Disney, even then

I was pondering, this weekend, how the Disney Princess phenomenon completely missed me. Part of this is due to my complete lack of identification with feminine role models as a child and young adult. But part of it has to do with my age, and what Disney was available to me. If I’d been twelve when Mulan was released, I would have been all over that, I assure you. Or Brave. Or Hercules. Or Tangled.

Looking at Wikipedia, I see that the Disney animated films of my youth were The Rescuers, The Fox and the Hound, The Black Cauldron, and The Great Mouse Detective. All of which I watched, and all of which I loved. But none of which have super-strong, complex female characters.

I was far more into Disney’s live-action films during this time, to be honest. Escape to Witch Mountain was re-run a lot on weekend afternoons. The Watcher in the Woods showed up sometimes on basic cable. I watched Dragonslayer endlessly, and bought the tie-in book. Something Wicked This Way Comes. Return to Oz. The Journey of Natty Gann. I also watched The Wonderful World of Disney most Sunday evenings.

Disney films were there, in my youth. And they affected me. I cared a great deal about Tony and Tia, Jan, Valerian, Will, Dorothy, and Natty. But there wasn’t the … nigh-universal recognition of these characters among my peers, the way there is for the Princesses today. Part of it’s marketing, sure, yes. But part of it may also simply be that the Disney animated women are really damn good characters in awfully good films. I can’t say that Dragonslayer was actually any good, at all. I can merely say that I watched the parts about the cross-dressing girl a hella lot.

I was sixteen when The Little Mermaid hit theaters. I saw it, of course, and I liked it, of course. But I was sixteen and far, far, far more interested in staring in rapt fascination at my high school roommate as she sang “Poor Unfortunate Souls” than I was in emulating Ariel.

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2 Responses

  1. I have a tangent to share. This came up yesterday at breakfast; Kiki and Aeris watched the Sailor Moon S film over the weekend (it takes places at Christmastime so we call it a holiday flick) and Kiki was saying how she knows that I like the R movie better* but she’s always loved S. S contains a lot of things Kiki is drawn to: ice powers, astronomy, a Japanese fairy tale etc. and she started to wonder if she loved the film because of those things or if she loved those things because of the film — that we watched so many times when she was small.

    I did emulate Ariel (I was 13). When I read your last sentence my first thought was that I dye my hair red BECAUSE of Ariel. And that reminded me of what Kiki said about Sailor Moon.

    *As a tangent on a tangent, I pointed out that the reason I like the R movie more is that it gives Tuxedo Mask both an orphan backstory and a love interest who a) is his best friend who he b) met when they were children and c) he inspired the whole rose-throwing bit and d) then turned evil due to lack of love but e) is saved from the Dark Side by Usagi and Mamoru’s true love that f) ALSO started when they were children. You know me, you get it.

  2. Chicken and egg! 😀

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