Esmeralda and Tinker Bell Have Been Cancelled as Disney Princesses: Here’s Why

disney princesses
Credits: @racookie3 and Disney

Disney Fanatics often refer to all Disney heroines as “Disney Princesses” (although the more hardcore Disney Fanatics might be more specific about their labels), but the reality is that not all female Disney protagonists are royal characters.

Some characters (like Princess Tiana from the 2009 film The Princess and the Frog) marry into their Disney Princess status. Others are born into it.

disney princesses in wreck it ralph

Belle, Pocahontas, Snow White, Elsa, Princess Jasmine, Ariel the little mermaid, Cinderella, and Anna are all examples of Disney heroines (and some of them are also official Disney Princesses). Credit: Pixar / Disney

However, being a Disney Princess in a film doesn’t necessarily mean that one automatically becomes part of the Disney Princess franchise. The franchise is an entirely different ball game!

Some particularly-enthusiastic Disney Princess franchise fans already know that, back in the day, Disney Princesses were very restricted when it came to merchandise.

According to this Mental Floss article, “a character’s merchandise was tied to their movie release — and you definitely couldn’t, say, buy a backpack bearing an image of Cinderella, Ariel, and Belle.”

They’re More Like Guidelines, Anyway

Andy Mooney, the Disney employee who had been in charge of Disney’s Consumer Products Division at the time, reportedly said that “the prevailing wisdom at the studio was that somehow having the princesses gang together would destroy their individual mythology and therefore the value of their films.”

Distinct outfits were a requirement, and so was a lack of eye contact between the Disney Princesses on merchandise. The classic Disney heroines (i.e. Snow White, Cinderella, Princess Aurora, Ariel, Belle, Princess Jasmine, Pocahontas, and Mulan) were the main attractions, but the Pixie Hollow fairy Tinker Bell and the Hunchback of Notre Dame gypsy Esmeralda were actually included, as well!

Tinker Bell, Peter Pan

Tinker Bell in Peter Pan Credit: Disney

Tinker Bell, Meet Anna and Elsa

According to Mooney, Tinker Bell wasn’t “a part of the Princess mythology,” so there was a general unease when it came to her Disney Princess classification — and she did indeed lose that classification. However, Tinker Bell went on to lead her own Pixie Hollow fairy franchise.

According to Mental Floss, “Tinker Bell’s trajectory sheds light on the likely reason Anna and Elsa aren’t technically in the Disney Princess club, either: Frozen is huge enough to be its own franchise.”

When it comes to Esmeralda (the gypsy who enthralled Captain Phoebus, defied Claude Frollo,  and befriended Quasimodo), “the most common theory” is that “she was deemed not marketable to or suitable for kids.”

esmeralda and quasimodo

Credit: Disney

The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996) certainly is a movie with some disturbing and very adult plot points, so Esmeralda’s loss of her Disney Princess franchise membership does make sense on that level.

Modern Disney heroines like Raya from Raya and the Last Dragon (2021) certainly might seem on par with Esmeralda — albeit on a much less extreme level — since Raya focuses on violent combat in many of her film scenes. However, Raya recently became an official Disney Princess, leaving Esmeralda in the dust!

Royalty Is More Than Blood

Disney has not confirmed that Esmeralda’s storyline was deemed too racy for children, or that Tinker Bell was canceled as a Disney Princess because she should never have been one in the first place.

As Mental Floss puts it, “the only thing we know for sure is that Tinker Bell and Esmeralda didn’t lose their Princess status because they aren’t princesses in their stories. Founding member Mulan, after all, has never been one.”

Who is your favorite Disney Princess in the franchise? Do you pay attention to Disney heroines’ official designations, or do you find that you couldn’t care less about whether or not your favorite animated characters are technically princesses?

About Sharon

Sharon is a writer and animal lover from New England. Sharon's two main focuses in her work are Disney's correlations with pop culture and the significance of Disney princesses (which was the basis for her college thesis). When she's not writing about Disney, Sharon spends her time singing, dancing, and cavorting with woodland creatures!

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