There are many Disney heroines, but only 12 Official Disney Princesses. The official lineup of The Disney Princess franchise includes Snow White, Cinderella, Aurora (Sleeping Beauty), Ariel (The Little Mermaid), Belle (Beauty and the Beast), Jasmine (Aladdin), Pocahontas, Mulan, Tiana (Princess and the Frog), Rapunzel (Tangled), Merida (Brave), and Moana. And ever since they have been marketed as a collective group, they have been beloved by fans of all ages.
In fact, 2022 marks “The Ultimate Disney Princess Celebration” for Disney, as they say on their website:
“For the first time in forever, we are celebrating the brave, beloved Disney Princess and Frozen heroes in the Ultimate Princess Celebration. This will be a once-in-a-lifetime, global extravaganza, surprising and delighting fans all year long through content, products, experiences, and more. Join us as we celebrate the heart of gold, and the courage and kindness, these characters inspire in us all.”
But amidst all this celebrating, I have to ask- What about the Disney Dudes?
We have so many epic male Disney heroes. Not all of them are princes, but they still deserve to be standing side by side in an official marketable lineup. Each one offers a different inspiring aspect of their story and a fun personality for young boys to look up to. When it comes to marketing specifically to young boys, Disney’s team usually sticks to Marvel and Pixar properties and Pirates. Walk in the Disney Store or go to ShopDisney.com, and it is plain to see; clothes and toys for the girls are mostly Disney Princesses, while boys’ items consist of The Avengers, Buzz & Woody of Toy Story, Pirates paraphernalia, and LOL (lots of Lightning McQueen). What I would really like to see is more representation of the classic animated heroes from Disney films, especially those gentlemen who are in films under-represented in Disney’s marketing in general.
But who should these 12 brave heroes be? Well, here’s my list:
1. Peter Pan
(Peter Pan, 1953)
“The Boy Who Never Grew Up” and whisked us away, flying to Neverland with faith, trust, and pixie dust. While Peter’s companion Tinkerbell can be found in a lot of Disney merchandise, Peter himself is slightly rarer. Though as a walk-around character in the Disney Parks, he is extremely popular. Peter’s presence always seems to remind others to never forget their inner child. Naturally, as a childhood icon, we would want to see more of him and would love to have him lead this new band of lost boys.
2. Prince Phillip
(Sleeping Beauty, 1959)
Prince Phillip is not your average “Prince Charming.” Not only is he introduced with one of the smoothest pickup lines of all time, “But we’ve met before… Once Upon a Dream…” but he is the only legitimate dragon slayer of any of the Disney princes. He fights with the unfailing power of love and goodness at his side, armed with sword and shield, to defeat the forces of evil and rescue the princess with true love’s kiss. A classic quest with a charming lead? Definitely deserving of a spot in any potential team of Disney heroes.
3, Prince Eric
(The Little Mermaid, 1989)
A Prince, a seafaring adventurer, and a music lover with a heart of gold. That is Prince Eric in a nutshell (or, in his case, seashell). Eric is not only brave, fun-loving, and free-spirited, but he is also a dreamer. Wishing to find the voice of his mysterious rescuer that haunts his dreams more than anything, the love of his life is right under his nose. He does not discover until the film’s climax, and he declares, “I lost her once. I’m not gonna lose her again!” He may make mistakes, but he will do everything in his power to right his wrongs—a valuable lesson for any young man.
4. The Beast
(Beauty and the Beast, 1991)
Inside every man, there is a Beast, and inside even the most seemingly ferocious Beast, there may still be a man. The Beast is a character who is cursed as a young man to be beastly on the outside and in order to match the cruel, vain, and greedy feelings he has inside. Years of isolation and bitterness fed his belief that he was nothing but a monster. But his love for Belle proves that he can be and do more, and he makes a choice to be a man and not a monster, proving he is indeed worthy of love. His story, especially about overcoming his anger toward the world, would be beneficial to growing boys.
5. Aladdin(Aladdin, 1992)
Riff-raff? Street rat? I don’t buy that! There is so much more to this diamond in the rough than meets the eye. From his introductory song, we learn Aladdin is funny, quick, stealthy, and resourceful. All skills he earned surviving as an orphan staying “One Jump Ahead” on the streets of Agrabah. But as we see his story unfold, we also discover he is a loyal friend, kind to those in need, and brave in the face of adversity. Aladdin shows that a hero does not need to be a rich and powerful prince to make a difference. Any team that had Aladdin would be proud he was their boy.
