There is no denying that Disney has totally nailed it's animated style in all areas, but it is the charming features of the Magical Kingdom's princesses that many people find the most captivating.
Although they all look totally different, these animated icons have a lot more in common that you might think at first glance, and it all relates back to the golden ratios that make a visually appealing face.
So, let's strip back the musical numbers, elaborate up dos and glittering frocks to scrutinize the bare bones that make up a Disney princess' unique look and learn about the science of beauty.
Shaping Up the Disney Face
If you look a little closer at the face shapes in Disney princesses, there is surprisingly little diversity. Although this might seem odd, this is all in the name of mathematical beauty.
Dr. Stephen Marquardt has studied the relationships between human beauty and mathematics for decades to figure out just exactly what it is that makes a person be considered as beautiful. Unsurprisingly, his find echoes the look of the Disney princesses.
This similarity in face shape is not just limited to Disney's hand drawn animation, but Disney-Pixar characters are governed a lot more by the rule of cuteness.
Tumblr user Every Flavored Bean noticed a trend in Disney-Pixar characters when she realized that the male characters have a much more eccentric array of face shapes and noses that their female counterparts. When she traced them, she realized just how similar the women really were:
This array of rounded chins and buttons noses echoes the features seen on babies that we are evolutionary programmed to see as damn right adorable, which in turn, gives the Disney-Pixar characters a charming innocence that we find visually appealing.
The Eyes Have It
In traditional hand drawn Disney animation, the eyes are generally where the biggest variation lies, but they all have one thing in common. They're huge!
As helpfully described in this vintage official Disney guide to cuteness below, big eyes help give characters a congenial look that makes them seem trustworthy and pure of heart. Characteristics that are shared by all Disney princesses, even if they do have their moments or rebellion.
It is generally the eyes of the Disney princesses that help to demonstrate their ethnicity and make them look like unique individuals instead of clones, although the hair plays a huge role in this as well.
As you can see in the image above, the eyes are all subtly different shapes, but they share a lot of traits. Along with all being much larger than a real human's eyes, Disney princess eyes have huge pupils that do not dilate in the light, eyelashes that extend from the top lid line to make them seem wide and bright and well defined lids to help create easy to read expressions.
We are so used to Disney's animated style when it comes to enhanced eye balls, that when we see princesses with average sized eyes just looks plain weird:
Characters of different ethnicities follow slightly different rules when it comes to drawing the eyes, as you can see in the image below, but the main goal of creating large, sparking peepers still reigns supreme.
For example, winged eyeliner is used to make the eyes look bigger (much like in real humans!) and eyes are often given more exaggerated points to make them seem more 'cat like.'
When it comes to Disney-Pixar characters, they sport the most exaggerated eye balls of the bunch. With eye width wider than their wrists to pack an extra gut punch of cuteness, these princesses give kittens a run for their money.
Give it Some Lip
The mouths of Disney princesses are probably the most naturalistic part of their faces so there isn't much to say about how they are exaggerated by animators to be more appealing, but they are still and interesting area to scrutinize.
The mouth is a very expressive part of the face and you can often tell a lot about a Disney princesses personality from the shape of their lips. Take a look at the image below which identifies the three main types of Disney's smackers.
- The 'Ariel' type: Thinner than most Disney lips, the 'Ariel' type is generally reserved for younger more playful characters and are more 'cute' than beautiful.'
- The 'Belle' type: The most traditionally beautiful of all the Disney lips, the 'Belle' type is utilized for characters with mature poise and a conventionally beautiful face. These lips look best in close ups so princesses who spend a lot of time inches away from the camera are most likely to have these.
- The 'Aurora' type: The most naturalistic of all the Disney lips, the 'Aurora' type is a little wider and looks best while smiling and is generally used on more 'grown up' characters.
Perhaps where Disney takes the most artistic license with the human face, the noses of their characters are distinctively minimalistic in appearance, and there is a reason for this.
Surveys from the general public repeatedly show that either a 'snub' or 'straight edged' nose shape are considered the most attractive, and Disney takes these two schnozzes and mulches them together in the extreme.
As you can see from above, some princesses have more snub noses, whereas others like Belle and Ariel have both a snub nose with an elegant curve to give definition nearer the eyes.
Disney noses have less sharp angles than what plastic surgeons define as the perfect female nose (what surprise it is surgeons conducting these studies!), but as I have mentioned before, they key quote for Disney princesses is to look sweet in a childlike way as opposed to sexually attractive.
The Perils of Perfection
Of course, the homogeny of Disney faces also has a negative side. In traditional hand drawn Disney animations, the princes have the same 'perfect' features as the princesses, but in Disney/Pixar movies there are some pretty astounding differences.
While male characters can look weird, lumpy or eccentric and still be the main protagonists, the female characters all look incredibly similar.
This lack of diversity when it comes to female faces can be perceived as a negative thing because, although they all have distinct personalities, it is the Disney-Pixar female character's beauty that unites them, and ultimately validates their presence on screen.
By lagging behind in their portrayal of physically individual women with features that would be considered 'flawed' in the polished Disney universe, the heroine's physical appearance just isn't keeping up with Disney's ever evolving story lines.
Personally, I think the magic of Disney is encapsulated in the rich details of the lavish landscape, the captivating personalities of the way they bring the characters to life.
I would welcome some big footed, pointy nosed, chubby, lovable princesses (and princes!) with open arms, and I'm sure a lot of you guys feel the same. People often say there isn't a demand for movies with 'ugly' characters, but the rich tapestry of animation can make the most potato faced of characters look visually appealing. I mean, just look at Shrek and Princess Fiona!