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Worst to First: Ranking the Disney Princesses

In celebration of the release of Disney’s live-action version of Cinderella, I’m ranking the Disney princesses from worst to first!

pocahontas

12. Pocahontas

It’s not that there is anything inherently wrong with Pocahontas.  But we’re ranking princesses here.  And as princesses go, Pocahontas isn’t one.  Despite her role in history, she was never in any way royalty which is kind of an important factor in being a princess.  Disney uses the word “princess” loosely especially where marketing is concerned.  Since Pocahontas sometimes gets included in Disney’s princess merchandise, she makes the cut here.  But since merchandise is really the only thing that qualifies her, I’m putting her at the bottom of the list.  It doesn’t help that she starred in the movie that signaled the end of Disney’s Little Mermaid – Lion King Golden Age.

aurora

11. Aurora (Sleeping Beauty)

Try to name one positive about Aurora that doesn’t involve her beauty.  Aside from “nice” try to name one character trait.  You can spend more time describing her pink and blue dresses than you can describing the princess herself.  The most complicated thing about Aurora is her name.  Is she Sleeping Beauty, Briar Rose or Aurora?  I don’t really care.  She’s the blonde chick who sleeps through the third act of the movie.  And she’s completely over-shadowed by Maleficent.  Never has a movie made such a compelling case for being evil.

When Sleeping Beauty was released in 1959, it was the most expensive movie Walt Disney had ever produced.  The cost of over $6 million dollars was more than twice as expensive as the three previous Disney animated features.  Unfortunately, it failed to recoup it’s budget which nearly bankrupted the company!  As a result, there were massive lay-offs in the animation department.

Eventually, through rereleases and merchandise, Sleeping Beauty went on to become profitable.  But it was a rare miss for Disney in the princess genre.

merida

10. Merida

I would like to give Merida credit for being an independent protagonist.  Unlike a lot of the princesses on this list, she doesn’t spend the movie pining over her prince.  In fact, she refuses to marry any of her three potential suitors.  She’s a rare tomboy among the princesses.  She’d rather ride her horse and shoot her bow than wear a tiara and sing to birdies.  Those are good traits which are in short supply among the Disney princess set.

But Merida is also reckless, selfish and stupid.  Her refusal to pick a husband threatens to plunge her kingdom into war.  But Merida doesn’t care that her actions have consequences.  When she gets into an argument with her mother over her responsibilities, she ends up making a deal with a witch.  It’s not the first bad deal a Disney princess has struck with a witch.  But it is arguably the most stupid.

We’ll get to Ariel and her ridiculously bad deal with Ursula in a little bit.  But what sets Merida’s deal apart is that she wasn’t being taken advantage of.  She’s just vague.  She asks to have her mother change, but she’s never specific about what changes she would like to see.  There’s bear imagery all over the place.  The witch even tells the vague details of the last person she changed… into a bear.  But Merida doesn’t bother to ask the simple question “So what does this do exactly?” before feeding a magic cake to her mother.

Her mother is transformed into a bear and very nearly looses herself to her animal instincts.  But the careless princess also leaves the enchanted sweets out where her three younger brothers can get them.  Before you know it, she has turned 80% of her relatives into bears.

snow white

9. Snow White

Snow White was the first Disney princess.  In fact, Snow White was the first animated feature period.  I am giving Snow some extra credit for her place in history.  Because just about everything else I say about her will be negative.  She set the mold for princesses who dream of being swept away by her prince – a prince so nondescript Disney never gave him a name.  He’s not even Prince Charming.  He’s just The Prince.

Snow White flees the castle to avoid being killed by the jealous queen.  The reason for the queen’s murderous rage is that Snow White is the fairest in the land.  The gender politics of Snow White are scary even before Snow spends the middle act cleaning up after seven little men.  Then she accepts a poison apple from a strange old lady, despite the fact that she is in hiding and should be afraid for her life.  The apple puts her into one of those princess comas that can only end with the kiss of a handsome and wholesome male.

And then there’s the voice!  Good lord, Snow White’s voice is like nails on a chalkboard.  However, I am going to give Snow White a few points back for not looking like a Barbie doll.  In 1937, her figure was more realistic than most of the animated heroines of the 21st century.

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Posted on March 14, 2015, in Movies, Top Ten, Worst to First and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 57 Comments.

  1. I would also give Snow White a few points for being in the time period when Disney scores were original orchestral classics. Some great stuff on that soundtrack.

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    • I think the majority of Disney’s princess movies have really strong soundtracks with catchy and iconic songs. I don’t think the soundtracks to Brave or The Princess and the Frog are quite as universal as the others. But most of these princesses have at least one if not several songs that everyone can sing along to.

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      • Why PatF isn’t, I have no idea. “Almost There”, “Down in New Orleans”, “Gonna Take You There”, “Dig A Little Deeper”… It’s good, solid stuff. I listen to those tunes frequently. I love listening to the audio from the Showboat Jubliee (which was also great). And it’s all Randy Newman! I’m not a big fan of his myself but I think usually his involvement would hold a bit more weight with people.

        I think that movie is MUCH better than people give it credit for. I think time will be kind to it.

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        • I do like “Almost There” and “Down in New Orleans” quite a bit and think they both belong in the Disney song book alongside some others which are considered second-level classics like “When I see an Elephant Fly” or “Following the Leader” or “Thomas O’Malley.” Tiana is a wonderful lead, too.

