Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Life among the 3-year-old Disney Princesses

HALLIE EPHRON: As the grandmother of a three-year-old I am acutely aware of the Princesses phenomenon as it applies to little girls. Our Franny Lou is obsessed with princesses. Belle is her favorite. (Belle nightgown. Belle big girl panties...) She sings all of "Let It Go" from Frozen at the top of her lungs and at every opportunity.

Cinderella, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, Ariel, Jasmine, Pocahontas, she loves them all and carries around little action figures which, heaven help me, I bought for her.
Last week there was a piece in our local paper about Princess birthday parties. The MOTHERS dress up as princesses, too. Speaking for myself, this is a bridge too far. I will not dress up as anyone's fairy godmother.

Were you besotted with Disney princesses when you were little, and what do you make of this--beyond it being a spectacularly successful merchandising effort? And is it a step back for women's lib or just another wrinkle on the way to liberation?

I would love, LOVE, to hear Franny Lou sing Let It Go. I am obsessed with hearing little kids sing it--it is SO hilarious.

Disney princesses. Ah, gee. When I was growing up, there might
have been Cinderella. Which, thinking back, turned out well, and you know, thinking about it even more, I used to complain, when I had to do chores, that I WAS Cinderella.   But I didn't see that as romantic or desirable.

Snow White? Yeesh. Sleeping Beauty? Well, these days, I love sleep, so maybe so. And sometimes my garden, like hers, is out of control.  And I must confess, I used to threaten my mother with what would happen when my REAL parents--royalty--came to get me. She would suggest I make my bed in the meantime.

I think, these days, a Disney princess is a different deal. And I do wonder what their point is.  I could make a remark about Ivanka, who is a lovely young woman, and a story in herself,  and Chelsea, ditto, but I won't. And, in other news. look how perfectly Sasha and Malia have turned out. 

RHYS BOWEN:  When I was little I played at princesses all the time. I would have loved all the Disney stuff, action figures, castle and dresses. But alas I was pre Disney marketing. I had to make do with an old curtain draped around me and the arm chair as my coach. And my great aunt to be my faithful servant/old woman gathering sticks/wicked queen depending on the game.

Of course all little girls love to dress up and that longing stays with us. We wear prom dresses. We read about Will and Kate.

My granddaughters are now past the princess stage but it was awfully adorable to see them swirling and curtsying and singing all the songs. Now it's Lulu Lemon and Raybans!

DEBORAH CROMBIE: I only saw the first generation Disneys.
Snow White (Yuck! Creepy! All those little men gave me nightmares,) Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella. But I never wanted to be any of those princesses.

My cousin and I played with action figures from Gunsmoke. And of course I had every toy horse ever made, and they had great adventures, so it wasn't as if we were lacking in imagination... Kayti says the only Disney movie she remembers loving is Robin Hood. My poor kid grew up on PBS documentaries!

I've never even seen Frozen! Maybe I'll get to watch all these things with Wren. But...I'm not sure how keen I am on the whole Disney princess thing. Just call me #TotallyOutOfIt.

SUSAN ELIA MACNEAL: I loved princesses back in the day and was delighted when Disney introduced Belle when I was about 22 — a brown-eyed brunette who loved to read!

Got to go through it all again with Kiddo, who loved the princesses — until he didn't — but I still think he secretly likes them and the movies, too. We also went through Mulan, Tangled, Alladin, et al — it's a whole new princess world now.. Now we have Elsa and Anna from Frozen.
Loved Frozen and am proud to be friends with Kristin Anderson Lopez and Robert Lopez. Kiddo used to play with their daughters and I even wrote part of MR. CHURCHILL'S SECRETARY in their kitchen. (Noel knows them from Avenue Q days.) I loved the fact that "true love's kiss" could be from sisters, not just a man/woman romantic situation....

Plus, you know, Idina Menzel tearing it up.

Did anyone catch the new Cinderella, directed by Kenneth Branagh? Gorgeous and Kate Blanchette was truly chilling as the stepmother. And of course now there's the film version of Into the Woods — those Sondheim lyrics provide so much food for thought about what happens _after_ "happily ever after."

Oh, and we're also fans of ABC's "Once Upon a Time" — which is a whole fairytale mashup that turns the tales we all grew up with on their head and can be quite clever. We all love watching it together as a family on Sunday nights.

