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Monday, April 27, 2020

Celebrate “National Princess Week” With Your Favorite Disney Princess - Official or Not

by Beth Keating
Feature Story 
April 27, 2020

The last week of April is officially “National Princess Week,” a week to celebrate the princesses in your life and “to encourage little princesses to play the part.” Perhaps livening up your quarantine days by throwing a themed princess party is in order. You can decide for yourselves if that happens to require lots of pink frosting, tea cups, seashells, bows and arrows, beignets or snowmen.

Hold on to your tiara, though: Don’t break out the Frozen soundtrack just yet. I have some shocking news for you. Arendelle’s Anna and Elsa are not considered “official” Disney princesses and are not part of the Princess Royal Court (insert screeching brake noises here!). How can that be?  After all, they are both daughters of King Agnarr and Queen Iduna of Arendelle. For good measure, they’ve brought in a boatload of coin to Disney’s realm, as expected of any good Disney princess. 

Why didn’t the Queens of Arendelle make the cut? They have been given formal welcome ceremonies at Disney World, and even host a sing-along at Hollywood Studios, give tours of Arendell at their ride-through in Epcot, and welcome visitors to the hour long meet-and-greet line at their Royal Sommerhus. They are obviously popular. But they have not yet been crowned as part of the official Princess Royal Court. Did you even know there was such a sanctioned list?

Originally, there were eight “official” Disney princesses included in Disney’s Royal Court: Snow White, Cinderella, Aurora, Ariel, Belle, Jasmine, Pocahontas, and Mulan. There are currently twelve “official” princesses, though.  In order, they are:

1. Snow White (Snow White and the Seven Dwarves)
2. Cinderella (Cinderella)
3. Aurora (Sleeping Beauty)
4. Ariel (The Little Mermaid)
5. Belle (Beauty and the Beast)
6. Jasmine (Aladdin)
7. Pocahontas (Pocahontas)
8. Mulan (Mulan)
9. Tiana (The Princess and the Frog)
10. Rapunzel (Tangled)
11. Merida (Brave)
12. Moana (Moana)

In recent times, Disney even hosted public coronation ceremonies when Tiana (Princess #9), Rapunzel (Princess #10) and Merida (Princess #11) earned membership on the Princess roster (they haven’t held a ceremony for Moana (Princess #12) yet – she “joined” in 2019). Tiana’s 2010 coronation ceremony took place in New York City (why not New Orleans?); Rapunzel’s 2011 ceremony took place at Kensington Palace(!); and Merida’s (2013) happened at Disney World.  Interesting factoid for you, and one which muddies the discussion, is that Tinkerbell, a mere leader of fairies, had a short-lived reign on the list until Tiana bumped her off the scroll.

In contrast to the Queens of Arendelle, two of Disney’s “top tier” heroines who ARE on the official list are Pocahontas and Moana … daughters of chiefs, but not necessarily “princesses” in the strictest sense of the word. Yet, they get the proverbial, if not physical, tiaras. Moana even insists she isn’t a princess, but Maui retorts, “If you wear a dress and have an animal sidekick, then you’re a princess.”

What about Princess Leia, now that Disney owns the Star Wars franchise? Is she disqualified because she isn’t an animated character? Avatar is now a Disney property in the Animal Kingdom – does James Cameron’s Neytiri, princess of the Na’vi, join the royal court?  There’s also Meg from Hercules. Pardon my literature background for a moment, but Meg is technically a princess twice-over, being the daughter of King Creon of Thebes in Greek mythology. She also marries Hercules, son of the king of the Greek gods, so – yikes – double princess pedigree. Princess Kida, the daughter of the king of Atlantis in Atlantis: The Lost Empire rescues her people, just like Moana …. and Merida… and Mulan. Do these ladies get to hang out in the princesses lounge as well?  (There has to be a special princess lounge hidden away at the parks somewhere.  If not, the Imagineers might want to get on that while they are reconstructing half of Epcot.)