          The film overall leaves a little to be desired, though. I don’t think much of Naveen or Tiana’s spoiled-stupid best friend. If I were to add up PatF on paper, it would seem really good, but somehow for me it ends up being less than the sum of its parts.

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        • There’s some catchy tunes. But I think they may be overly complex for some. I know a lot of people who just don’t like that jazzy style of music and as a result didn’t like the soundtrack at all.

          “Less than the sum of its parts” is a perfect way to put it. And Charlotte definitely got too much screen time and was too pivotal to the plot. Although I disagree about Naveen. He cracked me up.

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        • I think PatF has already slipped from audience’s collective memory. Tiana lives on as part of the Princess line. But I think history has already judged PatF and found it wanting. I understand the notion that it is under-rated. It’s not a bad movie. But it has flaws that prevent it from being more than “good”. Even “good” requires a receptive audience willing to overlook so pretty big problems. Overall, the movie just feels uneven and over-stuffed. Lose a supporting character or two (please god let it be Ray the firefly – the worst Disney sidekick since the Gargoyles from Hunchback) and maybe a plot line (what was the deal with Charlotte being a princess because her dad was king of the parade again? bleh!) and I think there’s a great movie buried beneath. Dr. Facilier was a great villain. Tiana’s a terrfic heroine. The DNA is there. But to use the movie’s cooking theme, there’s too many unnecessary ingredients. I think Disney tried too hard and the desperation shows.

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  2. Your rankings are all very reasonable and well thought out.

    I’m glad to see where you put Cinderella. I am constantly surprised by how much some people love her and her movie. She certainly is likable, but she’s so much less interesting than she could be and her movie is pretty mediocre, with one of the weaker sets of songs on the soundtrack. She doesn’t even sing the best song in the movie.

    I join you in your weak spot for Belle. Despite the issues we’ve discussed, there’s just something about her that really appeals to me. She has the Beast reading Shakespeare, for one thing (in the extended version of the film). Her songs sure are a lot better than Cinderella’s.

    Aurora is pretty shallowly written and much is made about her status as having fewer lines of dialogue than any other Disney princess. Her design was very good, though, as no other princess exudes the elegance she does, not just in her looks, but her overall characterization and how she carries herself. She also sings one of the most beautiful songs in Disney’s catalog (based on Tchiakovsy’s Sleeping Beauty ballet melody) “Once Upon a Dream.” I will not argue for her to be ranked much higher, but these qualities do go in her favor. A trashy looking costume for her “friends” in the parks do her no favors. They have made small improvements recently.

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    • I was surprised to find I ranked Belle #1. I actually set out to rank her high but not in the top spot. But then I came down to my top 3 and realized I couldn’t rank anyone left higher than Belle. So she took the top spot.

      I ranked the classic princesses comparatively low. I suspect a lot of people would rank Snow White, Cinderella and Aurora higher based on nostalgia and their place in Disney and pop culture history. I can’t argue against that. I considered those factors but didn’t weight them as heavily as some other people might. I agree that Cinderella is a pretty weak movie despite its popularity. In order to achieve a feature runtime, the movie had to incorporate an extended Tom and Jerry cartoon.

      Sleeping Beauty is one of those movies that appeals more to animators than anyone else. With fans of classical music coming in second. The movie is undeniably beautiful. The extra money that Disney spent on it shows on the screen. Visually, it’s a treat. It’s failure caused Disney to scale back the budget on future movies and they look cheap by comparison. It’s just a shame that artistry is largely wasted on a lackluster story. Maybe if there had been an evil cat chasing cute talking mice…

      I have to admit, I’ve never really had a strong opinion on the princess costumes at the parks. Which is funny because I’m willing to wager I have spent much more time around those friends than you have. One of the things that surprises me continually is the difference between how these costumes look in person under the lighting in the meet and greets and how they look in pictures when you get home. There have been princesses that I found radiant while we were interacting with them and then I look at the pictures and wonder what the hell happened.

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      • “There have been princesses that I found radiant while we were interacting with them and then I look at the pictures and wonder what the hell happened.”

        Does your camera have a “rear synch” or “slow synch” mode? If so, try using it for your indoor flash shots. Your photos will come out more evenly lit and be much more flattering to your “princess” subjects. 🙂

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        • Thanks for the tip. Some of these pics are taken by Disney photographers who you would think would know better. But then from what I understand they receive no training whatsoever. I will definitely experiment with my settings in anticipation of this summer’s cruise.

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      • Oops, I meant “sync.” 🙂

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  3. Love this article! I was just discussing the princesses with my teen daughter yesterday, and Belle is also my number one. My daughter just saw the Cinderella live action movie (she has a bit of a Frozen addiction going on) and from her point of view, it’s pretty bland and annoying (sexist). I have to wonder who’s in charge of making decisions at Disney and why they’re so tone deaf. You said they didn’t think Frozen would be a hit, and then they made this throwback Cinderella movie. Do they not understand that things have changed and girls are no longer content to sit around and wait for a prince to rescue them? It’s really making me lose a lot of respect for them as a company.

