Category Archives: disney renaissance

Fear and Love at First Sight: An Examination of Disney Princesses and Their Princes

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Ariel and Eric are probably my Disney OTP (besides Esmeralda/Phoebus and Jane/Tarzan and Jasmine/Aladdin and Pocahontas/John Smith *cough*). I, and I’m sure many of you, have wanted to meet our Prince Charming with a perfect Love at First Sight moment we frequently associate with Disney. But I took a closer look at all the Princess/Prince meetings and um… well… I noticed a lot of trends that don’t really sit well with me. Let’s explore!

Pre-Renaissance Films
The Pre-Renaissance princess movies are Snow White, Cinderella, and Sleeping Beauty. All three meetings are a very typical ‘love at first sight’  storybook scene. However, in the case of Snow White and Aurora, their prince appears out of nowhere, drawn by their voice and startling them. Snow White actually runs into her castle because she’s so scared, while Aurora pulls away. The meeting in Cinderella is less creepy since it happens at a party, where one would expect to meet new people.

Though Cinderella isn’t singing like the other two princesses are when they meet their princes, music is still an important element in their meeting. Cinderella is the first film where dancing is introduced as both an important storytelling and romantic element.

cinderella and her princey dancing

There is also a song, and though it is sung with the impression it is Cinderella and her prince, they’re not actually singing in the scene. Instead, their meeting has a narrator of sorts, the Duke. In contrast, Snow White and Aurora are both singing alone and then have a duet with the prince (Snow White’s doesn’t last very long though, since she runs off when the prince startles her).

Snow White and Sleeping Beauty have many elements of their meetings in common. Firstly, both princes are on horseback. Animals are involved in both, with Aurora dancing with her owl friend and her other critters watching. In Snow White, Snow is singing to the doves. While Cinderella has mice friends and they did take her to the ball, they’re not present in this scene.

The settings for all three meetings are also similar. Snow White and Cinderella both happen in a castle and while Sleeping Beauty happens in the woods, they both stare at the castle in the distance afterwards.

sleeping beauty cuddling

The audience knows that castle is Aurora’s home, where she should be. Where Philip will have to battle his way to her and free her from Maleficent so they can be reunited. Cinderella meets the prince in his castle, where she ultimately belongs because she’s so good. It’s her escape from her stepmother. And while Snow White runs from the prince into the castle, at the end she leaves with him.

Setting is a theme we’re going to see repeated as well as some other points I made above.

To recap the pre-Renaissance Love at First Sight moments: running away, music, instant attraction, and castles.

star wars uhh reaction

Renaissance Films
We skip ahead a bunch of years and come to The Little Mermaid. TLM is the first film where we have a sort of ‘two meetings’ thing happen (it’ll make sense as we go on).

The first difference, and my favorite, is what draws Ariel and Eric together. Where Prince Charming and Philip were drawn by the sound of a mysterious voice and that’s how they find their princess, Ariel goes to the surface simply because she wants to see the ship.

little mermaid we're out to discover Exactly, Scuttle.

Then, she notices the fireworks and her curiosity skyrockets. For the first time in Disney Princess History, neither of them were looking for/drawn to each other. However, the only piece of Ariel Eric has is her voice, thus the trend does live on. We’ll come back to this.

Music too is involved here, though neither of them is singing. Eric is playing a flute, while crewmembers dance and play instruments. Another common theme is the presence of animals: Max (Eric’s dog), and Scuttle. Scuttle also marks the first meeting where a princess has a friend present. Aurora is with her forest buddies, but they’re just passively watching everything happening. Scuttle is actively involved, talking with Ariel throughout. If only Ariel could have had another mermaid as a friend, or maybe even one of her sisters. (Princesses need friends, too!)

Ariel watches Eric, much like Philip and Charming watched Aurora and Snow. It’s love at first sight for her. However, I give her a pass because she actually sees Eric acting like a decent human being. She sees that he has the same lust for adventure she does (when Grimsby tries to tell him he needs to marry and he’s not having it), she sees that he’s humble (disgusted by the giant statue of himself), creative/artistic (the flute), AND is a total sweetheart when it comes to his dog. Please tell me who would not turn to mush at a real life Eric?

my body is ready reaction my body is ready hook reaction my body is ready copy reaction

Exactly. Boys and their dog get me every time. Philip and Charming just watched Aurora and Snow singing and talking to animals. Neither of those things seem very healthy.

But then, BOOM! Chaos. A storm! The ship EXPLODES! Ariel rescues Eric after witnessing him selflessly going back for his dog. Now she knows he’s courageous. When he wakes up on shore, Eric finally sees Ariel for the first time. She probably looked like an angel to him, with the sun hitting her the way it did and her perfect voice. Before they can talk, she’s startled by Max and Grimsby—just like the pre-Renaissance ladies running away.

little mermaid fuck mermaids reaction

The second time they meet is when Ariel has legs. They’re on the beach this time, with the castle in the distance. That is where Ariel is going to end up, visually illustrated as Eric offers her his support so she can walk with him. But the first time Ariel saw him, he was on a ship, perfectly straddling the line between their two worlds. They’re also on a beach, near the water, Ariel’s world, but firmly on land, Eric’s world. The castle visual remains in their first mutual meeting, while Ariel seeing him on a ship before is also significant.

The meeting is again facilitated by Max (animals shipping Disney couples since 1937!), who spooks Ariel onto the rock. Max is barking and unfamiliar and chasing her, so she’s rightfully a little scared.

And now here is the most important discovery I made: Every princess is scared during their so called “Love at First Sight” scenes. In Snow White a stranger pops out of nowhere and Snow literally runs away and barricades herself in her castle. This screams fear. Aurora is also scared, running and hiding behind a tree.In Cinderella, yes, it is definitely way less creepy and she does not present the same amount of fear. However, Charming approaches her from behind and she jumps when he touches her, hesitating before accepting. We can argue Cinderella is more shy and coy. If we had to pick one as the exception to the rule, I’d pick her.

cinderella and prince

Now Ariel is never fearful around Eric like Snow, Cinderella, and Aurora were. But when the ship begins to burn, she realizes there’s danger. And later, when Grimsby and Max arrive, she’s scared of them and also what would happen if they knew she was a mermaid. So far the princesses have either been scared of their suitors or there is an element of danger surrounding them. This theme is going to come up in every single movie.

this displeases me reaction

Their second meeting is kind of a twist on the “Love at First Sight” trope. Though Eric is clearly drawn to her, he’s disappointed when he thinks she’s not the girl that saved him and so he tries not to like her that way. Spoiler alert: he fails.

little mermaid prince-eric-laughing

Next we have Beauty and the Beast and I’m going to jump right into fear because um… Belle and the Beast do NOT have a love at first sight moment at all. Belle is terrified of the Beast. He’s holding her father captive, slithering around in the dark, and yelling and threatening her. He physically grabs her and throws her to the ground.

Like Ariel saving Eric during their meeting, Belle is also trying to save someone she loves: her father. A trend of heroism develops here and continues into the Renaissance era.

The setting here is also a castle and instead of animals, there are inanimate objects everywhere. Their gossip is an important aspect of the scene because they’re talking about needing Belle to save them as she’s trying to save her father. Ultimately, this castle needs her and she’s accepted in it in a way she never was in her small town. And then of course, it also becomes her home, too.

frozen me... feels reaction

This meeting is the first one when the prince isn’t immediately visible to the princess. Belle needs to tell the Beast to “come into the light.” This is something we’ll see repeated with Tangled. Also important to note, this is the first meeting with no music involved. The Beast isn’t drawn to Belle’s voice, nor is there a romantic song they sing together like in Snow White, Cinderella, or Sleeping Beauty. Perhaps this is because Belle does not fall in love this version of the Beast. She only cares for him after he changes his attitude and stops acting like such a dickwad. That is when they have their duet.

All right, let’s head to our next film: Aladdin. Like our other princesses being scared, Jasmine is about to have her HAND CUT OFF. Yes, she’s terrified. Jasmine comes from a very clinical environment where all her needs are met. No one has ever raised a hand to her and here is this giant man with a knife and she has no idea why she’s in trouble. Cue: terror.

Also cue: ALADDIN!

I mentioned this theme of heroism in the Renaissance first meetings and here’s another one: Aladdin saving Jasmine. This first meeting builds on the one in TLM where Ariel sees Eric being a decent, normal dude. In Aladdin, he sees her giving an apple to a child (just like he did with bread!), so while he is clearly drawn by her looks (“Wow.”), there is something deeper there. The scene also establishes that he and Jasmine work well together to get out of a very bad situation. She questions him initially, but plays along right away. However, Aladdin saving Jasmine reverses the mini-trend of women saving men.

Like other meetings, animals are involved (Abu). There’s also a familiar shot of Aladdin watching Jasmine similar to Philip and Charming and yes, it’s cute, but it is also is a tad creepy.

aladdin watching jasmine

There is no song involved and here is where the trend of saving that big duet moment happens. Well, it technically started in Beauty and the Beast (Something There happens later), but it continues here, thus making it a trend. While the pre-Renaissance films where all “Love at First Sight” these later films added more obstacles to their love stories, so while there was instant attraction, they didn’t immediately act on it. The importance of voice dies out in Aladdin. While singing voices led men to women (Snow White, Aurora, Ariel) or there was singing during their meeting (Cinderella, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty), that common thread is cut.

Aladdin and Jasmine meet in the marketplace. I like the symbolism here again as they’re between worlds. Like Eric was on a ship, a piece of land on water, in between, Jasmine and Aladdin are meeting in the middle, too. Jasmine has left the palace and is among common people, while Aladdin is in the “city” so to speak and later brings Jasmine to the outskirts, where he lives. And of course, they look at the palace, like Aurora and Philip. Aladdin longs to live there and with Jasmine at his side, not knowing she’s the princess, he will eventually.

aladdin

This leads to Pocahontas, where John Smith PULLS A GUN ON HER. Pocahontas is already wary (but curious) because John is a stranger and invader and now this. She doesn’t physically appear scared, she seems calm the entire time.

pocahontas in the mist

And even if she is not afraid of John Smith, neither were Ariel and Jasmine. They were scared because of what was happening around them and the element of danger. A gun pointed at you definitely qualifies as an element of danger present in a so called LOVE AT FIRST SIGHT meeting.

aladdin what

The mood changes quickly, though. After she runs off, like the pre-Renaissance princesses (and Ariel), a more traditional first meeting happens. The music and the flying leaves when their hands meet is more romantic and dreamy. That is the scene we see their attraction happen.

pocahontas holding hands

This meeting brings back a musical element since John was just singing Mine, Mine, Mine. There’s also animals present as Meeko and Flit watch. Pocahontas falls back on a lot of old tropes. However, in a move only Philip and Eric have made, John Smith asks for her name, which I am very proud of.

The setting here is the wilderness, something we haven’t seen since Sleeping Beauty. Pocahontas is not with her tribe or by Mother Willow, so she’s out on her own, kind of in her own space. And John Smith is new, so he has no place that’s familiar yet. In a way, they both meet in a strange land to signify the new world they’ll create together.

