Although some are afraid to admit it, just about every adult woman grew up with one or more Disney princess as their idol when they were younger — which has served the company well.
From Snow White to Moana, children around the world all have their favorite. Most of these iconic characters are based on classic fairy tales while others were inspired by other sources.
Over the years, Disney has faced opposition from feminists who claim that the princesses are often shown as victims who need a prince to rescue them.
In recent years, the young women have been shown to be more independent. However, in all cases, each have shown the importance of being kind to others, having a strong work ethic and being brave despite their circumstances.
Here is a complete list of Disney princesses and a little bit of trivia about the movies that they starred in:
1. Snow White
First appeared: 1937
Talent and Strengths: Cooking, cleaning and talking to animals
Worst Foe: The Evil Queen, aka stepmother, aka witch
Voiced by: Adriana Caselotti
When Walt Disney created Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, he forever changed the future of animation.
Commonly known at the time as “Disney’s Folly,” the cartoon was the first full-length animation film. Disney had to mortgage his home to help fund the operating cost of $1,488,422.740.
Critics doubted that audiences would sit through an 83-minute long cartoon. Boy were they wrong. The film made four times the amount in ticket sales.
Based on the Brothers Grimm fairy tale Schneewittchen, Snow White was a princess who lived in a castle but lived a miserable existence. Living with her stepmother (known only as “the queen” in the movie), she was treated as a slave wearing rags and scrubbing floors.
Ironically, the girl stayed ever cheerful singing to the birds, made wishes in the water well and told tales to her feathered friends of how someday her prince would come to rescue her.
When the queen’s magic mirror stated that her beauty had now been surpassed by the young maiden, she ordered her huntsman to take the girl out to pick flowers … and then kill her.
Alas, he couldn’t do the deed and told the girl to run for her life. After finding the small house where the dwarfs lived, she begged them to let her stay in exchange for household chores.
After biting into a poisoned apple given to her by the witch, she fell into an “eternal sleep” but fortunately was woken up by “true love’s kiss” from a prince who just happened to be in the area at the time.
First appeared: 1950
Talent and Strengths: Cooking, cleaning and sewing for ungrateful women
Worst Foes: Her evil stepmother and stepsisters
Voiced by: Ilene Woods
Cinderella was based on Charles Perrault’s fairy tale Cendrillon, and the movie helped turn around the fortunes of Disney, which was struggling at the time, but getting the film to the big screen took some time.
Work on it began in 1943, but by 1945 the film had been halted when the two head animators couldn’t see eye-to-eye on the project. One wanted Cinderella to basically throw a fit against her evil family and get locked up in the attic due to her actions, which is a far cry from the kind and gentle character she was.
Similar to Snow White, Cinderella spent most of her life serving her stepmother (and her stepsisters) for her every whim. At least none of three wanted Cinderella dead.
Things started to look up when the king announced that there would be a ball that invited every woman in the kingdom to attend in hopes that his son could find a bride. With the help from the mice and birds, Cinderella fashioned together a suitable gown, but Drizella and Anastasia destroyed it and Lady Tremaine forbade her from going to the ball in a torn dress.
Fortunately, Cinderella had a fairy godmother who whipped up a new gown, created a royal chariot fashioned from a pumpkin and turned mice into horses so that they could take the girl to the ball.
Cinderella made quite the impression on the prince at the ball, but ran off at the stroke of midnight (due to her coach having an expiration date as the clock struck 12) leaving one of her glass slippers behind.
The next day or so, the prince traveled all over the countryside to find the girl whose foot would fit in the slipper. When he arrived at Lady Tremaine’s home, Drizella and Anastasia tried their best to make their tootsies fit in the shoe, with no luck.
However, Cinderella was able to prove that she was the shoe’s rightful owner and two ran off for their eventual honeymoon.
Disney created two direct-to-video sequels, Cinderella 2: Dreams Come True in 2002 and Cinderella 3: A Twist in Time in 2007.
In addition, a live action version of the story came to theaters in 2015. Directed by Kenneth Branagh, it starred Lily James, Cate Blanchette and Helena Bonham Carter.