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    • As a company, they’re the same as any other corporation. Everything that used to make the Walt Disney Co different was stripped away a long time ago. All that’s left is the company’s history and intellectual property that people still feel emotionally attached to. But the company is run by finance guys without a creative impulse. Yes, they can be truly clueless sometimes. They really did not think Frozen would be a success. And when it was, they were completely unprepared to capitalize on it. They chase whatever is popular instead of blazing trails. Now that Frozen is a hit, Disney’s going Frozen crazy which they will do until everyone is completely sick of Frozen.

      I haven’t seen the new Cinderella, but from what I have read it does very little to update the original. Which is kind of surprising. Maleficent was a flawed movie but at least it updated things a little.

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  4. “And she’s completely over-shadowed by Maleficent. Never has a movie made such a compelling case for being evil.”
    Preach it! Maleficent was the only reason I ever watched Sleeping Beauty, even as a child. Granted, I always have preferred villains to the hero/heroine, but still. Aurora was just so boring.

    You also summed up a lot of my problems with Ariel. I remember liking The Little Mermaid when I was a kid. Then I had to re-watch it because I was in charge of a kids’ summer movie program at a library where I worked. I showed The Little Mermaid, which was the first time I had seen it in about 15 years, and I was horrified by Ariel’s poor decision-making.

    I thought Mulan, which I also showed that summer, held up a lot better. She was my favorite as a child, and she still is. Too bad she’s not really royalty.

    I barely remember The Beauty and The Beast, which I haven’t seen it in about 20 years. I know I liked it as a child. I should go back and watch it.

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    • I won’t say Mulan is one of my favorite Disney movies, but it’s definitely under-rated if you ask me. It has a lot going for it. But for some reason, even Disney fans forget about it.

      Definitely revisit Beauty and the Beast. There’s some details that don’t add up. But unless you are looking for them, they won’t bother you. Basically in the song Be Our Guest there is a line that they have been rusting for 10 years. Since the Beast must break the curse by his 21st birthday, that means he was about to turn 11 when he was cursed. Which opens a whole can of worms like “What was a 10-year-old doing in the castle by himself?” We had some fun laughing at these kinds of thing. But they are easily set aside to enjoy the fairy tale qualities of the movie and the beautiful music.

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      • I spend so much time looking at these movies through a critical lens that I’m forging new neural pathways trying to think of a favorite. Bit of an exaggeration there, but honestly (sadly?) not too far off from the truth.

        Boy, this is a really hard decision. Right off the bat I’d say Mulan–she is brave, strong-willed and still extremely relatable. Music is great, movie is fun to watch, etc. BUT as you said, she loses points for not being a “true” Princess. It’s not enough to put her behind a ninny like Cinderella but may be enough to knock her out of first, for me.

        So I guess that leaves me with Jasmine! She was my favorite growing up. I even had her costume as a kid… I bet people would have a fit if they sold that skimpy thing I had today. As a kid, I loved her because she had a cool outfit, the best prince, and a freaking TIGER. Keep your stupid fish, Ariel. A TIGER.

        She really comes off a lot more mature than Aladdin, doesn’t she? I think that’s why Aladdin was so attractive to me as a kid. He wasn’t some stuffy MAN prince… he’s a street rat with a monkey and the voice of a teen.

        But like Mulan, she’s in an undesirable situation but shows a lot of agency (unlike a certain aforementioned ninny) and strength. She’s not some contestant on the Bachelor… she is the goddamn Bachelorette! She even uses her sexuality to her advantage with Jafar. Also props for having a story despite not being the star of the show. She’s pretty awesome. So Jasmine it is!

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        • I didn’t mean to make that a reply to that comment… Sigh. Oh well.

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        • I obviously ranked Jasmine pretty high. Which surprised me. She was never a character I considered to be a favorite. But since I have daughters, I have rethought Jasmine. I have come to appreciate that she really was one of the stronger heroines in the Disney princess pantheon. Especially back in the day. I have also read that pre-Tiana she was the princess most ethnicities related to. So that’s kind of bonus. What keeps her out of the top spot for me is her lack of screentime. But she’s a great character no doubt.

          Mulan too. I could have ranked her higher. And she’s one of the only two animated princesses I even considered for our Movie Heroines Bracket Game. If she had actually been a princess, Mulan would be in my top 3 easy.

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  5. Well, this is just my opinion, and alot of you don’t agree with me, but, my top 3 are Snow White, Cinderella, and my top favorite is Sleeping Beauty. Always has been. Just can’t help but love those 3 pretty colorful little faeries who teach Briar Rose how to grow-up. And Cinderella has the cute little mice and a bouncy little song in there. So those are my picks.

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    • I favor the more recent princesses where there was an effort made to make them less passive. But that is a matter of personal taste. As I said before, I can’t really argue against someone who prefers the classic princesses. Although the one comment I will make is that in defending Aurora and Cinderella you extolled the virtues of their sidekicks rather than talking about the princesses themselves.

      Also, I should say, we’re really talking about very small differences here. I like all of the Disney princesses. Picking one over the other is kind of a silly exercise. They have more in common than they have differences. On another day in a different mood, my list could look very different.

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  6. jeffthewildman

    I’m reminded of something one of my HS friends once said: Cinderella was a wimp. If she’d used her brains she wouldn’t have needed her fairy godmother.

    Agreed with Belle as the top choice. Jasmine was a good choice for the second spot. I once got nicknamed Aladdin by a friend because I was in love with a Jasmine.