From there we move to Mulan. Like Beauty and the Beast and their decidedly not “Love at First Sight” meeting, the same applies here. And like Eric thinking the girl he met on the beach wasn’t his savior, Shang of course has no idea Mulan is about to blow his mind.

reaction giggling noise

There is a huge emphasis on names in this scene, something other meetings have lacked. Similar to how Jasmine and Ariel never feared Aladdin or Eric, Mulan isn’t afraid of Shang, but he is the authority figure and she’s clearly frazzled. However, the element of danger here is the fact that Mulan was just the target of a legit fight. The entire camp has been fighting with Mulan buried underneath them. Her meeting with Shang is also her first real test at being a man so she’s understandably nervous. Still, it fits an unnerving trend of princesses being afraid or under threat in their supposedly “Love at First Sight” moments.

Mushu is the animal present in the scene. Their setting is also out in nature, getting ready for war. I think this ties back into Mulan’s own personal story and I like that.

Modern Films
Now we hit the most recent princess films. Princess and the Frog obviously meets the animal trend since Naveen is a frog when they meet. Like TLM, though, they also have two meetings. There is a quick scene in the beginning when Naveen is playing music and trying to be charming, but Tiana is not having it. However, fear is back in their second meeting.

Tiana is startled because there’s a talking frog! And also, what was he doing on the balcony? He was just there, like the pre-Renaissance princes happened to be. In something we see continued in Tangled, Tiana physically assaults Naveen with books since she’s so scared. Naveen does apologize for scaring her, which is nice, but that’s probably because he needs her to kiss him.

Several new things continue to arise in this film. Tiana is concerned for her friend Lottie who is dancing with a fake prince Naveen. Of course, no other princess has needed to be concerned for their human friends since they never had one before (besides Pocahontas).

princess and the frog bestie hug

This is definitely not a “Love at First Sight” scene, but still, it’s the only one where they kiss as soon as they meet! Again, the plot hinges on Tiana kissing him so there’s a reason for it, but she did still kiss him. Like Ariel, Belle, and Aladdin, the thread of heroism returns since Tiana was trying to save Naveen. New and old elements combine in Princess and the Frog.

Our trip though Disney Princess History takes us to Tangled. I touched on it previously, but Rapunzel smacks Flynn with a frying pan since she’s so scared of the strange man that climbs into her room, a la Tiana. Flynn also shares some similarities with Naveen. Naveen is definitely more flirty (seriously go watch that scene over with this in mind), but Flynn tries to use his smolder.

tangled meeting

When it fails, he drops the act and just wants to get as far away from Rapunzel as possible.

Unlike any other scene, except maybe Mulan, their first meeting is more about Rapunzel proving herself to Gothel. After she hits him with the frying pan, cowers behind a mannequin, and checks him for sharp pointy teeth, she traps him in her closet to prove to Gothel she can take care of herself.

tangled pascal

In between she also tries on the tiara he stole and while it maybe seems familiar to her, it is quickly forgotten when Gothel returns. Later, after Flynn assures her he wants nothing to do with her hair, Rapunzel is confused. After all, Gothel swore her everyone would be out to get her. But like he also had normal teeth instead of terrifying ones, Flynn represents her freedom from Gothel. He guides her out of her isolation.

As discussed, like TLM there are two meetings. One where Rapunzel sees him (like Ariel watching the ship) and one where they actually talk for the first time. Tangled also draws other parallels to films like Beauty and the Beast. Rapunzel is first cloaked in darkness and steps into the light so Flynn can see her. While the Beast hid himself away because he believed himself hideous and unlovable, Rapunzel did it partly out of fear and suspicion.

As the pre-Renaissance films had an emphasis on music, a reprise of Rapunzel’s solo song follows their meeting and her subsequent leaving of the tower.

tangled now's when my life begins copy

And like the Renaissance films, their big duet comes later.

Their meeting is her tower because, as I said, Flynn represents the world and life Rapunzel can have. They leave together to see the lights.

reaction dead from the feels

Finally, this brings us to Frozen. Frozen has two meetings and while I considered if I had to include Anna meeting Hans since he’s not her true love, I rewatched the scene to see if it played with any tropes I’d already noticed or diverged from the usual meetings as a sign that Hans was not a good guy.

What I found was this:

-the Hans/Anna meeting plays out very cutesy and storybook-like (what you’d expect of a “Love at First Sight” scene)

frozen gorgeous wait what

-danger is present since she gets HIT BY A HORSE and falls onto a boat that nearly topples into a lake

-prince on horseback trope reappears (Snow White, Sleeping Beauty)

-no visible castle but Anna’s status is immediately told + mentions of the coronation

This takes us to Anna meeting Kristoff. Now, Frozen bothered me since it hated on previous Disney love stories. You’d expect then that this meeting would be very different from the others. However, Anna has the same fear as the other meetings discussed. Kristoff is covered in snow, not clearly visible like the Beast, and she backs away from him.

frozen awkward

Like Tiana, she expresses concern over her friend/sister since she has a person she can do that for! While Tiana wanted to know who Lottie was dancing with if he was with her, Anna wanted to know what Kristoff knew about Elsa.

This scene is a contrast to the perfect meeting she has with Hans. While Hans is perfect and charming, Kristoff is gruff. He doesn’t make a good first impression on her or Oaken since he gets tossed out of the store. Similarly, Mulan makes a horrid first impression as the center of a fight and unable to pick a name for herself. It’s not a traditional “Love at First Sight” scene but we’ve already seen several of those (Mulan, Beauty and the Beast, Princess and the Frog).

It even has an animal involved since Kristoff needs to buy carrots for Sven and Sven is waiting for him right outside the shop. Clearly, Frozen’s “you can’t marry someone you just met” love story doesn’t really hold up when compared to other princess meetings.

Conclusion
Wow! That was a lot of films! Okay, so the trends that carried through all were DANGER! FEAR! (which is great… not) and the presence of animals. We’ve also seen the importance of music and setting. All the eras also had their own particular features like heroism and the removal of a song while couples met. In the more recent films we saw a lot of physical humor added, even in Frozen, where Kristoff is thrown from the shop and hits his head on the sign. But the eras also weaved in and out of each other with similar aspects reappearing like women running away or light vs dark.

Some stand out meetings, I think, are Tangled, where there’s less focus on them as a couple and more focus on Rapunzel beginning to realize some of the things Gothel had told her were wrong. I also loved how Ariel saw Eric for the first time and it was a total surprise since she was just excited about the fireworks. Still, she got to see several sides of him (his adorableness with his dog, his disgust at a statue in his honor) that told her something about who he was instead of the three previous couples before her where there was no depth to why they fancied each other.

Fun Facts:

-Sleeping Beauty is the first film where Aurora is actually like, “What the hell you’re a stranger!!” (Not really, but kinda.) Points for that!

-Snow is the only princess that actively wishes for love and then POOF: Prince.

-Cinderella is the first film there’s an iconic dance.

-Prince Philip is the first prince to ask his love for her NAME upon meeting her (though it happens after Once Upon a Dream). Eric asks Ariel for her name during their second meeting. I think it’s hilarious while the Prince in Cinderella is begging her to stay he never once asks for her name.

-Belle and Anna both have two suitors, one being the villain of their film. While Anna and Hans have a first meeting scene, Belle and Gaston do not since they already know each other.

-Snow White and Tiana are both wishing, one by a wishing well and the other on a star, when they meet their prince.

-The setting in Princess and the Frog is a mansion, instead of a castle. There is also a party like in Cinderella.


Which is your favorite True Love Meeting? What do you think of all these common threads? What are some other fun facts you noticed?

Follow Animated Meta on Tumblr and Twitter. See you next week!

Cheers,

M&M

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Response: How Disney Stereotypes Hurt Men

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On Thursday, Laci Green and MTV put out a video called How Disney Stereotypes Hurt Men. Unsurprisingly Mel and I had a lot of thoughts and decided to write a response. Watch the video below and then read our thoughts on body type in animation, physically empowered women, the way masculinity is presented in the princes and villains, and men fighting over women.


Body Types in Animation

One of the biggest and most obvious gripes about animation is the way people are drawn. Laci points this out very aptly when she says all the men are drawn the same. They’re big, tall, muscular, and generally white, as the video says. This is true. Men are pressured the same way women are to look a certain way. Men are encouraged to be physically fit, have six packs, and be big strong men.

beauty and the beast fabulous reaction

However, women in animation are not drawn any better. Women often times have a tiny waist, a decent chest, and huge wide eyes. Hell, recent Disney films have faced criticism for having Rapunzel, Elsa, and Anna drawn with the exact same face.

elsa__anna_and_rapunzel_by_chicoesparta76-d7oh05d

This is a problem that goes both ways. Animated characters enforce gender stereotypes and uphold unattainable standards of beauty.

Disney and other animation houses need to recognize they are not drawing actual human beings. But this is also a problem that extends outside of animation to Hollywood and the media as a whole. Actors and actresses face extreme levels of pressure and then are ridiculed when they cave and get plastic surgery. It even extends to normal people that are not in the public eye. Eating disorders and low self-esteem are real life consequences that have wide reaching effects.

Now, Disney also draws its villains and heroes a certain way. While princes and princesses are both extraordinarily beautiful, Laci makes another point about men that are not everything a prince should be according to the standards of animation: “Men who aren’t tall and muscular are often portrayed as outcasts or subservient and weak.” I agree and disagree.

confused reaction

Let me explain.

Men that do not look like a prince are treated differently, but the only one I can think of that is an outcast for it is Quasi in Hunchback. But the point of that film is that it is wrong to discriminate based on how people look. Frollo emotionally abuses Quasi and even tried to murder him as a baby. Quasi is the hero of the film despite not looking or being a prince and his film sends the message it is wrong to mistreat him because he looks different.

Another character that is an outcast in their film is Hercules. Hercules is super strong and tall and an awkward teenager. He hasn’t yet developed his muscles, which he does by training and actually working hard. But he does have this gifted insane amount of strength from childhood and is ostracized for it.

Often times, men that don’t fit the “big, tall, muscular” mold are actually villains. Look at Lawrence in Princess and the Frog. He wants power and is jealous of Naveen and so throws his lot in with Dr. Facilier. Lawrence, physically, is a short, plump, balding dude. He is one of the villains of the film. He’s not handsome in the conventional sense. The Huntsman in Snow White, who we are supposed to fear, is a big, also plump dude. He has a big nose and a scary, angry face. Smee, Hook’s right hand man, looks a lot like Lawrence. Cruella’s henchmen also have the big noses, while one is plump and short and the other skinny and tall. The Butler in Aristocats also doesn’t fit the prince mold. My point here is, these men don’t become outcasts. They are villains.

bitch i'm fabulous reaction lion king

An exception to this is Jasmine’s dad. He is drawn similarly to Lawrence (rather, Lawrence is drawn similar to him) and is kinda/sorta/not really a villain, but he is standing in the way of Jasmine being able to make her own choices. However, he is not the antagonist of the film and is ultimately a figure we sympathize with. He’s blinded by tradition and only wants Jasmine to be provided for once he dies. Jasmine could probably provide for herself quite fine, as could all women, if not held back by this archaic way of thinking. The sultan is a powerful figure though small in stature. He does not fit the prince mold, despite have been one before he became sultan.

Generally, though, beauty is equated with goodness, while villains are the opposite.

The same can be said for female villains. Ursula isn’t supermodel skinny and when she turns herself into Vanessa to tempt Eric, she has a totally different body type. Lady Medusa in The Rescuers has saggy boobs and buckteeth and looks certifiably insane. So do Cruella and Yzma. Disney is totally guilty of the way it draws its characters and the messages it sends. But this damage goes both ways.

