Disney is commonly not the most reliable source for fair representation, after all their first princess that wasn’t white was Pocahontas (1995), then Mulan (1998) and Finally Tiana (2009). Disney has also had a few flaws of female representation, however this has been rapidly adapting now with Frozen (2013) having two female leads and a barely there romance.
The concern I have with most of the disney animations is the representations of the villains, majorly the representation of age. The concept of age in Disney films probably began while creating snow white where the evil queen was jealous that Snow White (1937) was now the “fairest of them all”. This caused the Evil Queen to create a poison apple, she also transformed herself into an ugly old hag as a disguise. This final transformation is the representation of the ugliness of the Queen’s soul being present within her exterior. This began the Disney representation of old and ugly means evil.
Then came a long line of only old and ugly villains. Cinderella (1950) portrayed an old wicked stepmother, Alice in Wonderland (1951) portrayed a rather angry old Queen of Hearts, Peter Pan (1953) was portrayed by an aged Captain Hook, Sleeping Beauty (1959) was portrayed by a middle aged green Maleficent. All these examples are rather usual considering they are based on previous fiction which may slightly suggest the characters being mature, however there are no other aged presences in these films making the view of the aged a negative one.
Furthermore the recent Disney adaptations seem to continue this trend in old villains. In One hundred and one dalmatians (1961) featured a villain called Cruella de Vil a fashionista who strived for the perfect fur. Although this story was created entirely by Disney the villain still followed the same tired “old” stereotype. Seeing as she was seen as an obsessor of fashion one would think she would be young and twisted yet she is again an old hag.
Going forward in time to the more recent animations Disney is trying to weave it’s way out of the ageing web by creating a new mixture of villains, mainly by introducing male villains who do not apply to the age issue. In Beauty and the Beast (1991) Gaston is clearly a young attractive man. Although it is nice age is not an issue in particular however it seems that women tend to be more obviously stereotyped by their ages. Princes seem to be ageless yet princesses range from a very young fourteen year old Snow White (1937) to a still young Tiana (2009) at nineteen (Buzzfeed, 2013). it seems that anyone over twenty is considered an old maid.
Tangled (2010) still seems to hold on to the stereotype of age as the idea of ageing is Mother Gothel’s whole plot point which is why she kidnaps Rapunzel. This completely changes the original tale of Rapunzel from a girl being exchanged due to her parent thievery, to a girl being kidnapped due to her magical ability of healing and removing age. This is an adaptation which impacts the story greatly and also proves that Disney clearly has an opinion of women ageing. This representation seems to be that older women are bitter, jealous and bad while the princesses are young, innocent and happy. While the Men of the Disney films remain ageless.
Alice in wonderland (1951) Directed by Clyde Geronimi, Hamilton Luske and Wilfred Jackson [Film] USA: RKO Radio Pictures
Beauty and the beast (1991) Directed by Gary Trousdale and Kirk Wise [Film] USA: Buena Vista Pictures
Buzzfeed (2013) How old are the Disney Princesses? Available at: http://www.buzzfeed.com/louispeitzman/how-old-are-the-disney-princesses#.hp0NzJjXM (Accessed: 3 November 2015)
Cinderella (1950) Directed by Clyde Geronimi, Hamilton Luske and Wilfred Jackson [Film] USA: RKO Radio Pictures
Pocahontas (1995) Directed by Eric Goldberg and Mark Gabriel [Film] USA: Buena Vista Pictures
Frozen (2013) Directed by Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee [Film] USA: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
Mulan (1998) Directed by Barry Cook and Tony Bancroft [Film] Buena Vista Pictures
One hundred and one dalmatians (1961) Directed by Clyde Geronimi, Hamilton Luske and Wolfgang Reitherman [Film] USA: Buena Vista Distribution Company
Peter Pan (1953) Directed by Clyde Geronimi, Hamilton Luske, Jack Kinney and Wilfred Jackson [Film] USA: RKO Radio Pictures
Sleeping Beauty (1959) Directed by Clyde Geronimi [Film] USA: Buena Vista Film Distribution Company
Snow White and the seven dwarfs (1937) Directed by Ben Sharpesteen, David Hand, Larry Morey, Perce Pearce, Wilfred Jackson and William Cottrell [Film] USA: RKO Radio Pictures
Tangled (2010) Directed by Byron Howard and Nathan Greno [Film] USA: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
The princess and the frog (2009) Directed by John Musker and Ron Clements [Film] USA: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
Oh My Disney (2013) Which witch is which? Available at: http://blogs.disney.com/oh-my-disney/2013/10/30/which-witch-is-which/ (Accessed: 3 November 2015)
Pixie Dust Savings (2013) Mother Gothal – Disney’s most evil villain. Available at: http://pixiedustsavings.com/mother-gothal-disneys-most-evil-villain/ (Accessed: 3 November 2015)