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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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)
-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.
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.
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.
-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?