All right princess?

Pleas­ing all of the boys all of the time? Tara Brady on how be­ing a Dis­ney princess just got tougher

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - Front Page -

And Os­car-nom­i­nated com­poser Alan Menken on how Joni Mitchell was his muse for Ra­pun­zel

ONCE UPON a time, you knew were you stood with a Dis­ney princess. Pale, pas­sive and rarely the bright­est lit­tle pixie in the for­est, a Dis­ney princess could be re­lied on to sit tight, sur­rounded by wood­land crit­ters, and sing cheer­ily what­ever capri­cious fate might hurl from a nearby toad­stool.

If, like Snow White, she found her­self play­ing skivvy and den mother to seven freak­ishly tiny and un­mar­riage­able gentle­men then la-di-dah, just whis­tle while you work. If, like Cin­derella, she found her­self stripped and bru­talised by her step­sis­ters, then stay calm and don’t panic: mag­i­cal as­sis­tance and fi­nan­cial sta­bil­ity are on the way.

Life for a post-war Dis­ney princess was sim­ple. The twin virtues of pa­tience and house­work would never go un­re­warded, and the uni­verse re­volved around a sin­gle har­mo­nious re­frain: get prince, get ring on fin­ger, live hap­pily ever af­ter.

By 1990, the House of Mouse, though never minded to go An­gela Carter on its source ma­te­rial, called time on the som­nam­bu­lant damsels of the stu­dio’s golden age. The sec­ond wave of Dis­ney princesses didn’t snore through the pic­ture like Sleep­ing Beauty. They were feisty like Belle, cun­ning like Jas­mine, trans­ves­tite like Mu­lan or gin­ger like Ariel. The New Model Princess Army – bol­stered by re­cent eth­nic re­cruits Poc­a­hon­tas, Mu­lan, and Tiana – was mul­ti­cul­tural, mul­tira­cial and al­most al­ways pretty in pink.

They didn’t mope around wait­ing for their prince to come – they ac­tively en­gi­neered their own hap­pily-ev­ery-afters.

No­body was go­ing to mis­take these spunky new Dis­ney hero­ines for Va­lerie Solanas – there is, af­ter all, only so much you can do with lady role mod­els from feu­dal times – but the win­dow dress­ing was ap­pre­ci­ated. The pub­lic adored the new breed of lippy-ifun­re­con­structed-meringue-wear­ing princess. Dis­ney’s an­i­ma­tion wing, af­ter decades in the dol­drums, sprang back in to life with a brace of box-of­fice smashes.

Fairy sto­ries were once again syn­ony­mous with their rosy Dis­ney in­ter­pre­ta­tions; in the late 1990s Warner Bros had a crack at the princess mar­ket with Anas­ta­sia and The King and I, to lit­tle avail. No­body could touch the com­pany with the pink Bavar­ian cas­tle logo for old-fash­ioned mu­si­cal num­bers and car­toon roy­alty.

There was more. In 1999 Dis­ney’s new chair­man of con­sumer prod­ucts, Andy Mooney, stopped off at a Dis­ney on Ice show to find that all the lit­tle tick­ethold­ers were dressed as Dis­ney princesses. Cru­cially, they were wear­ing generic cos­tumes. The Dis­ney Princess fran­chise was launched at Dis­ney­land bou­tiques within the year. Some $5 bil­lion later, it re­mains the cor­po­ra­tion’s fastest-grow­ing brand, sell­ing vi­ta­mins, magic wands, sta­tionery, py­ja­mas, wall­pa­per, DVDs, dolls, bandages, video games and, for the older princesszi­lla, wed­ding dresses.

No won­der the stu­dio is al­ways on the look­out for a stray fa­ble and a princess in

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