We are all familiar with the royal stars of the Disney universe. Their stunning beauty, enchanting kindness, signature attire, animal sidekicks! It’s all part of being a Disney princess. And it’s truly amazing how Disney keeps reinventing their stories in the form of movies, series, and live-action remakes, each one better than its predecessor. So, why is it that some Disney princesses remain in the limelight for decades while others fade into oblivion?
To understand the answer to that question, we need to explore several concepts first. For example, who is a Disney Princess? What qualifies a beloved character to become a Disney Princess? And the controversial debate between who should be on the official princess list!
Let’s get to it.
Who Is A Disney Princess?
The basic definition of a Disney Princess is that she is the human protagonist of a super successful Disney movie. But there are several problems with such oversimplification. First of all, that would put a question to the princesshood of deuteragonists like Princess Anna (Frozen) or Princess Jasmine (Aladdin)! Secondly, should the failure of a movie define whether the protagonist (s) can be a princess or not? Third, what about hybrid characters like Ariel (The Little Mermaid) or fairies like Tinker Bell (Peter Pan)?
That is why we need some ground rules to know if a character qualifies to be a Disney Princess. And that is where the official vs. unofficial debate starts.
Official Vs. Unofficial Disney Princesses
If you check the Disney Princess website, only 14 official princesses are listed there.
- Tiana (The Princess and The Frog)
- Moana (Moana)
- Ariel (The Little Mermaid)
- Mulan (Mulan)
- Belle (Beauty and The Beast)
- Pocahontas (Pocahontas)
- Snow White (Snow White and The Seven Dwarfs)
- Cinderella (Cinderella)
- Rapunzel (Tangled)
- Jasmine (Jasmine)
- Merida (Brave)
- Aurora (Sleeping Beauty, Maleficent)
- Elsa (Frozen)
- Anna (Frozen)
To be included in the list of official Disney Princesses, a character must fulfill the following criteria:
- The character must be a young woman – either human or humanoid.
- She should have been the protagonist or female lead in a successful Disney film.
- She must be a royal either by birth or marriage, OR she should have performed extraordinary acts of heroism.
- She could have an animal sidekick or the ability to communicate with animals.
- She should be a creation of Walt Disney Studios.
- Her roots should date back to well-known fairy tales, children’s stories, or classic legends.
Now, I have a HUGE problem with these criteria. Why? Because Disney tends to bend it as per its convenience. I have been a devoted Disney fan for decades, and I have admired all the Disney Princesses for their courage and traits that set them apart. But that also means I have a special attachment with all the Disney Princesses, official or not. That is why it is irksome to see that the studio would make exceptions for Merida, Moana, Elsa, and Anna (either created with Pixar collaboration or having no origin in classic fairy tales) but not include the likes of Megara and Esmerelda on the list even when they fulfill all the conditions.
The point I am trying to make here is that when Disney refuses to include a deserving character in its official Disney Princess list, that princess does not get the focus she deserves. It is more to do with merchandise and marketing. Basically, no matter how remarkable your Disney story is, you won’t be promoted and, ultimately, be forgotten if you are not on the official list!
Yes, the no. 1 reason why a Disney Princess is forgotten is because she did not make it to the official list. The sad part is that the following 5 +1 princesses deserved not to be forgotten, and they deserved to be officiated but weren’t!
Top 5 Forgotten Disney Princesses
It is true that the official Disney Princess label is all about the merchandise. So, it is natural for the studio not to include characters whose movies were not a huge success. Because that would mean those characters were not that popular. Logically, it could make sense, but it is still not fair to leave out the following extraordinary heroines out of the club:
1. Eilonwy (Debut: The Black Cauldron, 1985)
Brave, cynical, and down to earth, this royal was strong-willed and affectionate too. She matched the criteria in that regard. However, the film was a disaster at the box office, and the story was based on a book series. The audience complained that she was nothing like the original character from the books. Hence, she was left out of the official princess line-up.
Why it’s not fair: Disney has taken liberties with the storylines of The Little Mermaid and Sleeping Beauty too. But Ariel and Aurora are still official even though Aurora may not be as strong a personality as Eilonwy!
2. Megara (Debut: Hercules, 1997)
I do not understand Megara’s absence from the Disney Princess list at all! Hercules wasn’t a huge success initially. However, it did pick up popularity when relaunched as the animated prequel series. Megara married a prince; she had an interesting back story; she was brave, witty, and sarcastic and had her origins in Greek legends. Even then, she did not make the cut. It’s baffling to see the likes of Merida (a Pixar creation) be called a Disney Princess and leave out someone like Meg!
3. Kida (Debut: Atlantis and The Lost Empire, 2001)
A formidable warrior, royal by birth, and possessing a heart of gold, Kida should have been among the top official Disney Princesses. Still, she was not included because the movie did not perform well. Eventually, she was forgotten.
4. Melody (Debut: The Little Mermaid 2: Return to The Sea, 2000)
It is sad that even the most ardent Disney fans may not know about Princess Melody, again due to the movie’s poor performance. Melody is Ariel and Eric’s daughter! Exactly like her mother she is courageous, adventurous, beautiful, and royal by birth.
5. Esmerelda (Debut: The Hunchback of Notre Dame, 1996)
It is rather beautiful how Disney gave a more optimistic twist to the tragic gothic romance. However, the heroine Esmerelda did not meet an equally optimistic fate in the sense of the princess line-up. The resilient green-eyed gypsy was initially included in the list because of her acts of heroism. However, her popularity began to dip after 2004. Eventually, Disney took away her title!
6. Anastasia (Debut: Anastasia, 1997)
She is the reason I titled this article as a “5+1” list. She is an exception and has a very interesting story. She is not originally a Disney character at all. In 1997, Fox Animation created Anastasia to challenge Disney’s monopoly over-animated classics. It is easy to mistake the movie as a Disney production because of its brilliance in all respects. Anastasia was a very powerful protagonist too. The only reason I included her in this article is because Walt Disney Studios acquired 21st Century Fox in 2019. Therefore, technically, Anastasia can be a Disney Princess too! (Remember Merida from Brave? A Pixar production!)
I leave that as an open question. What do you think about the official and unofficial Disney Princess criteria? Do you know any more forgotten princesses who should be on this list? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.