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  7. There are modern day Cinderellas everywhere, as decent people are usually no match for evil schemers. Brains have nothing to do with it and intelligence doesn’t help. The difference between the fairy tale and real life is there are no Prince Charmings and no Fairy Godmothers. Here’s a modern Cinderella story someone told me once… many years ago, there was a young office worker. Hardworking and dedicated, this Cinderella was well liked among the staff and eventually promoted into a supervisor position. Her boss was supportive and gave her more and more responsibility. She loved coming to work every day. Her boss was eventually promoted and as the company expanded, a new boss was installed and brought with him, two other female supervisors. They were selfish, jealous and insecure. Employees found them to be uncaring, agenda driven and manipulative. But the new boss loved them. They were given spacious offices with nice furniture, windows, and near the private restroom, and otherwise conveniently located. Cinderella soon found herself in a windowless room in a remote area of the building. She was given an old steel desk and one extra chair for visitors. A faulty HVAC system spewed black particles on the walls daily, and half of the office was designated for stock storage, which was stored behind a ceiling to floor chain link divider. One day one of the senior employees stopped by Cinderella’s office to say hello, and for the first time, Cinderella realized how her situation appeared to others. “They really do have you locked away up here like Cinderella,” the visitor commented. “Your coworkers are actually the evil stepsisters… and your boss is no Prince Charming!”

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  8. I have to say that Pocahontas counts as a real princess, as she was the daughter of the chieftain of her tribe. But yeah, she is not my favorite either, even though I don’t dislike her. But she is maybe too perfect and awesome, so she becomnes a bit boring in the end.

    Yeah, poor Aurora. I know that she can’t help that she was cursed, so she was supposed to be asleep for the climax. But except for her beauty and (probably) being a nice person, what is there to say about her?

    As I haven’t seen “Brave” yet, I’m not going to say much about Merida. But I do like that she is the most tomboyish princess in the line-up, and she hardly is the only one to make a stupid mistake.

    My feelings about Snow White are mixed, so one part of me agrees with your negative opinion. But on the other hand, another part of me has to admire her. She is no more than fourteen years old, and still, she is capable of being a housekeeper for seven people!

    I will agree with you that Ariel is a bit reckless and immature (but again, she is no more than sixteen years old). And yes, making that deal with Ursula could have ended really badly. But she also saves Eric’s life twice and is the first more active Disney princess.

    Yeah, Mulan seems to be shoe-horned in. She is not a princess in any way, and I can’t understand why she is in the line-up, when real Disney princesses like Megara and Kida aren’t. But I do like her very much, just like you do, so I won’t complain any more here…

    I have to say that Cinderella IS more complex than Snow White and Aurora. She is the only one of “the classic three” to show any kind of spunk. And if she needed a man to get away from her stepmother, you have to remember that marriage was the only option for many girls back in the day…

    Anna wanting to marry a guy, whom she only just had met, is actually seen as a bad thing. So I guess that she’s supposed to be a “take that” at the previous princesses and their fast romances (even if Disney hadn’t really written such a story since “Sleeping Beauty”).

    I have nothing to add about Tiana, Rapunzel, Jasmine or Belle, except for that they were a good choice for your top 4.

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    • But is a chieftain a king? I don’t think being a chieftain’s daughter makes you royal or a princess. I won’t pretend to be an expert on such things, but I’m fairly confident Pocahontas isn’t royalty. Although that seems to be a technicality as far as Disney is concerned. I do agree that she’s a little too perfect and bland regardless.

      Yeah, Aurora is the pretty girl with not much to say. Doesn’t make for a compelling protagonist. I could rank Merida higher. But I was really put off by how stupid, short-sighted and downright selfish her decision was. Once you see the movie, let me know if you agree. I can definitely agree with the positives on Snow. I like that she is different from the Barbie doll versions of Aurora and Cinderella. But that voice! Eeek!

      I give Ariel credit for being the first Disney princess to actively advance her story. She ushered in an era of better princesses. I think some would argue that Cinderella could have shown a little more spunk and stood up for herself or even just left instead of counting on her fairy godmother and a prince to save her.

      Yes, I think Anna was meant to be a criticism of the previous princesses. But she had other good qualities that made up for it, IMO. It helps that she is voiced by Kristen Bell. I’m glad you like the top 4. I’m fond of them all, but those four really stand out to me.

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      • But I guess a chieftain’s daughter is the closest thing to a princess, that you can find within Poca’s culture. So I will give her a pass, even if it is true that she’s never called a princess in her movie.

        I have to say that if Cinderella and Aurora look like Barbie dolls, Snow White looks like a porcelain doll. But I guess they are all supposed to be the prettiest girl in their respective country, with a wonderful singing voice to boot.

        Cinderella DID show some spunk, and she DID stand up for herself. She had a far more developed personality than Snow White or Aurora, and she did demand her right to go to the royal ball. And really, she was NOT waiting for a fairy godmother or a prince to save her. That just happened anyway…

        And by the way, I did forget to defend Belle against the accusations of having Stockholm syndrome. People keep throwing that against her, but I don’t think it’s fair. She was on her way to run away from the Beast, and it was only after he had saved her from those wolves, that she would start liking him…

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        • The Stockholm Syndrome bit was mostly a joke. Could that be why she fell for the Beast? Yes. But we’ll never know for sure. It’s possible that there was just something there that wasn’t there before.

