After it's forthcoming release of Tangled, Disney's animation studios don't plan to follow up with any more fairy tales for the forseeable future. But what will our nation's little girls do without really boring animated princes to dream of marrying?
With the faltering of last year's excellent but financially unsuccessful The Princess and the Frog, Disney has decided that the sparkly princessy dreams of little girls are no longer enough to carry a movie driven by a female lead. The studio plans to make Tangled, a rough adaptation of the Rapunzel fairy tale its 50th and last animated fairy tale offering. Reports the LA Times,
Among girls, princesses and the romanticized ideal they represent - revolving around finding the man of your dreams - have a limited shelf life. With the advent of "tween" TV, the tiara-wearing ideal of femininity has been supplanted by new adolescent role models such as the Disney Channel's Selena Gomez and Nickelodeon's Miranda Cosgrove.
"By the time they're 5 or 6, they're not interested in being princesses," said Dafna Lemish, chairwoman of the radio and TV department at Southern Illinois University and an expert in the role of media in children's lives. "They're interested in being hot, in being cool. Clearly, they see this is what society values."
Disney's animation studios still plan on churning out new offerings for children, but these new films won't focus on a female protagonist's ascendancy to princess-dom; rather, the new films will center on male protagonists in an attempt to establish wider appeal.
Disney hopes "Tangled" will draw boys, teenagers and adults to the theater, succeeding where its frog-prince saga failed. But it's taking no such chances in the future. Its current animation roster includes "Winnie the Pooh," a return to the Hundred Acre Wood, and "Reboot Ralph" - itself a restart of an older project titled "Joe Jump" - about an outdated video game character who's been left behind by the march of technology.
While I'm glad to see innovation in children's storytelling, this impending departure leaves me a little nostalgically sad. I had unhealthy levels of obsession with animated Disney princess films when I was a kid. I remember running and leaping across my front yard with my little sister singing songs from The Little Mermaid and Aladdin, of wearing out the VHS tape of Sleeping Beauty at my grandparents' house. I remember bargaining with my brother to get him to pretend to play the prince in our elaborate Disney games. Much to my mother's chagrin, I dressed as a princess for Halloween when I was five and I'm pretty sure that at some point, I sincerely believed that I'd grow up to meet and marry a prince when I was sixteen. Obviously.
While one could argue that the idea of Disney princesses going through many harrowing adventures in their respective quests to marry their high school boyfriends might be detrimental to the development of an independent little girl, one could also argue that there are always going to be things about childhood that are silly and fun and eventually abandoned. There are aspects of the classic Disney "Someday My Prince Will Come Oh Awesome He's Here And He's Totally Boring But We Are In Love" storyline that are problematic, but it's not all bad, and it's kind of a shame to see that species of animated storytelling going extinct. Let's hope that whatever comes next for kids' entertainment hangs onto the imagination and wonder of those classic films without moving too far into Bratz doll territory, and let's hope that whatever's next doesn't forget that little girls like movies, too.
What do you think, commenters? Is this move away from the "princess" genre of film a good thing, or will it just lead to women being ignored by the entertainment industry at a younger age?
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