Do the Disney Princess Criteria Matter?

Did you know that there’s an official line-up of Disney Princesses? Yes, fans can call any character they want a Princess, but only Disney itself decides whether or not she earns the title.

How the Title “Disney Princess” Came to Be

Snow White, Aurora, Jasmine, Ariel, Belle, and Cinderella Side By Side
Image via Flickr

The Disney Princess line-up first came to be during the early 2000s, created as a separate franchise from the films in which the Princesses were introduced. Andy Mooney, the brains behind the operation, came up with the idea to appeal to little girls’ desires to live out the princess fantasy. He and Disney started a whole line of Disney Princess merchandise, which has turned into a pop culture phenomenon in the last decade.

As of 2018, there are 11 Disney Princesses in the official line-up. Believe it or not, they get a whole coronation when they are inducted.

Snow White from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Cinderella from Cinderella, and Aurora from Sleeping Beauty are the Princesses of classic Disney. Following them are the Princesses of the Disney Renaissance: Ariel from The Little Mermaid, Belle from Beauty and the Beast, Jasmine from Aladdin, Pocahontas from Pocahontas, and Mulan from Mulan. Then there’s Tiana from The Princess and the Frog, Rapunzel from Tangled, and Merida from Brave.

The Criteria

So how does Disney choose which of its heroines belong in the Disney Princess line-up? There is a set of criteria that can be found online, although it doesn’t seem to have been verified:

1. The heroine must have human-like qualities.
2. The heroine must star in a Disney animated film.
3. The heroine must not be introduced through a sequel.
4. The heroine must be a Princess by blood, marry into a royal family, or show exceptional heroism.
5. The heroine’s film must be a commercial success.

So this means Mulan is in good shape since she saved all of China, but Nala from The Lion King will never be inducted because she’s a lion. And as awesome as Kida from Atlantis: The Lost Empire is, she doesn’t grace the list because her film was a box office failure. So these criteria mostly make sense. Yet there are still Disney fans who debate about what makes a Disney Princess or not.

What Really Makes a Disney Princess?

The question is, if Disney has ever used criteria like this as guidelines for choosing Princess candidates, does the company really care about them? Tinkerbell, who was neither royal nor particularly heroic in Peter Pan (although she did save Peter’s life) used to have Disney Princess status until she was removed from the line-up and given her own book and movie series.

While she plays a significant role in Aladdin, Jasmine is more of a supporting character than a main one. Then there’s Merida, who has a spot on the list even though she’s a Disney Pixar character rather than Disney Animation Studios.

Yet supporting characters like Meg from Hercules, Jane Porter from Tarzan, and Esmeralda from The Hunchback of Notre Dame remain excluded from the list. One would also think Anna and Elsa, who captured the hearts of children everywhere, would make the spot without a problem. Yet four years later, they still haven’t earned their titles.

The Princess Mythology

In Moana, Maui says, “If you wear a dress and you have an animal side kick, then you’re a princess.” Blogger Jon Negroni noticed this line and suggested that this was Disney’s way of trying to put the Disney Princess issue to rest. After all, as daughter of the village chief, Moana doesn’t consider herself a princess. But because Disney owns the Princesses, the company can do whatever it likes.

Supposedly Mooney called the Princesses and the worlds they originated from part of “the Princess mythology.” This was his reasoning for removing Tinkerbell from the line-up, having decided she just didn’t fit.

So perhaps what matters to Disney is not a bunch of criteria in a list, but instead whatever characteristics they think will be marketable to their audience. As great as characters like Esmeralda and Meg may be, it’s the shimmery dresses, quests for love and adventure, and sense of magic that spark a child’s imagination.



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