Disney has announced that their classic princess-in-peril formula is no longer working and that they won't make any more movies based on fairy tales. Disney may keep the swarthy-male-hero thing, but chaste royal ladies are definitely out.
According to the LA Times, the Rapunzel-based animation Tangled is the last of its kind, and even that got a serious makeover where the princess's name was dropped from the title and its marketing focus shifted from the blonde princess trapped in a castle to — what else — her swarthy male hero.
Among girls, princesses and the romanticized ideal they represent — revolving around finding the man of your dreams — have a limited shelf life. With the advent of "tween" TV, the tiara-wearing ideal of femininity has been supplanted by new adolescent role models such as the Disney Channel's Selena Gomez and Nickelodeon's Miranda Cosgrove.
"By the time they're 5 or 6, they're not interested in being princesses," said Dafna Lemish, chairwoman of the radio and TV department at Southern Illinois University and an expert in the role of media in children's lives. "They're interested in being hot, in being cool. Clearly, they see this is what society values."
While replacing one outdated female role with another less-dated but more creepy one isn't necessarily ideal, it's exciting to see that the Grey Lady of princess movies is moving on to bigger and better things — even if their impetus is floundering ticket sales for movies like The Princess and the Frog and not, say, crumbling the barriers of gender roles.
In the age of mega-franchises when movies need to appeal to a broad audience to justify a sizable investment, Disney discovered too late that "Princess and the Frog" appealed to too narrow an audience: little girls.
"If you say to somebody, 'You should be doing fairy tales,' it's like saying, 'Don't be risky,'" Catmull said. "We're saying, 'Tell us what's driving you.'"
I'm sad to hear that movies like The Little Mermaid and Aladdin won't be made anymore (unless its a revisionist fairy tale where the princess is actually a pre-op prince, and also it's a western), there's a good chance another great, box-office-shattering princess movie wouldn't happen again. Maybe that's an arrogant millenial thing to say — that all the best children's entertainment is behind us — but come on, Aladdin. Aladdin.