Last year, Disney broke new ground with their animated feature Frozen. Instead of featuring a story where a girl waits for a prince to come save the day, the movie focused on the relationship between two sisters. A strapping young man still featured heavily in the narrative, but the plot wasn’t about getting to the church on time. That said, the movie came under fire for the way the princess-sisters were drawn—once again, they were white, skinny, and doe-eyed. In response to this lack of body size and racial diversity, Setsu Shigematsu, an Associate Professor in the Media and Cultural Studies Department of University of California, Riverside, decided to rewrite the Disney Princess playbook with Guardian Princesses.
The self-published series features heroine-centric “stories [that] transform the cultural meaning of the princesses into inspiring leaders who take action to protect the people and the planet.” In addition to writing princess characters that care about and engage with the wider world, Shigematsu also put a lot of thought into the Guardian Princesses’ design. In a profile of the series, Fast Company writes: “Though they still have the giant twinkly eyes, tiny chins, small noses, poreless skin, and luscious manes of the traditional Disney cartoons, the Guardian Princesses were deliberately designed to range from size 2 to 14, and the group is racially and culturally diverse.”
It’s a great idea, but, as The Mary Sue notes, the series isn’t perfect. Though the Guardian Princesses are from different ethnic backgrounds, a real range of physical forms is still lacking. But at least Shigematsu’s stories are helping to move us in the right direction: towards embracing the anti-Disney Princess.