Prince = “Savior”

As the video progresses, Laci tells us that princesses need saving and a prince has to be there do it. While this seems true at first glance, it’s not really so. The older films, Snow White, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, etc are definitely guilty of this. But Disney has evolved from those films.

Let’s start with The Little Mermaid, the beginning of the Disney Renaissance. Ariel saves Eric from drowning the very first time they meet. He would have died during the storm. But Ariel was there and she grabbed him and carried him to safety. But it does not end there. When Ariel finds out Eric is about to marry Ursula in disguise, she jumps into action. Literally.

little mermaid dramatic entry 10 points reaction crack

She can’t swim and relies on her friends to save her. I love The Little Mermaid for this reason. Everyone depends on each other. Ariel saves Eric, Eric saves Ariel, Ariel saves Flounder (the shark sequence in the opening), Flounder and Sebastian save Ariel (Sebastian cuts the barrels loose and Flounder tows her), etc. No one is the hero all the time. Everyone needs help.

little mermaid i hope you appreciate what i go through for you

Anyway, back to Ariel saving Eric. She’s not about to let Eric get trapped in a fake marriage. Sebastian and Scuttle do a lot of the legwork for that scene, but Ariel’s presence matters, too. Saving does not always have to be literal. We’ll return to that notion later. Let’s stay with TLM a bit longer.

When Ursula captures Ariel and takes her home, Eric stops Ursula from hurting Ariel after Ariel protected her father. The Little Mermaid is very cyclical, as I mentioned, and it plays itself that way to the end of the film. Ariel evades Ursula in the whirlpool of doom and Eric is able to spear her with his ship. But the film does not end with Eric saving the day. The film ends when Ariel and her father finally find common ground. They reach an understanding. It’s not about Eric saving the day because everyone in The Little Mermaid has saved someone else at some point. It’s about Ariel—the little mermaid—and her relationship with her father. Triton gives Ariel legs and the Part of Your World reprise plays. Part of Your World was the moment the plot really kicked off, when we knew Ariel was going to go for what she wanted. She has her father’s blessing now; all is well between them. The final line of the film is “I love you, daddy,” emphasizing this.

little mermaid i love you, daddy

Another example where Disney bashes the notion of a prince having to save the day and the princess being useless is Mulan. To me, every female character in Disney is a princess. I know that’s technically untrue since Esmeralda’s not, etc, but to me they are. So I’m going to talk about Mulan now. Mulan, as I’ve talked about in other metas, is an amazing movie steeped in gender roles and seeks to overcome that beautifully.

Mulan totally saves herself and all of China and also her boyfriend.

hercules like a boss reaction crack

After Mulan confronts the Huns and shoots her arrow into the mountains to create an avalanche, Shang gets caught in the disaster. Mulan saves him from going off a cliff all while injured, herself! At the end of the film, when she fights Shan-Yu, she fights him as a woman. The gender roles are even emphasized more when Mulan has her friends dress as women to break into the palace because they would not be seen as a legitimate threat that way. The guards instead were interested if they could get some action. Disney throws that right in our faces! Disney is straight up showing us the gender roles, that women are weak and submissive and men won’t take them seriously.

And then badass Mulan goes and fights the leader of the Huns. She’s not pretending to be a man. She’s wearing feminine clothes. She’s herself. She even uses a fan to defeat Shan-Yu, something seen in Asian culture as a feminine practice. Disney subverts every single gender role and challenges them in Mulan. Mulan wins. She beats him. And again, the focus of the film is not on the romance. Mulan goes home to see her family and her dad. She makes peace with them before she essentially gets Shang as a “prize.” Eric and Shang are just bonuses in Ariel and Mulan’s stories. The men don’t win anyone.

Tangled also has the princess saving the prince—err, Flynn. She heals him at the end of the film, even though he is the one that came to rescue her. She saves him, literally. But now I want to look at the ways Disney has their female heroes saving men in not so obvious ways. The best example of this is Pocahontas. John Smith is a pretty arrogant guy when he meets Pocahontas. And it is through her that he becomes a better person. She teaches him about the importance of the land and also that judging people and fearing them is wrong. She changes his total world view. Colors of the Wind is the turning point. She challenges his assumptions that the English way is the best one, the “civilized” way. She does not overtly go charging into battle wielding a weapon, but she saves him nonetheless. She left a mark on him.

i cant even talk about it reaction   i need a moment reaction right in the feels reaction

Okay, so we covered the fact that princesses frequently save their princesses and saving does not always have to be so black and white. I also want to talk about physically empowered women that Disney has given us. These ladies aren’t necessarily saving anyone, maybe they’re protecting themselves, just surviving, or playing.

Esmeralda is always the first person I think of because of her epic escape scene after she protects Quasi. She counts how many guards there are and does the amazing, “10 of you and only 1 of me. What’s a poor girl to do?” And then POOF, she is gone! But, wait, there she is! And now watch her outsmart all of you. Then she meets Phoebus officially in Notre Dame has no qualms about fighting her future hubby with a candlestick. She’s smart, she’s sassy, and she knows how to fight. Esmeralda is a boss, okay.

I think I’ve already covered how perfect Mulan and Ariel are.

Nala always pawns Simba in a fight.

Jasmine is a fast learner, jumping over rooftops like she’s been doing it her whole life.

frozen punch hans

Disney has plenty of physically empowered women. It’s not all about the prince saving the day. In fact, it hasn’t really been about the prince saving anyone since the early Disney films. In Beauty and the Beast, the Beast needs Belle to save him from his curse. Aladdin beats Jafar at the end of the film, but Jasmine’s words are “I choose you, Aladdin.”

Men Fighting for Women and Domineering, Masculine Men

Laci mentions at one point how many Disney movies have a battle between two guys, with the winner winning pride, respect and a woman. Now I can see where people would see male antagonist vs. male hero and think the fight is about a woman, but in most cases, it’s really not. Even in cases where we have a possessive villain (Gaston, Jafar) who wants the princess for himself, the fight itself is more about power than it is about the woman at hand. We do have one fight that’s sort of about a woman in Hercules, between Hercules and Hades, and Hercules does get pride/respect/becomes a god. HOWEVER, that means losing out on Meg, because he can’t be with her if he’s not mortal, and Hercules gives up that pride and power for a chance to be with the woman he loves. On the flip side, Aladdin believes he can’t be with Jasmine without wealth and status, but she doesn’t care about that and chooses him after he sets the genie free instead of wishing to be a prince again.

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Disney proves to us time and time again that love is so much greater than status or power by showing us antagonists so consumed with getting that power and status that it destroys them. Gaston dies when he stabs the Beast after the Beast saves his life instead of just moving on with his life like a normal person. Jafar gets trapped in the lamp because he’s so obsessed with power that he doesn’t realize power always comes with a price. Hades underestimates Hercules’ strength and power, and more importantly, his love for Meg, which ends up screwing him over.

I also find the assumption that women are viewed as prizes to be won to be offensive, because they’re really not.

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A lot of these Disney movies are female-led, and if anything, the prince is their bonus prize achieved in the midst of their goal, mainly because princess/prince connect and share some commonality. (Ex: Aladdin and Jasmine, who both wish that the world would see them for who they really are, and feel trapped by everyone’s expectations and opinions.)

Jasmine actually has this really amazing quote that I love: “I am not a prize to be won.” These ladies do not put up with men who view them as prizes or commodities. Jasmine side-eyes Jafar and her rich suitors who are after the money/status that comes with marrying the Sultan’s daughter, and even side-eyes Aladdin for a while there when he’s pretending to be Prince Ali, because he’s acting like all of the idiots she’s dealt with before. It’s only when he shows her who he really is that she starts to respect him. Another great example: Belle and Gaston. Gaston is domineering and pushy and tries to harass Belle into dating him, because he feels as though he deserves her, and Belle rejects him time and time again, because his lack of respect for her and her boundaries means she has zero respect for him in return. She also doesn’t fall in love with the Beast until the Beast gets his shit together and starts treating her with the respect and kindness she deserves, and makes an effort to change his ways.

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At one point, Laci mentions that Disney tries to show us that “domination is central to being a real man” which I respectfully disagree with. Does Disney have men who are dominating and aggressive? Yes, they definitely do. But, those men are not the princes/heroes that the ladies in the Disney world fall for. In fact, the domineering aggressive dudes in Disney are often the antagonists. Radcliffe, Gaston, Jafar, Scar, Frollo: these are all dudes that feel entitled to women and power and status.

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And these aggressive entitled dudes are the ones that end up alone, imprisoned or dead at the end. They’re not rewarded for being domineering or aggressive: they’re punished for it.

Meanwhile, most of our Disney heroes, the ones that end up with the girl at the end, are guys who are respectful toward women. They don’t treat women as prizes; they aren’t aggressive toward them or make them feel uncomfortable. They listen. They respect their feelings. They fight for them, and their women fight for them, and what we end up with are these wonderful, equal relationships that set a great example for women.

Passive Women/Gender Roles

Okay, so I love tearing apart gender roles as much as anyone, and while Disney does leave me unsatisfied in some regards, I really don’t think gender roles is a big issue for them. Passive/domesticated women and active/aggressive men are not how Disney relationships tend to balance out on-screen.

First of all, while I agree with Laci about the earlier Pre-Renaissance films (Snow White, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty), I strongly disagree that the women in the Renaissance era and beyond are portrayed as passive. They don’t need men to save them. They aren’t sitting around in their castle waiting for a man to pop up and complete them. No, these princesses are out following their dreams, and if they happen to find the man of their dreams along the way, awesome.

The Renaissance (and beyond) Princesses have way more to do.

Ariel seems to get the most flack, so I’ll start with her. Ariel is our first princess who is incredibly active and adventurous and progressive. She’s the one who sets the entire plot into motion. She saves Eric from drowning. She battles sharks. She’s the one who goes to Ursula for the deal so she can explore land (which she’s always wanted to do) and also meet Eric. Notice how Eric is the straw that broke the camel’s back here. Ariel always wanted to go to land. (Remember “Part of Your World?” That takes place before Ariel even meets Eric.) Even when Ariel’s voiceless on land, she’s still the one initiating the relationship. She doesn’t sit around and hope Eric realizes she’s awesome: she’s actively hanging out with Eric and uses her body language and personality to show him that she’s into him. Like Mic mentioned, we get this wonderful relationship balance between the two of them, where Eric saves Ariel in return. She saves him, he saves her – it’s all balanced out.

But it isn’t just Ariel. The Disney Princess films revolve around the princesses, and thus we get women who actively go out and pursue their dreams. Disney does explore gender roles, but does something truly revolutionary. It sets our heroines in a world with so many biases and expectations for them, and then they proceed to break through those roles and debunk them entirely. Mulan runs off to join the army to bring honor to her family and break free of the gender roles confining her. Belle wants much more than her provincial life and definitely doesn’t want to be “Madam Gaston, his little wife” so she rejects the expectations fostered on her and finds that adventure she was looking for.

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Pocahontas doesn’t settle for the smoothest course, and ends up uniting her tribe and the settlers. Tiana fights her way to her happy ending and her dream to open that restaurant, ignoring the naysayers. Jasmine says “screw the law” and finds the true love and the freedom she wanted with Aladdin, and then ends up getting her dad to nix the laws that restrain her, which gives her the agency she’s desired. Rapunzel is just awesome, and takes charge of her destiny when she makes that deal with Flynn, and grows into herself and sees the lights and finds a new dream in him.

