Why Disney Started to Create Identical Female Characters and What It Can Lead To
Several generations have grown up watching Disney cartoons. We cried when Mufasa and Bambi’s mother died; we dreamt about a Dalmatian or a Cocker Spaniel that would look like Lady from Lady and the Tramp; we listened to wonderful songs and, of course, adored each and every one of the Disney princesses. Each of them has their own charm, but recently the audience has been upset by the fact that the heroines’ faces have all started to look the same and that they’ve lost their uniqueness. Artists have even started a movement where they are making the princesses’ faces more realistic and diverse.
We at Bright Side tried to figure out whether there are real reasons for people to be angry about this.
Many viewers believe that Disney has made the main characters too much alike in their latest cartoons.
When the Frozen cartoon appeared on-screen 3 years after the release of Rapunzel, there were no talks about the characters looking the same. This buzz actually started a short time ago.
For example, Elsa, Anna, and their mother are supposed to look alike, because they are close relatives. We can also suppose that the fan theory about Rapunzel being their cousin is true and that she is also their relative. But Judy from Zootropolis looks like a fluffy copy of any of them. This makes it feel like an evil wizard has turned one of the representatives of the royal family mentioned above into a rabbit — the face features, the mimics, and even the movements are very similar.
This holistic resemblance is most noticeable in the movie Ralph Breaks the Internet. When Vanellope gets to the dressing room, she sees all the princesses at once and their faces have really changed from what they used to be in their original movies. They’ve started to look more alike. It is especially noticeable in the features of Merida, Jasmine, Mulan, and Pocahontas. The skin of Mulan and Pocahontas have even become significantly lighter. The heroine of the cartoon Raya and the Last Dragon, that will be released in 2020, can be added to this list as well. If earlier, the appearances of the princesses belonged to many different types, now they have one common type — the “baby face.” It is a round face, big naive eyes with thick eyelashes, a small nose, and bright lips — basically, typical baby features.
How the faces of Disney princesses have changed
At the very beginning, princesses were drawn based on real girls. That’s why cartoon heroines move as if they are real and have very realistic facial proportions. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937) and Cinderella (1950) are good examples of this type of animation.
After that, the studio conducted experiments with the shapes of faces and bodies, as well as the mannerisms and movements of the characters until the very beginning of the 2000s. Even if we keep only a black silhouette on a gray background, we can easily distinguish Belle from Ariel, Pocahontas from Jasmine, and even from Nani in the cartoon Lilo & Stitch. Although the fairytale standards require the princesses to be charming beauties and the general style of the studio can be traced in each image, this doesn’t prevent the girls from being special and bright.
In the 2000s, a gradual transition to computer animation started. It required characters to have faces that were more simple so that the audience wouldn’t find them distasteful, especially in close-ups. But the studio decided to go further and get rid of the other features that made their characters so special. Now, not only is it their faces that look alike, but also body shapes, mannerisms, and the style of their movements.
Why Disney is changing popular heroines
© Tangled / Walt Disney Animation Studios © Frozen / Walt Disney Animation Studios © Big Hero 6 / Walt Disney Animation Studios © Wreck-It Ralph / Walt Disney Animation Studios © Inside Out / Pixar Animation © Up / Pixar Animation © Brave / Pixar Animation © The Incredibles / Pixar Animation © Bolt / Walt Disney Animation Studios
There could be several reasons for this type of policy at the world’s largest animation studio.
First, “Disney Princesses” are a pretty successful franchise. If the difference between the heroines is only in their hairstyles and their clothes, this will save manufacturers a lot of money on design work and on creating the necessary layouts for printing, and so on. If all dolls and prints will be stamped by one pattern, then Disney’s profits will go up.
Second, today parents spend a lot more money on their kids than they did before, that’s why it’s more sensible for the studio to refocus on little kids. If they make the facial features of princesses more child-like, then pre-school girls will find it easier to associate themselves with those princesses. As a result, it will be simpler for a younger audience to get attracted and attached to the heroines and later ask their parents for a doll, a blanket, or a party-theme that is dedicated to their favorite princess, and even a visit to Disneyland.
Here’s how Elsa looks without makeup. If you didn’t know she was an adult, it would be easy to mistake her for a little girl.
Here’s how Kristoff would look if he were depicted according to the female standard.
What this can lead to
Despite the fact that all fairy-tale princesses are beautiful, each of them used to be special and easily recognizable, even by their facial features, in Disney cartoons. But now the characters look so similar that they could be siblings, even though they are supposed to be different ages, races, and types. At the same time, the male characters and villains have very diverse appearance options.
Unfortunately, the conclusions that come to mind are not very pleasant — little girls are broadcast a pretty clear message (of course, without any bad intentions). Only young and pretty girls deserve happiness and love. Those who are not beautiful and who are old, can’t be good. At the same time, men can look however they want and still deserve attention — they can have different noses, eyes, cheekbones, and shapes —even the ugly hunchback, Quasimodo, deserves understanding and care.
© Tangled / Walt Disney Animation Studios © Frozen / Walt Disney Animation Studios © Big Hero 6 / Walt Disney Animation Studios © Wreck-It Ralph / Walt Disney Animation Studios © Inside Out / Pixar Animation © Up / Pixar Animation © Brave / Pixar Animation © The Incredibles / Pixar Animation © Ratatouille / Pixar Animation
Beautiful girls are all alike — charming faces, obligatory light make-up, and perfectly selected clothes, no matter what has happened to them. A princess should look perfect, even if she’s spent all night crying, fallen into the sea, or fought with an enemy who was much stronger than herself.
Today, when most people try to convince girls they shouldn’t try to fit themselves into unrealistic expectations and that they should love themselves the way they are, the approach mentioned above doesn’t look modern and can even be harmful. We hope the general audience for those cartoons will grow out of this idea, without any undesirable consequences.
Do girls in Disney cartoons look similar to you? Do you think it’s good or bad? We would be glad to hear from you in the comments!
Preview photo credit Pocahontas / Walt Disney Productions, Ralph Breaks the Internet / Walt Disney Productions