50 Epic Things You Didn’t Know About Disney Princesses
I admit it: I’m 24 years old and I still love Disney princesses.
My excuse? I grew up in the ’90s. If you did too, you’ll get it. It was during a time that people like to call the Renaissance of Disney movies: Breathtaking cell animation, legendary voice actors and epic love stories, not to mention equally epic hairdos. Not to knock Frozen, but this was really Disney’s best years.
And like most little girls who grew up in the ’90s, I was pretty self-delusional in thinking that I was a Disney princess too! I obsessed over Jasmine’s hair braid and Aurora’s fairy-altered ball gown. I danced around my kitchen with stuffed animals a la Snow White (and wore a costume dress for about half my childhood). I climbed giant boulders in my wooded backyard like Pocahontas and as a book nerd, I was pretty much desperate to own even one of the books in Belle’s mansion-sized library. (Lucky bitch.)
And one time, I even dressed up my family dog as Ariel (yep, wig, tail and all … she was very patient through my weirder costume-obsessed years as a kid).
As a ’90s girl now all grown up, I wear that badge proudly. I like to think I know everything there is to know about Disney’s spotlight ladies … but then I came across some facts that pretty much blew my mind. Maybe it’s time to resurface those VHS tapes from my parents’ attic and watch these over again. (Oh, who am I kidding … I don’t need a reason!)
1. You can thank this guy for the official franchise. The “Disney Princess” franchise was first conceptualized by Disney Consumer Products chairman Andy Mooney when he observed something at his first-ever Disney On Ice show. “Standing in line in the arena, I was surrounded by little girls dressed head to toe as princesses,” he told The New York Times. “They weren’t even Disney products. They were generic princess products they’d appended to a Halloween costume. And the light bulb went off. Clearly there was latent demand here.” The very next morning, he told the team to start work on an official “Princess” franchise. It was a good call by Mooney. Sales at Disney Consumer Products rose from $300 million in 2001 to $3 billion in 2006, credited in large part to his idea.
2. Ever notice that the princesses rarely make eye contact with one another on posters and whatnot? There was a marketing strategy behind that. This was the first time ever that Disney characters would be marketed in a franchise separate from their respective films. And as part of this, Mooney decided that the princesses should never make eye contact with each other in order to keep their individual “mythologies” intact. “[Each] stares off in a slightly different direction as if unaware of the others’ presence,” he says.
3. Adriana Caselotti was 18 when she was hired to play the voice of Snow White, the first Disney Princess. The studio had been searching for a voice that was ”ageless, friendly, natural and innocent” and she beat out 150 other actresses for the coveted role.
4. Snow White was underpaid and unaware of her fame. In a 1993 interview, she said she was paid $20 a day for a (not-so) grand total of $970. The kicker? She didn’t even know it was for a full-length feature film! ”They had told me that it was going to be a little longer than their shorts, which were 10 to 12 minutes,” she said. ”So I thought it would be 20 minutes long or so. I didn’t realize what had happened until I went to the premiere. I saw all these movie stars — Marlene Dietrich, Carole Lombard, Gary Cooper — everybody was there. I discovered this thing was an hour and 23 minutes.”
5. Later in life, Caselotti signed hundreds of autographed letters and photographs to supplement her income. Graham Clipson, who ran the Autograph Collectors Gallery in Nottingham, England, worked with her in that time. He recalls Adriana as a sweet-hearted soul: “She used to sing over the telephone to us a few years before she passed away. I have many signed photo’s of her as she said, ‘I won’t last forever.’ A delightful lady.” She died at age 80.
6. Jacqueline Ruth “Ilene” Woods beat 309 girls to play the part of Cinderella, after some demo recordings of her singing a few of the film’s songs were presented to Walt Disney. However, she had no idea she was auditioning for the part until Disney contacted her. Her friends sent in the recordings without telling her: “I didn’t know that I would even be considered until, of course, Mr. Disney heard the recordings, and that’s when the excitement started, that’s when all the butterflies started batting around inside of my stomach, when I was called to see Mr. Disney.”
7. The transformation of Cinderella’s dress was considered to be Walt Disney’s favorite piece of animation.
8. Cinderella actually loses a glass slipper three times in the film: First, when she delivers the breakfast trays; second, when she is running from the ball; and third, when she’s walking down the steps with her new husband.
9. Bill Shirley and Mary Costa auditioned together to ensure that their voices complemented each other in the now-famous love medley as Briar Rose and Prince Phillip.
10. The movie’s most iconic scene (when Briar Rose meets Prince Phillip for the first time to the tune of “Once Upon A Dream”) was called Sequence 8 when it was being produced. It was a hard sequence to get right and Walt Disney rejected it over and over again. Animators worked on it four times and they nearly went bankrupt over it. Whoops!
