Closing the book on fairy tales

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By Kristin Beal – Opinion Editor

I’m five years old again and squealing with delight.

It’s the day before Thanksgiving and ABC Family is showing “Beauty and the Beast.” Belle, my favorite princess (sorry, Ariel. You’re a close second) is singing her theme song about the provincial life she lives in France on the screen in front of me, and I get goose bumps.

It’s apparent that my love of this princess fairy-tale classic has not changed since I was a kid. I used to dream that one day my life would resemble Belle’s. Let’s face it. Sometimes I still do. Becoming a Disney princess was the ultimate aspiration of my childhood years.

Now that same dream is getting the axe for this generation of youngsters.

Imagine my disappointment when I opened the newspaper last week and discovered an article that said Disney has moved on from the fairy-tale genre. That’s right, no more Disney princesses in the foreseeable future.

“Films and genres do run a course,” said Pixar Animation Studio’s chief Ed Catmull in the LA Times.

With the release of “Tangled” last week, the tale of the long-locked beauty Rapunzel and her savior, Flynn Rider, Disney has decided to end an era. The book is being closed on fairy tales. Since “Snow White” in 1937, Disney has created and shared numerous princesses throughout the decades, from Sleeping Beauty to Jasmine. Disney has scratched two upcoming projects as well, including the much-anticipated “Snow Queen” which would have been released in a few years.

At first I wondered, “Why?” Disney princesses can never get old, right? They’ve always been there, instilling values of perseverance, intelligence, hard work and determination. They’ve taught little girls everywhere that dreams can come true and to never give up hope because in the end, everything turns out ok.

I should have known the answer to that question before I asked it. As Bob Dylan once wrote, “The times, they are a-changing.”

Little girls these days don’t want to be princesses anymore. It’s as simple as that. With pop culture influences at every turn and more and more sexuality in the media, how many little girls would ever aspire to be an old-fashioned, fairy-tale character? Apparently, according to Disney, very few.

I can’t blame Disney for changing. It’s a company, and it will do what it must to make money and survive. The script for “Tangled” was rewritten to include more action in order to appeal to more boys. A wider audience equals more revenue, and more revenue equals more movies in the future.

Ironically, Disney’s merchandising is riddled with its princesses. It’s one of the company’s staples. From the theme parks to clothing lines, toys and dolls, and even food, Disney makes a pretty penny selling its iconic beauties to this very day. It’s always been about the money, because without it, there wouldn’t be enough money to produce another princess.

The movies Disney produces are now (believe it or not, competing against superhero movies) and they are just not making the cut. While Disney’s last princess movie, “The Princess and the Frog,” was critically acclaimed, it just didn’t stack up against the princess movies of the past in terms of bank.

Now, Disney hasn’t said it would never return to the fairy-tale and princess genre. It might be revisited in the future. Right now, though, little girls don’t want modest, musical princesses.  

I hope the princesses make a comeback sooner rather than later. Maybe with the recent, real-life engagement of Prince William to his long-time love Kate Middleton in England will peak interests again in princesses and happy endings. It’s not very often that such a high-profile royal engagement rolls around. This could be boost Disney is looking for.

I understand that sometimes change is necessary, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to be happy about it, especially since I have two little sisters whom I would much rather see emulate Belle and Pocahontas than someone such as Hannah Montana.

When I told my sisters to watch “Beauty and the Beast” with me, though, I could see them getting a little distracted and preoccupied with other things. Maybe Disney has a point after all. Perhaps the passion for the princesses really is losing its spark.

For now, I’ll enjoy the fairy-tale classics by myself on VHS or whenever they’re played on TV, with the realization that a younger generation won’t enjoy these movies quite the same way I do. And my dreams of saving China like Mulan did or running my own business with my prince charming like Tiana did will only ever be just that – dreams.

At least I was fortunate enough to be able to dream, though.

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