How Pixar Broke The Disney Princess Rules (For The Better)

Pixar broke some big rules in the Disney Princess book with Brave, which made it possible for another character to be considered an official Princess.

There are certain requirements that must be met in order to be considered an official Disney Princess, but back in 2012, Pixar broke some of the biggest rules in the Disney Princess book, and it was for the better. Walt Disney Pictures has been bringing its unique type of magic to the big screen for decades, and while it has explored numerous genres over the years, in both animated and live-action adventures, it’s still best known for its animated features, especially those about fairy tales, with different princesses as lead characters.

The first Disney Princess, and the studio’s first animated movie, was Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, released in 1937. The movie changed the film industry as it was also the first full-length cel-animated movie, and gave Disney its first Academy Award (an honorary one, accompanied by seven miniature statuettes). Since then, Disney has brought various fairy tales to the big screen with a couple of changes to fit the studio’s style, and as years pass and animation evolves, the princesses have also changed. Pixar had its own Disney Princess in 2012 thanks to Brave, which introduced viewers to Merida, the 16-year-old daughter of Queen Elinor and King Fergus.

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Brave followed Merida on her quest to break the age-old customs about princesses, which in turn caused chaos in the kingdom. Her actions and disobedience unleashed a dark force, and her mother fell victim to a beastly curse that turned her into a bear. In order to save her and bring her back to her human form, Merida had to look within herself and discover the real meaning of bravery. Brave not only gave Pixar its first official Princess, but it’s also the first one not taken from other literary works, legends, or real-life figures, and it also broke some of the biggest Disney Princesses rules. The criteria needed to become a Disney Princess is the following: the character must be human (or have a humanoid appearance, in Ariel’s case), she must have the central role, she shouldn’t be the star of a sequel, she must be royal by birth, marriage, or do a heroic deed (like Mulan). While not official, having an animal sidekick and at least one musical number are often counted as requirements, but Merida didn’t care much for many of these and other characteristics shared by previous Disney princesses.

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Although Merida is a human, the lead of the movie, and royal by birth, she doesn’t have an animal sidekick and, most importantly, she doesn’t have a love interest, and her story instead revolves around her family and herself. Merida doesn’t have a big musical number either, nor an “I Want” type of song, like most Disney Princesses (for example, Ariel and “Part of Your World”). Breaking the Disney Princess mold was a necessary change, as girls no longer identify with the “classic” idea of a Princess, and Merida proved that you can be royalty and still be your own person (and not need a prince to be complete). These changes paved the way for Moana’s arrival, who just like Merida, isn’t based on a preexisting character and doesn’t have a love interest.

While it could be argued that the changes in the rules for being a Disney Princess began to change with Mulan, the studio went back to its old formula with Tiana and Rapunzel, and it wasn’t until Merida arrived when those changes truly had a lasting impact. Hopefully, Disney will continue changing the Disney Princess requirements and adapt them to more modern ideals, and with that bring fresher and more interesting stories, like those of Merida and Moana.

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Updated: November 14, 2020 — 1:00 pm

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