HALLIE: This is bringing back memories of watching the first Disney movies, having a Disney Cinderella picture book that had glitter in it, and it is pretty great that the girls in Disney movies have evolved into strong characters who have opinions and talk back. Still waiting for one that's not skinny and beautiful.

Today's question: Have princesses invaded your life, and if so have you surrendered and welcomed them in?


  1. Since I grew up well before the days of all those Disney Princesses, the Princesses never really invaded my life until the first grandbaby reached the age of Princess Adoration. [And, by then, there was a castle full of them for her to love.] We saw all the Disney films and, truthfully, all that Princess Adoration didn’t bother me one bit . . . .
    When we went to Disney World, we visited Cinderella’s castle, stood in long lines to collect princess autographs, had a lovely lunch with the princesses, took pictures with the princesses, and waved at all the princesses in the electrical parade. Actually, it made for a slew of wonderful memories . . . .

  2. Nope, I also missed all those Disney Princesses as a child. And with no kids or grandkids, they have never entered my life or home as an adult. And I have never been to Disney World or Disney Land either. Looks like I missed out big time!

  3. Fun topic, Hallie. My favorite ten-year old was obsessed with princesses a few years ago. When she was four she had a pink princess hockey stick - an image I loved. She's a lean gymnast now who prefers to sort my messy earring collection when she visits these days, that or paint toenails, than watch princess movies.

    I WAS a princess in first grade. Temple City, my Los Angeles suburb, had a Camellia Parade every February (picture mini-Rose Parade), and the court was drawn from the first graders. We wore long ruffled light green dresses, got to go to Hollywood and be on TV, and had lots of pictures taken. I think they picked me because I was little and cute and pretty brash. I'm now facebook friends with my fellow (mystery-loving) princess who still lives in the area.

  4. Edith, you WERE a princess!?! And survived to tell about it. Yikes.
    And Grace, I think that's an achievement. Don't mess with it.
    Joan, I confess I look forward to doing that with my granddaughter.

  5. Susan, I loved the Branagh version of Cinderella! I also adored Ever After, featuring a feisty Cinderella played by Drew Barrymore. I fell in love with her Prince when he showed Cinderella his secret library. I mean, who wouldn't? I've watched it with the granddaughters so many times, I can't count them.

    My grandmother kept a closet full of old gowns for me to play princess in along with my friends. Funny, if I wasn't pretending to play Cinderella, I was Peter Pan, or at the very least, Tinker Belle, my only Disney favorite.

    The thing about Cinderella is this: Here's a gal who has fallen on hard times, but gets out of her comfort zone and dares to put herself "out there." I'm guessing she had a future as a writer once she and the prince settled down.

  6. Michele, I like your version of Cinderella. As for me, it's hard to forget about those tiny feet. Peter Pan is problematic, because who roots for Wendy? She's such a drip. And Tinker Belle? Really the only thing she's going for her is her size (again) and Pixie dust.

  7. I can tell this here because they'll never read it, but Cinderella book, then movie, was one of the boys' absolute favorites when they were toddlers. They also liked Barbie--along with their GI Joe's--she was headless sometimes-- but always up for fantastic adventures (she was not a dress-up, stay-at-home kinda girl! ;-) And she's not Disney, but Princess Fiona from Shrek--how's that for a princess who isn't skinny? On the other hand, I liked her when she WAS skinny and still fell for the ogre!

  8. Hallie, Wendy is a drip and no match for Peter Pan. That's why Tink tries to do her in. Tink is more than mischievous, which is enough alone to make me like her. But she's also murderous. Probably the first fairy-murderer.

  9. Did you see--is it Enchanted? Where Cinderella comes to Manhattan? The other day here we were talking about hilarious movies -- that certainly is one!

  10. Flora, that always made me annoyed that Fiona had to go back to her ugly self to be with Shrek. So wrong.

  11. Also, Tinkerbell can fly and do magic. Way cooler than scolding everyone.

    My princess fantasies as a child had more to do with seeing My Fair Lady with my grandmother when I was about seven or eight. Those costumes! The singing! (RIP, Marnie Nixon, you wonderful vocalist.) Snow White had to do housework for SEVEN little twits, a couple of them typically unappreciative. Cinderella: ditto on the housework. Sleeping Beauty: yep, more drudgery. A pretty dress at the end wasn't enough to make me forget all the dishpan hands. Eliza Doolittle, though, ended up servants, and lots of pretty dresses, whether she stayed with that idjit Professor or not.

