My original plan was to make today’s post about the evolution of the Disney Princes throughout the years. I was going to call it Prince and the Evolution. (Get it? It’s a play on Prince and the Rev – forget it. It sounded much more clever in my head.) But then I decided: why limit myself to just princes? After all, royalty is rather hard to come by these days. So instead I’m going to review some of Disney’s animated leading men throughout the years to see if we think they’ve grown over time. I won’t cover all of them (because Pinocchio and Dumbo just aren’t romantic leads in my book, and Donald’s pursuit of Aurora Miranda doesn’t quite qualify, either).
The Prince (Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, 1937) – Dude, you didn’t even get a name. You don’t fight the villain, you get hardly any lines, and the dwarfs get billing over you. But I guess when Snow White has an evil stepmother plotting to kill her, she doesn’t have much time to screen potential princes.
Prince Charming (Cinderella, 1950) – Well, at least you get a name, sort of. And you and Cinderella get a little time to know each other before the wedding. But once again, it’s a good thing that stepmothers are so hard to live with.
Peter Pan (Peter Pan, 1953) – He’s trying to simultaneously juggle Wendy, Tinker Bell, Tiger Lily and the mermaids, and can’t understand why any of them would get upset. We’ve all dated this guy and it’s true; he’s never going to grow up.
Tramp (Lady and the Tramp, 1955) – One of the first signs that we get from Disney that a guy doesn’t have to have a fancy pedigree to be a keeper. Too bad he’s not human.
Prince Phillip (Sleeping Beauty, 1959) – Finally, we get a guy who likes the girl for who she is, is willing to stand up to his father (with whom he actually has a good relationship), defeats the villain, and has a sense of humor. He even has a great horse. We are heading in the right direction!
Thomas O’Malley (The Aristocats, 1960) – Sure, he’s good with the kids, but Duchess: he’s an ally cat. Do you really think he’s going to be a faithful, responsible mate? I’m just glad you are financially stable in your own right, honey.
Robin Hood (Robin Hood, 1973) – He really is a fox. This may have been my first crush, that’s all I’m saying.
Roger Rabbit (Who Framed Roger Rabbit, 1988) – I’m not really sure who the romantic lead is here – is it Roger or Eddie Valiant? Either way, a woman appreciates a man who can make her laugh.
Prince Eric (The Little Mermaid, 1989) – Yes, he gets bamboozled by the scheming witch, but what guy hasn’t? He makes the right choice in the end. Another prince worthy of the title.
Beast (Beauty and the Beast, 1991) – Well, at least we know she wasn’t into him for his looks. Or his witty repartee. Or his ability to make a good first impression. And does he have a name? And why, in all of the Disney marketing, has he reverted back to beast form? But I guess considering Belle’s options, I can see why he was her choice.
Aladdin (Aladdin, 1992) – At last, it’s the guy who marries to get the title. He worked hard for it, though, and showed his worth as “a diamond in the rough”.
Simba (The Lion King, 1994) – I know he had it rough for awhile, but with Nala by his side I think he’s got a good chance. Nala is the one in this story who is really worth her weight in gold, in my opinion.
John Smith (Pocahontas, 1995) – He’s adventuresome and brave (and apparently a lot less prejudiced than the actor who voiced him) but other than that, I just don’t see a whole lot to recommend him. It is possible that my feelings about the actor have influenced my opinion of the character, however.
Phoebus (The Hunchback of Notre Dame, 1996) Quasimodo is the title character, but I guess “leading man” status goes to Phoebus. He was brave and loyal, but I always felt a little guilty about rooting for him to get Esmeralda.
Hercules (Hercules, 1997) – In the end, it’s good to be the son of a god.
Li Shang (Mulan, 1998) – Brave, strong, intelligent, handsome, fair, and good under pressure: “Sign me up for the next war” indeed!
Tarzan (Tarzan, 1999) – I hate to sound like a snob, but unless you are legitimately stranded in the jungle, I fail to see how this guy can hold any appeal for you, outside of a sociology experiment.
I think it’s best if we skip ahead 10 years (because if anyone in say The Emperor’s New Groove is your idea of a leading man, we need to have a little chat) to:
Prince Naveen (The Princess and the Frog, 2009) – This was a beautiful film, I loved Tiana, Facilier was a good villain, but Naveen was the weak link in the chain for me. Yes he was handsome, but if he’s going to be that useless, he’d better be a whole lot more charming.
That brings us to Flynn Rider in the upcoming Tangled. What kind of leading man will he be? There’s no denying that he’s a hotty hotsome. But he also seems pretty darn full of himself. Can he pull it off, a la Puck in Glee , or are we going to end up with a version of Gaston that manages to somehow redeem himself in the end? Let me know what you think over at http://www.facebook.com/disneygene!