          Yeah, Pocahontas’ dad was a leader. But that’s true for the Obama girls too. I wouldn’t consider them princesses. It’s a stretch. I don’t object to strongly though because really, this is all marketing.

          Cinderella has a lot of good traits. But she sure was passive! If her fairy godmother and her prince hadn’t both intervened, she would still be doing chores for Lady Tremaine. In the grand scheme of things, she did next to nothing to better her situation. Her primary characteristic is that she can smile through a bad situation. And that’s a good trait. But at a certain point if that’s all you do you’re allowing yourself to be a victim.

          The primary criticism I have seen of the new Cinderella is that she is just as passive if not more so than the animated version. You would think when updating the story for the 21st century, they would have given Cinderella a little more agency. I understand the Fairy Godmother and Prince are part of the story, but let her do something to save herself at least a little bit. Have her advance her situation even if ultimately she gets help from mice, fairies and princes.

          I am not sure I understand the difference between :she was waiting to be saved” and “that’s just what happened”. If she wasn’t actively trying to change her situation – and if she was, I for one completely missed it – she was waiting for her situation to be changed by others. No?

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        • I won’t claim that I’m an expert, but I don’t think it was Stockholm Syndrome. After all, Belle did try to run away when Beast was abusive, and she didn’t start to like him until he stopped being so angry and started showing some good qualities.

          I guess you could make a case for a president’s daughter being “almost like a princess” as well. But yeah, it mostly is about marketing. I’m just saying that Pocahontas is much closer to being a princess than what Mulan is…

          And as for Cinderella, what was she supposed to do? Like I tried to explain to my first post, girls back in the day didn’t have so many options. I’m not sure in which century that movie takes place, but it has only been during the last handful of generations, that women have gotten more equal rights. So let’s say Cinderella had run away from Lady Tremaine. Then she only would have had two options: Becoming a maid somewhere else (which could have turned out to be just as bad) or becomig a prostitute. So in the end, she was best off staying where she was, in her childhood home with her animal friends, even if her stepmother was a domestic abuser and her stepsisters were stupid bullies. It might sound passive to a modern audience, but it was only realistic for a girl, who did live in a different time period. You have to admire her for even being brave enough to demand her right to go to the royal ball. And at the very least, she did get a happy ending, even if she needed help to reach it.

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        • Somewhat off topic to this discussion, but boy did your comment remind me one of the biggest reason I dislike Beauty and the Beast… The myth that an abusive monster will change if you try hard enough. It’s the last thing we should be telling little girls. “Sure he’s abusive, but if you just support him and love him, he’ll come around!”

          I feel like probably anyone who takes you prisoner is not a good choice for a mate, no matter how much he “changes”.

          Here’s a great, short 5 minute video exploring this aspect of the movie. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rL1q19yrLb0

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        • Yet again, Belle was on her way to leave Beast. But when he saved her life, she returned to the castle to take care of his wounds. And it was only after that, when he stopped being abusive, that she slowly started to like him. I can see what you mean, I really do, but it was still clear that Beast earned his second chance by saving Belle from the wolves. Now if you compare him to Gaston, who only became worse and worse, it is clear that Beast was the better choice, even if the start wasn’t good at all.

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        • Obviously the idea is that Gaston is the real beast whereas The Beast is only monstrous on the outside. But yeah, locking up Belle and Maurice was not his finest moment.

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        • No, but he was on his way to become a real animal, without anything human left in him, until Belle came there at the last moment and made him change. And it was Belle’s idea to take her father’s place, not Beast’s.

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        • It certainly is a very valid point of view and criticism of the presented story. I will say that as a young man watching that film for the first time more than 20 years ago, my take away was that the Beast had to change his behavior and show her the good parts of his personality if he was going to save himself and his friends. He had to learn how to treat other people and think about their needs if his own were going to have any chance of being fulfilled. The intro to the film sets up this lesson as one he has to learn and that story is told, but unfortunately the result is a negative one for her character and story.

          The imprisonment part of the story is part of the source material, and I’m not sure how you retell the story without it, but it is very problematic from a modern point of view. They do attempt to soften it by having him take her to a much nicer room, but all that makes me think is that there is a double standard in which the old man is not worthy of the same reasonable treatment. Maurice would have quickly gotten sick and died in the tower, but since he can’t help the Beast and isn’t pretty, well…who cares.

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        • He offered Maurice a yellow ball gown but he refused to wear it. So he went straight to the dungeon. Pretty sure that’s in the deleted scenes. 😉

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        • You have to remember though that Belle had put herself in that situation, by making the suggestion that she wold stay in the castle instead of her father. It was never Beast’s idea. And still, Belle really was about to leave. And she probably would have tried again later, had he not started to change. She was never okay with his abusive side.

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        • Ew. I don’t want to explore that element of the movie! I’ve seen BatB dozens of times and never once took it to that dark of a place. I suppose it’s an element of the original story Disney couldn’t fully sanitize. But I never really considered Belle the Beast’s prisoner. She had full run of the castle. The Beast never actually prevented her from leaving. She’s very quickly referred to as a guest by everyone but the Beast. His temper tantrum over dinner is immediately undone. I can’t dismiss this point of view, because it’s there. But that’s not how I see the story at all.

