Photo of the Week, 3/25/13

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Disney Top Five: Princesses

I’m going to start this series with an easy one. Who doesn’t have an opinion on the Disney Princesses? I doubt mine will be shared, but hopefully it will be fun to read. 🙂  I’d be happy to have other opinions shared in the comments (love it, in fact) as long as everyone remembers to be respectful. Which is not a problem I’ve ever had with Disney fans, who are on the whole a pretty respectful crew.

#5:  Is a tie between Mulan and Rapunzel.  I really honestly cannot decide between the two of ’em.  I think the first controversy here will probably come out of my ranking Rapunzel so low on this list, because I know she’s MAJORLY popular; and I like her, I do, but she didn’t push the “love” buttons the way the others who rank on here did.  Besides, at least she’s on the list. 😉

See, she's all badass and stuff.  She has a sword!

See, she’s all badass and stuff. She has a sword!

First of all, Mulan.  I actually don’t officially consider her to be a Disney Princess, which is part of why I can’t commit to her being straight-up #5.  But she’s in the Princess line, so here she is.  I like her for having the backbone that she has, for rising above her culture’s role for women – not only what is expected of her but what she really feels she is supposed to be and the only thing that will bring honour to her family – and finding a way to turn that on its ear by going out to in her father’s place.  I like her resourcefulness and stubbornness.  If she were an actual Princess, and I didn’t feel like I was cheating a little by having her on this list, I’d probably rank her more like #4. 🙂

I like to call her Punzie.  What other nickname can you give her?  Except my daughter called her "Tangled" for a few weeks.

I like to call her Punzie. What other nickname can you give her? Except my daughter called her “Tangled” for a few weeks.

As for Rapunzel, there is a lot to like, most of it in her sheltered and naive outlook.  Punzie (I swear I didn’t make that nickname up) and her joie de vivre are infectious and adorable, and I love when she freaks out over things.  I LOVE it. 😀  Her quick mind and her will to take a chance and do what she wants to do – even though she feels appallingly guilty for it – are charming and I don’t blame all the ‘Duckling’ patrons for falling head over heels for her. 😉  I think what keeps Punzie a bit too low on my list is that I didn’t care for the pacing of the movie, which to me was a little too frenetic with a few too many “fast-paced-screwball-stop-and-look-at-each-other-COMEDY!” moments.  So that cut into the character some for me, too.  Again, I’m sure (in fact, I know) a LOT of people disagree with me and that’s totally cool. 🙂

She reads.  That is so AWESOME.  She reads DRAMATICALLY!

She reads. That is so AWESOME. She reads DRAMATICALLY!

#4: Belle.  Actually this is very close to a tie with #3, to the point where I’ve gone back and forth on the order a couple of times now.  But I’m pretty sure I’m sticking with this one. *G*  So, there is so much to love about Belle.  Her refusal to settle, her genuine compassion for others, her intellect, her close bond with her father, her selflessness.  When one points out the “refusal to settle” one has to specify that this isn’t just with Gaston: she won’t let herself be pushed into submission by the Beast, either.  As scary as he is, she won’t be cowed into doing whatever he says.  He yells and she yells back.  There is also an improvement, in my opinion, on her fairytale progenitor: Beauty/Belle in the storybooks has always been described as, essentially, kind and loving to everyone.  And that’s about it.  Disney’s Belle is undeniably kind, and loving to her father, and unfailingly polite when not being openly mistreated (ie by a roaring and irrational beast), but she keeps people at arm’s length.  As in Gaston, whom she clearly dislikes but will not directly insult.  As long as he’s playing nice, she is polite as well, but the end result is that the guy can’t take a hint.   I would think that Belle and the Beast’s initial antagonism is probably a great, great help in their relationship because it leaves them both knowing precisely where they stand, and knowing that since they have no ill feelings left to hide from each other, anything else that follows is genuine.  Where does she fall below #3 ranking, for me?  It’s a hair’s margin and no specific thing makes her fall down the list, but in general there’s just the fact that her relationship with the Beast progresses so darned quickly.  This is largely due to the time constraints, but in the end I don’t really feel quite like we come out fully understanding her character as well as we could.

