Posted by Sarah El-Mahmoud
Sarah El-Mahmoud

It's been twenty five years since #Disney adapted the tale as old as time, #BeautyAndTheBeast, and Belle joined the ranks of the graceful princesses who have been winning over the hearts of audiences since the beginnings of animation.

Disney's princesses have long been outcasts with big dreams, but #Belle's story was certainly different from the rest. Her character in the 1991 film is much more than a pretty face for many reasons. As such, she most definitely influenced a shift in the way future stories were told, introducing the more modern portrayals of heroines that we've seen since.

The First Princess To Break The Magic Spell

Cinderella just wanted to go to the ball in 1950 / Disney
Cinderella just wanted to go to the ball in 1950 / Disney

Only four princess films precede her: Snow White (1937), Cinderella (1950), Sleeping Beauty (1959) and The Little Mermaid (1989). Each fairytale tell stories of dreams and wishes coming true with the help of a little magic. But for Belle, her happy ending finds her when she breaks the magic enchanting her prince and his friends.

She sings about books and adventures while scoffing away the handsome suitor, Gaston, that past princesses would easily have pined for. Her brave and selfless actions stand out throughout the film, giving the audience an important new lesson. She is the heroine who saves her father and the beast, when past princesses are swept up by their princes as they ride off into the sunset.

A Massive Success

Beauty and the Beast was the first animated film to earn more than $100 million at the box office and the first animated film to be nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture. The female-lead film about a fearless bookworm undoubtedly inspired the continuing line-up of Disney princesses that have inspired recent generations. Step by step, Belle led the exploration of diverse female main characters beyond your typical type-A beauty in Disney films.

Mulan saved her family and her country in the 1998 film.
Mulan saved her family and her country in the 1998 film.

The #DisneyPrincess roster has stacked up substantially since Belle. Soon after Beauty and the Beast, a Middle-Eastern, a Native American and a Chinese princess popped onto the posters of Disney films all during the '90s. These new #animation classics told stories of brave women taking action and following their dreams. A higher standard of female strength then became a welcome formula for success, but without Belle's overwhelming popularity in 1991, this evolution of princesses may not have happened.

Disney Heroines Have Come A Long Way

The newest Disney princess, Moana, is sure to be an impressive heroine.
The newest Disney princess, Moana, is sure to be an impressive heroine.

Disney has often been placed under a microscope for the gender and cultural stereotypes in its animated films. We analyze and protest the ideals that their movies perpetuate with each release. But things can also be done right, and when the audience shows its satisfaction, film companies will be sure to take more risks. There's more progress to be made, but it's nice to know we've come a long way since first-date engagements in the old female-lead films.

Thank you Belle, and happy 25th anniversary to Beauty and the Beast!

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