Since 1923, the Walt Disney Company has grown with countless families from their days in tiny baby shoes, to their adult lives in the work world. Their unique animated films, resorts, and variety of products has been staples in every child’s memory for many years. The main concept that has helped Disney maintain their brand for such a prolonged period of time is the idea of “maintaining the magic,” in all of their products. This idea can be defined as creating a suitable environment for children and families to enjoy themselves without being subjected to inappropriate material. However, it is important to question how far Disney is willing to go uphold this ideal and whether it is truly justified. Since Disney plays such a big part in the growth of future generations, their products are worth putting in front of the looking glass.

As young girls grow up they are exposed to a variety of things that shape them into women.giphy One of the earliest examples of this are the typical Disney princesses that are conveyed in their films and most of their other products. These beautified works of fiction are packaged as flawlessly beautiful, able to sing in a way that captures the hearts of anyone who hears them, and desperately in search of purpose in their lives. As young girls see these perfect women prancing across the movie screen with an alarming amount of forest animals following them, they tend to think “one day I wanna be just like her.” However, is this idea of an unrealistic and magically perfect woman something we want young girls to admire ?

Disney knows that their princess films appeal to this demographic of young girls. Parents and their daughters flock to giant stadiums spilling overpriced princess themed slushies every time their favorite princess comes out during the ice skating shows. This burst of excitement occurs because being to able to see a princess live is like meeting an idol for a child.mulan hair Parents need to understand that the idea of “magic” is embedded in these princesses and instills not only a false image of what a woman should be, but a lure to make parents spend money on a product their children are convinced is worth admiring. From Ariel giving up her family to be with a man she has only known for a day, to Mulan having to change her gender in order to bring honor to her family, these are the concepts that are exposed to young children who watch these films. mulan-pouring-tea

For women who wish to find a job as a princess at one of Disney’s luxurious resorts, the process is both intimidating and incredibly strict. Essentially, those who wish to audition are placed into a large audition hall where they are forced to perform without any family or friends accompanying them. They are expected to dress in form fitting clothes that highlight the shape of their bodies in order to see if they physically match a princess’s figure. Finally and most surprisingly, after you audition, the Disney Casting Director is the one who decides which princess you are best physically suited for. Even if you performed that princess perfectly, if you are too fat to play Ariel or too short to be Mulan, you’re not going to make the cut.

There are certain women for have been “lucky” enough to actually survive this insane process and have nothing good to say about their experiences at the resorts. For example, women who play the role of princesses who wear little-to-no clothing such as Ariel or Pocahontas, are forced to be silent as men whisper grotesque things into their ears during meet and greet photos. There are other moments when parents themselves encourage their children to hit the princesses in order to make their child laugh. If the women react in any way, they are considered to be breaking character which is an easy way to get fired. Essentially, women who are part of the magical process of princess selection act as punching bags to a corporation that simply wishes to make money regardless of the consequences.

Take a Peek Behind the Curtain With These Links


6 thoughts on “Behind The Magic of Disney

  1. I really enjoy where this piece has gone, questioning the roles women play and how they consume the Disney franchise. It seems Disney often made an effort to write plots that empowered the princesses (Belle being booksmart and not giving in to Gaston, or Jasmine being defiant and falling in love with Aladdin, even the courageous Mulan, who challenges the established patriarchy behind what it means to be a warrior) but even these strong characters succumb to what it meant to be a girl/woman in the 1990’s.

    I wouldn’t be quick to entirely blame one company for propagating a culture that has been created from many agents. It seems that companies like Disney cater to a certain demographic (supply and demand), propagating the standard that female beauty being the most important quality of a girl or woman.Would I have liked “Beauty and the Beast” as much if Belle wasn’t beautiful? Probably not because I projected myself onto her, and I was always taught that girls needed to be pretty to be happy and Disney definitely commodified that standard/emotion. Do I blame Disney for being a component of my childhood brainwashing and helping establish the limits of women? Absolutely.