11. The running gag where two of the fairies argued about what color the birthday dress should be (Pink or blue) comes from a real life squabble in the studio over what color Aurora’s dress should be.
12. There are a couple of theories on who inspired Jasmine. For one, Disney animator responsible for her earliest designs, Mark Henn, describes seeing a young visitor through the window of Disney World’s Florida studios with long, luscious locks. (Raven hair? Check.) For another, he drew inspiration from Jennifer Connelly. (Eyebrows to die for? Double-check.) For a third, Henn’s own sister. When he had trouble designing Jasmine’s face, he pulled out a high school graduation photo of his younger sister Beth Allen. (Pretty face? Check.) Voila! You have Jasmine.
13. Linda Larkin, the voice behind Princess Jasmine, was nearly fired and had to re-audition for the role halfway through the film after Disney executive Jeffrey Katzenberg thought she didn’t sound “regal” enough. Can you imagine Jasmine sounding any other way? We sure can’t!
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14. Jasmine’s character design, in turn, called for a total redo of Aladdin’s design. In the earliest sketches of the street rat hero, he was meant to look like a “scrawny underdog.” When the drawings were presented to Katzenberg, he didn’t like it and said their onscreen chemistry would never be convincing. They scrapped the whole thing at the last minute and tweaked Aladdin to look a little more toned and muscularly built (think Tom Cruise). The end result? One of the best instances of chemistry in Disney couple history!
15. We all know and love Jodi Benson as the voice of Ariel in ‘The Little Mermaid’, but do you know how she got the part? She had starred in a short-lived Broadway musical in the ’80s, which had a score by Howard Ashman and Marvin Hamlisch. When casting for the role of Ariel, Ashman recommended Benson to producers. (Thank you, sir!)
16. Benson sang ‘Part Of Your World’ in the dark with the studio lights dimmed to simulate the feeling of being in the underwater grotto.
17. After seeing footage of Jodi sing the feature song, animator Glen Keane was so impressed that he went directly to the President of Walt Disney Feature Animation Peter Schneider and demanded to animate Ariel. (Jodi was THAT good.)
18. Then-child star Alyssa Milano was the real-life inspiration for Ariel. “I didn’t know that when it was going on,” she revealed on The Wendy Williams Show. “But they asked me to host ‘The Making of “The Little Mermaid,”‘ and it came out there that the drawing and likeness of the little mermaid was based on pictures of me from when I was younger.”
19. Ariel was deliberately made a redhead in order to distinguish her from Daryl Hannah’s mermaid in ‘Splash’, which was popular in movie theaters just a few years prior.
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20. The floating, weightless effect of Ariel’s hair underwater was based on footage of astronaut Sally Ride in zero gravity. (She was the first American woman in space!)
21. Ready to meet the real life inspiration behind Ariel and Belle? Sherri Stoner, an employee at the time, served as a live action model for Disney. (Check out the behind the scenes footage here!)
22. Two of Disney’s top animators, Mark Henn and James Baxter, came together to design Belle for Beauty And The Beast. They took a European approach and looked to actresses Vivien Leigh and Audrey Hepburn for inspiration.
23. As for Belle’s iconic bright yellow ball gown? Once again, the animators were inspired by European stars. Compare it to Audrey Hepburn’s dress in”Roman Holiday” and even the smallest of details are uncanny. And although shot in black and white, publicity photos show that it was yellow.
24. Can you imagine the movie without that epic ballroom scene? Belle needed a graceful style of movement to pull it off. Baxter took inspiration from studying the artwork of French impressionist Edgar Degas. He was best known for using dancers as his subject matter. Baxter observed how ballerinas naturally carried themselves and incorporated their graceful, swan-like movements into Belle.
If you watch for it in the movie, you’ll notice that she walks with a ballerina’s turnout.
25. The film’s art director Brian McEntee famously used colors to symbolically depict the emotional climate of the narrative. For the first half of the movie, he intentionally colored Belle so that she is the only person in her town who wears blue. This is symbolic of how different she feels from everyone else.
26. Blue is also associated with feelings of discontentment, loneliness and despair and it’s no coincidence that she wears the blue dress when she expresses these feelings.
27. When Paige O’Hara was auditioning, a bit of her hair flew in her face and she tucked it back. The animators liked this so they put it in the movie.
28. Paige O’Hara sobbed for real while recording Belle’s mourning of the Beast. Her performance was so intense that the director stopped to ask her if she was okay, to which O’Hara immediately dropped out of character and smiled, piping up, “Acting!”