First appeared: 1959
Talent and Strengths: Sleeping and talking to animals
Worst Foe: Maleficent, aka the evil fairy
Voiced by: Mary Costa
Princess Aurora appeared in Disney’s Sleeping Beauty based on both Little Briar Rose by The Brothers Grimm and Charles Perrault’s La Belle au bois Dormant.
Featuring music from Tchaikovsky’s Sleeping Beauty Ballet, the animated feature was beautiful but cost a pretty penny to make — $6 million, making it the most expensive Disney film up to that point.
When King Stefan and Queen Leah welcomed their baby girl Aurora at a most elegant christening (where she was betrothed to the baby Prince Phillip, the son of King Hubert, so the two kingdoms could be united forever), three fairies (Flora, Fauna and Merryweather) came to bless the girl with gifts.
However, it turns out that the evil fairy, Maleficent, didn’t receive an invitation to the event. Still smarting, she gave a curse instead of a blessing stating that on the girl’s 16th birthday, she would prick her finger on the spindle of a spinning wheel and die.
To save his daughter from her eventual death, the good fairies worked their magic, but could only drum up enough power to reduce the death sentence to a deep sleep to which she would only wake up after a true love’s kiss (sound familiar?)
To further protect his daughter, the king sent the girl to live with the good fairies in an old woodcutter’s cottage outside the kingdom and destroyed all known spinning wheels.
Aurora grew up happy with her “aunts,” but on her 16th birthday, the girl managed to find the only spinning wheel in town, pricked her finger and feel asleep just as Maleficent had said. While taking her nap, the prince was brought in to fight off Maleficent and kiss the girl of his dreams.
In 2014, Disney created a live adaptation of the story titled Maleficent, which was told from the evil fairy’s point of view. It starred Angelina Jolie and Elle Fanning. Disney is currently working on a sequel.
First appeared: 1989
Talent and Strengths: Singing, finding baubles and getting into trouble
Worst Foe: Ursula the sea witch
Voiced by: Jodi Benson
After Sleeping Beauty, it was a long time before Disney created another princess movie. Some have said that The Little Mermaid was “the film that brought Broadway into cartoons” thanks to Alan Menken and Howard Ashman’s work on the songs and score. The film proved that audiences still wanted princess movies after all.
The success of the movie lead to an animated series, two direct-to-video movies, a Broadway production and a future live action version of the movie.
Based on a fairy tale of the same name by Hans Christian Andersen, The Little Mermaid follows Ariel’s frustration of having to live under the sea when humans above the water have so many wonderful things to behold.
One day while exploring in the water, Arial witness as attack of a ship. One man is hurt and falls overboard unconscious. Ariel saves the man and brings him back to shore. The man, who turns out to be Prince Eric, is thankful to be alive and goes on a mission to find the girl with the beautiful voice who saved him.
Meanwhile, as a way to get back at Ariel’s father, King Triton, Ursula grants Ariel’s wish to sprout legs and walk on land to find the prince in exchange for her voice. This agreement doesn’t work out so well since when she finds her prince, she can’t communicate with him.
After a series of adventures, Ariel is given her voice back, Ursula is defeated and the prince is reunited with the girl he fell in love with.
First appeared: 1991
Talent and Strengths: Extremely smart and sacrificing herself for others
Worst Foe: Gaston
Voiced by: Paige O’Hara
Originally intended to be a non-musical Disney movie, Beauty and the Beast won the Golden Globe Award for Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy, the first animated film to ever win for that category. It was also nominated for Best Picture for the Academy Awards. It didn’t win, but it did win for Best Original Song and Best Original Score.
Beauty and the Beast is based on the traditional French fairy tale La Belle et la Bête by Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve, which was published in 1740.
Belle is a beauty, but she is also a bookworm and oddly doesn’t fit in. She is also not born a princess. The arrogant bully in town, Gaston, expects to woo the girl easily and marry her but Belle has no desire to do so.