    Oh, and Dale Evans, and the niece on Sky King. They had horses! Swoon.

    My three daughters were more into The Karate Kid (the oldest), Ghostbusters and the Teenaged Mutant Ninja Turtles (the middle one), and The Little Mermaid (the youngest). She wanted to be a marine biologist, see. But none of them were into the gowns and stuff.

    My personal favorite Disney princess is rarely mentioned. She's Princess Merida of Brave, the archery sharpshooting Scottish heir with a headful of flaming red hair who has to find a way to save her mother, who's been enchanted and turned into a bear. She is the star of the show, and of her own life. And she rides a big horse.

  12. I agree, Princess Fiona is problematic. You don't see Princess Fiona action figures and little girls aren't painting their faces green. Still, Shrek is one of my all time favorite movies. Donkey: "You know what ELSE everybody likes? Parfaits!" (Okay, well, maybe you hadda be there.)

    Karen, how right you are about the housework theme. (The line from the album FREE TO BE YOU AND ME delivered by gravelly voiced Carol Channing: "Your Mommy hates housework, your daddy hates housework, I hate housework too."

  13. Speaking of Free to Be You and Me: remember Diana Ross singing "When we grow up" - have a listen again

  14. Having just returned from a vacation with some very dear friends and their 4-yo daughter, I was mightily impressed with the lack of Princesses and such.

    We celebrated her birthday and her favorite gifts were a wonderful Astronaut costume for Halloween. Someday she wants to go to outer space.

    And there there was this action figure I had never heard of. GoldieBlox! Now I admit that I have hardly up on children's cartoons, but I was delight by this character. GoldieBlox is an engineer and the action figure comes with a component that needs to be assembled. In this case, it was a zip-line which Goldie could then ride - with myself and the parents holding the "rope." as the trees. GoldieBlox comes with a toolbelt and a wrench and it was delightful to get to sit down and help this little one assemble the project: "No, Kris, that has to be the short pipe there, not the long one" (after I intentionally picked the wrong piece to see how following directions was going.

    I don't think there is anything wrong with Princesses - for either girls or boys - but I was very happy to see this alternative offered as well.

  15. GoldieBlox! That sounds fantastic. I was big into Lincoln Logs and Tinker Toys and Erector Sets and plain old blocks.

  16. The Girl did the Princess thing when she was little. Then she moved on. Now she's...ambivalent. She doesn't like Frozen - actually, she's not keen on the digital animation. She thinks it makes everyone look the same. And she didn't really *get* the storyline of Frozen.

    However, she did a pretty amazing dissection of all the princess stories to show that it's really NOT just about finding "true love" and marrying the prince. I wish she had written it down, but it was verbal. I was rather amazed at her perceptions as a teenager who is a self-described feminist. She thinks people need to relax about labeling princesses as anti-feminist because that's not looking at the entire story.

    But some of our favorites? Tangled. And Enchanted (Hank, we adore that one - Amy Adams is lovely and Patrick Dempsey? Yum.). And she really likes the old-school animation - Beauty and the Beast, The Little Mermaid, etc. "Hand-drawn might take longer and be more expensive, but it makes a better looking movie!" Of course she's an artist herself, so she might be biased.

  17. Hallie, I've never heard that song before--so wonderful!

    Mary, isn't it great that our daughters today have such a wider perspective of the world? The Girl sounds like she has it figured out way ahead of where we were at that age.

  18. Karen - I know I wasn't thinking about a lot of these things at 15/16 years old. I was still lurking in my bedroom, reading, and wishing I was like "all the rest of the girls."

  19. Recently, my son-in-law was explaining to my four year old granddaughter that she could be anything she wanted when she grew up; a doctor, lawyer, veterinarian, president... She said, "Can't I just be a princess?"

  20. When I was a teenager... oh God, it pains me to remember. Fitting in, BLENDING in was my fervent hope. It was not to be.