Also, men aren’t always the ones chasing the women. Most of these women are chasing those guys right back.

little mermaid take your dreams into your own hands

There’s so much mutual attraction and respect built into Disney relationships, where both sides pursue each other and take things at their own pace. A lot of the relationships build up over time as the movie goes on, and the characters get to know one another. Respect and trust is fostered throughout, which leads to love.

As times change and grow, our heroines grow with them, and become more revolutionary and break through more and more gender walls. Even the men do this.

We often forget that in the majority of these Disney films, we have a female lead, and thus the prince/love interest supplements the movie. In the past, this meant we got love interests like Prince Charming and Snow White’s prince, who weren’t as developed and were more confined to gender roles. They didn’t get as much of a role in the movies: they just appeared to save the princess. But as time has gone by, Disney has built up the love interests, giving them their own character arcs and roles and strong personalities that contrast and blend with the princesses in a wonderful way that ends up resulting in some great, balanced relationships. We don’t just get a prince saving a princess. Both sides save each other and look out for each other, because they care for and respect one another. A great example of this would be Flynn and Rapunzel, who both share character arcs and have their own quests and goals. They each save one another from danger, and are assets to each other in a great way.

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I talked a lot about gender roles for guys already, but there are a few more things I want to add. The Disney guys don’t tend to conform to gender roles, unless they’re villains and represent a hyper masculinity that’s very harmful. Most of our Disney dudes are not aggressive or domineering, or even stoic and cold. In fact, we get as much emotional expression from the dudes as we do from the ladies, which is pretty equal and awesome to me. Guys in Disney movies are not afraid to talk about their feelings, or love, or admit if they messed up, or even cry and feel sad or angry. They don’t hold back their emotions, and when they do, or when they try and be something they’re not, it usually ends badly for them. Examples:

  • Hercules: No one likes me. I don’t think I belong here. Something is wrong with me. WHERE DO I BELONG?
  • Aladdin: I AM NOT A STREET RAT. I’m pretty awesome, just give me a chance. I want Jasmine to love me. She’s so pretty and smart. *makes heart eyes*
  • Beast: is just a mess, okay? He’s all NO ONE WILL LOVE ME. I AM DOOMED.
  • Tarzan: Who am I? Why do they look like me? Am I supposed to be like them? WHO ARE THESE STRANGERS?
  • Kuzco: HELP I’M A LLAMA! I don’t want to be a llama. Llamas are lame. I want to be a badass rich emperor dude.
  • Naveen: I NEED MONEYYYYYYY. And women. And my status. Oh, Tiana, hiii. I ‘m gonna make you dinner and gaze up at the stars with you.
  • Flynn: Be cool, dude. I’m actually a wounded orphan on the inside pretending to be a swashbuckling rogue. Let me tell Rapunzel my whole life story. *heart eyes*
  • Eric: I want to marry the girl of my dreams. It’ll hit me, LIKE LIGHTNING. Or my ship exploding and sending me straight into her arms. Let me just stare at the water all moody and play my flute until she shows up. WHAT IS LOVE? IT IS HER. Alas!
  • Phoebus: I love my horse. Like, I really love my horse. We have a bromance. Also, I’m a soldier that follows my heart, not orders. I won’t burn down innocent people’s homes.
  • Yao, Ling, Ping: WE WANT LOVE TO SUSTAIN US WHILE WE GO OFF TO WAR.

I also disagree that Disney men are portrayed as being dopey/incompetent, because our heroes are not, and our villains definitely are not (since most of them are creepily savvy). I think some of the older men in Disney (Maurice, the Sultan, Prince Charming’s dad) fall prey to this trope, mainly through how they’re viewed by other characters. Maurice is written off as a crackpot/crazy by half the town, when he’s actually a pretty brilliant guy despite his absent-minded nature. Charming’s dad and the Sultan are both a little childish and silly, but they prove that they’re worthy kings to lead their land, and have a good head on their shoulders. So I don’t think the dopey thing has much merit, to be honest. Even in the earlier films, most of the guys aren’t portrayed that way, and as time goes on, it comes up less and less.

Conclusion: For the Most Part, Disney Stereotypes Aren’t Affecting Men Adversely

While the physical appearance of both Disney princesses and princes is a negative issue that needs some reworking, since it sets up unrealistic body standards, for the most part, Disney Stereotypes don’t seem to be hurting men too badly. Disney breaks away from the typical norm of gender roles for men by having its male leads be open with their emotions and letting them break out of the typical “knight in shining armor” role.

They also portray more domineering, aggressive men as a negative thing, as most of these men in Disney movies happen to be the antagonists. Disney stereotypes don’t seem to hurt women too badly either: instead of the more passive damsels of the past, Disney’s female leads are active, determined, and generally awesome role models. They initiate their plots and don’t wait around for a guy to save them; they save themselves. They don’t put up with men who don’t respect them or treat them like trophies.

The relationships they end up in are equally balanced and filled with respect and love on both sides of the equation. While Disney fails in some aspects, it definitely does not in regards to gender roles and its portrayal of their later princesses and princes. Instead, Disney challenges gender roles and allows both its female and male characters to break free from them in a way that is wonderfully creative and sets a great example for children.

Do do you think Disney Stereotypes hurt men? Are Disney princesses just damsels in distress that need men to come save them? Do you think body images in animation is a problem?

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Cheers,

M&M

The 8 Reasons Aladdin is Amazing

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aladdin logo

Aladdin (and its sequels) are pretty amazing, and I’ve wanted to meta about them for quite some time, so I decided to boil down the reasons why these movies are awesome sauce. (Note: I mainly focused on Aladdin, but did talk a bit about Return of Jafar and King of Thieves as well, so if you haven’t seen those, spoilers ahead!)

1. Aladdin is the Disney Prince of my heart.

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Aladdin is my favorite Disney Prince. Okay, so he’s not really a prince, but to be fair, he ends up becoming one, so I’d like to say he counts. Aladdin is just awesome. He’s selfless, kind, funny, adventurous, and gives me lots of feelings.

He’s probably our most developed male lead, and it really pays off with him, because he’s just a really fun main character to follow around. He’s a thief with a heart of gold, and while his first scene involves him running from guards, his character establishing scene is when he gives the bread to those two adorable kids on the street.

aladdin being charitable

After that, how can you not love him? It’s just… ❤

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His loyalty is one of his best traits. When he promises something, he doesn’t go back on it. Example: his promise to free Genie. Even when he risks out on losing a chance to be with Jasmine, he frees Genie anyway, because that was what he promised, and because he knows how important freedom is to Genie.

He also owns up to his mistakes when he makes them, even if sometimes it takes him a bit of time to stop fretting and do so. When he upsets Jasmine by being a jerk and talking about her future behind her back, he realizes that he’s made an idiot of himself and tells her that she’s right, and she should be free to make her own choice.

He also attempts to tell Jasmine the truth about how he really is before Jafar exposes him, and later apologizes for deceiving her, after the whole mess with Jafar is over with. It’s part of his wonderful character arc, involving his identity and how people view him vs. how he sees himself. One of Aladdin’s biggest woes in the movie is him being sick of the classism he deals with. He wishes people would stop just viewing him as a poor boy and a street rat, and that they’d look beyond the label and see him for who he really is. Thus, we get that whole plot where he thinks he needs to be something he’s not to win over Jasmine when really, all he ever needed to be was his adorable charming self.

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2. Jasmine is incredibly underrated and amazing.

aladdin jasmine

Jasmine is so underrated, and I don’t even understand why, because she’s amazing. She’s witty, loyal, compassionate, determined, confident…

She’s someone who thinks on her feet and uses her wit and cunning to get out of tough situations. Two great examples: 1) when she pretends to be in love with Jafar to distract him, and 2) when she jumped right into Aladdin’s improv in the marketplace when a guard tried to cut off her hand.

Jasmine is also incredibly confident in herself and her self-worth. She has high standards and doesn’t want to just settle for whatever rich guy shows up at her doorstep. She side-eyes her suitors, who let’s be real, are probably just trying to marry her to get money. She also does not stand for people telling her what to do. When she overhears her father, Jafar and ‘Prince Ali’ talking about who should marry Jasmine, she gets furious and goes off on them in what has to be one of my favorite rants ever:

aladdin how dare you

“How dare you! All of you, standing around, deciding my future? I am not a prize to be won!”

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Like most of our Disney Princesses, Jasmine longs for something more. In her case, that something more is her desire for agency, so she can make her own choices. She wants to choose where to go, rather than being stuck behind the palace walls. She wants to marry for love rather than business. And more importantly, she just wants people to listen to her and respect her choices. Jafar doesn’t do that. Her father also doesn’t do that, at first, anyway, but he comes around eventually. The first person who respects her and listens to her is Aladdin, and guess what? He’s the guy she ends up falling in love with because of that.

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I just love her and how much she loves herself, and how Disney wasn’t afraid to give us a heroine who is cunning and a little bit snarky and also incredibly confident and stubborn. Like Ariel and Belle did before her, Jasmine paves the way for the princesses that come after her, and that’s part of why I ❤ her so much.

3. Two fully fleshed out dual protagonists who build on what’s come before them, and create an even stronger foundation for future characters.

First we had Phillip and Aurora. Next came Eric and Ariel. While Phillip and Eric got quite a bit of development, and we spend a bit of the movie with them, The Little Mermaid focused more on Ariel, and as for Sleeping Beauty… well, quite honestly Phillip could’ve been a bit more fleshed out as a character, considering the fact that he’s pretty voiceless in the second half.

Beauty and the Beast comes after those, and we get so much wonderful development for both Belle and the Beast. The Beast is probably the first prince with a character arc, which is very important, because that builds on Aladdin, where we have two main characters with pretty equally split screen-time and two very strong character arcs.

Aladdin wants people to see him for who he really is, not just as a street rat. We even get a whole song about this, which I am embedding below because it gives me lots of feelings:

Jasmine wants to gain some agency and learn about life behind the palace walls. She doesn’t have a song. However, we do get this really awesome discussion with her dad, which basically amounts to an ‘I want’ chat, where Jasmine lays down the law with her father and tells him that she wants to marry for love, and she loathes the rules that bind her.

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The  musical also has this amazing song that kind of sums this up in a song called “These Palace Walls:”

We spend a pretty equal amount of time jumping between Jasmine and Aladdin, and when they finally meet, we’re rooting for them to get together because they’re both awesome. More importantly, we the audience have gotten to know both characters well at this point, and thus we’ve invested in their journeys going forward. We want them both to have their own happy ending. We want Jasmine to get that agency and freedom she desires. We want Aladdin to realize that he’s more than the label he’s been given, and to find someone who can see past that and love him for him. Heck, we even care about more minor characters like the Genie and his want to be free.

The character development and dual arcs in Aladdin set the tone for future Disney movies like Tangled, where we get more focus on each side of the couple. It’s pretty awesome how all of Disney’s animation builds on itself, isn’t it? Nowhere is this more evident than in the romance between Aladdin and Jasmine, our most fully realized pairing thus far of the Disney Princess films.

4. Aladdin and Jasmine are the ultimate OTP, basically.

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Aladdin and Jasmine’s relationship is really important to me. Not only are both incredibly fleshed out, but their relationship is formed on trust and respect, which are two very important building blocks in a relationship. After Aladdin gets Jasmine out of that tight spot in the marketplace, we get that awesome scene in the movie where they hang out and bond on the rooftops. Here, a foundation of respect begins.