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        • I agree Pocahontas is closer to a princess than Mulan. But at the end of the day, neither one of them was ever really a princess.

          For Cinderella, I don’t really recall her demanding anything. Lady Tremaine was humoring her up to a point. Then they destroyed her dress and left her sobbing until her fairy godmother showed up. I give her credit for her positive spirit, but not much else. As for her options, you would have to think she could find something better even if it was just being a maid for a reasonable family.

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        • But she DID demand being treated like a member of the family, which was really brave under the circumstances. And it seems like you still don’t understand how hard it would have been for Cindy to just leave. She had no guarantee that a new employer would be better, and in this version at least, she had her animals friends to consider as well.

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        • I don’t recall her demanding to be treated like the family. They treated her terribly!

          I don’t want to get too serious about what was meant to be a light-hearted fairy tale. But if anything, those mice would have been better off in a house without a cat who was constantly trying to kill them. She could have carried them out in her pocket if she wanted to.

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        • But that is exactly what Cinderella did. She did remind Lady Tremaine that she was a member of the family, and she too had a right to attend the ball.

          Yeah, I guess that she could have brought a few of the mice with her somewhere else (and I think they also did follow her to the king’s castle after she married the prince, if we are to see the DTV sequels as anything to go by). I have no idea if she brought the Bruno the dog and the horse though (I know that she left Lucifer the cat though, because he was never her friend.) But it would have been hard for her to bring pets to a household, where she only would have been a new maid. And I think we also have to consider that Cinderella probably felt some responsibility for the house, that had been her late father’s property and her childhood home.

          But to sum it up, I don’t see Cinderella as so passive as you see her. She did live in a time period, where women had fewer options than today, so she couldn’t just leave. And yet, she was not a complete doomat.

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        • Fair enough. 🙂

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  9. Very interesting rankings, having just seen the (new) Cinderella.

    I admit I don’t quite get Belle’s popularity. I find her a little dull as a protagonist (if she can honestly be said to be the protagonist – the Beast might have less screentime but he is the one who goes through character development), a disappointingly perfect throwback after the wonderfully flawed Ariel (more on her below). I suppose – and I do know I’m in a tiny minority here – her character look never really impressed me either.

    Ariel is, IMO, much more interesting. I won’t deny she made some incredibly stupid and rash decisions signing her voice away (see, Belle isn’t the only literate princess) but quite honestly I’m willing to forgive a fictional teenager a lot when it comes to impulsivity. Ariel is so driven by curiousity, by adventure and enthusiasm that it is hard not to warm to her. Long before she sees Prince Eric and saves his life she is fascinated by the human world, a fascination her thick headed father only knows how to deal with by stomping down on it.

    So yes she’s probably the most flawed of the princesses but perhaps that is why I like her so.

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    • You make some good points. One of the things I hate about making lists is that it’s all terribly subjective. Everyone keeps score differently. If you ask who my favorite Disney princess was, Ariel would be one of the first I would mention because The Little Mermaid is one of my favorite movies. But as I made this list, I was heavily weighting my rankings based on how good of a role model the princess was. And Ariel is a terrible role model. She makes rash decisions. She literally gives up her voice for a good looking man she knows nothing about. That may just be the worst message ever for young girls. The fact that it works out for her just makes it worse.

      I gotta ask, Ross, do you have kids? I have two daughters and that has really opened my eyes to what King Triton is going through. He may seem thick headed to you, but I totally get it. He sees a threat in the surface world. His daughter keeps getting in trouble. She’s blowing off responsibilities. Heck, she makes the worst deal in the world with the sea witch. I totally get laying down the law with her. His mistake was that he didn’t watch her closely enough! He should have made sure she couldn’t get anywhere near Ursula’s lair.

      While I do think Ariel’s flaws make for a more interesting character, that isn’t really what I was grading on. If I was, she would rank higher. But based on how I was ranking this list, those flaws counted against her.

      I was honestly surprised to rank Belle first. It wasn’t my intent when I started the list. I am fond of Belle, but I didn’t plan to put her in the top spot. I think her popularity is that she is the “bookish” princess. She’s the smart one, but she can also pull off the ballgown look. Best of bost worlds. Ariel? One of the dumbest princesses ever. All she needs to do is write Eric a note and its case closed. But no. She never thinks of that. Instead she goes all pantomime.

      I like both movies and both characters a lot. I saw BatB as raising the already high bar set by Little Mermaid. Definitely not a disappointing throwback in my book. But different strokes.

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      • Those are some very good points in turn. Heh, I should say that I don’t have kids, which undoubtedly colours my views.

        That said I think your a little soft on Triton, who’s doesn’t come across in the finest light himself. Ariel might be rash but it’s hard to cheer on the overbearing racist who rants at her for rescuing a human from certain death, before blasting her relatively harmless collection of curios into oblivion. Definitely flaws on both sides (and to be fair I think the film does try to portray this.)

        Other than display the ability to read I’m honestly not sure why Belle gets the laurels of the ‘smart one’. It is Ariel who is the explorer, the one who spends hours in fascinated study of another, completely alien culture, who is awestruck with delight at the workings of a horse and wagon. Is this smart, inquisitive, enthusiastic, admittedly headstrong young woman really so terrible a role model for saving a stranger’s life and getting caught up in the emotional turmoil of it all?

