Author Emily Zimmler delves into the rich history of Disney princesses in a beautiful new book

The long and written history of Disney princesses may seem like a deeply touched topic. But under the guise of skilled journalist-turned-writer Emily Zimmler, it turns out that there is still much to explore.

In Zemler’s thoughtful, deeply researched, compelling and beautifully illustrated new book, Disney Princess: Beyond the CrownZemler examines the long history of famous Disney characters, from Snow White to Ariel, through a myriad of lenses, from marketing and how they fit into their eras to today’s perspective.

I spoke at length with Zimler about what princess wanted to be a child, how princesses have changed over the decades, why everyone wants to be a Disney princess and so much more.

Steve Paltin: When did you start working on the book?

Emily Zimmler: I was contacted about this book in January of 2021, and it was a perfect moment for me because I had absolutely none. Many have come to a halt during the pandemic and a lot of work has been lost. I’ve worked on a bunch of stuff for Disney Publishing, and [a publisher who is at their Disney licensee Portal] He recommended this book to me. The whole idea was, “Can we do a book on the cultural history of the Disney Princess? And if so, what does that look like?” And it was. I had a marketing hype, and then I had to find out, “What is this book?” That took a little time. And I mostly wrote it last spring, there was a very long review and editing process last summer, and then there was a long layout and selection of images and the process of writing captions, and we were honestly adjusting this until the day it came to printers earlier this year.

Paltin: What princess did you want to be when you were growing up?

Zimler: I think my answer is really general, but it was Ariel, I was absolutely desperate to be Ariel. I loved the little Mermaid Very deeply, she was very quarrelsome and a little rebellious and was going to do whatever she wanted. But not only that, her hair looked really good floating in the water. And like everyone I know, every girl I know, maybe boys too, will walk into the pool and wave your hair like you’re Ariel. Yes, it was my first. She loved them all, but she was the one who really called her. Apparently it was crazy that Jodi Benson wrote an introduction to this because Ariel called my cell phone, and she looked like Ariel.

Paltin: Do you know why they approached you to do this? Have you written a lot about princesses or Disney?

Zimmler: I had a lot of things I did with Disney. So I wrote “Art” and “Making Of” Aladdin live work Aladdin The Guy Ritchie movie, so I made one of their “Art” and “Making Of” books. Then Disney hired me. You’d never know I wrote these, but inside this special edition Blu-Ray DVD I wrote these little “Making Of” features. So if you own a Blu-Ray for live action Mulan, you may come across something you typed. So they knew I had a longstanding understanding of the characteristics of Disney and how Disney expresses them. I think they were just looking for someone who could give it a new look, because there are quite a few writers who have written all the books about Disney princesses. I won’t name names, but there are a few guys who have written most of the “Making Of” books for the movies and books for other Disney princesses, so I think they were prepared for a younger, more feminine perspective on the subject.

Paltin: What have been the biggest and most surprising things about writing the book?

Zimmler: You start to remember watching all these movies and then you realize you know all the lines and all the songs, and then that can lead to different paths. But I rewatched literally everything. I re-watched every animated movie, every sequel, every live-action reimagined, every separate TV show, every weird interpretation, like a Disney Channel. Grandsons. And so I realized that I knew all the characters really well, but I didn’t necessarily know their maximum influence. So I wasn’t aware of how advanced they were in the culture. And I remembered watching different videos of “Making Of”, so I kind of learned about the animation and got to know who voiced it. But I had, quite frankly, no idea how well integrated Disney princesses are into our culture.

Paltin: What makes everyone want to be a Disney princess?

Zimler: It’s not just women who feel that, because I’ve talked to people who identify with them as male too, especially the gay icon Ariel. And why we want to be them is because they live dreams, a way for us to live indirectly through them. So like Ariel is a fantastical creature and a beautiful mermaid, she has a talking fish friend and a talking seagull friend, and how fun is that? But then, too, you dream of something bigger. and I know the little Mermaid It could be described as being like, “Oh, she’s giving up her voice for a guy.” But I actually don’t think that’s what happens, because she knew about humans and wanted to be human long before she set her eyes on Prince Eric. So I think Disney Princesses are codes for what we want to be, and they show us that we can really dream big too. Just as we can also wear a beautiful ball gown, which many women do on their wedding day, in an attempt to conjure up a Disney princess. Or celebrities do it on the red carpet, dressed in a Cinderella dress. So it’s like the thought of, “Wow, that’s an amazing character with an amazing journey. What if I could have that?”

Paltin: Which princess would you like to be now?

