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Sexuality and the Disney Princess


News from London Animation and BRILLIANA

Sexuality and the Disney Princess

Leo Crane

Alexandra Penelope kicks off London Animation's guest blogger series. She is currently an intern at the studio and studies Contemporary Media Practice at the University of Westminster.

I always challenge myself to create film that focuses on marginalized groups, particularly women and those identifying as LGBTQ+. For me, one of the reasons we watch films is to better understand the diversity of the world we live in, and have the opportunity to see ourselves in the characters on screen. For my latest short film, I, along with my co-creator Lucy Mills, attempted to give queer women a space to see themselves by taking Disney princess films and reediting them to strip away heteronormativity and view them from a queer perspective. The result is “Not Every Princess Needs A Prince”.  Responses have ranged widely from enjoyment and critical appreciation to those proclaiming we have destroyed their childhood innocence. 

Note: this film may contain themes/motifs not suitable for children

This piece was largely the result of two months experimentation with source material. Initially, we looked at the work of various scratch video artists, finding particular inspiration from Dara Birnbaum’s “Technology/Transformation: Wonder Woman”. Lucy and I then spent long hours familiarising ourselves with the likes of Belle, Ariel, and Tiana and began to tease out motifs that allowed for a queer reading. In lieu of a linear narrative, we organised the film into musical chapters. We felt this worked well in the context of using Disney material, considering how Disney films often use musical numbers to relay a character’s transition or self-discovery. The musical qualities of the piece came from looping, rewinding, and replaying small snippets of clips and bringing them together harmoniously. 

The final piece, while not a singular narrative, does follow the princesses as they discover their sexuality and gain sexual agency. They reject their princes, “come out”, and are finally able to be sexually and romantically gratified. We hope the piece will be a critique of Disney’s out-dated storylines as well as embrace the fan communities responsible for femme-slash fan fiction and fan art. The resulting film exists somewhere between fan and academic, but hopefully can be enjoyed and interpreted by many.

 Disney may not have an openly queer princess yet, but hopefully our piece argues the desire for one and helps people think critically about sexuality while recognising how heteronormalised storytelling still is in the mainstream.