While moviegoers nowadays may be obsessing over the latest comic book movie hitting theaters, there is no question that one of the most successful franchises in history (at least from a consumer’s standpoint) is the Disney Princess franchise. And make no mistake, it is a franchise.
With the release of Disney’s Moana, which sees Moana Waialiki travel the high seas alongside the god Maui to save her people, we thought it was time to run down some facts about Disney Princesses casual moviegoers may not know about.
It’s worth noting that although Frozen‘s Anna and Elsa are not yet official Disney Princesses, it is widely believed that they will one day be inducted into the group, which is why we’ve chosen to include them in this list. However, there is no guarantee of that happening, so don’t expect only Frozen trivia here!
With that in mind, here are 15 Things You Didn’t Know About Disney Princesses.
15. The concept of Disney Princesses
It’s hard to imagine The Walt Disney Company without its Princesses, but the fact is, there was a time in which they were just ordinary characters to the company. Princesses have played an integral part of the company’s history dating back to the ’30s, but it wasn’t until the late ’90s that the company established an actual Princess Line, and it was all thanks to Andy Mooney.
The former Nike executive joined Disney in the ’90s as president (and later chairman) of Disney Consumer Products. One day, after watching a Disney on Ice show, and seeing little girls dressed in princess costumes, Mooney felt concerned that there was a demand they weren’t meeting. “They weren’t even Disney products,” Mooney told the New York Times of the dresses. “They were generic princess products they’d appended to a Halloween costume.”
So the next day, Mooney pitched his idea for a Disney Princess Line (something Roy E. Disney initially objected to) that would encompass all official merchandise, toys, sing-a-longs, and so forth; anything that relates to the designated 11 Disney Princesses. Since its conception in 2000, the Disney Princess Line has become a multi-billion dollar franchise.
14. There was a 30-year gap between Sleeping Beauty and The Little Mermaid
The first princess Disney ever created was Snow White in 1937, with perhaps their most iconic film ever: Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. It was Disney’s first animated feature film, and it wouldn’t be until 1950, with their 12th animated film, that the studio would introduce their next Princess: Cinderella. Then, nine years later, with their 16th animated film, Sleeping Beauty, Disney introduced their third Princess, Aurora, who would become the last Princess created under Walt Disney (who passed away in 1966).
For whatever reason, Disney did not create another Princess until 1989, 30 years after Sleeping Beauty released, with Ariel in The Little Mermaid (the movie credited with launching the Disney Renaissance). Since then, there have been seven new Princesses who’ve been introduced, barring other female characters who’ve not officially been inducted into the Disney Princess franchise. However, there was once an 11-year gap between Mulan and The Princess and the Frog, which then commenced Disney’s Modern Era.
13. Tinker Bell was originally a Disney Princess
Shortly after the franchise’s inception in the early ’00s, Disney announced the official Disney Princess lineup, consisting of nine characters: Snow White, Cinderella, Aurora, Ariel, Belle, Jasmine, Pocahontas, Mulan, and Tinker Bell (in that order, specified by each of their respective movie’s release). This lineup marked the first time the Princesses were marketed together, with the joining of Princesses from Disney’s Classic Era (spanning from 1937 to 1959) and the Disney Renaissance (spanning from 1989 to 2000).
Not five years later, Disney opted to remove Tinker Bell from the official lineup, and instead uses her to launch the Disney Fairies franchise in 2005. Unlike the Disney Princess franchise, the Disney Fairies franchise almost exclusively revolves around Tinker Bell (and the fairies connected to her, of which there are many). Since the franchise is a spin-off of Peter Pan, while we refer to them as Disney Fairies, in their stories, they are known as Neverland fairies.
12. Mulan is the only Disney Princess who isn’t technically a princess
As previously mentioned, Mulan is one of the characters from the Disney Renaissance era to be officially named a Disney Princess, and this is in spite of the fact that she is not technically being a princess. She was not born into royalty, nor did she marry into it. But her spirit, determination, and heroism have allotted her Princess status. It’s worth noting that while she’s not a traditional princess, being the daughter of a chieftain makes Pocahontas Native American royalty, which is what makes Mulan unique in this particular circumstance.
Some people have attempted to contest this point, saying that at the end of the first Mulan film, the Emperor of China bestows upon her the Emperor’s Crest and gifts her Shan Yu’s sword, which would then make her an honorary princess. But that’s not how the system works, and Mulan remains the only Disney Princess who is not actually a Princess, but rather qualifies under the so-called mythology clause.
11. Merida is the only non-Disney character to be a Disney Princess
Pixar is known for taking risks with their animated films, and make no mistake, their 2009 film, Brave, was a risk for them. It was a radical departure from their traditional type of film, making a movie closely resembling a Disney flick.