When in doubt, show Jasmine with birds, even if the metaphor is no longer in place

When in doubt, show Jasmine with birds, even if the metaphor is no longer in place

#3: Jasmine.  Now, when I was younger, I didn’t really like Jasmine. I didn’t like her actress, for one, and I also just wasn’t as taken with her character.  But honestly, I’ve thought back on this and I seriously cannot remember what made me feel that way.  I remember not being into her but I don’t remember any reasons why.  Anyhow, as an adult and rewatching the first movie, I really like her.  She’s a character who, similar to Rapunzel, has been sheltered her whole life and has never left the walls in which she spends her days.  She has no concept of the outside world and doesn’t want to resign herself to what feels like, to her, captivity.  But where Rapunzel has a cheery, sweet, naive demeanour, Jasmine has a fiery temper and a rebellious streak (in spite of doting on her father, whom she utterly adores and has almost wrapped around her finger).  She is ridiculously smart and learns incredibly quickly, she’s super-confident, and relies on herself in spite of having an upbringing where everyone wanted to do everything for her.  One of my favourite things about her is how much she hates to be underestimated – whether that is by being treated as a mindless object, being overprotected, or being lied to (even with good intentions).

Check out that dimple.  Only Disney girl with a dimple, folks!

Check out that dimple. Only Disney girl with a dimple, folks!

#2: Rather new, but again ALMOST tied with number one, is Tiana.  Up until I saw “The Princess and the Frog”, most of my fave princesses were pretty much set in stone, but Tiana very quickly jumped up towards the top of the list. Even now, there are aspects of her that I would put as my favourite, but she’ll never quite beat out my #1.  However, Tiana has so much going for her, I can’t even really break it down.  I do love beyond measure the fact that she is, I believe, the first Disney female to save her prince – to directly save him, not once, but twice!  She saves him from frog hunters (and he then saves her in return), and in the end, she is the one to defeat the villain!  Naveen is powerless against the bad guy, but Tiana faces him down and puts the kibosh on him once and for all.  Her story with Naveen is adorable, too.  Any girl who can soften the heart of a playboy who chases down girls the way he does has got something strong going for her, you know?  So once again, Tiana is largely a grouping of all my favourite traits that have already been mentioned: brave, strong, smart, determined, not willing to settle for what other people plan for her.  Plus she has the bestest dress of any of them.  GOD, that DRESS.

I beyond love her.

I beyond love her.

#1: My number one is, and has been for many years, Ariel.  Somewhere in the mid-to-late 90s I went over the Disney films released up to that point and I definitely had to rank TLM as my favourite; the rest have sort of shuffled their way around, but TLM has stayed strong at #1.  Watching the movie now I’m just struck by what a trailblazer Ariel was.  She was the first Disney Princess since Aurora in the 50s, and the first to really go headlong after what she wanted instead of wishing and waiting for it to come to her. She was the first to pursue her Prince instead of being pursued.  She was the first to take her destiny into her own hands instead of just having it happen.  Plus there is so much about her, so much naive sensuality and exuberance, so much vitality and beauty, she takes my breath away.  My favourite scenes in that movie are unfailingly when she is finding her way in the human world, but gosh, I still cry during “Part of Your World” (both versions) and when she comes out of the sea at the end in that sparkling dress.  There are a lot of complaints you can have about that movie, and I am sure I haven’t even heard them all, and I don’t think they are invalid; but to me, Ariel’s flaws and the mistakes that she makes (and she has, and makes, a lot) are a part of her appeal and help to make her a more convincing and ultimately sympathetic character.  I care about her more because she does so many things wrong, but only because she wants so badly.  I can relate.  No, I never ran away from home and I certainly never sold my voice to anyone, but I’ve done some really, really stupid things – many of them at age 16 – for things that at the time seemed so incredibly important.  And realizing just how stupid I’d been was a painful experience, but it all made me stronger and wiser, and I believe that’s what we’re supposed to take away from Ariel’s story as well.  (It’s too bad her relationship with Eric is so underexplored, really.  Because honestly, Ariel’s relationship with her father is WAY more interesting than her relationship with Eric.)

 

Aaaand that’s it!  Next week, probably the Princes, but maybe I’ll surprise myself with something else. 😀  Comments?  Agree, disagree?  Please let me know!

Review: Princess Storybook Breakfast at Akershus

For my kids’ first trip to Disney World, my daughter was just turning five, and I knew a Princess meal was an absolute must. Her younger brother was 1 1/2, and he didn’t really care who he met, though he turned out to be pretty partial to the cuddlier characters; but D, my daughter, loved to talk to pretty much anyone and it turned out that the face characters, with their ability to react and have conversations with her, were a big, big hit.

But mostly, you know. Five-year-old girl, Disney Princesses? No-brainer.

