Disneys Animation Evolution

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Ever since Disney started animating full length feature films there has been a common trend in their choice of lead characters. These characters have been young women or girls, and are often royalty. These characters have served as role models for many generations of young women, and have been continuously evolving over the years. This paper will examine the evolution of Disney’s heroines by examining past and present heroines, as well as speculate on what type of heroines Disney’s future projects may feature. This exploration will involve examining two heroines that are often termed to be “classic” and a two that are often termed to be “modern”. We will explore these characters styles of animation, physical appearance and temperaments, personal goals and situations and how these characteristics have affected or could effect viewers.

The two “classical” heroines discussed in this paper are Snow White and Aurora, otherwise known as Sleeping Beauty or Briar Rose. The animators who developed the physical appearance of these two characters used professional dancers as models for their characters. Snow White and Aurora both display similarities in their life situations and personality traits. They are featured as the main character in their respective stories and they are both princesses who are victimized. They are caucasian, young and beautiful, and naive. They both wait for their “true love”, to come and save them from their crisis. Their “true love”, in both stories, are mysterious and heroic princes who, among other admirable qualities, are avid horse riders.

The feature film “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” that was released in 1937. As the very first Disney princess and being the lead heroine in the first full length feature by Walt Disney, Snow White became the base mold for all of Disney’s future heroines. Being the first princess meant she was also basically a rough sketch that would be improved upon with each new heroine. Modeled after the dancer Marge Champion (birth name: Marjorie Belcher), Snow White’s face is a bit rounded, she has a small nose, full lips, rosy cheeks and porcelain pale skin (John Grant, 1993). However she differs from heroines that come after her by having somewhat smaller eyes, which did not allow for more expressive emotions. Snow White’s appearance was modeled after a dancer with the intention to make her appear dainty and graceful. When she walks and runs it seems as if she is dancing, and when she actually does dance (as she does at scene 54:00-56:30) in the cottage she performs choreographed dance steps. Executing them perfectly just as Champion danced them with an ethereal dreamlike quality. Her voice was recorded by Adriana Caselotti, a young opera singer to emphasize Snow White’s youth, innocence and naïveté.

Snow Whites story is a simple one. Snow White is declared as the “fairest of them all” by a magic mirror owned by her stepmother, the queen. A huntsmen, at the command of Snow White’s jealous stepmother sets out to kill Snow White. The huntsmen shows Snow White mercy and allows her to run away. Snow White befriends cute and friendly woodland creatures and seven dwarfs in her attempts to hide from the queen. The queen continues to pursue Snow White and succeeds in putting Snow White in a coma-like sleep by feeding her a poisoned apple. Snow White’s true love, the prince searches through the forest to save her and awakens her with “true love’s kiss”.

Snow White’s character in this movie is passive. After running away from danger she spends the remainder of the movie waiting to be rescued. She does not take any positive action to change her fate. The decisions made that drive the procession of events are made by other characters, leaving Snow White only able to react.

Aurora is the least developed character in all of Disneys movies, only actually appearing for roughly 18 minutes throughout the entire film, yet she is considered to be the lead character. Aurora’s...
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