What, then, is the criteria for becoming a Disney princess? Do you have to have an invitation to host one of the Disney character meals at Disney World?  If so, then only Snow White, Cinderella, Belle, Aurora, Ariel and Jasmine at Akershus Royal Banquet Hall qualify, though some of those same royalty share meals at Cinderella’s Royal Table, and Rapunzel and Ariel host a Bon Voyage Adventure Breakfast with their princes at Trattoria al Forno at the Boardwalk. (Sofia the First sneaks in at the Disney Junior Play ‘n Dine at Hollywood and Vine, so that blows that theory on me.) 

If you go to an official Disney site (https://princess.disney.com/), the princesses to choose from there are the official twelve: Belle, Rapunzel, Ariel, Tiana, Moana, Cinderella, Aurora, Merida, Pocahontas, Jasmine, Mulan and Snow White.  (They have their special crafts and activities there for your own little princess to enjoy.) HOWEVER, if you click the Disney+ link there to the “Disney Princesses collection,” it takes you to a series of movies that include Anna and Elsa in Frozen, and even Elena of Avalor, a new entry to the cannon from the Disney Junior channel. (Perhaps she’s not a full-fledged princess because she only has a TV series and not a full-length movie?)  Then, oddly, the link also includes Julie Andrews and Anne Hathaway (Princess Mia of Genovia) in The Princess Diaries, along with Princess Rosalinda of Costa Luna (played by Demi Lovato) with Selena Gomez in the Princess Protection Program.  So, they’ve called them princesses, but they aren’t on the “official” court list.  No animated avatar, perhaps?

Now that Disney owns 21st Century Fox, what becomes of Russia’s Grand Duchess Anastasia, the poor missing Romanov heir.  She’s royalty, but perhaps she’s outside looking in at the official castle because her 1997 animated film Anastasia was directed by Don Bluth, who jumped ship from Disney before starting his own studio. Oops.

Maybe the princesses themselves offer us a glimpse of the resume requirements.  In Ralph Breaks the Internet (Wreck it Ralph II), they quiz Venellope as to her princess qualifications:

Rapunzel: Do you have magic hair?
Vanellope: No.
Elsa: Magic hands?
Vanellope: No.
Cinderella: Do animals talk to you?
Vanellope: No.
Snow White: Were you poisoned?
Vanellope: No!
Aurora, Tiana: Cursed?
Vanellope: No!
Rapunzel, Belle: Kidnapped or enslaved?
Vanellope: No! Are you guys okay? Should I call the police?
Ariel: Then I have to assume you made a deal with an underwater sea witch, where she took your voice in exchange for a pair of human legs?
Vanellope: No! Good Lord, who would do that?
Snow White: Have you ever had True Love’s Kiss?
Vanellope: Ew! Barf!
Jasmine: Do you have daddy issues?
Vanellope: I don’t even have a mom.
Princesses: Neither do we!
Rapunzel: And now for the million dollar question. Do people assume all your problems got solved because a big strong man showed up?
Vanellope: Yes! What is up with that?
Princesses: She is a princess!

Turns out (spoiler alert if you haven’t seen the movie) Vanellope IS actually a princess, though not one of THE princesses, but she had her memory wiped and doesn’t remember her royal status. In the end, she decides she’d rather be called president.

Of course, while we often assume that a princess character should be born of royalty (Snow White, Ariel, Jasmine, Rapunzel, Merida, and Aurora), or married to royalty (Cinderella, Belle, or Tiana), some of the girls reach princess-hood by virtue of an act of heroism (Mulan, Moana, and Pocahontas).  Since there is no official roster of criteria for being one of the “Royal Court” princesses, we’ll leave you to decide what you think the true criteria is.

Now, I’ve probably buried the lead way down here at the bottom, and if you don’t want me to take the glitter off of your princess week celebration, stop reading right here.  The first National Princess Week?  It was started by Disney in partnership with Target, April 22, 2012. Julie Andrews (Queen of Genovia) was there to help kick-off the celebration, and the Princess Diaries DVD promptly went on sale.

I think I’m going to go watch The Little Mermaid now. I’ll look for my tiara later.

Beth Keating is a regular contributor to DisneyBizJournal.

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