No rescue for princesses as Disney ditches dated stereotype
Evolution of a princess: Sleeping Beauty needed rescuing.Growing parental concern about young girls being inundated with princess culture is being addressed by Disney, the biggest global purveyor of fairytale characters on screen.
The American giant's latest character, Sofia the First, has been launched in Australia and overseas with a modern twist to the story - the princess not being rescued.
Nancy Kanter, general manager of Disney Junior Worldwide, has revealed the company is unlikely to create again a princess who is being saved by someone ''on a white horse''.
No rescuing needed for Sofia.''Obviously we know there are people who have their opinions about whether the princess, as a model, is relevant today,'' Kanter said, in an exclusive interview with Fairfax ahead of attending the ASTRA television conference in Sydney on Thursday.
It is believed Disney's careful development of the new character is based on a perceived parental backlash towards princess culture and its associated merchandising.
But some are questioning why the company is still using princesses at all.
''I think a lot of mothers hate that as soon as they have a daughter all these pink clothes are foisted on them and they start being inducted into the princess culture,'' said Amber Robinson, editor of Essential Kids (a site owned by Fairfax Media).
''But Disney and other movie-makers are realising parents are more savvy these days and they don't want the princess who needs to be rescued.''
A new book released in Britain suggests princess culture has now taken hold to the point where some young girls are blurring the line between fiction and real life - demanding to wear tiaras and princess dresses daily.
''Unless parents are careful, the dream can become an everyday reality and their daughter can slip into the princess role on a full-time basis,'' Sue Palmer, author of 21st Century Girls, told Britain's Daily Mail.
Kanter said Disney Junior took very seriously its responsibility in delivering content to children.
''We made a very specific and conscious decision to make Sofia a young girl who is going to learn about what being a princess is about, not in a superficial way - not what dress you pick out or how sparkly is your tiara. We wanted her to be learning about what it takes to be a good person, what does it takes to be your own person?''
Feedback from parents about gender stereotypes appears to be behind the move to ''broaden'' the princess model. Kanter said Disney had undertaken extensive research and audience testing, resulting in a more modern storyline.
''Mums are really sitting down with their kids and watching this show, which is really important to us on any number of levels,'' said Kanter.
Amber Robinson said it was a step in the right direction but many parents wanted more varied characters for their children.
''I'm pleased that they are coming out with different princesses who maybe have more feminist attributes. But at the same time it makes you think, 'Why do all the lead characters have to be princesses?''' she said. ''I think parents want more for their girls.''