Brave introduces Pixar’s first and currently only princess, Merida, to the world. Not long after the movie released, Disney officially inducted Merida into their Princess franchise, which makes her unique in several ways. Firstly, she’s the only non-Disney character (yes, we know Pixar is now a Disney studio) to be part of the Princess line. Secondly, she’s the only Princess to have brothers instead of sisters (and step-sisters, in Cinderella’s case). Thirdly, she’s the only Princess not to have a love interest in her film.
Despite being born into royalty, her determination to reject any and all traditional “princess” duties, such as marrying a prince, made her a counter-traditional inspiration for young girls, which more than earns her a place among other the other Disney Princesses.
10. Snow White is the only Disney Princess to have a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame
The Hollywood Walk of Fame — an array of marked stars along Hollywood Boulevard and Vine Street in Hollywood, CA — is one of the most visited tourist attractions in Los Angeles. Having started in the mid-’50s, the Walk of Fame now consists of over 2,500 stars, primarily showcasing movie, television, and music stars. However, there have been a few special cases in which police, athletes, and even corporations have been immortalized in the Walk of Fame.
In 1978, on the 50th anniversary of Mickey Mouse’s birthday, the iconic Disney character became the first animated and fictional character to be inducted into the Walk of Fame. Since then, several other animated characters, such as Snoopy, Shrek, and Bugs Bunny, among others, have been inducted. However, as of now, the only Disney Princess to earn a star on the Walk of Fame is Snow White, who was inducted in 1987 (the same year as her 50th anniversary). This wouldn’t be the case if Tinker Bell was still considered a Disney Princess, for she joined the exclusive club in 2010.
9. The one physical characteristic Linda Woolverton wrote for Belle
Everyone has their favorite Disney Princess, but it’s difficult to rank them all adhering to any one metric. They all have their own unique characteristics — physical and personality-wise — some of which have made the Princesses a little too perfect. Disney has attempted to circumvent that perception in recent years, but the fact is, their Classic Era characters are cloyingly perfect. Beauty and the Beast screenwriter Linda Woolverton made sure that wasn’t the case with Belle.
Woolverton, who also wrote the screenplay for The Lion King and can be credited with launching Disney’s live-action fairy-tale movie trend, wanted to make sure Belle could be relatable to young girls, that she remain imperfect. “The only thing I wrote [to describe Belle physically] was: ‘she has a little wisp of hair that keeps falling in her face.’ Because I wanted her not to be perfect. It was important that not every hair be in place,” Woolverton wrote in 1992.
8. Beauty and the Beast’s reused animation from Sleeping Beauty
If you’ve ever watched a Disney movie and felt that some of the scenes have an all-too-familiar feel, there’s a chance that it’s because you are, essentially, rewatching a an old scene. It’s perhaps one of Disney’s biggest secrets that really aren’t secrets, at least to some of their more devout fans.
Whereas live-action movies can take two years to produce, animated movies can take up to five or more years to get the animation down correctly. So, sometimes, if the animators are running short on time or budget, they will reuse animation from a previous Disney movie and simply alter the characters and colors to fit the new film.
The most egregious example of this occurring is in the final dance scene in Beauty and the Beast. Upon closer examination, one will notice that Belle and the Beast’s dance is lifted straight from Sleeping Beauty, in which Princess Aurora and Prince Phillip are tearing up the dance floor.
7. Disney redesigned all their Princesses in 2012 and 2013
A little over a decade after the Disney Princess franchise launched, Disney redesigned and updated the entire line, including then-recent newcomers Tiana, Rapunzel, and Merida. However, there was a great deal of controversy over the changes, which is why Disney now uses two versions for several characters in the lineup.
Merida is widely regarded for her lack of conformism to traditional princess duties, so when Disney changed her appearance with the redesign in 2013 — trimming her waist, lightening her dress, and adding volume to her hair, among other things — it was met with criticism. Even Brave creator Brenda Chapman considered the update “atrocious,” saying, “When little girls say they like it because it’s more sparkly, that’s all fine and good but, subconsciously, they are soaking in the sexy ‘come-hither’ look and the skinny aspect of the new version. It’s horrible!”
Other characters who received drastic changes were Mulan and Pocahontas, whose skin tones were both lightened. These changes only further cemented the notion that young girls need to have light-colored skin to be princess-worthy. In 2009, Dr. Sharon Hayes and Dr. Stacey Tantleff-Dunn conducted a study to determine correlations between animated characters and the body image of young girls. Shockingly, one of the major things they discovered was not that girls wanted to be skinnier, but that they “needed” to change their skin color.
6. Several high-profile celebrities auditioned for the role of Tiana
It took almost two decades for Disney’s The Princess and the Frog to release in theaters. Famed directing duo Ron Clements and John Musker said in an interview with the LA Times that Disney had been interested in adapting E.D. Baker’s The Frog Prince novel since back when Beauty and the Beast released, but they could never find a version of the movie that satisfied them. In fact, long before Brave, Pixar made several attempts at adapting the novel, but had no success in doing so.
