Disney Princess Pictures: Chores, Mirrors, and Chameleons
At the start of Walt Disney Pictures’ Tangled, a title card cataloging the feature as Walt Disney Animation Studio’s 50th Animated Motion Picture appeared. The studio’s first animated motion picture, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, premiered to audiences in 1937. Over this 73 year gap and 50-movie timeline, how has the Disney animated motion picture changed, or even so, not changed at all?
Both features follow the tale of their respective heroine, Snow White in Snow White, and Rapunzel in Tangled. Snow White as Disney’s first princess is simple. Her high pitched voice allows for a feeling on innocence and naivety. Characterized in her opening song, “I’m Wishing,” Snow White fetches water out of a well while singing to her reflection.
73 years later, the princess has matured. Rapunzel, while still encompassing the traditional traits of a Disney princess, has some edge. She’s an adventure prone 17 year old who is curious about the world outside of her tower. Compared to Snow White’s “I’m Wishing”, Rapunzel’s opening song, “When will my Life Begin,” clearly demonstrates the maturity and complexity that the Disney leading lady now has in a new century. From Snow White to Cinderella to Sleeping Beauty, the early Disney princesses throughout the 1930s to 1950s have all focused heavily on cleaning and completing chores. For example, in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Snow Whites main duty and reason for being able to stay in the seven dwarfs cottage is that she will cook and clean constantly for the little men. In Tangled however, the first lines of the film put this stereotypical Princess cleaning pattern in the trash. Rapunzel begins her song, “When will my Life Begin by singing:
7 AM, the usual morning lineup
Start on the chores and sweep 'til the floor's all clean
Polish and wax, do laundry, and mop and shine up
Sweep again, and by then it's like 7:15
The movie, while highlighting on this “cleaning” motif of the Disney Princess, shows that it takes no more than 15 minutes for the modern Rapunzel to complete all of her chores, allowing her to do other activities throughout her day. The next line in the song, “And so I’ll read a book, or maybe two or three,” is unquestionably something that Snow White is never shown doing. Throughout the remainder of the three minute song, Rapunzel paints and paper maches, plays guitar and chess, climbs and wanders, and completes a variety of other actions. This broadening scope from only focusing on household chores to reading and having a wealth of hobbies paints Rapunzel as a much more complex character then the previous generation’s Snow White.
This change demonstrates the more active role and opportunities females have in today’s society compared to the late 1930s. The female character is not overly dependent on her chores and finding her “prince” but is able to enjoy the time she has to herself without a man in her...