        I’m sure if she was my daughter Ariel would keep me worrying awake at nights, but I can’t help but like her more than the boringly perfect Belle, which is perhaps why my other favourites are Jasmine and Rapunzel – the rebels of the group.

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        • I can see why you find Belle more boring than Ariel, as she’s not an action girl like Mulan and a few later female leads from Disney. But I don’t see that as a bad thing, as I’m hardly an action girl myself. I would rather see myself as a bookish nerd, like Belle. And yeah, she also still is the only one in the line-up, who has brown hair just like me. So yeah, she is my favorite Disney princess. (Jane from “Tarzan” is my other Disney favorite for the same reasons, but she didn’t make the princess line-up). And I also really like how Belle obviously is the proto-feminist of the village (she refused to give in to Gaston’s advances and spoke up against Beast’s abusive side), and becoming a prisoner in her father’s place was a really brave and selfless thing to do…

          I won’t say that I dislike Ariel, because I don’t. And I loved her as a little girl. But as the years have passed by, I still have come to see her bad sides, how reckless and immature she is. But yeah, Triton is hardly perfect either. You’re so right that he pretty much was a racist (I know that his wife was killed by humans, but still). And blowing up Ariel’s collection was a really awful thing to do, even if he regretted it the next second. I have to re-watch “The little mermaid” from start fo finish one of these days…

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        • I think you’re being hard on the King of the Sea. For one thing, he’s not racist. Humans are a completely different species. One that pose a very real danger to his family and his kingdom. It would be like me telling my daughters not to play with bears. Is he overbearing? I think not. He’s a single dad. He’s got seven daughters and a kingdom to look after. Frankly, I’m impressed with how well Triton is keeping it all together. He clearly dotes on his youngest. Ariel’s collection of trinkets from the surface world were anything but harmless. They not only represented a very real threat, but also Ariel’s defiance. Frankly, I think everything Triton does is completely justifiable. Could he have handled things better? Maybe. But considering everything on Triton’s plate, Ariel should count her blessings he didn’t just lock her up until she was 21.

          Is Belle really the “smart one”. I dunno. I’ve seen merchandise that portrays Belle wearing glasses which is something I find very odd since at no point in the movies does she wear them. The implication is that she’s the sexy librarian type. Sometimes Disney fandom takes an idea and runs with it. There’s not really all that much in the movie to support the Belle is any kind of genius. She likes books. So does Rapunzel. Although in contrast, a lot of the princesses do seem to be illiterate. So out of this bunch, Belle probably is among the brightest just by virtue of having a library card.

          Ariel has some good qualities. I wouldn’t want a daughter like her when I could have one like Belle. Heck, Belle trades her freedom to free her dad. Go Belle!

          The message of The Little Mermaid seems to be that girls should give up their voices to land a handsome prince. And that reckless impulsive behavior will be rewarded in the end. These are terrible messages which is why I docked Ariel so many points despite liking the character and the movie.

          Jasmine and Rapunzel both ranked pretty high on my list as well. I’d have given Jasmine top spot if she wasn’t relegated to supporting player in Aladdin. With Rapunzel, it’s hard to get past the “shut in” factor. That girl clearly has some issues to work through. But she makes up for a lot of that in her positive, sunny attitude and charm.

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        • I’m surprised you give Jasmine such high marks given she is very much the rebellious daughter type – she does leave her palace where she has been raised for entire life with essentially a hooded cloak for protection. By sheer luck she runs straight into Aladdin but that trip could certainly have gone worse!

          That said I don’t want to make out that I think Triton was a villainous character, a male Lady Tremaine or anything of the sort. Clearly he is intended to be somewhat sympathetic. Still, and again I admit I don’t have any daughters of my own, it is hard to be impressed by uncomprehending refusal that Ariel is swimming to the beat of a different drummer than her other six sisters. Besides as I said before the immediate consequences of her curiosity is that she saves someone’s life. Is she impulsive and headstrong, yes, potentially dangerously so but she is compassionate and brave too.

          Ariel giving up her voice was clearly a huge mistake and I can’t defend that, but honestly I don’t think she did it solely for a man. She’s the same girl who was longing to explore the human world long before she set eyes on Prince Eric, who tried to find out how things worked. She’s the one trying to push through boundaries, to explore new worlds (quite literally) to ply her own course. Again flawed certainly but there is something hugely optimistic and romantic (in a platonic sense) about her determination and individualism. She’s Captain Kirk as a teenage girl, and yes I can see why that might be worrying for a father but wow.

          Belle… well yes I suppose I must agree she is admirable in an abstract way, but she always struck me as a throwback to the era of the ‘perfect princesses’. She’s an admirable role model certainly… but she’s more role model than character if that makes sense. Which may be my issue with ‘Beauty and the Beast’.

          At any rate if I were to rank the princesses on intelligence Rapunzel and Tiana would probably be further up the list than Belle; Tiana is a businesswoman in her own right and Rapunzel seemingly has no end to her talents.

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        • Jasmine has a reason to rebel. She’s been a prisoner in a gilded cage. She’s going into an arranged marriage. Plus, whether she’s fully aware of it or not, her dad is under the thrall of an evil sorcerer. She leaves home to live her life on her own terms. Ariel endangered herself, her family and the entire kingdom to get a boy she never talked to. HUGE difference.

