The Disney princesses form a mega-franchise loved by little girls (and some grown women!) everywhere, but there’s more to them than sparkly shoes and pretty dresses. Every Disney woman had a vast amount of work put into her creation. You may not know these 40 things about the most beloved princesses and their movies, but those are the little details that helped make them so popular.
40. Mulan is the only non-royal princess
All other Disney princesses either were born royalty or married into it. The characters who don’t call themselves “princesses” – Pocahontas and Moana – still are technically royalty among their communities, as they’re both daughters of a chief. Mulan is the one exception. She’s an imperial consul, married to a general, but Disney counts her as a princess nonetheless.
39. Jasmine was the first princess to have two voice actresses
Linda Larkin was cast as Jasmine before “A Whole New World” was added to Aladdin. She told Media Mikes in 2010, “When they added the song they came to me and asked, ‘Do you sing?’ And I said, ‘I do… but not like a princess!’ And they said, ‘No problem, we’ll find a singer to match your voice.’” That ended up being Lea Salonga. “That opened up the world of Disney animation to everybody. They no longer needed actors who sang,” Larkin said.
38. Belle has a cameo in The Hunchback of Notre Dame
Beauty and the Beast and The Hunchback of Notre Dame both take place in France, so it kind of makes sense that Belle would have a cameo in the latter film. She appears during the “Out There” sequence when the camera pans over the streets of Paris. Appropriately, she’s reading a book while walking. (The Magic Carpet from Aladdin can be spotted in the same scene!)
37. Rapunzel has very heavy hair
In real life, Rapunzel probably wouldn’t be able to move around. According to the Tangled animators, her hair is 70 feet long and has 100,000 strands in it. All of it together would probably weigh about ten pounds. However, this is a Disney film, and her hair is magical, so this potential problem is never mentioned.
36. Cinderella helped save the Disney studio
World War II made a massive dent in the Disney company. People simply weren’t going to see films at that time, and as a result three films which would later become classics – Bambi, Pinocchio and Fantasia – flopped at the box office. Disney was going bankrupt by the time Cinderella came out… but that film pulled them back from the brink. It made $85,000,000 worldwide.
35. Aurora’s actress was in the right place at the right time
Aurora of Sleeping Beauty was played by Mary Costa, who was lucky to be cast. She was at a party in 1952 and Disney’s music director happened to hear her singing. “He asked me to audition the next day,” Costa told The Guardian in 2014. When she went to the studio, Walt Disney himself was there. “[He] knew after the first bar that I was what he’d been seeking.”
34. Tiana has the most costume changes
Even though Tiana spends a lot of her movie being a frog, she actually goes through the most dresses of any Disney princess so far. She has nine in total, including her famous green dress, which is reminiscent of a lilypad. Two of them are wedding gowns! And that’s not even counting the dresses she’s seen wearing as a child.
33. Cinderella has no ears?
When viewing the 1950 Disney movie Cinderella, you may notice that the title character doesn’t appear to have ears. Or at least, they’re vaguely visible in some scenes, but conspicuously missing in others, especially the ballroom scene. So for Cinderella’s appearance in Ralph Breaks the Internet, the artists deliberately gave her prominent ears.
32. The Disneyland castle is named after Sleeping Beauty
The famous Disneyland castle in Fantasyland is named after Sleeping Beauty, even though her film hadn’t yet come out when the castle was finished. In case you’re wondering about the one at the Walt Disney World Resort, that one is Cinderella Castle. There isn’t as of yet a Snow White Castle, although Disney did once refer to the Sleeping Beauty Castle by that name. Maybe they share one.
31. Jasmine is the only princess without her own song
Most Disney princesses have their own song – think Cinderella’s “A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes” or Ariel’s “Part of Your World.” Jasmine, however, does not. She sings part of “A Whole New World” alongside Aladdin, but that’s it. And she does get to do more singing in the Aladdin sequels (voiced by another actress, Liz Callaway), but she still doesn’t have a signature solo.
30. Merida got her personality from a real teenager
Merida is one of the most headstrong princesses, so perhaps it’s not a surprise to learn she was based on the teenage daughter of co-director Brenda Chapman. “She has been quite a challenge to my “authority” since she was five years old,” Chapman told MS magazine in 2012. “I love that she is so strong, but it sure doesn’t make my job easy! She is my Merida … and I adore her.”
29. Belle’s the only person in her town who wears blue
One of Belle’s most famous dresses is her blue “peasant” dress. But if you look closely, you’ll see that she’s the only person in her whole town to wear blue. It’s because she’s different, and the color makes her stand out. “It is a practical color, and a color that you can work in,” designer Jacqueline Durran told Allure in 2017. “In that sense, it is full of active strength.”
