There are 8 Princesses united under the “Disney Princess” banner: Snow White, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Ariel, Belle, Jasmine, Pocahontas, and Mulan… but why? Pocahontas is not technically royalty, though one might argue she is the equivalent among Native Americans as the chief’s daughter. Mulan, however, is not a princess though she ends up with a general at the conclusion of the movie.
Other legitimately royal Disney females (either by marriage or birth) are excluded from the line-up: Maid Marian (Robin Hood), Faline (Bambi), Nala (The Lion King), Princess Atta (A Bug’s Life), and Princess Kida (Atlantis). Okay, so Maid Marian, Faline, Atta, and Nala are all animals, but they’re still royalty! And I bet you didn’t even know who Princess Atta and Princess Kida were… maybe a certain amount of clout and popularity is required for inclusion under the Princess banner.
And since actual princess status is not a requirement for the post (Pocahontas/Mulan), why were other “princess-esque” characters excluded? Megara ends up with Hercules, the Prince of the gods, which should give her enough pomp to make the ranks. The argument that she isn’t central enough to the film won’t fly because of Jasmine, supporting actress to Aladdin’s lead. Esmerelda (from The Hunchback of Notre Dame) ends up with an army captain, similar to Mulan and her general. Jane ends up with the King of the Jungle in Tarzan and Alice could be considered the Princess of Wonderland. Lady (of Lady & the Tramp) and Tinkerbell (of Peter Pan) are definitely royal snobs.
Though these ladies are denied the title “Princess,” they are sometimes granted “Guest Princess” status. On Disney Princess Sing Along CDs, songs by Maid Marian, Nala, Meg, Esmerelda, and Alice have been included.
Now we get to the question of why some princesses get to be “Princesses” and some non-princesses get to be “Princesses,” while some princesses and non-princesses do not get to be “Princesses.” Disney Consumer Products explains that “The characters were not chosen specifically for their royal titles, but rather for how well they fit into what Disney executives deemed “the Princess mythology”.” We can determine what “the Princess mythology” entails by looking at the things all of the Disney Princesses have in common. By doing this we can tell that being a Princess includes being human, but being able to communicate with animals, being beautiful and having a beautiful singing voice, and having a love interest. And if you’re not a victim of misfortune (Snow White, Cinderella, Aurora) you better have a personality and seek an adventure (Ariel, Belle, Jasmine, Pocahontas, Mulan).
I would argue that another part of the mythology is exclusion. Even within the ranks of official Disney Princesses, there is an established history of leaving people out. Disney talks about it using the euphemism “merchandising changes” but what it really means is all Princesses are not made equal. When it was just six Princesses, Ariel and Jasmine were often left off of merchandise or didn’t get statues in Disneyland because they were the only two who didn’t wear dresses. With the addition of Pocahontas and Mulan to the ranks, they have become the excluded ones. Pocahontas doesn’t even get to be in the Princess Wishes Disney on Ice Show, even though she sings in the original Disney Princess song “If You Can Dream.” The words are changed for the show from “The colors of the wind will lead my heart right back to you” to “The music of romance will lead my heart right back to you.” Why couldn’t they just have included Pocahontas in the show instead of rewording the song?
Another princess is in line to become the 9th Disney Princess and we’ll have to wait and see whether she will be the next victim of exclusion within the elite Princess clan. Princess Tiana from the upcoming film, The Princess and the Frog will be Disney’s first black Princess. Controversy has thrived even though the movie is not due to be released until 2009. The name of the film was changed from The Frog Princess to The Princess and the Frog, Princess Tiana was originally Princess Maddy, and she will no longer be referred to as a chamber maid. Let’s hope that all this sensitivity and damage control will save her from the typical Princess-style exclusion.
I expect that Rapunzel from the upcoming Disney film will not be added to the ranks. She has all the makings of the Princess mythology: human, animals, beauty, voice, love, but with one huge drawback: she’s CGI. Sorry, Rapunzel, only 2D animated characters allowed.
For an interesting look at another CGI princess, though not of the Disney franchise, check out Princess Fiona.