For Aladdin, it starts when Jasmine pole-vaults her way across the rooftop, and proves that she isn’t quite as much of a damsel as Aladdin seems to think she is. Aladdin’s wide-eyed look leads into him respecting Jasmine, and only grows as they talk about that feeling of being trapped. Granted, they’re referring to two different things (Aladdin, life on the streets; Jasmine, life in the palace) but they both understand that feeling of being trapped by people’s expectations and rules. For Jasmine, it’s the fact that Aladdin actually listens to her, which no one else really does.

We also get this wonderful moment:

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Which later leads into this fantastic moment:

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In between this point, we’ve had Jasmine dealing with ‘Prince Ali’ (who she doesn’t know is Aladdin), and there’s a very important distinction made. Aladdin thinks that being a prince and becoming something he’s not is what will win Jasmine over, since surely she’d never want to marry a street rat. But Jasmine is taken aback by Prince Ali’s arrogance. All of the claims made in Prince Ali, about his wealth, possessions and status, mean nothing to her.

aladdin jasmine's not impressed

It’s not until she realizes that Prince Ali = Aladdin, and Aladdin starts showing her his real self, not his egotistical alter ego, that she falls head over heels in love with him.

The “do you trust me?” moment is important not only because Aladdin is asking for consent to take her on this adventure, rather than just taking her along for the ride, but also because it shows that Jasmine is impressed by the sentiment. Aladdin showing Jasmine a whole new world can be referenced in two ways: 1) him showing her around the kingdom, and 2) showing her the kind of affection and respect that she has never gotten from another guy, or well, anyone, really.

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Plus, these two make an amazing team. They’re equals in their relationship, which is really important. They also get the most development out of any of the Disney couples, because we have three movies and a TV series to follow their growth through. By the time of Prince of Thieves, Aladdin and Jasmine have been together for some time. They’ve seen the world, they’ve grown and changed as people, and more importantly, they know each other so much more than they did at the start of the movie. Their relationship has strengthened and grown, and so has their trust and respect for one another. Them getting married feels more important than past marriages, because whereas we never really got that growth before, here we get to watch the relationship unfold. Here, it feels more significant, and more developed as a whole.

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Plus, look at how cute these two are!

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5. All of the songs are flawless and catchy.

Aladdin is one of those movies that I always wind up humming along to when it’s on. Every song from this movie is catchy, from “Arabian Nights” to “A Whole New World.” Each song has a purpose, adds something to the plot, and more importantly, is awesome to listen to. My favorite of the bunch is probably “A Whole New World,” which I rambled a lot about in the Disney Love Songs meta I wrote last month with Mic, so I won’t bore you with more rambling.

But seriously, the music is awesome. Even the sequels have good songs! Return of Jafar gives Jafar a true villain song with “You’re Only Second Rate” while Prince of Thieves just has awesome songs all around, like “Out of Thin Air” (which is one of my favorites) and “Are You In Or Out?”

I do want to talk about the nice juxtaposition in the music, with the opening of Aladdin, and the ending of The Prince of Thieves. Aladdin opens with “Arabian Nights” which is essentially our introduction to the world, and then shows us the merchant, who is essentially our narrator of the story. Then Prince of Thieves, the final movie, ties up the storyline by ending with the “Arabian Nights (Reprise)” in which the merchant finishes his story up for us. It’s a really cool way to tie together the series, and it shows the awesome continuity that the movies share.

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6. Jafar is a pretty awesome villain.

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I’ll admit it: Jafar is pretty twisted.

But that’s part of what makes him an effective villain. Jafar is our first male antagonist of a Disney Princess movie, and he’s a quite chilling one. He’s manipulative, petty, possessive, entitled, and he has a very deadpan sense of humor.

Like Gaston before him, Jafar feels entitled to lots of things. He thinks he deserves the kingdom. He thinks he deserves Jasmine. One of the great things about Jafar is that in a way, his relationship with Jasmine is the exact opposite of Jasmine’s relationship with Aladdin. While Aladdin respects Jasmine and her feelings, Jafar just kind of doesn’t. Jafar sees Jasmine as a trophy that he deserves, and Jasmine points out, she’s not a prize to be won. Unfortunately, Jafar never really gets that through his thick skull, or maybe he just doesn’t care. Either way, his lack of regard for Jasmine’s feelings and his attempts at forcing her into a relationship are shown as despicable, as they should be. It’s a great way of highlighting a not healthy relationship vs. a healthy one.

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Unlike Gaston, who was mostly all talk and no bite, Jafar has the dark magic to back himself up. He’s also a fairly clever villain, who uses hypnotism and trickery in order to achieve his goals. His plot to steal the lamp from Aladdin, for example, was actually pretty clever. But like Gaston before him, Jafar’s arrogance is his downfall, and his wish to be a genie and get that unlimited power he desires ends up backfiring when he forgets that power always has a price. In his case, that means being shackled to a lamp. Whoops. Maybe he should’ve remembered that old adage: be careful what you wish for.

In Return of Jafar, Jafar doesn’t quite learn from his past lessons. He is a bit sneakier, which ends up helping him out for a while, but his flair for dramatics, and the way that he treats people as pawns rather than people (his treatment of Iago, for example) ends up screwing him over in the end when Iago leads directly to his defeat. Even cosmic powers can’t help you out when you just don’t leave from your past mistakes.

8. The Genie.

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Do I even need to go into why the Genie is awesome? Genie is awesome, not only because he has cool cosmic powers and makes great puns, but also because he’s the character who plays the voice of reason for Aladdin. He’s the one pressuring Aladdin to just fess up and tell Jasmine the truth, and to stop worrying so much about everyone else thinks and just be himself.

aladdin tell her the truth

He also has an awesome song (“Friend Like Me”). And he gives us lots of feelings. He is also voiced by the incredible Robin Williams (may he RIP), who did such an amazing job bringing Genie to life. I’ll just sum this up by including that scene that gives us all feelings and happiness:

8. Aladdin and Jasmine have awesome relationships with their dads!

I’ve talked a lot about how Aladdin builds off of the films that came before it, and this is very true in how it portrays the relationships with Jasmine/the Sultan and Aladdin/Cassim.

Previous Disney movies gave us some pretty great father/daughter and father/son bonds: Phillip and his father, Ariel and her father, Belle and her father…

And with both Aladdin and Jasmine, we get to see their relationships with their fathers grow and unfold. In Aladdin, we focus solely on Jasmine’s relationship with her father, the Sultan. The Sultan means well (“I just want you to be taken care of”), but the problem is that he’s so caught up in rules and tradition that he doesn’t realize that Jasmine knows what she wants and is perfectly capable of making her own decisions. He slowly realizes this over the course of the movie. Jafar turning out to be a traitor, and him seeing Jasmine’s independent spirit and her love for Aladdin, shakes him out of his daze and leads to him becoming closer to Jasmine and giving her the agency she desires to make her own choices.

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In Aladdin’s case, it’s a bit different. While Jasmine grew up with her father, sheltered, Aladdin lived on the streets exposed to a harsh world that treated him like crap, basically. When he finds out his father’s alive, he has lots of complicated feelings about him, because as he says, “What kind of man leaves his son?”

Aladdin has always felt abandoned by his father. He never had that fatherly figure to look up to. He didn’t have a father to guide or shape him the way that Jasmine did. As he says in “Out of Thin Air:”

Your father’s a man who taught you who you are;

Mine was never there

The fact that his father wasn’t there for him was a sore subject, especially when he realizes that his father is alive and off being the King of Thieves which to him feels like his dad didn’t care enough to come find him. However, just like Jasmine and the Sultan, Aladdin and his father begin to bond and understand one another. And just like the Sultan, Cassim learns to value his son and who he is as a person. Much like Jafar, Cassim was pretty obsessed with power, but whereas Jafar got consumed by power, Cassim follows in his son’s footsteps and realizes that power isn’t everything. He’d rather have his son – and his awesome future family.

While he doesn’t stick around, Aladdin doesn’t begrudge him for it, and Cassim leaves at the end of King of Thieves to go on his own trip to see the world, with Iago in tow. I’d like to think that trip led to some character growth for them, just as Aladdin and Jasmine grew in the animated series when they went off to see the world. 😉

aladdin cassim iago

What is your favorite Aladdin movie? What’s your favorite song? And what do you guys love most about the trilogy? Sound off in the comments!

Follow Animated Meta on Twitter and Tumblr. Have a great Tuesday!

Cheers,

M&M

Disney Villain Songs: Part One

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Not too long ago, Mel did an amazing series where she analyzed Disney Princess “I Want” songs. Let’s start 2015 by spotlighting the villains we love to hate and hate to love.

Disney is most famous for their animated musicals and fairy tales, but the Villain Song only really came to fruition with Disney’s Renaissance and the creation of The Little Mermaid. Think about it, Snow White had an I Want song, but The Evil Queen didn’t. Cinderella had an I Want song, but The Evil Stepmother (Lady Tremaine) didn’t. Disney villains got much more fleshed out with every movie—including their names (come on, Evil Queen? Were they even trying?).

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I don’t know either, Ariel.

Many Disney movies don’t have clean cut villains like The Evil Queen, but even she represents something deeper. The Evil Queen is symbolic of jealousy, while other films like the Jungle Book are about the danger man poses to animals and nature. The Aristocats is more so about what greed can drive someone to do. How do you give that a song? The nature of how Disney tells their stories has changed, with the Renaissance films focusing more on individual characters and growth. By that logic, the villains needed to evolve to cause a threat to the main character. The villains had to become less abstract.

Pre-Renaissance Songs

There are two slight exceptions to this pre-Renaissance rule, however. Peter Pan and 101 Dalmatians both feature Disney villains in the pre-Renaissance era that have songs sung ABOUT them.

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Peter Pan has A Pirate’s Life and The Elegant Captain Hook, which are kind of one song, but whatever. Hook has his own boy band singing his praise and it totally works since all the Lost Boys, John, and Michael are ready to sign up to a life of piracy in seconds. Hook himself only gets about a chorus where he threatens everyone’s life:

A special offer today I’ll tell you what I’ll do
All those who sign without delay will get a free tattoo
Why it’s like money in the bank
Come on, join up and I’ll be frank
Unless you do, you’ll walk the plank
The choice is up to you

Definitely villain song material—and I’ve never seen one done so elegantly. This is the first Disney film where the antagonist sings and it’s typical MUAHAHA villainy.

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Similar to Hook, except she doesn’t sing at all because who has time for that, Cruella De Vil has a song about her in 101 Dalmatians. The song heralds her arrival and tells the audience how we’re supposed to feel about her. I mean, “devil woman,” and “if she doesn’t scare you, no evil thing will,” speak for themselves.

Cruella is also framed in the doorway very creepily and Roger’s ominous tone continue to lead the audience. It’s not like Cruella makes a much better first impression when we finally meet her, blowing smoke everywhere, searching like a madwoman for the puppies, her holier than thou attitude.

101 blast this pen101 this wretched pen

Once she leaves, the song continues and Roger has many more insults to spew, which the audience is probably agreeing with at this point.

Now, onto the Disney Renaissance, which gave us music and dastardly foes!

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Poor Unfortunate Souls

Ursula’s song in The Little Mermaid gives us so much to think about. First we get a little of her backstory:

…in the past I’ve been a nasty
They weren’t kidding when they called me, well, a witch

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Ursula tries to paint herself as a saint now. She uses magic (“a talent [she’s] always possessed”) to help the “miserable, lonely, and depressed.” Of course she can’t hide her true nature and whispers to her cronies that she finds her clients “pathetic.” Or she finds exploiting Ariel too easy it’s just pathetic. I love double meanings.

