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Beauties of the Beast

June 23, 1995|David Kronke

Since the Disney animation renaissance began, critics and audiences have been universally lauding the films' visuals, charm and progressive stories. With "Pocahontas" arriving today in multiplexes across America, we took a closer look at the heroines and found some interesting though (we're quite sure) coincidental parallels.

Here are the results. One thing we do know: There's a shortage of moms in Disney-animationland, but the young women do tend to marry well.

Film (year)/heroine: "The Little Mermaid" (1989)/Ariel

Physical type: High school cheerleader sort who looks fetching in a clamshell halter top, although those fins are reason for pause. Skin miraculously wrinkle-free despite time spent in water.

Attitudes toward marriage (beginning of film): Smitten with landlubber Prince Eric, despite father's exhortation that folks with legs are "spineless, savage, finless fish-eaters!"

Parents: No mother; powerful King of the Sea father dotes on her; she's his favorite of seven daughters.

Personality traits/eccentricities: Headstrong and adventurous. Doesn't know what a fork is; consorts with crabs and flounder; bargains away voice at the suggestion, "Men up there don't like a lot of blabber."

Love, Disney style: Crab advises Prince, "You want her, look at her, you know you do. . . . Kiss the girl."

Women of action: Rescues Prince from drowning.

Damsels in distress: Prince rescues Ariel from an evil octopus.

Attitudes toward marriage (end of film): Closing shot: Ariel and Prince Eric smooching on their wedding day.


Film (year)/heroine: "Beauty and the Beast" (1991)/Belle

Physical type: Reminiscent of the pretty, smart girl in high school English whom regular guys thought they might have a chance with.

Attitudes toward marriage (beginning of film): Not interested in local handsome lout--"His little wife? No sir, not me!"

Parents: No mother; father a befuddled inventor who dotes on her.

Personality traits/eccentricities: Headstrong and adventurous. Townspeople consider her "strange" because she's literate. Actually, she's strange because she talks to clocks, dressers and dinnerware and allowed her story to be transformed into a gaudy Broadway musical.

Love, Disney style: A talking clock advises Beast to give Belle "flowers, chocolates [and] promises you don't intend to keep."

Women of action: She rescues her father from imprisonment; by loving Beast, she saves him from eternity as a very hirsute and grumpy fellow.

Damsels in distress: Beast rescues her from wolves.

Attitudes toward marriage (end of film): Once the Beast is transfigured into a faux Fabio who just happens to be a prince, wedding bells aren't far away.


Film (year)/heroine: "Aladdin" (1992)/Jasmine

Physical type: Dark beauty with exotic looks (well, by Disney standards, at least), like the quiet foreign exchange student everyone had a crush on in college but was afraid to ask out.

Attitudes toward marriage (beginning of film): Though father has decreed she must soon marry, she insists, "The law is wrong! . . . I hate being forced into this. If I do marry, it will be for love."

Parents: No mother; powerful and befuddled sultan father dotes on her.

Personality traits/eccentricities: Headstrong and adventurous. Only friend is a tiger; shamelessly cribs flying scene from "Superman: The Movie" and wins a best song Oscar in the bargain.

Love, Disney style: When Aladdin first sees her, he exclaims, "Wow!" When he becomes a prince, she wants nothing to do with him.

Women of action: Rescues Aladdin from Sultan's henchmen.

Damsels in distress: Aladdin rescues her from getting a hand cut off and from drowning in sand inside a giant hourglass.

Attitudes toward marriage (end of film): Marries Aladdin, who conveniently has become a prince.


Film (year)/heroine: "Pocahontas" (1995)/Pocahontas

Physical type: Aerodynamically perfect. First Disney heroine/babe with eyes that don't take up most of her head.

Attitudes toward marriage (beginning of film): Uninterested in uniting, per her father's wishes, with the bravest brave in the tribe. "Should I marry Kocoum? Is all my dreaming at an end?"

Parents: No mother; doting powerful father forbids romance with white "savage."

Personality traits/eccentricities: Headstrong and adventurous. Chatters with raccoon, hummingbird and tree; despite being politically correct and New Age-y (she "listens with her heart" and divines hallucinatory "colors in the wind"), she incites numerous protest groups.

Love, Disney style: She falls for the first blond guy she sees; her reckless romance spells doom for a tribe member.

Women of action: Rescues John Smith from death; averts war between her tribe and the British.

Damsels in distress: Kocoum and Smith rescue her from nebbishy white savage.

Attitudes toward marriage (end of film): Irony: The best-looking, most fully realized Disney heroine ends up without a guy. But adds a bulldog to her menagerie of buddies.

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