The Princess and the Frog finally released in 2009, and it featured Broadway star Anika Noni Rose voicing Disney’s first African-American princess, Tiana. She did a wonderful job as Tiana, and she even beat out several high-profile celebrities for the role. Actresses, singers, and models like Tyra Banks, Jennifer Hudson, and Alicia Keys all auditioned for the role — some, several times — but never got it. Interestingly, Beyonce coveted the role, and almost had it, but the directors wanted her to audition for it, which she declined. Even the Queen has to jump through hoops for Disney, it seems.
5. The reason for Ariel’s red hair
One of Ariel’s most defining characteristics is her bright, red hair. Choosing that shade her locks would be was something of a major point of contention between the animators and the studio executives at the time. The studio wanted her hair to be blonde, whereas the animators wanted her hair to be red. Thankfully the latter won out in the end. Otherwise, fans would have been deprived of one of the mermaid’s key trademarks.
The animators pushed for the red hair because it contrasted well with Ariel’s blue-green mermaid tail (which was a color specifically made for Ariel, and has since been named after her), whereas blonde didn’t. Plus, they found it easier to animate and darken than a yellowish-blonde.
As it turns out, though, one of the main reasons red hair was chosen for Ariel was to differentiate her from another Disney mermaid that appeared in Touchstone Pictures’ Splash just a few years prior to The Little Mermaid releasing. While we doubt people would have gotten Ariel and Daryl Hannah’s Madison mixed up, it’s understandable that the studio wanted to cover their bases.
4. Snow White is the youngest Princess, and Elsa is the oldest
It may come as a surprise to casual moviegoers that, for over 75 years, each and every Disney Princess has been a teenager, with the oldest among them being 19 years old. That is, until Frozen released in 2013. Again, for the purposes of this list, we’re incorporating Frozen‘s Anna and Elsa as Disney Princesses. However, it has become uncertain if they will ever join the official lineup, considering their immense popularity within their own franchise, and Disney may not want their presence to overshadow the other Princesses.
As it stands, the youngest Disney Princess is Snow White (14 years old) — which makes sense, considering she was the first one to be created — and the oldest is Elsa (21 years old), which also makes sense, considering she is the last to have been created. The rest, sorted by age, are: Jasmine (15), Ariel (16), Aurora (16), Mulan (16), Belle (17), Anna (18), Rapunzel (18), Pocahontas (18), Tiana (19), and Cinderella (19).
3. Anna is the only Princess to have a duet with a villain
In addition to having princesses, Disney movies are known for being world-renowned musicals. Most children in America (and around the world) grew up listening to songs like “Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo,” “Be Our Guest,” “Part of Our World,” and of course, “Let it Go.” All of those songs have been performed by the heroes of the story — either solo or with another hero. However, there is one song in Frozen, “Love is an Open Door,” that is performed by a hero and a villain: Anna and Hans, respectively.
Anna is, therefore, the only Disney Princess to ever have a duet with a villain. In all fairness, though, Anna didn’t know Hans would turn out to be a villain when she sang the duet with him. At the time, she was truly in love with him. After all, husband/wife songwriting duo, Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez, have said the song was inspired by The Karate Kid and was meant to “feel like the perfect first date” — which it probably was, for a time.
2. The unique aspects of Pocahontas
Of all their Princesses, perhaps the most important one (for its time) is Pocahontas. There were numerous unique aspects related to the Pocahontas movie when it released in 1995, of which most remain rare, though are no longer entirely unique.
Firstly, the character Pocahontas is the only Disney Princess to be based on an actual person, not simply inspired by a legend (as is the case with Mulan). Secondly, the movie released the same year that marked the real Pocahontas’ 400th birthday. She’s also the only character to have some form of body art/tattoo — a red tattoo on the upper part of her right bicep. On top of all that, up until the release of Frozen, Pocahontas was the only Disney Princess to have more than one love interest in the same movie.
1. Mulan has the highest kill count of any Disney character
Princesses have played an integral part of Disney’s history, but the company has a much more lengthy filmography that extends to non-princesses. Many of those films have been animated, while others have been in live-action — and some have included major war sequences. With that in mind, it may come as a surprise that the Disney character with the highest kill count, hero or villain, is Mulan, who amassed just under 4,000 kills.
In her first movie, Mulan, after becoming a hardened warrior, manages to fend off an ambush by the Huns by using a cannon to create an avalanche that buries virtually all of the invading forces. The production team animated 2,000 Huns and 2,000 horses for the scene, and since all but six Huns died in the avalanche, Mulan technically killed 3,994 people and horses. Since the heroine does not actually kill Shan-Yu later in the film, his death doesn’t factor into her kill count. Still, she’s clearly not your average Disney Princess.
Do you know of any other obscure facts surrounding the vaunted Disney Princesses? Will the Frozen sisters join the elite club in the coming years, and will the eponymous hero of Moana soon follow? Sound off in the comments.