28. Mulan is based on an ancient Chinese legend
The story of Mulan existed for a very long time before Disney released its version. The original story dates back at least to the sixth century, and tells the story of a brave Chinese woman called Hua Mulan who takes her father’s place in war. (Disney changed her family name to Fa, and added characters such as Mushu.) The tale has actually been told many times, not just by Disney, but by production companies in China and beyond.
27. Only three princesses have two love interests
Love triangles are a popular trope throughout all media, but curiously Disney hasn’t done very many. Only two Disney princesses have had affections for more than one man. Anna of Frozen had both Hans and Kristoff as her romantic interests, and Pocahontas had Kocoum and John Smith. Alas, neither of those situations ended well for the characters…
26. Rapunzel was the first princess to have supernatural powers
Though magic is involved in many Disney stories, Rapunzel was the first Disney princess to have actual magical powers, as thanks to her hair, she could be a healer. All the other princesses are ordinary people (or, in the case of Ariel, ordinary for a mermaid.) Elsa with her ice powers came along in 2013, but Rapunzel was the first.
25. Jasmine is named after an actress
Aladdin is based on the old Middle Eastern legend “Aladdin and the Magical Lamp.” In that story, the beautiful princess is named Badroulbadour. The Disney writers wanted to give her a shorter name so they settled on “Jasmine” after the actress Jasmine Guy, who had also helped popularize the name in the ’90s.
24. Aurora has only 18 lines in Sleeping Beauty
Even though the movie is named after her, Aurora doesn’t speak much in Sleeping Beauty. She only has 18 lines! Over the years film reviewers have suggested that Aurora isn’t the real hero of the movie, and nor is Prince Philip – the true protagonists are the three good fairies, who have much more screentime and many more lines.
23. It took years to create Merida’s hair
The first thing one notices about Merida is her vast mane of curly red hair. It took a very long time for the animators to get to the point where that hair looked natural. “We used 1,500 hand-placed, sculpted individual curls,” simulation supervisor Claudia Chung told Inside Science in 2012. “It took us almost three years to get the final look for her hair.”
22. Pocahontas is the only tattooed princess
Many young women in the modern day have tattoos, but only one Disney princess does. That’s Pocahontas, who has a red one on her arm. And it’s accurate to history, as a real Native American woman of Pocahontas’ age would have gotten tattooed at that time. The real Pocahontas almost certainly had one.
21. Another fictional bookworm inspired Belle
When writer Linda Woolverton began working on Beauty and the Beast, she sought inspiration from the book Little Women, particularly the character of Jo. “Though the character of Jo is more tomboyish, both were strong, active women who loved to read – and wanted more than life was offering them,” Woolverton told the Orlando Sentinel in 1992.
20. The princesses have official ages
None of the princesses are as old as you’d expect. The eldest ones are Tiana and Cinderella, who are both 19. Rapunzel and Pocahontas are 18, Belle is 17, Mulan, Merida, Ariel and Aurora are 16, and the youngest ones are 15-year-old Jasmine and 14-year-old Snow White. Even Elsa, a queen rather than a princess, is only 21.
19. Reese Witherspoon nearly played Merida
Back when Brave was called The Brave, Reese Witherspoon was attached to star as Merida. She dropped out in 2011 with vague “scheduling issues” cited and was replaced with Scot Kelly Macdonald. But in 2011 Witherspoon implied the real reason. “I tried to do a Scottish accent once, it was bad. I had to quit the movie,” she said on the talk show Lorraine.
18. Moana wears red to symbolise her rank
Moana was Disney’s first Polynesian princess, and elements of her culture were included in the movie. Before she came along, Disney princesses didn’t often wear red – but Moana did. That’s because in the Pacific Island culture, red (as well as yellow) is the color of royalty. Had Moana existed, she might have worn red clothes made out of feathers.
17. Aurora was the last princess Walt Disney oversaw
Walt Disney died in 1966, and the last “princess” movie he created was 1959’s Sleeping Beauty. Therefore, Disney’s princess line was not something he ever envisioned in his lifetime. It took many decades for the princesses to become their own franchise: Ariel was the first of the new ones when The Little Mermaid came out in 1989.
16. Ariel might have a famous cousin
Greek mythology is complicated, but within it there’s a connection between Ariel and another character adapted by Disney. Poseidon is the brother of Zeus, father of Hercules. Poseidon is also the father of Triton, a.k.a. Ariel’s dad King Triton. That would make Ariel and Hercules related as first cousins once removed. Crossover time?
15. Mulan borrowed a tic from her actress
If you watch closely Mulan has her fingers in her hair quite a bit, and that’s because her voice actress Ming-Na Wen also does this. In 2018 Wen herself confirmed it on Twitter. “Very true. I still touch my hair a lot,” she wrote in response to a tweet declaring the Mulan trivia.