    I am super interested in what role-playing characters have to endure to be a part of Disney’s theme park cast. It sounds terrible, but in a time where everything is exposed, I am hopeful things will get better. I mean look at what the partnership between Disney and Pixar have created: some amazing work that speaks to a generation that is clearly realizing the institutionalized negativity embedded in our culture. Thanks for the great read (sorry If I wrote too much haha)!!



  2. Love the GIF’S throughout the critique! (but who’s the redhead batting her eyes at me and combing her hair with a fork?). This critique is really a call to action for parents to not be overly invested in Disney’s version of the American dream: “Parents need to understand that the idea of ‘magic’ is embedded in these princesses and instills not only a false image of what a woman should be, but a lure to make parents spend money on a product their children are convinced is worth admiring.” That your critique is both gender-inflected and weary of capitalism is quite impressive. Likewise, I’m mesmerized how you point out the story behind the story in many of these films; for example, in real life Ariel is promiscuous (goes with a man she knows only one day? Come one! We know what that means.) and Mulan suffers from the negative opinion of her female gender, so she turns to drag. Yet I’d say that the kids are young, so what’s so bad about a little bit of fantasy? Are we too critical? After all, some couples talk about their magical first meeting and/or first kiss (remember yours? I know I do!) and there is a certain amount of fairy tale in it. Likewise, what’s so bad about being a kick-ass female warrior, Fa Mulan, far ahead of her time? Isn’t the real danger in some of these fairy tale images the notion of female PASSIVITY and male activity? That females ARE, while men DO. And what about more recent Disney princesses? Isn’t Elsa an example of the “doing” that our modern gender world wants? Is Disney starting to change with us, or is Elsa just another fair princess that is now more known for her beauty (and blue hair) than her ass-kicking, feminist animated story?

    Good inclusion of the process of selecting the princess and some of their experiences as princesses (although I wish you would have brought up a few more specific things from the links), as this answers the complaints of people who would tell you to relax and realize this is just animation. It is not, in fact, just animation as you point out, and VERY REAL GIRLS/YOUNG WOMEN are subject to these images. Great critique of the venerable Disney machine!


  3. First of all, I love this piece. The gifs of mulan even made me sing the lyrics out loud. anyway, this piece touched on atopic that has much exposure. It even flowed in a linear way based off of how the young girl wants to have an image, but she really can’t, because it’s just the magic of it.

    I get that they can’t break character because their job is to be what children fantasize about. I get why Disney won’t hire a fat cinderella. It’s all about the image of the specific character. It’s kind of like an acting career for a movie or TV show. For example, Superman movies all involve a geekishly-looking man, but underneath his personal look, he is portrayed as a hypersexualized man – and he saves people and fights villains. It can’t just be Danny Devito as Superman. However, Disney does the opposite, and you expose that.

    Great piece. I enjoyed every section.


  4. I find it disgusting that people would treat these princess actresses the way they do, especially around their kids. How sick do you have to be to think it’s ok to whisper vulgar things akin to sexual harassment and show your child this is how you can treat people? You really shed some light on something I don’t think many people know or talk about.

    – Rebecca


  5. This is such an interesting piece. I had no idea about the horrible experiences for girls trying to get jobs as Disney princesses, nor did I know that they were so strict about appearance and behavior. It makes sense that’s how it would be though. Still, it’s pretty ridiculous.
    I thought a little bit about my piece as I was reading it because it’s all in how the media and pop culture portray women and socialize women to…well, be “women.” Like Nikkia said, it’s not only a Disney thing. And as you said, Disney starts pushing these ideas on girls starting from “their days in tiny baby shoes” (I really liked that line by the way). It seems like what they learn from Disney princesses could teach girls how to respond to the portrayal in other media as they grow up. And they just accept that this is what they’re supposed to be. It’s crazy.



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