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She’s manipulating Ariel with a false version of herself, claiming she helps so many people and makes their lives better. She’s promising Ariel the same thing.

The next facet of the song is men’s views of women, something we’ve covered briefly in our other Little Mermaid meta.

You’ll have your looks, your pretty face.
And don’t underestimate the importance of body language, ha!

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The men up there don’t like a lot of blabber
They think a girl who gossips is a bore!
Yes on land it’s much preferred for ladies not to say a word
And after all dear, what is idle prattle for?
Come on, they’re not all that impressed with conversation
True gentlemen avoid it when they can
But they dote and swoon and fawn
On a lady who’s withdrawn
It’s she who holds her tongue who get’s a man

Today, this is vastly considered an outdated, wrong opinion to have. But it is so ingrained in our society that some people don’t even realize they still have these views. Women are encouraged to have a career, to use their voice, but women still earn less than a man, they do not hold as many positions of leadership, and many times their ideas are not taken seriously until a male colleague suggests it.

A woman’s looks are still very important, too. There are unrealistic standards women are expected to live up to. Everyone knows how the media warps and twists things, but what about women in power? There are countless articles about what Hilary Clinton, Michelle Obama, the Duchess of Cambridge are wearing, their make-up, or their hair instead of what these women are actually doing. Even when a woman uses her voice and has power, she is brought down by the media and reduced to her looks.

To have a Disney song tackle this issue and use it as a “scare tactic” essentially from Ursula to Ariel gives the song a great, complex layer. She’s basically saying, “You’re worried you won’t have your voice? Don’t worry, I’m actually doing you a favor by taking it. He won’t want it.” Poor Unfortunate Souls is a twisty-turny, manipulative song and is a fantastic start to the inception of Villain Songs!

my body is ready

Gaston

What could be more vain and villainous than to name a song about yourself?

hercules like a boss

Like Poor Unfortunate Souls, this song also sheds some light onto Gaston for us. We learn he’s always been obsessed with his looks (“when I was a lad I ate four dozen eggs”), he’s always had gross macho tastes (“I use antlers in all of my decorating”), and he loves to spit (“I’m especially good at expectorating!”).

But really, this song shows us how Gaston feels entitled to Belle, how he sees her as property he should be able to own because he wants her and it doesn’t matter how she feels.

Who does she think she is?
That girl has tangled with the wrong man.
No one says ‘no’ to Gaston
Dismissed! Rejected!
Publicly humiliated! Why, it’s more than I can bear

First, you tangled with her, dude. Belle did not want to tangle with you and made that very clear. Second, man has some deep entitlement issues. Third, his pride was wounded when Belle rejected him in front of everyone, so that’s really what he’s most angry about. He never cared about Belle. He cared about the image she was: the pretty girl in town. She was an enigma to everyone. No one quite knew what to make of her. By claiming her, Gaston would have won the prize, essentially.

This song is representative of larger issues that plague us today, like when young athletes do not get properly punished for raping girls. The media laments their promising career, caring nothing about the victim. This song is the entire town coming together to make Gaston feel better, to tell him how much they all adore him and how perfect he is. Gaston hasn’t done anything wrong in this song.

Gaston did not rape Belle, but the scene where he proposes in her home certainly has elements of rape culture in them. He goes to her home. He pushes himself through the doorway when everything about Belle is radiating “I do not want you here.” And Belle has that right. She can not want to be around someone. She can not want them inside her home. A woman does not have to verbally say “no”— her body language can convey that, the tone of her voice, even. And Belle conveys that she is in a situation she does not want to be in.

beauty and the beast do not want

A sampling of the things he says in that scene: “There’s not a girl in town who wouldn’t love to be in your shoes.” And: “This is the day your dreams come true.”

Basically: “I am God’s gift to women, worship me.”

He’s literally forcing himself on her even as she’s trying to say no. She is pressed against the door and ducking away from him as he tries to kiss her. That is forcing himself on her. This scene directly leads to the angst ridden Gaston we meet during his Villain Song moment. He feels unjustly rejected.

Like Poor Unfortunate Souls, the song gives some insight into our villains and also looks at what men expect from women. In Ursula’s case, the woman was supposed to be pretty and quiet and not cause trouble. For Gaston, women should be mindless and worship him. They cannot say no.

Prince Ali (reprise)

Jafar’s villain song in Aladdin doesn’t come until the end of story when he thinks he’s won. It’s very different from the other two because it is a victory song. It has its roots in Hook singing about threatening children since here, Jafar is carrying out his master plan in song. Man, what a great evil laugh.

Jafar blows Aladdin’s masquerade and banishes him. He’s got control of the genie; Jasmine and the sultan are powerless. This song vastly differs in tone from the other two. Ursula is trying to get her plan in motion and succeeds by the end of the song. Gaston is in a “Woe Is Me” mood and in the man-dumps. Not Jafar. No way, this guy is winning. And he’s insulting people:

His personality flaws,
give me adequate cause
to send him packing on a one-way trip

aladdin and jafar slap

If personality flaws are all we need, I think there’s a lovely trip waiting for Jafar, too.

Jafar’s villain song is really short, but it changes the game for all villain songs that follow.

Be Prepared

Scar is plotting in The Lion King. He’s got big plans to murder his brother and take over as king. This song combines all the elements we’ve seen in the previous ones: bit of backstory, thinks he’s the best thing since sliced bread, and insults galore.

bitch i'm fabulous

We all joke about Scar and “what was Scar’s name before he got the scar?” But the truth is, we don’t know much about Mufasa and Scar. We know they’re brothers and Mufasa was older so he became king. We know Scar resents this. We can infer that maybe Scar didn’t get enough love as a cub. One of the final lines in the song is “Be king undisputed, respected, saluted, and seen for the wonder I am.” From this, I’m guessing our speculation is true. Scar was always seen as second to Mufasa, a fast he’s always resented.

oh, goody

Like Ursula, Scar is still figuring out how to put his plans into motion. His previous attempts at assassinating his brother have failed. Like Gaston, he puts himself above everyone, including the hyenas that are trying to help him take power. And like Jafar, he’s got plenty of insults to go around. And by the end of the song, he’s reveling in his sure to come victory.

This particular villain’s song treads the darker side of an I Want song. Scar wants power, in fact, he deserves power (“justice deliciously squared”). While Ursula wants Ariel’s voice, and Gaston wants Belle, and Jafar doesn’t want anything because he’s already winning, those songs all have a bit of other meanings buried beneath them. Whereas, Be Prepared, is really Scar’s I Want song, and This is How I’m Gonna Get it And It’s Gonna Be Amazing song.

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Mine, Mine, Mine

Ratcliffe’s song in Pocahontas is really interesting. I think Pocahontas is one of Disney’s most underrated films and I have no idea why because it is AMAZING. There are a lot of layers to it.

The gold of Cortes
The jewels of Pizarro
Will seem like mere trinkets
By this time tomorrow
The gold we find here
Will dwarf them by far
Oh, with all ya got in ya, boys
Dig up Virginia, boys

This is essentially the conflict between the English settlers and the Native Americans. Ratcliffe and his men expect to become rich, richer than Cortes and his successful expeditions (ie: rape and genocide and disease). The stories of wealth from the New World are what they’re chasing. Ratcliffe doesn’t care about preserving the land or the homes of the people that already live there. From the first verse of this song, we know that Ratcliffe expects nothing less than vast riches. This villain song sets up the rest of the film. If Ratcliffe doesn’t find the gold, then he’s going to assume the Natives have hoarded it all for themselves and thus we have conflict.

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“Dig up Virginia, boys” is such a chilling line to me. It shows zero compassion. It reduces the Powhatan tribe to nothing, basically. They do not matter. And land is nothing more than a commodity.

Next, in a familiar trend, Ratcliffe’s song gives us a peek into his backstory, too.

My rivals back home
It’s not that I’m bitter
But think how they’ll squirm
When they see how I glitter!
The ladies at court
Will be all a-twitter

Ratcliffe wants fame and fortune, but he also wants to be better than his rivals. We don’t know much more than this, but it shows us he’s trying to prove himself. He’s competitive. He wants a story to beat Cortes’. He probably wants other people to eventually sing about finding more gold than him—but of course that’ll never happen because Virginia is the richest of them all.

Make the mounds big, boys
I’d help you to dig, boys
But I’ve got this crick in me spine

This provides another look into Ratcliffe. He expects the gold will earn him favor with the king (“My dear friend King Jimmy will probably build me a shrine” and “The king will reward me, he’ll knight me, no lord me”), but he also already treats himself as a king. He orders his sailors around, he has them do all the digging. They do the work and he gets the reward.

Keep on working, lads
Don’t be shirking, lads
Mine, boys, mind
Mine ME that gold
Beautiful gold

I love that part, where all the pretense is gone. The “I have a bad back” is transparent enough, but for a moment Ratcliffe is totally consumed by his want/greed that he can’t even remember to try and mask his villainy.

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But in a very different move, this song also features John Smith, the central male character of the film and also the love interest. He partly shares Ratcliffe’s views in that he sees the land as something he can take and “claim,” in his own words. He’s misguided like Ratcliffe, but he’s not there for the gold. He’s there for “adventure,” and to find “danger.” John Smith’s character arc entwines itself with Ratcliffe and then they run parallel to each other, both Englishmen going on separate journeys. They both traveled to Virginia because of land and they both share this song. Smith distances himself from the other settlers both visually (to the audience) and emotionally (he can’t see what Ratcliffe is doing, the destruction is not real to him) by not being part of the digging party. He’s already gone off to explore the new land.

It was an interesting and bold move to craft the song this way. This is the first villain song to include a non-villain character in it. Pocahontas is one of those films that has so many deeper meanings and Ratcliffe and Smith are both complex characters that prove this.

Conclusion

Next week I’ll tackle the deleted song from The Emperor’s New Grooze, Snuff out the Light. We’ll also wrap up with the final Villain Songs: Hellfire, Friends on the Other Side, and Mother Knows Best. I’ll also discuss the films Hercules, Mulan, Tarzan, Lilo & Stitch, and Frozen by exploring why these films lack Villain Songs.

Happy 2015! Sending wicked vibes your way for a good one.
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What do you think of the Disney Villain Songs? Do you have a favorite?

Cheers!
-M&M

Disney Princess “I Want” Songs: Part 2

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Welcome back to part 2 of my Disney Princess I Want Songs meta! (Be sure to check out Part 1 if you haven’t already.) Today, we’re tackling the rest of the Renaissance era princesses (Jasmine, Pocahontas and Mulan), and then we’re onto the Post-Renaissance (Tiana, Rapunzel and Anna). So let’s get started!

Jasmine: Jasmine’s Song…Uh…About That…

aladdin jasmine
Okay, so Jasmine is a weird case, because she doesn’t quite have an “I Want” song. In the Broadway musical, she has this gorgeous song called “These Palace Walls” that sums up her wants so well, but this is Animated Meta and we’re talking about the animated movies, so that’s off limits.

So sadly, Jasmine has no I Want Song. But she does have an I Got What I Wanted song. Confused? Let me explain.

Despite not having an I Want Song, there is a nice little scene between Jasmine and the Sultan where she tells us exactly what she wants out of life. The Sulan wants her to marry, and reminds her that there’s three days until her next birthday, by which time she needs to announce a suitor. Jasmine’s not thrilled with that.