          The movie clearly sides with Ariel. We’re supposed to identify with her longing and see Triton as a sympathetic but overly protective dad. Before I had kids, those are the terms on which I accepted things. After I had kids, I completely reevaluated the movie. I was MUCH more sympathetic to Triton’s point of view.

          I do like Ariel and she has admirable qualities. All of these princesses do. If I was ranking them on how much I enjoyed their story, Ariel would be near the top. That was a factor which keeps Ariel from the bottom of the list. Because if I was ranking them on common sense, she’d be at the bottom. Obviously you can reorder your list depending on your priorities. Mine change over time. I suspect if you have kids, you may shift your list around as well.

          The difference between Belle and say Cinderella is that Cinderella was extremely passive. She does very little to advance her cause. Mostly, she waits for things to get better and they do. Ariel actually started the trend towards a more active princess which is why she outranks some of the classic princesses. Also, Belle wasn’t defined by her need for a man as all previous princesses were including Ariel.

          If we’re ranking princesses by IQ points, Tiana, Mulan, and Belle seem to be tops. Rapunzel certainly reads and paints, etc. She’s got artistic sensibilities. But not everything is connected upstairs. I think she may have spent a bit too much time in the tower.

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        • Like someone else said, I think you can see both Ariel and Triton as flawed characters, who would make stupid decisions. But neither of them is a bad person really.

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        • Ursula might disagree. 😉

          The Broadway version picks up on a plot thread that was dropped from the movie. It suggests that Ursula was Triton’s sister and Ariel’s aunt and that for some reason, Triton had Ursula banned from the palace.

          I expect a live action movie told from Ursula’s point of view to be announced any minute now.

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  10. Those are fair points and as I said not being a father myself I can’t really put myself in those shoes.

    Though really is Ariel defined by her need for a man? I’m not so sure. Her longing for and fascination for the surface world was entirely present from the very first time we saw her. Falling in love with Eric certainly gave her an additional push but she was driven before that, and is perhaps why I rank Belle as ultimately more passive and less interesting; Ariel had one (metaphorical) foot on escape before a man entered her world. It is also perhaps why I’m sympathethic towards her rebellion, even with aknowledging the trouble it causes. That same impulsiveness mixed with compassion is what drove her to save a man’s life. Belle nobly saved her father; Ariel saved a stranger, and one of a species her father had constantly berated no less. Belle’s act was heroic no doubt, but was Ariel’s, driven by her headstrong curiosity any less so?

    Anyway I suppose one’s perspective on Ariel partly depends on whether you see her decision to sell her voice as being entirely based on Eric, or if he was simply part of a longstanding desire to go.

    Heh, as you say Rapunzel has some issues. Though again that might be why her like her more than the boringly perfect Belle.

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    • I was being perhaps a bit too hard on Ariel when I said she was defined by her decision to give up her voice. Still, it was a really bad decision. Especially when one goes beyond the literal speaking voice into what that act symbolized. For all intents and purposes, she was giving up her freedom. No one should give up their voice literally or figuratively. But I get that isn’t the sort of thing you’re supposed to be thinking about while watching the movie.

      It’s funny to me that you call Belle “boringly perfect”. There’s another contingent around here that thinks she is extremely vain, self-absorbed and flawed. We should set you guys at a table at the Be Our Guest Restaurant and let you argue it out.

      All this stuff is based on personal preferences. The princesses are like the Beatles in that everyone is going to have a favorite that they personally connect with. As a Disney fan and a fan of animation, I do truly like all of the characters. I have immense affection for most of them, Ariel included. For a while, she was the favorite princess of each of my daughters. My youngest in particular. Although recently she has moved on to Belle.

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      • Well said, ultimately personal preference plays a huge part in these things. 🙂 For instance I like ‘Frozen’ but I probably prefered ‘Tangled’, and don’t quite get the staggering popularity of ‘Frozen’.

        (Adorable pic btw.)

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        • I go back and forth on Frozen and Tangled. As to why Frozen was so astronomically popular? Same as anything else. Right movie at the right time. I think Let It Go had a lot to do with it, obviously. But I also think Elsa is the closest thing most girls have to a super hero. She’s practically an X-Man with her own cool costume and hideout.

          Disney greatly under-estimated the appeal of that. They assumed the movie’s selling point would be Olaf. They were completely caught off guard by the movie’s success.

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        • Man, I just have to see “Frozen” one of these days, (I never got to see in the theater, because I have back pains, which make it uncomfortable for me to sit down for a whole movie). But yeah, I was thinking the same thing. It seem like there aren’t so many female super heros, but many of Disney’s newer female leads are very much close enough for me.

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        • Oh yeah. Definitely see Frozen. If you enjoy Disney animation at all, you will enjoy it. Just try not to have out-of-this-world expectations based on the movie’s staggering success. It’s roughly on par with Tangled. Some will prefer one over the other.

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    • I really don’t think we can deny that Eric was the reason why Ariel sold her voice, and that sounds bad on paper. But you are also right that she already had a fascination for the human world. And she did save Eric’s life twice and helped him defeat Ursula, so she wasn’t a weak girl, who needed a man to protect her all the time.

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  11. My all time favorite character, based mostly on pure likability, was Repunzel.
    Anna (and Elsa) closely follow.

    For the traditional animation characters, I would give the nod to Cinderella

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