14. Rapunzel isn’t a G-rated princess
Curiously, Tangled was the first Disney princess movie to get a PG rating, rather than a G one. In fairness, you can see blood in it at one point. A few years later, Frozen also gained a PG, as did the live-action remake of Beauty and the Beast. The very dark The Hunchback of Notre Dame is still a G though…
13. Ariel is based on a famous actress
When the artists on The Little Mermaid began work on Ariel, they based her face on that of popular ’80s actress Alyssa Milano. “I didn’t know when it was going on!” Milano said on The Wendy Williams Show in 2013. “But they asked me to host The Making of The Little Mermaid, and it came out there that the drawing and likeness of the little mermaid was based on pictures of me from when I was younger.”
12. Elsa was supposed to be a villain originally
Frozen was originally based on the fairytale The Snow Queen, and Elsa was supposed to be the wicked titular character. But the writers changed things as they went along, and eventually decided to make Elsa Anna’s sister and a tormented heroine. Hans, though? He was a traitor right from those early drafts.
11. Merida isn’t technically a Disney princess
Although she falls under the banner of “Disney princess,” Merida actually came from Pixar, not Disney. This is referenced in the movie Ralph Breaks the Internet. When all the princesses get together, Anna and Moana comment on Merida’s thick Scottish accent. “We can’t understand her. She’s from the other studio,” they explain.
10. Belle was very fond of the Beast
At the end of Beauty and the Beast, the Beast of course turns back into a human. But there was originally a line in there to imply Belle might have preferred him as a monster. Animator Glen Keane requested that Belle ask the Beast at the end, “Do you think you could grow a beard?” It was cut – but it did appear in the 2017 live-action version.
9. Ariel’s hair is red for a reason
When The Little Mermaid was in development, the animators took note of the hit mermaid film Splash, starring Daryl Hannah. At one point in the production Ariel’s hair was blonde, but some of the creative team thought it would make her look too much like Splash’s mermaid. So her hair was changed to red, and now Ariel is one of the animation world’s most famous redheads.
8. There was nearly an earlier Rapunzel movie
After Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs came out in 1937 and proved a hit, Disney started looking for other fairytales to adapt. These included The Little Mermaid, Cinderella, Beauty and the Beast… and the tale of Rapunzel. Of course, all of them became films eventually, but with Rapunzel it took longer. In the end, Tangled was Disney’s 50th animated feature.
7. Rapunzel pops up in Frozen
Watch Elsa’s coronation scene closely and you might see some old friends. Rapunzel and Flynn Rider are among the guests! This has led to fan theories about the two royal families being related, and even one about the Arendelle parents having been en route to Rapunzel’s wedding when they died. However Rapunzel’s voice actress Mandy Moore debunked that idea, telling TV Line in 2017, “I don’t know if we need any crossovers at this point.”
6. “Part of Your World” was almost cut
Ariel’s song sequence “Part of Your World” is one of the most memorable moments in The Little Mermaid. However, it was nearly cut out of the film entirely when Disney’s chairman Jeffrey Katzenberg insisted children wouldn’t like it. Long-time Disney lyricist Howard Ashman fought against that decision – and won. Children still love it to this day.
5. Mulan holds a particular record
While fighting for the Chinese army, Mulan come up with the idea of causing an avalanche to bury the opposing Huns. The avalanche kills almost all of them, and that’s a whopping 2,000 people. Not only is that by far the highest kill-count among Disney princesses, it’s higher than any Disney villain!
4. Beauty and the Beast reuses some animation
When Belle and the prince dance at the end of Beauty and the Beast, Disney diehards may feel the sequence looks familiar. That’s because it is, in fact, recycled animation! Artists ran out of time animating that scene, so they used a similar dance from Sleeping Beauty. Disney actually reuses animation a lot – it’s called rotoscoping.
3. Beyoncé could have played Tiana
Lots of stars wanted to play Disney’s first African-American princess. Beyoncé was reportedly one of them… but according to casting director Jen Rudin, she didn’t want to audition for the role. Plenty of other big names did audition, Rudin claimed in her autobiography, including Jennifer Hudson and Tyra Banks. But eventually the part went to Beyoncé’s Dreamgirls co-star Anika Noni Rose.
2. Sleeping Beauty was actually a flop
These days Sleeping Beauty is considered a classic, but it was a complete failure at the box office back in 1959. Part of that was due to its massive budget, which was $6 million (think $52 million in today’s money.) Alas, it was such a flop that Disney wouldn’t make another princess movie, or even a movie with a female lead, for 30 years afterwards.
1. Not every princess needs a prince
It’s true that most Disney princesses come with a prince attached – think Jasmine and Aladdin, or Ariel and Eric. But not all of them! Neither Elsa, nor Merida, nor Moana had a love interest throughout the course of their respective movies. Perhaps other single princesses will follow in their wake?