  21. Hallie, I am laughing about this post, because as you know, I have a granddaughter the exact same age. Her loving Auntie Kate gave her the princesses for Christmas and now it is all princesses all the time. She is very fond of Belle, who was Auntie Kate's favorite when she was a girl, but my granddaughter's favorite is Ariel. She can sing all the songs.

    Like we did, her parents tried with this kid. The colors of her room were gender neutral and they gave her plenty of trucks. But at three it's pink and purple and princesses, just as it was with her aunt.

    There is something magical about being three.

  22. JUST fairy dust? Anyway, my granddaughters have been thoroughly into Disney princesses -- excessively so. But last week, the eight year old had her birthday and the theme was HARRY POTTER.

  23. Denise Ann--Harry Potter lives on!! Yay!!!The closest I have to grandbabies are two cats and they won't sit still when I try to read HP to them! ;-)

  24. Can't wait until our grand baby gets into Harry Potter. And the Roald Dahl books (sadly no more of those). And Charlotte's Web.

    Barb, she loves Ariel, too.

    For awhile she was into Mary Poppins and everything was "really quite capocious"

  25. Annette: ""Can't I just be a princess?"" I ask myself that every morning when I wake up.

  26. Annette, you should make mugs and tee-shirts! That's great!

  27. A friend wrote rhymes for her granddaughter about being a strong princess, and storytelling friends have been seeking out and sharing stories of more heroic princesses, like THE PAPERBAG PRINCESS. One of my favorites is "The Minstrel Queen"
    It does seem Disney has been nudged along as well, with warriors Merida and Mulan, and even Ariel, Jasmine, Belle, and the Frozen sisters are involved in setting things right in the world. Progress! My favorite Miss Aimee B's tearoom has a fluffy room for princess parties, with vintage china teacups and saucers, and a sign the ends with "I know I am strong." (sorry I can't add a photo of it). Hmm, the grownup version of wearing pretty clothes while being strong could be Miss Phryne Fisher, or Nora Blackbird, and so many more who save the princess clothes for special occasions but are strong every day.

  28. Not having grandchildren I have missed the latest Disney craze. I have to tell you though that the first time I took my goddaughter to church she waited until everyone was seated and quiet, then she took the bible from the rack in front of her, opened it, stood, and announced in that childlike voice that can be heard by ships at sea, "Once upon a time, there was a fairy princess, and her name was Snow White." She would have continued, but I had her by the hand and we were marching down the side aisle not to return for another year.

    I wanted to be a cowgirl when I was little. Had six guns and everything!

  29. I never wanted to be a princess but I enjoyed my grandmother's versions of fairy tales, especially her version of Cinderella. She was a great storyteller and she acted out the different parts! Her description of the stepsisters was hilarious!

    When I was 13 I had a crush on the 13 year old Prince Charles! Hard to believe now.

    My four year old great-niece loves to dress up as a princess, even if she's not pretending to be one. Hmm, not sure what that means!

    I loved Enchanted and I recommended it to other adults!

    Kristopher, I must look for GoldieBlox!

    Deb Romano

  30. Kait, I love your goddaughter!That is such a funny story. Did everyone crack up?

    And Deb R - Prince Charles? Ha ha ha ha... Well, hard to believe but Princess Di did marry him.

  31. I can't believe I've never seen Enchanted. Going on my must watch list for the weekend!

    We didn't have princesses by my daughter played with My Little Ponies, her favorite for several years. They were fun. And we had tea parties. We still like tea parties.

    (And Deb R, I still like Prince Charles:-))

  32. Karen in Ohio: a kindred spirit for childhood!
    Just wondering at all of you who have said you missed the Disney princesses because you were too old. I'm thinking that you really grew up in the gap between the first princesses -- Snow White, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty issued in 1936, 1950, 1959 (so says Wikipedia) -- and the more recent waves of princesses.
    Our imaginary games as children were an amazing mixture of princesses and princes riding along with Roy Rogers and Dale Evans to meet Flash Gordon and Dale Arden for the battle with Ming the Magnificent!
    Once again finding joyous memories pulled up by this blog. Thank you.

  33. Hmmm. Not sure what this says about me, but the Disney animated tale that I was hooked on was PeterPan. And I did not want to be Tinker Bell or Wendy. Of course the Mary Martin version on tv may have had an influence, too.

