Point Break: New Disney vs Old Disney


Which Disney Princesses are truly the best?

Just “Let It Go” You Guys: Why New Princesses Are Better

By Manola Secaira

Nostalgia can be blinding. Having grown up with all the older Disney princess movies—for the purposes of this article, defined as any princess movie made before 2000—it’s really tempting for me to think of them as the best ones. And don’t get me wrong, they are pretty awesome. The songs, the animation, their impossibly perfect hair (I’m looking at you, Ariel and Pocahontas); everything about these movies was great. But from an objective point of view, the newer Disney princess movies are generally better, for reasons ranging from better character depth to the introduction of themes that don’t obsess over finding one’s “true love”.

One of the most obvious changes between the older and newer Disney princesses are the depths of character arc. In older films, the Disney princesses were more of role models than actual people; while they worked to achieve their dreams in their prospective movies, their character didn’t actually change. Ariel is a great example of this lacking character arc. Because of her somewhat foolish desire to be human, she not only endangers herself and her friends, but the entire ocean (as Ursula was pretty darn close to taking over everything). However, she never faces any repercussions for her recklessness and gets everything she wants by the end of the movie without learning a lesson (seriously, she gets her dad turned into a creepy ghoul thing and he never even mentions it).

This isn’t present in the newer princess movies; each character, while still morally good, has their own flaw to overcome. Tiana is a workaholic, Elsa has trust issues, Merida needs to fix the broken relationship with her mother— all flaws that the characters work on throughout the movie in order to achieve happiness, whether or not it’s the same as the dream that they originally had at the beginning. When their flaws get in the way, these characters do face repercussions. For example, Anna of Frozen realizes her naiveté when Hans’s selfish desires are revealed and she endangers the whole kingdom through her mistake. From Brave, Merida’s desire to get her mother to change her ways, instead of examining her own, almost gets her mother permanently changed into a bear. In both cases, the princesses are able to fix things by the end of the movie, but only because they have learned to deal with their flaws. Many say that the older Disney princesses, like Cinderella and Belle, are role models because of their perfect goodness despite their circumstances; however, I’d argue that the newer princesses are perhaps even better role models because they’re much more like real people. They have flaws that they learn to overcome, a much more inspiring character arc than learning from a character that’s already perfect to begin with.

The newer Disney princess movies introduce new themes that don’t necessarily revolve around the princess having to find a “true love” to accomplish their dreams. In fact, although many do fall in love, their prince (or attractive thief guy or, um, ice harvester?) isn’t the one who overcomes their challenges for them like it had been in older Disney movies. In Sleeping Beauty, Prince Phillip must save Aurora from Maleficent, in The Little Mermaid, Prince Eric is the one who kills Ursula (while Ariel watches helplessly), Aladdin’s Jasmine is stuck in an hourglass for the climax of the movie… not so in the newer movies. Tiana gets Dr. Facilier eaten by crazy voodoo monsters, Merida beats up a monster bear, and Anna jumps in front of a freaking sword. These girls achieve their goals through their own actions, independent of their princes, and achieve much more than finding true love (if their stories include romantic interests in the first place, as Elsa and Merida’s do not).

There’s a lot to love in both new and old Disney princess movies, but the newest additions are definitely the strongest in character and, perhaps, story as well. They’ve got problems to solve, monsters to fight, and they don’t need no man (though romance is certainly not unappreciated).

Oh, wait. Mulan is an exception. Her movie was made in 1998 and that’s pretty much 2000. She’s not even really a princess, okay? …dang it, Mulan.


Old Disney will always be “Part of Your World”

Maria Cesarini

When my little sister was born my parents, in an effort to deal with both a screaming infant and a toddler, would often sit me in front of the TV and pop in whatever video cassette tape happened to be fully rewound.

And so, as a little girl, I watched quite a few Disney movies.

Our generation came into being amidst a massive boom in the Disney industry. Disney’s release of The Little Mermaid in 1989 was in fact so successful it was credited with the revival of the animated movie and the return of the Disney Princess after a thirty-year hiatus. As the 90’s rolled in, Disney Princesses were on the rise, with the releases of The Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, and Mulan, and Disney was introduced to a whole new market – little girls.

Today’s teenagers grew up with Disney princesses. Those old Disney movies hold a very dear place in the hearts of many, which could explain the astronomical success of the new Disney princess movies, such as Tangled and Frozen. The popularity of these new movies has turned a critical eye on old Disney – or Disney movies released before the year 2000 – and has raised the question: which is better? New Disney or old Disney?

In order to fully understand the impacts that old Disney has had not just on the movie industry but on society as a whole, we must return to the year 1937 – the release of Snow White.

Snow White was the first full length animated film and the beginning of the Disney franchise. Her story was incredibly influential in the plots of the next two princess movies: Cinderella, released in 1950, and Sleeping Beauty, released in 1959. These first three were written and released amidst a dark and scary era in American history. They were created primarily as beacons of light and hope for the public, unlike the newer princesses who, with one-word titles and CGI animation, were created with profit in mind.

These first three princesses are often grouped together due to their similar characteristics and the timing of their releases. All three princesses are fairly passive in their own storylines, relying on princes to save them and promoting the idea that if you wish for something, one day it may come true. All three embody similar qualities fairly representative of how women, particularly young girls, were expected to behave.

While some of the lessons presented in these first three movies may come across as outdated, many concepts and qualities embodied by the three women are wonderfully refreshing in respect to today’s movie culture. Disney provides examples for young girls characterized by utter kindness, innocence, and purity. Despite minimal activity story-wise, they make the best of bad situations and treat everyone, antagonists included, with compassion. All these good qualities cannot be overlooked, despite the glaring critique that girls today need not sit around and wait for a prince.

The Little Mermaid’s release in 1989 marked Disney’s return to the princess genre after a thirty-year hiatus. The story of Ariel was so successful that it was credited with the revival of the animated film. Ariel as a character is a fascinating blend of original princess ideals and those held dear to the more modern woman, such as independence and intelligence. Her story deviates from that of the last three princesses through her active participation in her own storyline. These characteristics are carried over into the next two princess stories: The Beauty and the Beast and Aladdin.

While not technically a Disney princess, Mulan earns herself an honorary spot in the Disney princess lineup. Mulan really marks the beginning of the new Disney age thematically, as it blows just about every gender stereotype out of the water. Not only does Mulan impersonate a soldier to save her father, she ends up saving all of China with her cross-dressing warrior friends. And she ends up with the guy. What a boss. Mulan is the ultimate role model, particularly for today’s wave of young girls.

Yes, old Disney princesses contain characteristics and plot points that seem a little outdated, but they give interesting insight into historical ideologies and stereotypes. The lessons found in those movies helped shape a generation, just as new Disney is today. New Disney would not even exist if it weren’t for the success of old Disney. The basis of characters like Tiana, Rapunzel, Merida, Anna and Elsa came from the examples set by their predecessors. And yes, all these characters are wonderful, but that legacy is something that new Disney princesses will never have. Perhaps I am simply nostalgic, but new Disney simply cannot measure up to the timeless, classic Disney that we all grew up with. There’s too much history. I’m not arguing that old Disney is better simply because it’s older. I think that, regardless of era, old Disney encompasses something more. Those princesses contain traces of a childhood torn from our generation by terrorism, war, and financial hardship. It’s a reminder of a time when happiness was chocolate ice cream and summer lasted forever. And that is something that new Disney will never have.