Meanwhile, her inventor father, Maurice travels to a county fair to show off his new invention, but gets lost along the way. Caught in a rainstorm, he seeked shelter at a hidden castle. As it turns out, it belonged to a spoiled brat prince who once ticked off a beautiful enchantress who turned him into a hideous beast until he could find someone who would love him.
When Belle receives word that her father is trapped, so goes to rescue him and offers to take his place. The beast agrees and eventually allows her to stay in one of the rooms in castle at the suggestion from his staff who have been turned into household objects because of the curse from the enchantress. They suspect that this girl could be the key into the beast becoming a man again.
Rough around the edges, it takes a lot of work but eventually, Belle find herself strangely attracted the beast. Then back in town, Maurice tries to get the townspeople to help him rescue his daughter, but nobody believes that she has been taken by this fictional beast. However, Gaston steps forward offering to save the girl and kill the beast.
After a showdown at the castle, Gaston falls to his death off the castle and the beast seemingly falls to his on a balcony. Belle rushes over to the beast, cries over him and states that she loves him. Then, magically, the beast is revived and changed back into a prince and the prince’s staff are all turned back into humans as well.
The film was followed by two direct-to-video movies (Beauty and the Beast: The Enchanted Christmas and Belle’s Magical World), a Broadway production and a live action version of the story in 2017 which starred Emma Watson and Dan Stevens.
First appeared: 1991
Talent and Strengths: Being able to see people beyond their outward appearance
Worst Foe: Jafar
Voiced by: Linda Larkin and Lea Salonga (singing voice)
With music by Alan Menkin, Howard Ashman and Tim Rice, Aladdin became the highest grossing film of 1992 earning over $500 million worldwide in ticket sales and became the first animated film to reach that milestone. It won two Academy Awards for Best Original Score and Best Original Song.
Unlike her royal sisters, Jasmine served as a co-star rather than being the central figure in Aladdin, a story adapted from One Thousand and One Nights. The daughter of the Sultan, Jasmine disappoints her father by shewing off numerous rich suitors for a chance at true love. Disquised at Prince Ali Ababwa (compliments of a blue genie) Aladdin comes in and sweeps her off her feet.
Jafar, the Grand vizer of Agrabah, plots to become the next Sultan by marrying Jasmine but she isn’t interested in his offer. When Jafar finds that Prince Ali isn’t who he says he is, he exposes Aladdin’s identity in hopes of changing Jasmine’s mind, but it doesn’t work.
After defeating Jafar, the Sultan sees how much Jasmine is in love with the former “street rat” and decides to change the local law to allow Jasmine to marry whom she chooses.
Two direct-to-video movies followed the success of Aladdin as well as a weekly television series.
In May of 2019, Naomi Scott will appear in the live action version of Aladdin.
First appeared: 1995
Talent and Strengths: Negotiating
Worst Foe: Governor Ratcliffe
Voiced by: Irene Bedard and Judy Kuhn (singing voice)
Unlike previous princess films, the movie Pocahontas met mixed reactions when it was first released. Although a real person, Disney’s Pocahontas was only loosely based on true events of the real Native American and instead presented a fictionalized account for her story trying to make the story more palatable.
Although ticket sales were somewhat disappointig, Pocahontas still found its fan base and won two Academy Awards for Best Musical or Comedy Score and Best Original Song.
Set in 1607, English settlers aboard the Susan Constant sailed to the New World from London including Captain John Smith and Governor Ratcliffe who really is only along to find gold. Smith, like others on the ship, had his own preconceived ideas of what the “injuns” of this new land were all about. That all changes after he meets Pocahontas, a free-spirit who introduces him to Grandmother Willow and teaches him about the colors of the wind.
But as Ratcliffe trail blazes his way through the land looking for gold and misunderstandings arise, a war is about to take place between the settlers and Native Americans until Indian princess intervenes and stops the fight.
The film was followed by the direct-to-video sequel, Pocahontas 2: Journey to a New World.
