It’s no secret that Disney princesses have come a long way from the original damsel in distress archetype that they were known for — even though some Disney fans still attest to the strength of beloved princess characters like Cinderella or Snow White — and Disney actress Susan Egan enthused about the evolution of Disney princesses recently on the D23 podcast! Susan Egan is best known for originating the role of Belle on Broadway in Beauty and the Beast and for voicing Megara in Hercules (1997), and the original Belle is currently on tour with Disney Princess – The Concert.
“I love how Disney over time has humanized them,” Susan said on the podcast, after first clarifying that the “original three” Disney princesses were iconic because Snow White, Cinderella, and Sleeping Beauty were where “courage and kindness started” for Disney heroines. She was particularly enthusiastic about Tangled character Rapunzel and her relatable nature.
“I love that my favorite, Rapunzel, is neurotic as all get-out,” Susan said. “She vacillates between ‘best day ever’ and ‘I’m a horrible daughter’ because that’s reality [and] how we all are on any given day…it’s okay to not be perfect. It’s okay to make mistakes”.
Susan also pointed out a surprising flaw in the character Belle, suggesting that Disney princesses started becoming more relatable and realistic even earlier than many Disney fans might have realized. “I’ve always said this about Belle,” the original Belle from Broadway explained. “People…think ‘oh the Beast has to learn a lesson, but it’s like, Belle learns the same lesson. Yes, she doesn’t judge a book by its cover, but then she’s judging the ‘little town full of little people’. That’s not a nice sentiment,” Susan laughed. “And she realizes through her own journey that the magic has always been there. And that it’s the way you choose to see it and the way that you engage in the people around you. And as much as those villagers didn’t give her a chance, she wasn’t giving them a chance either.”
Although the shift away from Disney princesses’ focus on romance and happily ever afters (or true love’s kiss) is the most noticeable aspect of Disney princesses’ evolution, the shifts in their characters to include noticeable anxieties or misjudgments of other people are also worth considering! Since Susan Egan is currently touring with other Broadway stars who have played Disney princesses (including Courtney Reed, Arielle Jacobs, Anneliese van der Pol, and Syndee Winters) or Disney heroines during Disney Princess – the Concert, the discussion of Disney princesses can continue even further.