In their latest holiday confection, "The Princess and the Frog," the Walt Disney Animation Studios return to their traditional 2D animation roots for the first time since 2004's "Home on the Range." Directed by John Musker and Ron Clements, "The Princess and the Frog" is the 49th animated feature film in the Walt Disney Animated Classics line and is set to be released on December 11th. The film features a voice cast including Anika Noni Rose as Tiana, Bruno Campos as Prince Naveen, and Keith David as Dr. Facilier. Oprah Winfrey, Terrence Howard, and John Goodman also lend their vocal talents to the film as Eudora, James, and 'Big Daddy' La Bouff respectively.

The pending release of "The Princess and the Frog," which is set in the French Quarter of New Orleans, will consequently correspond with the induction of Princess Tiana as the newest member of the Disney Princess squadron. In view of that, a certain degree of nostalgia is conjured up for Walt's former female sovereigns, who include Snow White, Cinderella, Aurora, Ariel, Belle, Jasmine, Pocahontas, and Mulan. Not all of Disney's tiara-toting femmes were created equal, however. Some of the princesses have vibrant personas, and they stand out as being the driving force behind their stories. While other leading ladies, like Jasmine and Pocahontas, are highly forgettable, and others still are just downright irritating.

The best…


Mulan, the protagonist in the 1998 Disney film of the same title, is not your typical Disney princess. Inspired by the legendary Hua Mulan from the Chinese poem "The Ballad of Mulan," this leading lady is plucky, outspoken, and super independent. Plus, she gets major props for not making her central, life goal revolve around locking down a mate, like most of the other boy crazy princesses. Rather, Mulan's main aim is to bring honor to her family by taking her ailing father's place in the Imperial Army so that she can help save China from the barbarous attacks of the Hun.

Image © Disney


Ariel, from the 1989 Disney classic "The Little Mermaid," is the spunky sea princess who refuses to take no for answer when it comes to realizing her dreams. With her fiery mane of Rita Hayworth hair, this packrat rebel wants more out of life than what her oceanic existence can afford her, and she isn't about to let anything break her feisty spirit. Not even a domineering dad or the ever so slight matter of appendage substitution can stand in Ariel's way of going after what she wants. So, for her optimistic and tenacious moral fiber, this maritime monarch earns some richly deserved kudos.

Image © Disney


As indicated in one of the opening songs, Belle is the "strange, but special" heroine of 1991's Oscar-nominated "Beauty and the Beast." She is found to be a bit of a deviant by most of the people living in her town, but this free-thinking non-conformist can't really be bothered with other people's opinions of her. As the princess with the most gumption and solid sense of self, Belle embraces the things that make her different, like her vivid imagination and love of knowledge. Additionally, Belle should be commended for her ability to look beyond external appearances to see a person's internal goodness, because, let's face it, the beast is no Prince Charming, and had any other princess been in Belle's shoes, the ending probably wouldn't have been quite so happily ever after.

Image © Disney

The worst…


Sure, it's true that the title character of Disney's 1950 film definitely deserves a certain degree of sympathy for the humiliating and abusive servitude that she suffers under her stepmother's dictatorial rule. However, what separates Cinderella from the aforementioned Disney princesses is that she lacks the spunk and backbone to do something about her situation. Rather, she opts to retreat to her attic alcove to sing about her sorrows to her posse of talking rodents. When it comes to getting herself to the ball to meet Prince Charming, Cinderella takes the entirely flaccid approach of "wait and see," selecting to rely on outside catalysts, like her Fairy Godmother, instead of her own ingenuity to make her dreams come true.

Image © Disney


In the 1959 film "Sleeping Beauty," the shy and naïve protagonist, Princess Aurora, comes across as being very dull and flat. If this granola princess had a Facebook account, one could surmise that her list of interests would include things like cute puppies, bottled water, and new shoes, or as the fairytale case may be, glass slippers - but in Aurora's example, probably Keds. Throughout the duration of the film, her character demonstrates virtually no development and only actually appears in 18 minutes worth of footage. So, rather than serving as a commanding female lead, this Disney leading lady's primary role is that of a drowsy damsel in distress who needs to be rescued by her prince.

Image © Disney

Snow White

As the central character in 1937's "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs," Snow White's display of cream-puff naivety and goodness is the visual equivalent of being gagged with a spoon for 84 minutes. However, like Cinderella, Snow White is the victim of a very unfortunate stepmother, so she does garner a few sympathy points there - plus, she is proactive about her situation and does try to run away. The only thing is that when she does decide to flee, she winds up taking refuge with a band of seven very lazy men, and then, basically becomes a little Suzie-homemaker for them, doing all of their cooking and cleaning. If that weren't frustrating enough, Snow White subsequently demonstrates a total lack of common sense when she eats the apple from the outstandingly creepy-looking old lady and ends up turning into another damsel in distress relying on the aid of a male character.

Image © Disney

Story by Michaela Zanello

Starpulse contributing writer