First appeared: 1998
Talent and Strengths: Crossdressing and battling bad guys
Worst Foe: Shan Yu
Voiced by: Ming-Na Wen
Disney’s Mulan earned both Golden Globe and Academy Award nominations and won several Annie Awards including Best Animated Feature. It was Disney’s second animation story inspired by a real person.
Based on the Chinese legend of Hua Mulan during the Han dynasty and an invasion of the Huns, Mulan begins with the daughter of Fa Zhou trying to show her family honor be becoming the perfect daughter and winning the heart of an available suitor. Meanwhile, the Chinese emperor orders that one man from each family must join the army to defeat the Huns. With no male children of his own, the elderly Fa Zhou enlists in the army.
To keep her father out of the war, Mulan cuts her hair, puts on her father’s army clothes and pretends to be a male soldier taking her father’s place. At the training camp, Mulan learns how to “be a man” and military skills. She eventually leads her team to victory by using a canon to start an avalanche which buries most of the invaders. Then, when the Huns take over the palace, she battles Shan Yu on the roof.
Mulan was followed by the direct-to-video sequel, Mulan 2. A live version of Mulan is expected to be in theaters in 2020.
First appeared: 2009
Talent and Strengths: Entrepreneur with culinary skills and amphibian smooching
Worst Foe: Doctor Facilier
Voiced by: Anika Noni Rose
After years of computer animation, The Princess and Frog marked Disney’s brief return to traditional hand-drawn animation. It was also the first “princess” movie to be set in the United States featuring an African American heroine. Unfortunately, the project proved difficult at every turn. During the early stages of movie-making, the original character was named Maddy (which seemed too similar to the derogatory term “mammy”) who worked as a chambermaid.
Loosely based on the novel The Frog Princess by E. D. Baker (which was loosely based on the Brothers Grimm fairy tale, The Frog Prince), the movie was set in 1926 with a young hoping to open her own restaurant while working as a waitress at two different earteries.
Meanwhile, after being separated by his parents, Prince Naveen of Maldonia comes to the city in hopes of marrying a rich girl. He meets Doctor Facilier, a voodoo witch doctor who promises the prince that he will make the man’s dreams come true, but instead, turns him into a frog.
At a masquerade ball, the new frog mistakes Tiana for a princess and convinces her to kiss him to help him turn back into a man. She does and instead becomes a frog herself. The two go on an adventure together trying to break the curse falling in love along the way.
First appeared: 2010
Talent and Strengths: Artworking and frying pan fighting
Worst Foe: Mother Gothel
Voiced by: Mandy Moore
Disney’s 50th full-length animated film, Tangled, featured the damsel Rapunzel very much not in distress. Taking nearly six years to produce at a cost of $260 million, Tangled is one of the most expensive animated films to be made.
Fortunately for the studio, the film made $591 million in worldwide box office sales and was nominated for a number of awards.
Tangled was more inspired by the German tale by the Brothers Grimm rather than being based on the original story. The story begins with girl with the golden locks locked up in a tower to keep her “safe” from the outside world as told by her “mother” Gothel. As it turns out, she was a princess taken away from her family’s kingdom when she was an infant due to her hair’s healing properties that help Gothel to keep herself young.
On Rapunzel’s 18th birthday, she asks her mother to be allowed to leave the castle, but again is turned down. After Mother Gothel leaves the tower, a thief named Flynn Rider (aka Eugene) attempts to hide from the authoritiess by climbing into the tower only to get his head hit with a frying pan from Rapunzel.
After some negotiating, Flynn agrees to help Rapunzel escape to see the real world which leads to a series of adventures, with Rapunzel discovering that she had been helping a fugitive, Mother Gothel was not her real mother, that her real parents were still alive and were the King and Queen of Corona that and in order to help save Flynn, she would have to cut her hair.
The film was followed by the short film, Tangled Ever After about the chaos that surrounded Rapunzel’s wedding to Eugene and the Disney Channel TV series, Tangled: Before Ever After.