Zimmler: I have to say I really like Tiana. Really like Tiana. The Princess and the Frog I came out after I wasn’t a kid anymore, so I had a different experience with this movie. But if you go back and watch it, it’s really fun. The songs are really fun, the characters are really fun, and she wears a great dress. And I really like that it’s presented like, “If you work really hard, you’ll make your dreams come true.” I think you and I can handle that. Work hard, maybe you will succeed. You have to make the effort. So I really love her. I really like Rapunzel in tangled. I think she just got that kind of fun and free vibe to her. Some Disney princesses have these really dark stories, and you’re a little worried about them. And Rapunzel’s background is a little dark, but she is very optimistic and relaxed.

Paltin: What was your first Disney movie?

Zimmler: I think it was in the theatre Sleeping Beauty. Which was re-released, because they used to re-show movies in theaters every two years. If I remember correctly, I was taken to see Sleeping Beauty In the theater, I was so frightened of the dragon that I had to take me out.

Paltin: Do you remember what was the first thing I washed you in?

Zimler: Maybe it was in terms of being in the theater the little Mermaid. Because I remember going with my uncle, and we had to sit in the front row because it was so full. So I was probably literally immersed in it, because I was stuck in the front row and obviously saw a few others on VHS at home, but I think that’s a different experience than being in the theater.

Paltin: Can you imagine that after all these years, you’ll have a book about Disney princesses?

Zimmler: No, absolutely not. I would never have imagined that. And I did these interviews, and people were like, “How did this book allow you to live the Disney Princess dream?” And I don’t really know the answer to that. Because when I was a kid, I didn’t want to be a writer, I wanted to be a director. And obviously, I’ve always been in touch with the movie, and I’ve always had an echo of a story on screen. But yeah, I don’t think I would have imagined that this is where my career path would have taken me. I think my writing career has taken a lot of weird twists and turns. I wrote the obituary of the Queen of England. Like this, you know, a little unexpected.

Paltin: Tell me about the pictures in the book.

Zimmler: It’s a very visual coffee table book. I was involved in handpicking all the photos, and there were some that I struggled to get into the book, because I felt like you don’t understand the reach unless you saw an ammonia photo marked with Snow White. . If I only told you, “Yes, there were Snow White cleaning products.” You’d be like, “Okay, that’s weird.” But if I show you a picture of snow white ammonia and snow white bleach, it’s crazy. That’s the extent to which this movie has been marketed, and it was commercialized that far before Star Wars was commercialized.

Paltin: Are there princesses for you that you’re surprised at the way they age?

Zimler: One of the main things for me in writing this is that I think I’ve come to really appreciate both princesses more. When you grow up, they’re kind of like these fun personalities who like to dress up and be friends with their animal friends. But when you look at it again with a more significant lens, you can understand the idea that it was a reflection of time. So when Snow White was created, it wasn’t necessarily that society expected a woman to be a housewife, it was taken as a certain kind of ideal, being a really good janitor and a nice companion that was one of the ideals of women of that era. So that doesn’t make it a problem, it just means that it was created at a certain time. They were created at a similar time to Shirley Temple, which does not necessarily resonate with the same values ​​we hold to today. So I really found an appreciation for both the princesses I might not have, like I’ve been saying with Ariel and the Prince, she doesn’t give up her voice just for a man. She gives up her voice, because it represents a world that she wants to be a part of. And that’s, I think, a better way to look at that story. And it’s not that you can’t criticize the characters, or say like, “We don’t want these kinds of characters to be on screen anymore,” but I think it’s helpful to see them as a product of their time, and Disney sees them that way too. You can tell by the way they have adapted it to the current era. So when they created the Disney Princess franchise, the official type of character compilation for a marketing purpose, they were able to adapt the characters and highlight some of their most important traits. So the characters become more adventurous in marketing, or they get games that reflect traits of the characters that may not have been highlighted at the time. They really started making sets that were more inspired by the movie character. Recently, there was a Frozen shoe collection for frozen 2. That was Ruthie Davis. That was really amazing. They did too Mulan Combine with Ruthie Davis that they’re like giant staple heels, it’s really funky. wonderful. In gaming class, I try to think. I really liked the Lego sets. One of the things I really liked, and you can still find it at Target or Walmart, is the bow and arrow Rapunzel. I couldn’t find weapons when I was a kid, those were for boys. Like boys, they should have light swords or bows and arrows, but girls did not have them. And I love the idea of ​​a little girl going to the store and getting Rapunzel’s bow and arrow.

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