I love Disney but I never dressed up at any of the Princesses. I don't think I dressed up as any Disney character but I'm pretty sure I identified with Ursula more than Arial. Let me say first, little girls dressing up as Disney princesses is absolutely fine, there is nothing wrong with that. But just like the little girl who dressed up as a hot dog while everyone else in her dance class were princesses, it’s also completely fine to dress up as anything else.
Looking at children’s films, now I understand the frustration that parents have when talking their children to the cinema. There isn’t really much on. So, they rely heavily on the what animations are out there. Adaptations of favourite childhood books are a safe bet but when animations such as The Secret Lives of Pets has only 2 female characters and there are countless male ones – what message does this send to children? Ok, I know they are animals and children aren’t going to care what gender the animals are but it is something to think about.
Disney tried to progress with Frozen, by having the love that broke a spell be between two sisters, which yes is new and different but Ana still had a love interest and sang few sappy songs including a love song. Also the film had some other gaping plot holes such as, where and how did Elsa get her powers? What’s with the trolls? Where did Kristoff’s parents go? The story also has a serious lack of villainy. The ‘so-called’ villain doesn’t make himself known until the film is almost over and his plan is thin at best. But for some reason all these issues were over looked in the name of progress.
The original Snow Queen story would have been better. There was an actual villain to be proud of, complete with great background story and there are siblings in the story, a brother and sister. It is the sister who has to save the day but in order to attract ‘boys’ to see this film, they changed everything when there wasn’t any need. The title just could have been.
The only progressive part of the Frozen tale probably would have been the fact that Elsa could be Disney’s first LGBT character. Her song, Let It Go, has been interpreted as her coming out and being who she wants to be. I think this would be an excellent step for Disney to take, if they do it well. But I can see into the future, the ignorant folks who don’t want LGBT characters on children’s films will speak out in their droves and it will be hideous all over again.
The Frozen hysteria aside, what I don’t understand is that there was progression, before the huge eyed female leads became the norm. Such a negative fuss was made over the beautifully 2D animated, The Princess and The Frog because it didn’t perform as well as it was expected. Disney said that boys didn’t go to see it because it had ‘princess’ in the title. Or parents won’t take their children to see a great film?
With the progression Frozen apparently radiates, has everyone forgot Tiana? She was hardworking, independent, brave and was determined in reaching her goals. Sounds like a strong female character to me. As I recall, she didn’t falter with her dream AND was willing to help others despite her own wishes too. So why isn’t Tiana celebrated like Ana and Elsa?
I could go through each triumphant female character but I think the Frozen frenzy is too strong. That bring me to Moana, the upcoming Disney movie, another heroine with big eyes and big dreams. Moana is the first Polynesian princess and the film is set in ancient Oceana in the South Pacific. But wait stop, there is something that separates Moana from the other Disney delights. While she may be in 3D animation, it has been reported by Disney that she will not have a love interest for which I couldn’t be more delighted. This is progression! With the recent trailers appearing online, Moana looks beautiful (the ocean always does) and having the demi-god, Maui, along, this looks to be the buddy adventure of 2016.
Studio Ghibli were actually the studio making films about and for girls. Looking through the catalogue of all their film, many of the protagonists are either on the cusp of teenage-hood or they are young, sometimes very young, like Ponyo. All delightful stories and some without an ounce of a romantic storyline. Hopefully with Moana, Disney are taking a leaf out of Ghibli's book.
Something is very wrong under the lamp.
After reading Anya Jaremko-Greenwold’s article on The Atlantic’s website, an excellent read by the way, I strongly suggest this, it’s heart-breaking to realise just how neglected young girls are when it comes to films and protagonists. The films that Anya Jaremko-Greenwold mentions are films such as Matilda, A Little Princess, The Secret Garden are all films I watched when I was young and you just don’t see films like this anymore. Young girls, pre-teens are presented with films featuring older leads, male or cartoons and the more I think about it, the more I worry.