“I hate being forced into this,” she says firmly, and then: “If I do marry, I want it to be for love.”

aladdin i want it to be for love

The Sultan’s also worried about her being alone. He wants her to be “taken care of,” but Jasmine points out that she’s never had a chance to take care of herself, and it’s clear that she resents the fact that she’s been so sheltered all these years. (“I’ve never had any real friends…I’ve never even been outside the palace walls!”)

Here, we have Jasmine’s core want laid out: she wants more independence. Because her father has tried to protect her, Jasmine has never really been given the chance to decide anything for herself. She’s never been able to go out beyond the palaces walls and see the kingdom. She hasn’t made any real friends (well, any human friends; she has Raja). And she doesn’t want to marry just because some law tells her to. Like many of us, she wants to find someone she loves and settle down with them. And she wants to do that on her own time, not on some insane three day time limit. So obviously, she’s not super happy with her dad.

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And that’s where “A Whole New World” comes in.

aladdin a whole new world

Unlike most of the princesses, Jasmine’s song is an I Got What I Wanted song. By this time, she’s achieved many of her core wants. She snuck out of the palace and got to see outside the palace walls. She met a cute guy (Aladdin) who she connected with in a way that she hasn’t with the suitors her father threw her way. And of course, in “A Whole New World,” we have Aladdin offering her something else she wants: a chance to see the world.

“I can show you the world; shining, shimmering, splendid,” he promises her: “No one to tell us no or where to go, or say we’re only dreaming.”

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Which is exactly what Jasmine wants: Aladdin gives her the independence she craves, because he understands her desires? She wants to see the world? Well, he’ll hop in his carpet and show her. And Jasmine appreciates that:

Unbelievable sights, indescribable feelings,
Soaring, tumbling, free-wheeling, through an endless diamond sky
A whole new world, a hundred thousand things to see,
I’m like a shooting star; I’ve come so far
I can’t go back to where I used to be

Aladdin opens up a whole new world of possibilities for Jasmine. He opens up opportunities and choices that she never thought possible, and in the end, he’s what inspires her to reach for what she wants. And in turn, she helps him achieve what he wants as well. Now that’s what I call an equal partnership.

Pocahontas: Just Around the Riverbend

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I already talked a lot about “Just Around the Riverbend” in my Pocahontas and Spirituality post a few weeks back, so some of this might seem repetitive. But here we go anyway:

Pocahontas’ want is actually kind of vague, to be honest. What she wants is “something more.” She actually isn’t sure what specifically she wants, but she knows that the path her father has put her on isn’t what she wants, and that she could aspire to so much more:

Can I ignore that sound of distant drumming
For a handsome sturdy husband who builds handsome, sturdy walls
And never dreams that something might be coming
Just around the river bend?

“Just Around the Riverbend” is all about internal conflict. Pocahontas is deciding whether she’d rather choose the smoothest course or find out what’s waiting for her just around the river bend. Like Grandmother Willow tells her, the right path is not always the easiest one, so it makes sense that Pocahontas would antagonize over whether it’s better to follow the path she knows or take a risk and travel down one less known.

pocahontas kocoum riverbend
But Pocahontas has always been an adventurer, and she’s never been one to ignore her heart, so when she picks the rougher path at the end of the song, we know she’s on the right track. And sure enough, choosing to follow her heart and find what’s around the river bend leads Pocahontas to John Smith. Although their tale ends bittersweet, Pocahontas doesn’t regret the path she chose, because in listening to her heart and taking the path less traveled, she brings together her tribe and the settlers, and finally comes into herself as the future leader she is destined to be.

pocahontas choosing another course

Mulan: Reflection

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Ah, Fa Mulan. I love Mulan so much, guys. I could ramble about her forever. But I’ll just stick to this gorgeous I Want song of hers. Unlike many of our princesses, Mulan isn’t seeking adventure or romance: she’s seeking acceptance from the people she loves. “Reflection” is all about identity and acceptance. Mulan wants her family to accept her for who she is inside, and wars with the fact that who she is goes at odds with what society (and her family) expect from her:

Now I see that if I were truly to be myself,
I would break my family’s heart

Mulan is not ladylike or elegant, and that’s what messes with her chances with the Matchmaker.

It also makes her feel inadequate, because the role society puts on her demands that she be one way, while she is another. She tries to hide it, but can’t, and it tears her apart:

Somehow, I cannot hide who I am, though I’ve tried
When will my reflection show who I am inside?

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The animation sequence that goes with “Reflection” is so brilliant, because we see Mulan dismantling parts of her appearance (removing the make-up, taking her hair out of its bun). She’s at war with who she is, and she’s uncomfortable with whom she is as well. You can see it in the way that she stares at her reflection, and how she tugs at her hair nervously when she sits by the tree at the end of the song.

mulan reflection end

In the end, Mulan does get to show who she is inside. Her inner warrior comes out when she takes her father’s place, and she shows her family – as well as all of China – just who she is inside. And best of all, she gets the acceptance she wanted all along. Pretty happy ending, in my opinion. (Plus, she gets Shang, who’s pretty awesome as well.)

Okay, onto the post-Renaissance!

Post-Renaissance Princesses
For the purpose of this post, the Post-Renaissance princesses are the one who came after the glorious Disney Renaissance. So here, three princesses apply: Tiana, Rapunzel, and Anna. (Remember: no Elsa, because she’s a queen. ;))

So let’s get this Post-Renaissance party started by talking about Tiana and her want.

Tiana: Almost There

princess and the frog almost there

Similar to Jasmine, Tiana’s “I Want” song is a strange case, because while it is what she wants, she’s also very close to achieving it, so it’s almost an “I’ve Almost Achieved my Want” song. (Which I guess is why it’s called “Almost There.”)

One of the things I love about Tiana is that like Cinderella, Tiana has a strong work ethic. She believes in her dreams, but knows that she can only make them come true if she works at them. Tiana isn’t royalty: she doesn’t have the world on a platter the way some of our princesses do. But she’s determined to work hard and be ambitious and reach for what she wants: that restaurant in New Orleans. Out of anyone, Tiana’s dreams are the most clear-cut, and thus, in order to make them harder to achieve, the movie throws her life off course. The men she wanted the shop from refuse to let her get it. She gets turned into a frog for the majority of the movie. And by the end, she’s almost lost hope of every becoming normal again.

But Tiana gets there. She gets the shop, she winds up with the romance that will make her mother happy (I want some grandkids!), and as we catch a glimpse of her in her shop at the end, we know she’s finally there. Mission accomplished, all through hard work and dedication.

Rapunzel: When Will My Life Begin?

tangled rapunzel
Okay, so I’ll admit it: I love this song so much. As much as I will forever be sad that Disney seems to be straying away from 2D animation with their Princess movies, Tangled is really a glorious movie. And Rapunzel’s I Want Song, “When Will My Life Begin?” is sweet and wonderful.

Rapunzel’s want is easy to decipher: like so many Disney princesses before her, Rapunzel wants to know when her life will begin: aka, when will she finally get out of this tower and get to see something new? Now, unlike many of our lonely bored princesses, Rapunzel’s actually invented some great ways to distract herself. She knits, she bakes, she makes pottery, she paints…the girl has many hobbies, and I think she’s actually got the most hobbies of any princess ever. But alas, hobbies cannot stop a girl from wondering what’s outside when you’re stuck living in a tower with only a verbally abusive mother to keep you company, so Rapunzel wonders about what’s out there. Unlike most of the princesses, who have less specific wants, Rapunzel’s got one thing in particular she wants to see:

And tomorrow night, the lights will appear
Just like they do, on my birthday every year
What is it like out there where they glow?

Rapunzel wants to see the lights and find out what all the fuss is about. And guess what? She does, thanks to Flynn. Interestingly enough, once Rapunzel sees the lights, she has a second Want appear: Flynn. One of the things I found really cool about Tangled was that the characters have multiple Wants. Wants change as they’re achieved, or as the characters grow and realize what they wanted are different than they first thought. And I think that’s very true to life, isn’t it? As we achieve goals, we want new things. Lucky for Rapunzel, she gets both wants achieved, and better yet, she finds the family she never knew was out there, waiting for her. Wants fulfilled, bonus achieved. Happily ever after.

tangled hug

Anna: For the First Time in Forever

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Okay, so I’ll admit it, I’m not a huge fan of Frozen. But Anna’s I Want song is clearly defined in a great way, and Anna is my spirit animal, so I’m happy to talk about her.

Now, Anna’s an interesting case, because she technically has two I Want songs: “Do You Want to Build a Snowman?” and “For the First Time in Forever”. “Do You Want to Build a Snowman?” is set up as her past Want: it’s all about her desire to reconnect with Elsa. Anna doesn’t understand why her big sister has abandoned her, and “Do You Want to Build a Snowman?” is spent with Anna outside Elsa’s door at varying times of her life, trying to get her sister to come play with her. Obviously, we the viewer understand why Elsa doesn’t want to hang out with Anna, but Anna doesn’t. Her pleas to Elsa go from peppy to semi-hopeful to that final resigned lines of the song, where it’s clear she’s on her last limb with Elsa:

We only have each other,

It’s just you and me

What are we going to do?

Do you want to build a snowman?

frozen do you wanna build a snowman gif

When that fails, and Elsa still doesn’t open the door, Anna’s priorities change. Understandably, after years and years of trying to connect with her, Anna is done trying. And so, her wants change. That’s where “For the First Time in Forever” comes in.

frozen for the first time in forever gif

In “For the First Time in Forever”, Anna’s wants are set up easily. She’s pretty blunt about her wants (a nice change from some off the vaguer I Want songs), and what she wants is this:

For the first time in forever, there’ll be magic, there’ll be fun
For the first time in forever, I could be noticed by someone
And I know it is totally crazy to dream I’d find romance
But for the first time in forever, at least I’ve got a chance

Does she get all of these things? Yes, but not exactly the way she expected.

When Hans appears at the end of “For the First Time in Forever,” we fully expect him to fulfill Anna’s expectations. After all, they have their Meet Cute moment (when she stumbles into the boat and he saves her from going overboard), and she gets flustered, and he’s smiling, and cuteness ensues. Then he reappears at the ball, they share their cute little duet (“Love is an Open Door”, which becomes a lot less cute when you realize that Hans is really a scheming schemer), and he proposes. They share a magical night, he notices her, they have fun together…everything Anna wanted fulfilled in a flash, right?

frozen gorgeous wait what

Not quite. See, Hans ends up being evil, which means that Anna got out of meeting him is kind of a lie. He uses her feelings for him and her desire to be noticed against her to manipulate her, so that he can rule Arendelle. Not exactly the romance a girl desires.

However, there is one bright side to all of this: Anna does get what she wanted, from the other people in her life. She gets some magic (in the form of Elsa’s cool ice magic). She gets noticed by two very important people: her sister, who she’s wanted to rekindle a bond with forever (ties back to the song title nicely, huh?) and Kristoff, who winds up giving her the romance she wanted. She also has some fun on her journey. Granted, there are snow monsters and accidental ice shards in her heart and feels, but some of it is fun. (Especially the parts that involve Olaf.)

So in the end, Anna gets what she wanted. She gets the magic, she gets noticed, she gets the romance, and she has some fun. The ending of the movie is a great example of this, when we see her, Elsa and everyone else in the town ice-skating. Finally, Anna’s gotten a chance to live the life she always wanted, and better yet, the people who truly love and care about her are by her side.
I’d say that’s a happy-ever-after for her.

