Why the Disney Princesses Need Moana

“Moana you’re so amazing” – Maui

Moana soared onto our screens on Friday and has gained her place as one of Disney’s best female characters. Long rumoured to be the next ‘Disney Princess Film’, Moana has been highly anticipated this year, with merchandise and character meet and greets beginning before the film is even released. However, in the film Moana herself denies being a princess and she is constantly referred to by Disney as a ‘heroine’ during press releases and interviews.

But, Moana needs to be crowned as a Disney Princess.

It seems that in recent years, Disney is moving away from adding characters into the Princess Franchise. Frozen was released in 2013, and neither Anna or Elsa (who despite her queen status could kind of still be counted) have been added into the franchise. Disney seems to be happy with what the Frozen brand is producing on its own rather than adding to an already established franchise.

Therefore, with the introduction of Moana I worry that she will be excluded as a Disney Princess, with Disney preferring to market her as a stand-alone brand. And this seems to have been confirmed by an unnamed Disney spokesperson. This does suggest that Moana doesn’t need the Disney Princesses, however, the Disney Princesses need Moana.

The Princess Franchise has always been a powerful part of the brand, however few of the princesses can be considered role models for young girls. The Franchise is also not particularly diverse, with seven of the eleven princesses being Caucasian and only four being Princesses of Colour. This is not representative, and often the Princess of Colour films were racially inaccurate and not reflective of their culture. The lack of positive gender roles and Princesses of Colour is the Disney Princess Franchise’s biggest issue. Bringing Moana into the brand will not solve it, but she will help the brand take a progressive step towards diversity.

The first thing that sets Moana apart from the other Princesses (even Merida) is that there is absolutely no love interest. Although the original story line contained a love interest, which was the reason for Moana’s journey, this story was changed. This meant that the entire film focused on Moana and her own path of self-discovery, rather than featuring her desire for love or a relationship unlike so many other princesses. I found that this was one of the most refreshing things about Moana, as I could focus my attention solely on Moana’s journey to saving her island.

The second is that Moana mainly consists of female characters, although Maui and Moana’s father play a large role, it is Moana, her mother, her grandmother and Te Fiti that are at the centre of the story. The representation of positive relationships between women is something rarely seen in a Princess film to this extent. Although a kind man, Moana’s father reminded me a little of Ariel’s controlling and patriarchal father who eventually sees the error of his ways. However, it is Moana’s mother and grandmother who help and support Moana when she begins her journey to find Maui. Once Moana finds the demi-god, he is initially brash and rude to her (based on her age rather than her gender), but eventually supports and empowers her by teaching her how to sail and navigate properly like her ancestors once did. This results in Moana being completely independent when she journey’s to face Te Kā the lava demon.

Third, the ‘villain’ of the film is a woman. In Disney films, female villains often become evil due to their fixation on beauty and youth such as the Evil Queen and Mother Gothel. Although there are some female villains (notably Maleficent, Cruella de Vil and Ursula) who are evil for reasons other than beauty and youth. And carrying on from this, Te Kā (who is actually Te Fiti without her ‘heart’ that Moana is trying to restore) has become evil because her ‘heart’ that has the gift of life has been removed by Maui many years earlier. Despite what her grandmother once thought, it is Moana who restores Te Fiti’s heart, and rather than destroying the villain, Moana helps Te Kā realise who she truly is – another empowering moment for women in the film. This also shows that women supporting one another can have a truly positive impact – the act transforms Te Kā back into Te Fiti, and restores all the decaying islands, including Moana’s home.

I could list many more reasons as to why Moana is so different to her princess predecessors (and I probably will in the future), but after watching the film for the first time on Friday, these are the three reasons that really stand out. It is because of these three points and more that Moana needs to be crowned as a Disney Princess. Moana is a strong, independent, autonomous agent within the Disney Franchise, and is a progressive step to a more diverse Disney universe.

At the moment, it seems that Moana will remain a heroine, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The way that the film has been marketed in recent months show that Disney wants the film to be a success, and I am sure that it will be. Moana doesn’t really need the Disney Princesses, but the Princesses could really benefit from having such a strong role model for children introduced into the franchise.

Thank you for reading this blog post! If there are any questions, feedback, or requests for future posts, please feel free to email me or post in the comment box below!


The Lost Princesses

Hello There! It has been a very long time since my last post (June is so far away now), but it has been a very hectic few months! I had a couple of University projects to work on so I went on a revision crazy tirade. However I am back now, and hopefully more often!

Today I wanted to write about the beginning of my summer. My boyfriend and I took a trip to Disneyland for our anniversary, which quite frankly, was one of the best holidays I have ever been on! Aside from the excitement of me going on all the rides, dragging my boyfriend into EVERY SINGLE SHOP, and meeting as many Disney characters as I physically could, I could not help but notice a little detail that frustrated me ENDLESSLY.

I am famous within my family for being very jealous that I can’t dress up as a Disney Princess in Disneyland. I love how authentic the costumes are, but unfortunately adults cannot dress up in the park as it could confuse the children. The costumes range from Snow White all the way up to Princess Anna and Queen Elsa, the most recent additions. Whilst walking around Disneyland I saw Tianas, Rapunzels, Cinderellas, Ariels dressed to the nines in sparkly costumes.

But who didn’t I see? Pocahontas and Mulan.

I find Pocahontas and Mulan the most interesting princesses within the Disney Princess Franchise, rarely mentioned, marketed or met, Pocahontas and Mulan are the rarest princesses of all, yet have the strongest and most influential stories.

Pocahontas of course, was the break through princess for female empowerment. As I wrote previously, the second generation princesses did become stronger, yet there was still that patriarchal reliance on men. Pocahontas on the other hand, is a free spirited young woman who wishes to follow her own path rather than the one that her father has set for her. The powerful ending that Pocahontas chooses to fulfil her life by becoming a leader as opposed to leaving for England with John Smith suggests that Pocahontas is the first princess who chooses herself over her love, although some scholars disagree with this idea.

Mulan on the other hand does get the traditional Disney Princess “happy ending”. The film begins with Mulan recognising she is not like other girls in her community, and makes the ultimate sacrifice for her own father (also to earn some ‘respect’ from him) by posing as a man in the army. Mulan not only becomes one of the strongest ‘men’ in the regiment, she saves her comrades mid-battle and then goes and saves China. Mulan gets recognition not only from the members of the city, but also from the Emperor himself. When she finally arrives home, and celebrates her fantastic achievements with her family her achievements are almost overshadowed by her love interest’s arrival. The film ends with Mulan asking whether he would like to stay for tea, and her grandmother yelling, “…would you like to stay forever?”. So after challenging gender roles and saving China, the pinnacle end of the story is Mulan potentially getting a boyfriend.

Nevertheless, of all the Disney Princesses, Pocahontas and Mulan challenge the gender stereotypes and are a good role model for young girls. This causes me to ask the question, why are there not enough Pocahontas and Mulan costumes being marketed? The fact is, there is not enough marketing for them as princesses, maybe because they are unorthodox compared to Cinderella or Belle. They are very active and independent compared to previous princesses, but it appears that that does not make them more popular. This causes me to ask the second question, is this because they are not marketed enough, or because young girls are simply not interested in these princesses?

I hope that as my research continues I will be able to build on this idea, so please let me know your thoughts about this in the comments below!

Thank you for reading this blog post! If there are any questions, feedback, or requests for future posts, please feel free to email me or post in the comment box below!