By Nerdy Donut
With the drop of the Mulan live action trailer and the casting of Ariel for the live action Little Mermaid, I think that it’s time to talk about Disney remakes and revamped princesses. Yes, many of us are tired of the remake cycle, but in these remakes the princesses have grown exponentially, and are now quite literally kicking ass.
I remember many people being disappointed with the Cinderella (2015) live-action remake when it came out, but I, however, thought it was brilliant. It still held the whimsy I expect from a Disney fairytale, but it provided character traits and backstory that made the characters’ actions make more sense.
Beauty and the Beast came next (2017), combining traits from Disney’s animated version, but also taking note from older literary versions. While the Beast still yearned for redemption, he also had traits that allowed us understand why Belle might fall for him in the end. They had shared interests and a longer time for their relationship to develop. Belle is also given more personal agency through elements like being an inventor herself and teaching the young girls in town to read. Emma Watson also played Belle in a serious and stoic way that was reminiscent of Hermione (there is a reason I cosplay a Belle/Hermione mashup!).
Then in May we got a revamped Jasmine in Aladdin. While I was underwhelmed by many aspects of the film, Jasmine exceeded my expectations. Instead of a character dreaming of escape, this updated version of Jasmine fights for what she wants. Her added song “Speechless” is great in serving as an actual “I want” song for Jasmine (all Disney princesses, and most Disney characters with songs, have an “I want” song in the beginning of the film where they state what they want most in life, and then they spend the remainder of the film trying to achieve this desire).
Jasmine’s song states that she refuses to go speechless, and the film’s real story revolves around Jasmine, who is fighting to retain her voice and her right to rule. Unlike her animated counterpart, in the end, she becomes sultan and that is how she is able to marry Aladdin–because she can change the law. It is a brilliant improvement upon the original Disney story.
This past week we were gifted with media hype on two more princesses. First, it was announced that Halle Bailey was cast as Ariel. While there have been both positive and negative comments flying around the Internet about this, I love the representation and can’t wait to see how she brings one of my favorite princesses to life. Halle Bailey definitely has the voice of a Disney princess, and my biggest hope for this film is that, like her remake predecessors, Ariel will be given more dimension and more to care about besides chasing a man.
In the animated film, Ariel’s “I want” song focuses on her desire to be on land and explore, but once she meets Eric that desire quickly shifts to being on land in order to be with him. Hopefully the remake will build on her desire to explore and give her more purpose in life, outside of a relationship with Eric. (The three-year-old me is counting down the days until I get to see this film!)
The second Disney pick-me-up the world needed: the first Mulan trailer dropped. If you haven’t seen it, here it is.
When some of the differences between the animated and live-action version were mentioned, I was initially angry about the changes and didn’t want to see the film. I mean who could take away Shang and Mushu?!? This trailer, however, proved that Disney is doing something incredibly special. Instead of being a shot-for-shot remake (which seems pointless), or even a revamped remake, it appears as though Disney is doing a true retelling. Relying less on the animated version, it feels more like they may be going back to the actual legend of Mulan.
Mulan is already one of the strongest Disney princesses, but in this trailer, she is shown fighting as a woman! Not as a woman in man’s clothing, but as the badass lady we all know her to be. The voice overlay of the matchmaker listing Mulan’s qualities juxtaposed over the images of her using these qualities in the army makes my heart happy. So much of the cinematography that they show us in this trailer reminds me of some of my favorite wuxia films. This trailer gives me hope that Disney is continuing the trend of improving their princess characters.
The HYPE is real. I can’t wait for more of my princesses!
What Disney remakes are you looking forward to? Tell us in the comments!
Nerdy Donut is part-academic and part-fangirl. Since her Hogwarts letter never arrived, she earned her PhD in Humanities where they call it a job letting her research and write about the Disney princesses and Harry Potter. When she is not dealing with muggles, she can be found reading young adult fantasy and binge-watching cartoons.