Notes: I had a lot of fun writing this post! Mic and I are actually considering tackling some of the other types of Disney songs at a later point. What do you guys think? Would you like to hear more about the music? Let us know in the comments!

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Have a great Tuesday!
Cheers,
-M&M

Disney Princess “I Want” Songs: Part 1

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Today, I’m talking about one of the fun aspects of the Disney Princess movies: the music. More specifically, I’m going to talk about each princess’s “I Want” song. That means that this post (and next Tuesday’s; I’ll explain in a moment) are going to be about what exactly an “I Want” song is, what the common trends are among them, and then I’m going to analyze those songs.

I’ve wanted to do this for a really, really long time, so I’m super excited to get started. But first, a few notes. I composed my Disney Princess list based on Disney’s considerations of what a Disney princess is, so that means Mulan, who technically isn’t royalty, makes it onto the list, while Eilonwy, Nala, Kiara, and others, who could be considered princesses in their own right, are not on the list. Maybe I’ll come back to them at some point later on.

Since there are 11 princesses with “I Want” songs, I’m going to be splitting this post right down the middle. Sorry guys; you’ll get the other half next Tuesday. I could do all 11 at once, but honestly, the word count would be really, really huge, and our eyes would all burn trying to read it, so it’s better to split it somewhere in the middle and save us both the pain. (Plus, it gives you something to anticipate! And isn’t that fun?)

I know that Merida counts as a Disney princess, but Merida is also a unique circumstance because she was created by Pixar, and does not have an “I Want” song in the tradition of the other princesses. She has an “I Want” speech, as my lovely blogging partner Mic pointed out, but that is not a song, so alas, she is not on the list. I also did not include Elsa on the list, because Elsa is a queen, and she’s also not a primary protagonist in the way that Anna is.

What On Earth is an “I Want” Song?
So what is an “I Want” song? If you’ve seen a Disney movie before, you’ve most likely heard one. According to TV Tropes, the purpose of the ‘I Want’ song is to “[establish] the character of the protagonist and their one burning desire that will motivate their actions from here on” (“I Want” Song). Basically, it tells you what on earth the character wants, and tells us a little something about the character as well. And since this is Disney and the majority of these movies end happily, the protagonist gets exactly what they wanted in the end.

A non-princess example: in The Hunchback of Notre Dame (which I just talked about recently), Quasimodo’s “I Want” song would be Out There. His want is to just have one day out in the open, just like everyone else. And what do you know? He gets that at the end of the movie, after some mishaps. 😉
So now that you know what the song is, you probably want to know why I chose this topic. Well, because 1) I love Disney music so much, and 2) because the last time I was on a Disney listening spree, I noticed patterns between all of the “I Want” songs.

The Top Three Wants
After a lot of listening, I’ve discovered a pattern…or rather, a few patterns. In general, there are three top wants that Disney characters tend to have:

1) Adventure
2) Acceptance
3) Love

Now, those all seem like pretty common wants, yes? That’s because they’re core human wants. Some of us long for adventure in the great wide somewhere, like Belle and Ariel. Some of us long for people to accept who we are deep down inside, like Mulan. And some of us have that deep-seated longing for love, like Snow White and Aurora.

Today, I’m only talking about five princesses to start with, which means we’ll get through the pre-Renaissance (the start of the princesses) and begin digging into the Disney Renaissance (which contains some of my absolute favorite Disney movies). And where better to start than the beginning of the princesses?

Pre-Renaissance Princesses
If you want to be technical, the pre-renaissance era at Disney is considered 1977-1988, which is way after all three of these movies were released. But I’ve always considered these pre-Renaissance because they take place before the Disney Renaissance, and thus are the beginning of Disney’s animated history. These all came out at least 50 years ago: Snow White came out in 1937, Cinderella came out more than a dozen years later in 1950, and Sleeping Beauty came out just before the 60s in 1959. Thus, these three often come off as the most dated to us, because they come from a very different time in history, with a very different set of values. However, I think the “I Want” songs still carry a lot of desires that we have today.

So let’s start with the original Disney Princess: the lovely Snow White.

Snow White: I’m Wishing

snow white i'm wishing
Snow White’s “I Want” song is the pretty (if slightly piercing) “I’m Wishing.” Snow’s song is sweet, simple, and to the point: she wants someone to love, and she wants him to love her too. She dreams of him complimenting her as well, which makes sense, since she and the Evil Queen obviously doesn’t see eye to eye. From what little we can infer, it’s obvious Snow doesn’t have much of a social life early on in the movie.

So does Snow get her wish? Well, the second her song ends, the prince shows up, with his own song to sing for her (“One Song”) and then it seems like our lovebirds are all set. However, it takes a little longer than that for Snow and him to find one another again, especially since Snow’s busy hiding from the Evil Queen for the majority of the movie. However, in the end, her prince wakes her with true love’s kiss, and together they ride off to the castle. So it looks like that wishing well did Snow White some good after all.

 

Cinderella: A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes

cinderella no matter how your heart is grieving
Okay, I’ll admit it: as a little girl, Cinderella was my absolute favorite Disney princess, so nostalgia clouds me whenever I think about this glorious movie. Even without my nostalgia lens though, her song is probably the best Pre-Renaissance princess song. “A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes” is pretty and hopeful, and I love it so much.

While Cinderella’s song doesn’t specifically say what she wants, I think it’s pretty obvious that Cinderella’s major want is to get out of her situation, mainly. She does her work without complaint, but it’s clear she would really rather be elsewhere – and who wouldn’t want to be elsewhere if they were her? All she does all day is work. She barely has time for anything else. She cleans, cooks, takes care of the animals…the works, basically. She doesn’t even have time to make her own dress for the ball; the mice have to do it for her, because she’s drowning in chores. And when Cinderella gets that magical night out, she paves the way to getting exactly what she wants. She meets the prince, has a romantic night with him, the shoe fits when he finds her, and happily ever after ensues. Another princess want achieved.

cinderella happy ending

 

Aurora: I Wonder

sleeping beauty i wonder

Similar to Snow’s short song, Aurora has a tiny song of her own. It’s one I think we often forget about, since “Once Upon a Dream” is the more celebrated Sleeping Beauty song, but her “I Want” song, “I Wonder,” is very pretty and heartfelt. Just look at these pretty lyrics:

I wonder, I wonder
If my heart keeps singing
Will my song go winging
To someone who’ll find me
And bring back a love song to me?

Can’t you feel the longing? Like Snow, Aurora wants somebody to love. She wants someone to sing a love song to her, and viola, in the next scene, Prince Phillip appears, and they have that adorable romantic moment when they sing “Once Upon a Dream”.

sleeping beauty once upon a dream

In a twist of irony, Aurora is horrified when she later finds out she’s betrothed (not realizing it’s to Phillip, of course) and she’s sad, because she’s worried she’ll lose out on a chance at love with him.

sleeping beauty sad aurora

But despite the mishaps and problems along the way, at the end of the day, Prince Phillip’s the one to wake her with his kiss, and Aurora gets her wish: her prince to sing love songs with forevermore.
One more princess wish accomplished.

 

Disney Renaissance Princesses
Ah, the Disney Renaissance: a time of glory, gorgeous movies, and the best musical numbers in history (in my opinion, anyway). The Disney Renaissance Princesses are some of my absolute favorites, and I’m really excited to talk about them and their songs. For now though, I’ll be handling two of them: Ariel and Belle. You’ll have to come back for the rest next Tuesday. 😉

 

Ariel: Part of Your World

little mermaid 3
Okay, Part of Your World might actually be my favorite “I Want” song of them all. Ariel gets so much undeserving flack, which she shouldn’t, but you can’t deny that her song is amazing.

Ariel’s song is all about adventure; she’s the first adventurous princess, actually, and in “Part of Your World”, she talks about her desire to travel to the human world and explore. People tend to misconstrue Ariel’s desire to go on land as being about Eric, but if you look at the song, it’s really not. It’s about her wanting to experience the things others don’t, and get the freedom she feels she’s lacking under the sea.

The proof is in the lyrics:
Up where they walk, up where they run
Up where they stay all day in the sun
Wanderin’ free – wish I could be
Part of that world

What would I give if I could live out of these waters?
What would I pay to spend a day warm on the sand?

Ariel’s all about adventure and exploring. Love only factors into her deal to stay human, and what’s so awesome to me about Ariel’s tale is that she gets all three of the core wants I mentioned:
1) She gets the adventure she craves on Earth.
2) She gets love in the form of Eric.
3) She gains acceptance from her father, and they finally learn to understand each other a little more.
For that reason, Ariel is probably one of the luckier Disney princesses endings-wise. She gets everything she wanted and more. Pretty awesome, huh?

Finally (for now, anyway), let’s move onto the Disney Princess that is pretty much me: Belle.

 

Belle: Belle (Reprise)

beauty and the beast belle

Belle’s case is really interesting when it comes to her “I Want” song. Unlike most of the princesses, Belle’s “I Want” song is actually a reprise. When you look at the songs, you would think that “Belle” would be her song, considering that it’s her name and all. But in an interesting twist, “Belle,” while it is about our heroine, is actually about how everyone else views Belle and what they want. We get a little bit of Belle in the song, and we get a hint of her wants (“There must be more than this provincial life!”). However, we don’t really dig deep into that. “Belle” is mostly spent with the townspeople musing about Belle’s strangeness, and Gaston musing about how he wants to marry Belle.

beauty and the beast there must be more

And as we find out in the “Belle Reprise”, Belle is not too keen on Gaston’s plans for the future:
“Madame Gaston!”
Can’t you just see it?
“Madame Gaston!”
His “little wife”
No sir! Not me!
I guarantee it
I want much more than this provincial life

Here we bridge into the unique musical twist that Beauty and the Beast provides: Belle’s song is actually the “Belle Reprise.” That’s right, Belle’s “I Want” song is the reprise of the song all about her. Pretty cool twist, huh? And what does Belle want? Well, we find out, when she mentions that awesome line that defines pretty much every Disney Renaissance Princess:

I want adventure in the great wide somewhere,
I want much more than I can bear

beauty and the beast belle reprise

Belle wants adventure. She wants to see the world and get out of the tiny, judgmental little town she lives in. She wants much more than anyone in this town has planned for her, because she knows that she’s worth more. And although she doesn’t get it in the way she expected, Belle gets that adventure when she goes to find her father and meets the Beast. She also finds unexpected love with him.

Alas, unlike Ariel, Belle doesn’t get acceptance from the town, but honestly, she doesn’t really need it. Plus, she has it from the people who really matter: her father, the Beast, and her new friends. She’s also got a handsome prince, the adventure she wanted, and a pretty sweet library. I’d be cool with that deal too if I was her.

beauty and the beast belle's library

Sources:
“I Want” Song. (n.d.). Retrieved December 8, 2014, from TV Tropes: http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/IWantSong
Disney Lyrics. (n.d.). Retrieved December 8, 2014, from ST Lyrics: http://www.stlyrics.com/songs/d/disney6472.html

Alright, next week we’ll talk about the rest of the Renaissance Princesses and talk the Post-Renaissance Princesses as well! I’m curious to know: who is your favorite Disney princess, and what is your favorite “I Want” song? Let us know in the comments!

Have a happy Tuesday!

Cheers,
-M&M