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29. As for Prince Adam and Belle’s sweeping final dance scene? Disney kinda sorta copied themselves. (See the similarities with another famous princess?) They reused the same animation because they were running out of time during the production of the movie.
30. The film released on June 23, 1995. It coincided with what would have been the four-hundredth birthday of the real-life Pocahontas.
31. Pocahontas is considered by Disney animators as one of the hardest films ever to be produced by the studio. It took five years to make because of the complex coloring and styling techniques.
32. But the hard work paid off because Pocahontas herself is now agreed upon as one of the most beautifully and realistically animated characters of the Disney princess franchise. About 55 animators worked on her character alone.
33. According to history, Pocahontas was actually a nickname meaning “the naughty one” or “spoiled child.” Her real name was Matoaka.
34. Irene Bedard, the voice of Pocahontas, also acted as the physical model for the character’s animation and design.
35. Mulan was originally planned as an animated short entitled “China Doll” about an oppressed Chinese girl who is whisked away by a British Prince Charming. But Disney consultant Robert San Souci suggested making a full length feature of the Chinese poem, ‘The Song of Fa Mu Lan’ and thus, the movie was born.
36. Tia Carrere was the first choice to voice Mulan. It eventually went to actress Ming-Na Wen and singer Lea Salonga.
37. Both Mulan and her father were animated by the same team (supervised by Mark Henn) to help make them seem related to each other.
38. Merida’s name means “to rebel” in Hebrew. It also means “honorable” in Gaelic.
39. Tia Kratter, responsible for Merida’s initial character design, has admitted that Merida was inspired from British model and fellow redhead Lily Cole.
40. Princess Merida’s famously fiery-red hair is made up of more than 1,500 individually sculpted, curly red strands that generate about 111,700 total hairs. “We’ve never seen anything like Merida’s curly hair,” said Claudia Chung, the simulation supervisor. “Technically, that was incredibly hard to achieve.” The team had to create a new simulation program just to achieve the right movement, which they named “Taz”, after the Tasmanian Devil Looney Tunes character because it was “crazy fast”, according to Chung. The results were so pleasing that they used the program to create all the other hair in the film. It took three years and left them only six months to finish the rest of their work on the film. Phew!
41. The initial director of ‘Brave,’ Brenda Chapman, says she based Princess Merida and her mother Elinor on her own relationship with her daughter, Emma Rose Lima: “Even though we frequently clash and are both control freaks, my love for her is fierce and unwavering — and I channeled those feelings into a story that gives contemporary working moms, their daughters and their families something to relate to in a fairy tale/folk tale setting–in Scotland, no less!”
42. You thought Merida was a no-nonsense character? Not exactly. With five dresses, plus a cloak, quiver, hand wrap and necklace, as well as torn dresses, having a total of 22 different costumes. Oh, and she has five different hairstyles.
43. Merida’s affinity for apples has a hidden sentimental meaning in the movie. The name Lord “MacIntosh” is a common Scottish surname as well as the name of a type of apple. On the deeper level, it’s a reference to the Apple brand. As a co-founder of Apple, Steve Jobs played a big role in Pixar and the movie is dedicated in part to him with this quote at the end credits: “Dedicated to the memory of Steve Jobs, our partner, mentor and friend.” Take a bite out of that trivia!
44. Reese Witherspoon was originally announced as the voice of Princess Merida, but she had to pull back due to scheduling conflicts. Kelly Macdonald replaced her. (We have to say, it turned out for the best.)
45. Lots of celebrities wanted to play the role of Tiana! Beyoncé reportedly would have been offered the role, but she refused to audition. Alicia Keys auditioned three times for the role. And Tyra Banks and Jennifer Hudson also reportedly tried out. It eventually went to Anika Noni Rose. Get it, girl!
46. Anika Noni Rose requested that Tiana be left-handed, because she herself is left-handed.
47. In Tangled, animators have said that Rapunzel’s hair is approximately 70 feet long and consists of about 100,000 strands. That adds up to about 10 pounds of hair. (Can you imagine all that brushing?!)
48. Natalie Portman and Kristin Chenoweth were both considered for the role of Rapunzel. Portman’s audition recording was even used for a pencil test. Co-director Byron Howard says they saw nearly 300 hopefuls: “What you want with an animated voice is someone who can communicate personality and humor and spark without seeing her face.” They eventually offered it to Mandy Moore who happily accepted!
49. Rapunzel is always barefoot, something she shares in common with her voice actress Mandy Moore, who loves to perform barefoot.
50. As for our favorite princesses-in-waiting from Frozen? Elsa and Anna are both expected to join the official royal pantheon this year! Hooray!
This article originally appeared on YourTango.com: 50 Epic Things You Didn’t Know About Disney Princesses.
By Alexandra Churchill for YourTango.com.