First appeared: 2012
Talent and Strengths: Archery, talking back to her mother and lying
Worst Foe: Herself
Voiced by: Kelly Macdonald
In the Pixar film Brave, Merida was the first Pixar princess who was unlike any other Disney princess before her. Brave was an original story inspired by the film’s co-director’s daughter. Despite winning the Academy Award, the Golden Globe and the BAFTA Award for Best Animated Film, Brave received mixed reviews from theater-goers.
Set in medieval Scotland, Merida is definitely the most Tom-boyish princess in the Disney universe. She basically throws a fit when she learns that she is to be betrothed to the son of the one of her father’s allies. She would rather die. She argues with her mother that she isn’t interested in getting married and even if she was, she wants to choose her own love interest.
Upon meeting a witch in the forest, the elderly woman gives her a special cake to give to her mother that will change the redhead’s fate. Merida pretends that she baked the cake special for her mother and when the queen eats the cake, she turns into a bear.
The rest of the story is sort of a buddy film with Merida and her bear mother trying to find the witch to help the older one return back to her human self and for Merida to learn how to be brave by telling the truth.
12. Elsa and Anna
First appeared: 2013
Talent and Strengths: Making snowstorms and sacrificing oneself
Worst Foe: Prince Hans
Voiced by: Idina Menzel and Kristen Bell
Like Tangled, Frozen was only inspired by Hans Christian Anderson’s fairy tale, The Snow Queen. The film is the first Disney film to feature two princesses and has become one of the studio’s biggest screen duo since Mickey and Minnie. Work began on the film back many years back with Walt Disney himself, but it wasn’t until 2011 that it began to take shape.
Frozen was different from many other princess movies in a few ways. In the original tale, the Snow Queen is the villain. In Frozen, she’s a sister. Elsa and Anna had happy childhood living in the town or Arendelle. Elsa learned at an early age that she had a supernatural power to create ice and snow much to her little sister’s delight. But when Anna accidentally gets hurt during an indoor snow screen created by her sis, mom and dad kept the two sisters apart so Anna couldn’t ever get hurt again.
Years later, the teens learn that their parent have died while at sea during a storm. Then, when Elsa turned 21, she was about to be crowned queen of Arendelle. However, her powers became too intense and the local villagers begin to think that she is some sort of witch. She then literally heads to the hills to hide out in her own castle of ice leaving Arendelle in a perpetual winter storm.
Despite falling in love with Prince Hans from a neighboring village, Anna sets out on her own to find her sister and bring her back home. On her way, she meets Kristoff, an ice harvester and demands that he help her find Elsa. However, when the pair finds her, Elsa yet again accidentally hurts Anna with her icy powers and the two are booted out of the castle by a snow monster created by Elsa. (Elsa’s intention though to keep her sister safe by keeping Anna away from her.)
After learning how Anna could freeze solid after the attack, but could be saved after “an act of true love,” Kristoff thinks that all Anna needs is a “true love kiss” from Prince Hans, but it turns out that the Prince has no desire to do so and is revealed to be the movie’s villain set on taking over the village of Arendelle. Anna however is saved though after she sacrifices her life to save Elsa proving the “act of true love.”
First appeared: 2016
Talent and Strengths: Outsmarking demigods
Worst Foe: Te Kā
Voiced by: Auliʻi Cravalho
Disney’s newest princess movie, Moana is told more like a Greek myth than the traditional Disney story and is one of the few that doesn’t feature a Prince Charming character. The film’s storyline is also one of the more complex.
Moana lives on the island of Motunui where the people there worship the goddess Te Fiti. The local legend explains that it was she who was responsible for bringing life to the ocean. She used a pounamu stone to represent her heart. Then, the shapeshifting demigod, Maui, stole this “heart” to give humanity the power of creation. He was then attacked by the volcanic demon, Te Kā who also wanted the heart.
Many years later, Moana learns that the ocean chooses her to return this heart back to Te Fiti. Early into her adventure, Moana meets Maui and asks for the heart back, but he refuses. After getting attacked by small pirates hidden behind coconuts, Moana convinces Maui to help her in her quest to help him redeem himself.
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