How Walt Disney’s women have grown up – Features – Films – The Independent
This Friday marks 75 years since Disney released Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs – the first feature-length animated film. Since the simpering Snow White, to whose beauty even birds were not immune, a lot has changed.
Disney’s latest heroine, Princess Merida, the wild-haired Scottish princess from Brave, marks something of a watershed for cartoon films. Helen Nabarro, head of animation at the National Film and Television School, said: “I think Brave is a departure for the Disney heroine. There is a genuine hardship that Merida has to get out of, and she’s a proper heroine rather than a foil for some bloke. Girls have been shown in cartoons as the weaker sex, but she sorts things out for herself. The film shows the cartoon heroine catching up with real-life women.”
Jim Korkis, a columnist for the online fanzine Mouse Planet and a Disney historian, said: “Disney animated heroines have always reflected their times. Snow White was the model of the women at that time who felt that their life would only be complete with a prince and waited for him to come along.
“After the Second World War, women had experienced the workplace and were more proactive. Cinderella did not just sit around waiting for the prince to come, she went right out to the palace to get him. With the Eighties, Disney heroines became more headstrong. Belle, from Beauty and the Beast, never needed a prince. She was independent and self-sufficient and rather than a prince rescuing her, she was the one who rescued the prince.”
To celebrate 75 years of the Disney heroine, The Independent on Sunday revisits 20 of the animator’s leading ladies.