Disney is brave, but frozen

I was convinced Brave was Disney’s reinvention. Merida was spunky, independent, and *gasp* looked like a normal girl.

Yes, many of those qualities carry over to Princess Anna in Frozen, but Princess Elsa, her sister, is unfortunately a nod back to the quintessential dainty blondes such as Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella.

Her hair is too perfectly coiffed, her eyes are too made-up, and she’s simply too graceful. On the other hand, Anna’s clumsy demeanor and goofy expressions are both endearing and relatable (she really reminds me of the wonderful Jennifer Lawrence).

While I applaud Disney for giving Anna realistic qualities, I really wish the media behemoth would make princesses physically ordinary.

Anna and Elsa fit the Disney standard: white, thin, willowy girls whose waists are quite petite and  arms are fragile-looking. In fact, height-permitting, they could easily join the modeling industry.

For many years now, fans have been making alternate versions of princesses: athletic, plus-sized, and petite to name a few, along with girls with realistically-sized eyes and varied facial features. It’s about time Disney took their opinions into account.

So maybe a Disney princess wouldn’t look so much like a Disney princess if her eyes were smaller, her waist were wider, her arms were fuller, and her hair were messier, but a new era has to begin sometime, right?

Even though I’m still miffed about the stereotypical princess image, I do commend Disney for crafting a story emphasizing the bond of sisters above that of a young girl and her Prince Charming.

Instead of fainting and sinking into the arms of a muscular prince, the royal ladies now get dizzy and sink, well, tumble then sink, into snowdrifts. Colder, yes, less romantic, definitely, but I think this is the way it ought to be.

We don’t need to sit around waiting for “the one”; we can get up and face life with frying pans, fiddles, or whatever weapons Disney comes up with next.

Many young girls (and I speak from experience) idolize the Disney princesses, and if they are given better models, maybe—just maybe—some of our female empowerment struggles of the future can be alleviated.

Anika Mohindra is currently a high school sophomore from the Bay Area. She is a foodie, an aspiring writer, a fashion enthusiast, and a tech girl. She especially likes math and computer science and thinks that more girls should give STEM subjects a try.

17 thoughts on “Disney is brave, but frozen

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  1. I’m sorry, but to isolate this to merely princesses, then that’s just sad. This story didn’t strictly follow the prince-princess guideline (if you’ve seen it, if not I won’t spoil).
    And as for them themselves? their hair is perfectly coifed BECAUSE THEY ARE COMPUTER GENERATED. The girl from Brave? It took two years to develop her HAIR alone. I understand you want to pin the plight of the young girl on these things but you can’t expect an extra two years to go into production to give them messy hair. As for height, we saw clearly that Anna stands around Five feet, at most five foot five. Not model stature. Her sister, is two to three inches taller, again, not model stature.
    Very well written, but you lack insight and the common sense to notice things or realize that if parents were smart they would point out, no honey, you can’t grow up to be a CGI character.

  2. Thank you for sharing your views. I agree with you that messy hair would be an added burden for the creators, but, in comparison to Anna who at least had messy hair when she woke up, Elsa seemed very Barbie-like. I don’t mean to sound defensive, but I believe we read the article differently. I mentioned how I liked the sister-based plot instead of the prince-princcess scheme, and the model comment was made with the caveat that they could join the industry given that their height would be accepted. I was trying to emphasize that their bodies fit the traditional, thin Disney mold, though perhaps I wasn’t clear enough (thank you for pointing that out). Furthermore, young girls idolize the princesses in the sense that they admire their beauty and grace. The idea is not so much to be the CGI characters as to acquire their charm. Girls consider the princesses beautiful, and that becomes the problem–that the princesses become the standards for beauty. Unfortunately, those standards are largely unattainable. Thus, it’s good to see princesses who look like any other girl, so that today’s and tomorrow’s youth learn to accept less exaggerated, idealized looks as beautiful.

  3. Keep in mind the idea of the movie. (So not to spoil I will be vague). Elsa is the ICE queen. She is supposed to be perfect but untouchable, cold, distant. Beautiful but not someone you could compliment ans get a real reply.
    Anna, however, is a child rebuked and had to spend her childhood alone and not knowing why. Servants, parents, yes, but no sister, no companionship. She is supposed to be the Sun to Elsa’ s ice. Warm, aloof , imperfect. Someone you can easily relate to. Hence her believability in the story.

    As for the princess part, I believe that girls already get enough from society princesses aren’t the main role model anymore. Kesha, Nicki, movie stars, models.
    And I love how I’ve yet to see anyone disregarding the men of Disney, well, Tangled and Frozen, at least. Not everyone can have yummy cheekbones, match made in heaven love, or be the perfect manly man. Granted this is, again, fault of the animation and the fact you really want to be able to point the Prince charming out in a crowd.

  4. I like your point about the men. I think we tend to focus so much on the problems on the women’s side that we often forget to consider how the men are portrayed (which should be equally important). I do like the twist with Hans though. It’s different from the usual Disney love stories, and reveals a bit about the nature of youth with the “oh we’re in love” after just a few hours and the blind trust Anna has for him.

