It is no secret that girls all over the world go crazy for a Disney Princess. But has this started to be noticed by other companies? Japanese animation company Toei could seriously be looking at them for inspiration with a 10-year-old franchise called Precure.
What is Precure?
Many people have heard of a series called Sailor Moon, Precure is in the same category as Sailor Moon and is a Magical Girl anime franchise. Where girls use magical powers to transform and fight evil using various powers. However unlike Sailor Moon, which is a franchise with several series and characters returning year after year. Precure is more like the Power Rangers/Super Sentai. Each year a new group of girls is chosen complete with their own villains, powers and story.
Starting in 2004 we met Futari Wa Precure, the first series featured the protagonist Cure Black and Cure White uniting to defeat the Dark King and his evil plans. The franchise started out with a very simple Magical Girl formula, but as years have progressed more and more princess related themes have played important roles. Now in 2015 we have met the 11th series of Cures which are known as...Go! Princess Precure, where our three heroines become the Princess of flowers, Cure Flora, the Princess of the sea, Cure Mermaid and the Princess of the stars, Cure Twinkle.
How has the Princess theme increased?
Now having a princess or a queen being the one that has given the girls their powers is something that has been present since we first met Cure Black and Cure White. However in 2012 we saw the Smile Precures unlock their own Princess form which granted them more power to defeat their enemy.
Now the way this was implemented and used, still kept to the Magical Girl genre style. It was meant to look flashy, pretty and powerful all at once. But it was the first step to making the Princess theme more prominent. But this series also saw many references to child fairytales which is something Disney has often used for their stories. The villains for example consisted of a "big bad wolf," a witch and a red ogre. The witch character, Majorina, used the poison apple trick many times and could turn herself from a haggish looking witch into a beautiful looking witch. So, in essence, she was channelling the Evil Queen from Snow White. They even had an episode where the leader, Cure Happy, is pulled into the story of Cinderella with her taking the lead role, the villain played the wicked stepmother and ugly sisters and the other Cures became the fairy godmother, the mice and the prince.
The following series in 2013, DokiDoki, found the team of girls search for the Princess of Trump Kingdom, Princess Marie Ange with the help of her fiancé Sir Jonathan Klondike. Now, even though the protagonists did not play into the princess theme like their predecessors, the role of the Princess/Queen behind the scenes had never played so prominent.
Finally the series to have just completed its run Happinesscharge Precure, had their own princess on the team!
Shirayuki Hime, born Himelda Window Cure Queen of the Blue Sky, is the Princess of Blue Sky Kingdom which has already been taken over by their enemy Queen Mirage, where her parents and all the subjects of Blue Sky are held captive. Yes, you saw it coming... she also goes by the name Cure Princess when fighting evil. Now personally, this sounds like the sort of story Disney would come up with. Replace 2 of the 3 other girls with boys, remove the magical transformations and attacks, and we are left with a princess trying to store her kingdom from an evil queen aided by her friends, which is exactly what her aim in the series was. Just like a Disney plot, right?
Also this is purely my thoughts on this, but Happinesscharge saw international Cures feature from around the world throughout the series. One of these was Cure Continental who was the Precure of England. Now for me, it kinda seems they looked at one Disney character in particular when designing this character...Alice from Alice in Wonderland.
As you can see the resemblance is undeniable. Blue dress, white apron, bow in hair, long white socks, blue shoes and even their haircuts are pretty much the same even if Continental has a slightly longer length. One other interesting point is Cure Continental has earrings shaped like the spade on a deck of card, and card suits played a prominent role in Alice in Wonderland.
It all meets Disney in 2015
Go! Princess Precure had its premier episode this weekend and the Disney vibes are unmistakable. Firstly we have our lead Cure, Cure Flora. Haruno Haruka actually wants to grow up to be a fairytale princess! We also have Kaido Minami, Cure Mermaid, who is known as the "Academy's Princess" due to her regal beauty, and finally Amanogawa Kirara who wants to be adored as an idol. Two of the characters kind of fit to Disney characters. Cure Flora could be linked to Cinderella due to wanting to be a princess and becoming a princess, Minami could be linked to Belle as both are considered true beauties. Now look at the transformation item the girls use...
This is the Princess Perfume and allows the girls to transform into the Princess Precure. They each have their own Princess "dress up key," which they insert into the top. Now, who else could see Disney coming up with a toy similar to this? Interchangeable, girlie and electronic for imaginary play. Sounds perfect for Disney to me as they love to cash in on their merchandise. Below is Cure Flora transforming while using the Princess Perfume, listen to the background music as you will notice it is a very different style to previous years.
Seeing as I mentioned the music this series has also seen a drastic change to the music style. The opening and closing music of the Precures has generally been bouncy and upbeat, where with this series they took a very different approach to the closing music. To me it sounds like the sort of music that Disney would use in a movie. The tempo, beat and how it changes from the slow music to faster even seems to match a more Disney style. Listen for yourself:
After you have listened to it, I imagine a few of you could picture that music with new lyrics featuring in a Frozen sequel being sang by Ana and Elsa about their new found freedom. As you also saw in the end sequence they have a short dress mode and a long dress mode that they can change between. A dress going down to the floor is 100% new this year in the series. No Precure has ever had a long dress like that and if you look at the picture below I am sure it is not just me who could see a Disney Princess in dresses like these:
I think Belle in Twinkle's, Sleeping Beauty in Flora's and obviously Ariel in Mermaid's. Now, if you cast a look back at the original two Cure Black and Cure White it is impossible not to notice how the Cures have become much more extravagant in their appearance. It is also hard to ignore how the Princess theme has built up more and more over the years for Disney and now how a franchise from Japan is following their trend...
I now present Sailor Moon Crystal which is also being made by Toei, which has taken a Disney approach to the love story in the series. In the original '90s Sailor Moon series the love story was stretched out over 45 episodes in the first series to make it appear more gradual and also supply us with endless filler episodes. However in 2014's Sailor Moon Crystal, the story is much more fast paced with no filler episodes. Much like a Disney Princess, Sailor Moon is completely in love with Tuxedo Mask by episode 4, pretty much. Let's face it; One thing a Disney Princess does is move fast! I mean, it took Aladdin two whole meetings with Princess Jasmine to win her over.
Is this a bad thing?
Personally I say, "no." Playing into an idea that has a proven track record for working in Western countries only makes the franchise more appealing for Western production companies. With the success Frozen has seen and with Disney's female characters getting stronger and stronger, Precure could be the answers to high ratings for another network to snatch up. Toei could be making themselves a future cash cow that they can sell on. Power Rangers has been going now for 21 years! Still today, it is using stock footage from the Japanese series Super Sentai. So why not a series for girls? With superhero shows being so popular for boys, maybe it is time for the girls to get some butt-kicking princesses?