  34. Kathy, I LOVED that version! That's not Disney, that was based on the Barrie play which was based on the novel Peter and Wendy. And didn't they make a hash of it on live tv with Christopher Walken perfectly dreadful as Hook? I saw Mary Martin on stage playing Peter in Los Angeles in the touring company. Gosh, I must have been about four.

    Deb, we were awash in My Little Ponies with one of our daughters, who still won't forgive for buying her knock-offs.

  35. I spent today with my favorite princess, my six-year-old granddaughter. Like others of you, I've been with the Disney princesses for three generations now. I started with the original movies, too, and loved the magical ambiance of them, but my pride and joy outfit was my Annie Oakley outfit. If I remember, I'll post a picture of me in it on throw-back Thursday tomorrow on FB. I still have it in my bedroom closet. My daughter, who is now 32 liked the Disney princesses, and she liked to dress up as a princess, but she wasn't overly enthused about them. My Little Pony and Strawberry Shortcake toys were more to her liking. My son, much to the horror of my mother-in-law and to the delight of me, wasn't into princesses, but when he was around four, he loved to put on a Spumoni (anyone remember that trend) skirt of my daughter's and twirl in it singing Oklahoma. He later went to Batman. My teenage granddaughter was six when my daughter and her husband adopted her, so we missed early days of Disney princesses, but my daughter and son-in-law took both girls to Disney a couple of years ago, and they both delighted in meeting the princesses and dressing up. My younger granddaughter loved Aurora for at least a couple of years and also loved playing with those action figure princesses like your granddaughter, Hallie. She now would rather be exploring nature with her wading boots on.

    I have to share something that tickled me pink today. My granddaughter (younger) and I were playing a game that we were explorers who had discovered the end of the rainbow (her idea) at Angel Falls in Venezuela, the largest falls. This location came from a book she checked out of the library about geographical world records. She made up a wonderful story about it, and, still in character, I told my fellow explorer that she should write about it. She said that it would have to be fiction because if she made it non-fiction, everyone would know where the rainbow's end is and come looking for the gold. I was so happy that she used the terms fiction and non-fiction so casually and with a full understanding of the difference.

  36. No, never wanted to be a princess. I think the closest I came was imagining I might somehow become Princess Anne's best friend, since we were the same age. But our mothers didn't move in the same circles, and anyway, she was in England, I was in Canada. Of course, I also wanted Annette Funicello for my best friend. But note, I was always ME in my fantasies.

  37. The first movie I ever saw in the theater was Snow White. You know, the one where the creepy huntsman takes the little girl out into the woods to stab her to death? What were my parents thinking???? But I adored Sleeping Beauty, mostly for the great Tchaikovsky score. Excellent music to swirl to. I always loved fantasy stories and, as an adult, I developed a real appreciation of animation, so I've seen a bunch of the Disney princess movies, even though I don't have daughters and granddaughters to share them with. Belle is my favorite, because she's brainy, loves books, and longs to escape the social and physical boundaries of her little town. That all resonates with me. Sadly, I thought the prince was hunkier when he was the Beast. Frozen is good, and so is Brave. You should give Disney credit for trying to write more modern stories for their princesses these days. It's not all great gowns and handsome princes. But yeah. Enchanted. So good. And I get a little misty-eyed when the kids who come to our fifth grade band recruitment concerts sing along with all the songs from Frozen. The music means a lot to them. I have both those films, Debs, so if Rick ever takes off for a man-camping trip or something, we definitely need a Girls Night In. You'd love those movies.

  38. I was born in '86, so I feel like I grew up in the heyday of Disney. I was a huge tomboy when I was younger, so I never wanted to be one of the princesses. However, my two favorite Disney movies are about women who are absolutely NOT passive and are also considered outsiders within their society: Beauty and the Beast and Mulan.

    Belle is a book-lover and outsider, trying to find her place in the world...she actually had a personality. My childhood dream was to own the library from Beauty and the Beast (still holding out hope), and I was way more jealous of the fact that Belle got to live in the castle with that library than the fact that she married a prince.

    Mulan is based on a famous Chinese woman warrior, which I found fascinating. Also, as a young Asian-American girl, it was so exciting to see a Disney movie that (sort of) represented me.

    As much as I love Disney movies in general, those earlier movies sent out some VERY questionable messages and ideals for young girls, which I do not care for.