Royal Proclamation at Akershus; if you can read this you don't need glasses

Royal Proclamation at Akershus; if you can read this you don’t need glasses

Rather than take the plunge for a meal in Cinderella Castle I decided to go a slightly-less-traveled route and opted for a breakfast at Restaurant Akershus in Epcot’s Norway Pavilion. I really didn’t know what to expect, except that I knew we got a picture with a princess included with the meal and that we’d see a number of princesses. And that it was a buffet meal with mostly typical breakfast and a limited amount of Norwegian food, and this was a tiny bit worrisome to me since D could be a picky eater.

Well, first, the restaurant is lovely. Not a huge surprise, I know, because this is Disney and all their restaurants are at least a little nice to look at; but the architecture and woodwork in Akershus is really striking, and quite classy. It fits more with the viking/early nautical theme than with a Princess theme, but it’s not jarring or anything.

Some local Norwegian architecture

Some local Norwegian architecture

The wait wasn’t too long… we weren’t seated right away, I think we waited about ten minutes or so, but the Norway shops were open even though the pavilion itself wasn’t open yet. We poked around and the kids looked at swords and things, you know, as you let your kids do. I have an ongoing thing about worrying that the buzzer will go off and I won’t be in range for it to go, so I always hover, but I got some nice pictures of the kids relaxing and browsing. 😉

When we went in we got a photo op with Belle, who greeted my daughter as her “twin” since D was also wearing a Belle dress. The photo op is in this little nook towards the front of the restaurant, and towards the end of your meal they bring you a folder with your print in it. A nice thing is that the photo is included with the price of the meal (not the case at Chef Mickey’s).

So at this point we were seated, rather near the front of the restaurant, very close to the door that the Princesses enter and exit from. We got some food and waited for someone to come by. The food was better than I’d worried it was and everyone was quite happy. In addition to your standard scrambled eggs, bacon/sausage, cinnamon rolls and so forth, there were also a few Norwegian type things like some fish, as well as some tasty biscuits and my kids’ favourite, a nice variety of fresh fruit. My daughter ended up with so much berry smeared over her face that she looked like she’d been guzzling a smoothie or something. Nope, actually, just nature’s candy.

It wasn’t too much longer before the Princesses started coming by! We saw Aurora, Snow White, Cinderella, and Ariel. D was very excited to meet Ariel, but honestly I think it was Cinderella who left her the most starstruck. Both of them, however, were amazing with her. They got down on her level and really talked to her, and although Snow and Aurora were both nice and sweet, they didn’t seem quite as involved as Cinderella and Ariel. Of course I’m a HUGE Ariel fan, so I am biased, but I will also say that I hold meetings with Ariel to a very high standard so I’m *less* likely to fawn over her in person than I am onscreen. 😉

But she was really really good and there was lots of attention and hand-holding!

But she was really really good and there was lots of attention and hand-holding!

And this is when Cinderella and D danced

And this is when Cinderella and D danced

On the other hand, I’ve never been much of a Cinderella fan, but she won me over that day. Just absolutely divine with my daughter, it was wonderful. Plus, we stayed just long enough to participate in something I hadn’t known about: the Princess Parade. An announcement came up asking all children to find the nearest Princess and join them in a parade around the restaurant. Cinderella came by and *found* my daughter, taking her by the hand and promising to show her exactly what to do, and the next time I saw her she’d made nearly a full circuit around the restaurant. And Cinderella had shown her how to lift her skirts as she walked, so she was walking by with her skirt pinched between her forefinger and thumb in each hand, all super-dainty; and later she showed us the right way to wave, with the wrist curl and everything.

Honestly, Cinderella's such a sweetie.

Honestly, Cinderella’s such a sweetie.

It was a unique experience, to say the least. I can’t say I always like the whole “Disney Princess” culture – too much adherence to gender roles – but it’s up to me how much exposure to it my daughter gets, and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with moderate exposure. And she certainly loved it, and watching her be a princess was just… it just made my heart swell. 🙂

As for the price – it’s high, what with the cost of the photo being factored in. I won’t pretend it’s not high. But is it worth it? I can’t say for sure; I had the free dining plan deal and if I hadn’t been on the dining plan, I would not have done it, simply because I can’t afford to put down $40 or so per person on breakfast. HOWEVER, I would have regretted not doing it. Like, a lot. So I think the price is worth it even if that makes it something I can’t always do. That’s what special occasions are for, right? Seeing my daughter walk all dainty around the room, feeling like a princess, that’s worth it.