6. Captain Phoebus
(The Hunchback of Notre Dame, 1996)
The Hunchback of Notre Dame is tragically under-represented among fellow Disney properties. But, a special aspect of the film which deserves recognition is the character, Captain Phoebus. Voiced with an excellent performance by Kevin Klien, Phoebus is a charming decorated soldier and recently appointed Captain of the Guard. When he is confronted directly with injustices happening under him, he risks losing everything- even his life, to stand up for what is right. Phoebus is an example of how pivotal the choices one man makes can truly be.
“What makes a true hero?” That is the central question of Disney’s Hercules. At the beginning of his story, Hercules feels like many young boys do, especially in adolescence. He doesn’t fit in, has a hard time making friends, feels uncomfortable with his body, and is seemingly always messing things up. When he trains to become stronger and more controlled, and he begins to perform heroic deeds, he gains public attention and admiration. But, he still is not sure who he really is or where he belongs. It only is after he learns the meaning of what makes a true hero and “goes the distance” that he really becomes a man and finds his place on Earth. Hercules also stands as proof to boys that they can still be the nicest guys in the room and still pack the hardest punch.
8. General Li Shang
Li Shang is a character burdened with his family’s honor. Taking control of a rag-tag band of new recruits as his father heads to the battlefront, Shang “gets down to business” and attempts to make “real men” out of the sad bunch. Under his leadership, his soldiers learned to be tranquil, centered, swift, forceful, and strong. And in a turning point for his character, when one of his recruits betrays him by breaking the laws of the nation they are fighting to protect, he chooses to show mercy. Shang shows both the strength of a leader and the wisdom to know when to follow another.
Tarzan has been far too overlooked in the years following its release. But the mysterious ape-man deserves to be counted among the elite of Disney heroes. Though he faces many physical obstacles–jumping off of cliffs, fighting leopards with his bare hands, out-running angry baboons, and more–his biggest battle, like for most boys, is acceptance. At first, the acceptance of his peers, then his father, then his fellow man. When he fully realizes his identity as a man and chooses to leave his jungle home, Tarzan soon realizes he cannot leave the ones he loves there either. Because he is Tarzan. His lesson is that our past is just as much a part of us as the choices we make for our future.
10. Milo Thatch
(Atlantis: The Lost Empire, 2001)
Perhaps the greatest of the unsung Disney heroes is Milo Thatch: a humble linguistic analyst from the Smithsonian Institution who discovered and saved the entire legendary lost civilization of Atlantis. Michael J. Fox voiced a young man thrown out of his piles of books and into an unexpected expedition that leads him down a road of ancient secrets, magic, and love. Like many boys, Milo is not what one would picture as a conventional hero, not being strong or particularly brave. But he is the definition of a man who rises up to a call to greatness, using his intelligence and passion.
11. Jim Hawkins
(Treasure Planet, 2002)
Though the film has gained a cult following over the years, not much has been seen of the high-concept Treasure Planet or its hero Jim Hawkins. As a young boy, Jim is enchanted by tales of pirates and their daring feats. As a young man abandoned by his father, Jim is jaded and angry at the world. But through a series of chance circumstances, Jim is thrust into an adventure in space that tests his convictions and changes him forever. Jim’s bildungsroman teaches young men the lessons one learns when faced with their small view of the infinitely large universe in which we live.
12. Flynn Rider
Mr. Eugene Fitzherbert–AKA notorious outlaw Flynn Rider–knows exactly what he brings to his team: the smolder. But also a lot more. Growing up an orphan with nothing to his name, Eugene listened to stories of daring adventurers, longing to grow up and become somebody. As an adult, becoming somebody to him meant living in his own castle, or retiring alone on a deserted island surrounded by piles of money. But in helping one special girl fulfill her lifelong dream, he at last saw the light, and she became his new dream. Eugene shows young men that you are never too old to start a new life, or dream a new dream.
And that is my Official Unofficial lineup of The 12 Disney Heroes! Do you think that these men could carry their own line of merchandise? Did you look up to any of these heroes when you were growing up? What Disney guy do you think is the most underrated?