by Kathy Wolfe

Someday my Prince will come” is a common phrase voiced by many, but especially by the Disney princesses! Tidbits invites you to join us for the facts about these enchanting Disney creations.

There are 12 “official” Disney princesses, ranging in date from 1937 to 2016. The first princess was, of course, Snow White, in the classic film released more than 85 years ago. Walt Disney hired 750 artists to draw nearly 2 million sketches for the movie, a project that took three years to complete. The initial estimated budget was $250,000, but as production progressed, it swelled to $1.5 million, requiring Disney to take out a mortgage on his home. While 25 songs were composed for the movie, only seven were actually used.

Eighteen-year-old Adriana Caselotti was chosen over 150 other hopefuls to voice Snow White, receiving $20 a day for her efforts, a total of $970 for the role, about $18,300 in today’s dollars. The studio required Caselotti to sign a contract forbidding her from taking any other voice work, because Walt Disney wanted to “own” the voice of Snow White, not wanting to “spoil the illusion of Snow White.” This, along with her name not being listed in the credits, wiped out any hopes of a career in films for the young woman.   

Adriana Caselotti pursued opera for a time, then settled into real estate sales. In her later years, she autographed letters and photographs to supplement her income.

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    Thirteen years passed before another princess film hit the theaters. “Cinderella” was released in 1950, with upwards of 300 young women auditioning for the voice. The role was awarded to Ilene Woods, whose songwriter friends had called her to record three of the film’s songs. They presented the demo recordings to Walt Disney, who called Woods two days later with the offer of “Cinderella.” Walt’s all-time favorite animation scene of all of his movies was when Cinderella’s dress transformed from her shabby garments to the beautiful blue ball gown.

Cinderella lost her shoe not once, not twice, but three times in the 1950 film. The first is when she delivers breakfast trays to her stepmother and stepsisters, the second is as she runs away from the ball, and the third is as she walks down the steps at her wedding to the prince. Her actual shoe size is 4 ½, which explains why the other maidens in the kingdom had so much trouble squeezing into it!

    It shouldn’t be surprising that the Princess known for her sleeping is the most silent of them all. Aurora from 1959’s “Sleeping Beauty” has just 18 lines of dialogue and 18 minutes of screen time in the entire movie. Even when she is awakened by the Prince’s kiss, she doesn’t speak! The story is based on the Brothers Grimm story called “Briar Rose,” a name used by Aurora while she lived with her three fairy godmothers. She was the last princess created before Walt Disney’s death in 1966. The film was the only princess film that was a commercial failure at its debut. With a budget of $6 million, “Sleeping Beauty” earned just $5.3 million at its debut.

After a 30-year drought of princesses, “The Little Mermaid” premiered in 1989, introducing the red-haired Ariel. The film’s animation was a monumental task, and due to a shortage of manpower at Disney, the company hired a Chinese animation studio to draw over a million bubbles by hand. And so marked the end of an era in which Disney films were created in the traditional method of hand-painting frames. After “The Little Mermaid,” digital animation became the practice. Of all the Disney characters, Ariel was the one who has sung more songs than any other. She was voiced by actress Jodi Benson, who also voiced the film’s character Vanessa, who was Ursula the Sea Witch in disguise. The film collected $84 million for its debut, and another $27 million at its theater re-release eight years later. Its lifetime gross worldwide is $235 million on a budget of $40 million. Two Oscars were awarded for the film’s musical score and best song.

    Disney’s 1991 story of “Beauty and the Beast” was loosely based on a French fairy tale, “La Belle et la Bete.” Screenwriter for the film, Linda Woolverton, says that her interpretation of Belle was inspired by Katharine Hepburn’s performance as Jo March in the 1933 film “Little Women.” The idea for Belle’s yellow ball gown was borrowed from Audrey Hepburn’s gown in the 1953 movie “Roman Holiday.” Careful viewers will notice that Belle is the only person in her village to wear the color blue, symbolic of her being an outsider among the townspeople. When production of the animated feature ran behind schedule, the studio re-used the animation from the dance between Princess Aurora and Prince Phillip in “Sleeping Beauty” for Belle’s dance with Prince Adam.

    Disney Studios released “Pocahontas” on June 23, 1995, the 400th birthday of the real Pocahontas. She was the first Disney princess to be based on an actual historical character. The name Pocahontas is believed to be a nickname for Chief Powhatan’s daughter, meaning “playful one.” The young woman’s given name was Amonute, but she used the name Matoaka. Historians claim that her tribe concealed her name from the English out of “superstitious fear,” concerned that the colonists could do her harm if they had knowledge of her real name. In the Disney interpretation, Pocahontas was the first of the studio’s princesses to have a human best friend.

    The year 2009 brought “The Princess and the Frog” to the big screen with Princess Tiana, the only Disney princess to work an actual job. Although other princesses performed plenty of chores, none were paid for their employment, as was Tiana, who worked as a waitress in 1920s New Orleans while saving to open her own restaurant. The plot deviates from the usual frog becoming a prince. Tiana herself turned into a frog after kissing a frog prince, and embarked on a plan to turn back into a human. Her name comes from the Greek word meaning “princess,” which she becomes when she marries Prince Naveen of Maldonia.    This was the first Disney princess movie to employ digital effects.