  5. This issue will always follow Disney and will be something they’ll struggle with whether they succumb to your argument or not. If they create plus-sized princesses, they will be accused of being supportive of unhealthy eating or obesity, if they make slim princesses they are told the princesses have unrealistic images. It is, as they say “A catch-22.” You should also recognize that prior to the release of Brave, there had not been a Caucasian princess since the release of Beauty and the Beast in 1991, so Elsa and Anna are the followers of two predecessors in their decade – not many in recent years like consistently implied. Elsa’s hair is not perfect by any sense, she has loose strands, and waves. Both her and Anna’s appearance reflect not only their personality, as suggested by the previous reader; but also the setting of the traditional tale. The Snow Queen by Hans Christian Andersen is set in Finland where women are typically fair-haired and blue-eyed. It’s not irrational in the least. It is very rare in this day and age for girls to want to emulate Disney princesses and those who do need to be parented correctly. I am incredibly slim, I have a 16 inch waist, and dark hair. Growing up, I admired Sleeping Beauty, but that didn’t impact my body image because she was stunning and I was lean and lanky,rather than graceful. Children need to be mentored by their parents, it’s find for little girls to aspire to be princess-like, but it’s our job as parents to reinforce the belief that its all about being kind, brave etc. It’s irresponsible to blame Disney, the main mode for childhood imagination and “you-can-do-anything-you-can-dream”, for the way in which our children see themselves. Typically, it is in fact women, who impress their own insecurities onto their children not Disney.

  6. They are perfect because they are fantasies! Watching Disney princesses don’t make me feel bad about myself at all cuz I know they are not real life. That’s the point! If I want to watch real life I’d be watching documentaries. Thus I cannot agree with you. This is a perfect movie, period.

  7. This is so stupid. Stop over analyzing it. If you don’t like it, don’t watch it or buy merch–whatever.

  8. I’m searching the net for an image for my 6 year old’s birthday cake. I was drawn to your page because of the black image of Elsa. I see it’s fan art to depict a more realistic woman. So, changing the skin color is all it takes? Disney has an almost trade-markable look. No need to get your panties in a wad because you (as an adult) take issue with the look. The kids love it.

    It’s also not fair comparing Brave to Frozen. Although they’re both owned by Disney, they were made by 2 divisions with 2 different talent sets. It’d be better to compare Frozen to Tangled.

    At this date I don’t care about spoilers so… The best departure Frozen takes is that the prince is not the hero but rather her sister. A very nice change of pace indeed.

  9. Firstly, Brave couldn’t be Disney’s reinvention…it’s a Pixar film. Although Disney as a corporation owns Pixar, they have completely separate studios, designers, artists, animators, etc. Secondly, as an animator…I wouldn’t hold my breath for Disney to do anything outside the box in terms of princess based storytelling or design. The biggest problem being that telling these stories means you are likely referencing some kind of source material, or specific point in time. Frozen is based on the Snow Queen which takes place in Finland…not a whole lot of diversity there in the Middle Ages…or headstrong women striking out on their own, princesses especially. And from a design perspective, Disney has a style, as most animation studios do. And they will always stick closely to it. It’s part of their brand. The problem is that you’re taking these designs as a social commentary from Disney instead of an aesthetic choice by artists…which is all they are. As an animator, I scrutinize animated films ESPECIALLY those from Disney on a whole other level. Being a female animator in what used to be a male dominated field, I find this type of scrutiny about animated princesses not looking like ordinary girls silly and pointless. We all grew up with Disney Princesses…yet I don’t feel that I or any other girl I know took those films in the way that you feel is so belittling to women. An intelligent girl can take these films for what they are and enjoy them. That doesn’t mean she’ll only aspire to be 6 foot model whilst waiting for the perfect man to come and take care of her, for she’s to dainty to be left on her own. It’s a film, it’s fantasy. Children know it’s make believe, so I’m not sure why some grown women are still stuck on this concept.

  10. Hi, Anika!

    I just Googled “Frozen” and found your article. I think you’re incredibly smart, and I’m relieved to see there are more young women upset about this movie.

    I’m going to recommend you read this, too:

    It sucks that people are misunderstanding your argument, but keep making it! You have a lot to say, and you’re not alone.

  11. I completely disagree. Disney as a corporation has one obligation. To entertain. We all look to media as a place of an escape. Why must these CARTOONS carry realistic features. It’s not necessary. If the children idolize and try to obtain cartoon-like, unobtainable features, does this mean we try to make all cartoons as thing as possible. It is the parent’s responsibility to help foster self esteem and security in a child. Movies are a fantasy world. Instead of adjusting the fantasy world to appease insecure children. Wouldn’t it be better grounding children into greater values? Beautiful things are beautiful. If disney created a line of plain looking princesses, there is no appeal. We are attracted to attractive things and it is only a matter of time before another company feels compelled to churn out pretty things. There are plenty of people who grew up with disney movies who don’t idealize. Who think that disney princesses are just cartoons. If there were no disney princesses, the something would carry. Thin would be beautiful, large eyes would be beautiful etc. Beauty is not spoon fed to us. We don’t decide what beautiful is. Beauty is a set standard that we succumb to.

