is the cornerstone of the new spin-off called Disney Fairies, building upon the enormous popularity of Tinker Bell by introducing 6- to 9-year-old girls to her secret world and a new circle of fairy friends: Prilla, Beck, Rani, and Terrence. Each has a unique talent, personality, and look. Written by Newbery Honor-winning author Gail Carson Levine, the novel spent more than 20 weeks on The New York Times bestseller list and is currently printed in 51 countries and in 33 languages.

To come are additions to the Disney Fairies line of chapter books; small dolls and role-play items; a "Disney Fairies" magazine launch in Europe; and a multicategory product launch scheduled for spring 2007. The computer-graphic animated film "Tinker Bell" will debut in 2007, with actress Brittany Murphy as the voice of Peter Pan's magical pixie. "To be giving Tinker Bell a voice for the first time is such an honor," Murphy said. "Tinker Bell" will be followed by three more fairy films.

In the next few years, Disney will focus on boy toys with the Disney Prince and Disney Pirate lines being developed using the Disney Princess model. For now, though, your children have a world of Disney Princess products to keep them happy.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Vicki Arkoff is entertainment editor for Sweet 16 magazine, and is one of MAD Kids' and MAD Magazine's "usual bunch of idiots." She also writes for Nickelodeon Magazine, Disney Adventures, Tiger Beat, Bop, Sugar (UK), Girlfriend (Australia), and TV Hits (UK, Australia & Germany), and is an authorized biographer and co-writer for such youth-market superstars as Hilary Duff, Jesse McCartney, The Cheetah Girls, Raven-Symone, Emma Roberts, Drake Bell, JoJo, Carrie Underwood, and Kelly Clarkson.