  12. Shiiit we all love white princesses! Ya’ll act like they didn’t make the lion king or ice age shieeet.

  13. I am relieved to see that there are a couple of people here who are able to point out Brave is in fact not a Disney production. Although the company is teamed up with Pixar, it is unfair to give credit where it is not deserved. That being said, as an animator it’s becoming pretty tiring to see this hidden agenda mission. The amount of research and soul searching, both for the story artists and for the characters themselves, is such a long grueling process that I can tell you that they have little time to think of anything else. I have had the honor to speak both to some of the creators of FROZEN and from Pixar Studios, and I can assure you that both parties are interested in the story and the story only. That the story and personality has the overall impact on character design. Look for your role model within the characters themselves and not in their appearance. People are focusing on the appearance too much. You’re sending the same message either way and that message is “hey your looks are important whether they are perfect or not so accept how you look because you will have to fight everyone’s perception of you for the rest of your life”. How about pointing out to young girls to never give up on your loved ones like Anna or to follow your dreams against all odds like Rapunzel. Because that’s what the animators are trying to instill. The way both companies invest themselves into these characters is truly amazing. The personalities reflect on their appearance just as one person had mentioned. And like another had said each princess is from a specific time period and region where every miniscule detail is heavily researched down to what kind of tapestries would hang in the castle. When I was a little girl my favorite Disney movie wasn’t even a princess themed one. I loved the Fox and the Hound because it was a tale of two best friends in opposite worlds and at the time it reflected my own childhood friendship. I loved the animals and the idea that I could rescue a fox was exciting. In Cinderella my favorite characters were the mice, dog and horse. In Snow white I loved dopey and the animals. Are you sensing a pattern here? My best friend’s daughter went to go see FROZEN some odd weeks back and her first expression was “I Anna?” and not because she was implicating I need to look like her but because she expressed she resembles Anna’s personality, she’s only 2 by the way. One of the head Animators of FROZEN shared a wonderful story with us at the screening, that at their family screening earlier in the day his four year old daughter turned to him 15 minutes into the movie and said “Dad? This is a really good movie” He was tearing up when he shared that with us as was some of the audience. She was adamant to be clad up as Elsa (mind you this was before the official release so that’s impressive on its own) but her reaction was this story is amazing and not I have to look like Elsa physically. My point is, here are these impressionable minds and they are looking into the personalities and the plot versus what these FICTIONAL characters look like. That impact is why I’m an animator. I want to bring that emotion, that lesson, and that story into perspective for someone, young or old. To give them a reason to want to escape, for even just a little bit, into these magical worlds where anything is really possible. Push that onto our youth instead of the importance of someone’s appearance and you’ll get your empowered women.

  14. On physical aperance i will only say: i really do not want to see disney make overweight princesess and making that something to strive for. making them more muscular or a different body type- sure, overweight- NO. i acually liked how they looked in this movie, their body is a lot different compared to old drawn princesess, do you remeber jasmins body? also i liked the slender arms on Elsa as it made her more swan like, she reminds me of a really good friend of mine in body tipe and my friend is also something little above 5 ft height.

    As for Elsas hair, for me personally it was solved very easily by her magic, she can make clothes with it, she can fix her hair with it. As for Elsa being relatable, i was honestly very happy to see a character like this. i found her very very unique, she has a lot of emotional turmoil and she is affraid of losing control and something bad happening,she cant be free until she leaves her fears that paralize her and make her incapable of using her potential and being close to people. But she is very dignified, strong in her posture, probably due to learning how ”not to show” what she feels. i think that is very very relatable and realistic.

    also not all girls are clumsy and blunt, energetic etc like Anna or Merida… its all very nice and lovely but i was never like that and i found myself relating much more to Elsa, and it makes us introverts feel kinda bad about ourselves when girls are shown only as Anna, the energetic, physical, comunicative, happy go lucky girls. I get it, and i like it, but lets allow wariety so different persons can relate to different characters.
    btw 1. white hair looks weird on other races as well it doesnt really occur naturally; 2. If she was black she would be Storm, im sorry but as soon as i saw that picture i was thinking its Storm and i couldnt think of her as anything else. i think this is a great movie and a very unique piece, it has its problems but i personally believe they are minor…

  15. Elsa is a perfectly relatable character. Disney has officially stated that her powers and fear of herself are parallels to depression; I and many of my friends found this representation of mental illness really strengthening. She has been pressured to ‘be the good girl you always have to be’ and to not let on that there is anything different about her. Thus the amount of poise she holds. Something that I think you will notice is that if a princess is an heir to the throne, or is a queen-to-be, she will be much less “realistic,” as you have put it. Anna is open to being clumsy and awkward, because she is just going to be the queen’s sister, that other girl off to the side. And to counter your other statement about Elsa, “her hair is too perfectly coiffed, her eyes are too made-up,” her hair is frozen into place, and she didn’t exactly get a chance to remove her makeup while she was fleeing Arendelle. Do try to research the subjects of your slander, would you?

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