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Female Empowerment: It’s time for our Disney Princesses to Step Up

Despite the substantial progress made in the design of Disney Princesses to advocate more progressive female qualities, there are still massive opportunities for Disney to use its Princesses as a lever to further ignite Female Empowerment.

Why do we let our kids believe that Santa Claus is real? Or replace the tooth they placed under their pillows with a dollar bill? Most adults do so without pausing and asking why? Why am I doing this?

Adults tend to overlook the importance of imagination. It is a trait, that we advocate for our kids, but often overlook its importance ourselves.

Why is imagination important? My answer is imagination is important because it begets hope. Your greatest ambitions, dreams, and desires all rest on one ingredient, hope. Without hope, why bother having any ambitions?

This is why we allow our daughters to immerse themselves in the dystopian world of fairies, magic, and beautiful princesses.

But we must understand the importance of not only encouraging imagination but also directing it to something positive.

My 5-year-old niece, like many 5-year-old girls in the world, is an admirer of Disney Princesses. She fantasizes about being one, dresses up as one, and enjoys being called "Princess Ariel" or "Princess Elsa".

I can't help but ask myself, what is the value of having such imaginations? Am I hoping that my daughter would one day grow to embody the traits of a Disney Princess?

But what did these princesses do, to deserve such status?

What traits from these Disney Princesses do we want our daughters to embody?

What missions and goals did these Disney Princesses strive for?

What impact did these Disney princesses make in their society and the world around them?

Let's take a short look at a simple analysis of some of the classic Disney Princesses. Even though these stories were written a very long time ago, these Princesses are still immensely popular with young girls even today.

Imagine being in the shoes of a 5-year-old girl watching this movie, how would you view the role of women in our society?

There is a deep level of passiveness in each of the Disney Princesses above, a state of being incomplete that can only be solved through the actions of a handsome prince for example.

To Disney's credit, there have been significant improvements in the advocation of more progressive female qualities over time. If we were to compare the year in which a Disney Princess was first publicized with the level of progressive female qualities possessed by each Princess, I'm betting that there will be a correlation indicating substantial progress.

As a quick illustration of this point, Snow White was first publicized in 1937, Princess Jasmine in 1994, Mulan in 1998, Frozen in 2013, and Moana in 2016.

The Story of Moana: A Prime Example of the Power of Disney Princesses to Ignite Female Empowerment

The story of Moana, in my opinion, is a great leap from other stories of Disney Princesses. Moana is a princess that I would want my daughter to learn from in the future.

In the early stages of the story, Moana asked her father, "what if we fish beyond the reef?". She was told not to go beyond the reef, but against everyone's advice, still chose to do so. This demonstrates curiosity and a willingness to challenge existing beliefs and ideas.

Moana learned from her grandmother that she needed to save the ocean by restoring the heart of Te Fiti. She trusted her gut and went on a voyage to restore the heart of Te Fiti. This demonstrates ambition.

Along the way, Moana faced a series of challenges and setbacks and overcame them all. This demonstrates resilience.

At the end of the movie, while fighting the main antagonist of the story, Moana learned that the main antagonist of the story is not an evil monster, but a kind being, she used that insight to her advantage. This demonstrates a deep understanding and awareness of the kindness that exists in everyone's heart, and more importantly, in your own heart.

Despite the substantial progress made in the design of Disney Princesses to advocate more progressive female qualities, there are still massive opportunities for Disney to use its Princesses as a lever to further ignite Female Empowerment.

Perhaps it is worth considering an alternative approach in designing the next Disney Princes.

An Alternative Method of Designing Disney Princesses, powered by Design-Thinking

  1. Identify Problem Statements: What are some of the burning challenges we face today with gender inequality and the lack of female empowerment?

  2. Run Customer Discovery Initiatives: Interview or hold Focus Group Discussions (FGD) with parents of young girls to identify traits that they wish their daughters would embody when they grow up

  3. Analyze Customer Insights: Synthesize and analyze findings from the customer discovery initiatives

  4. Insert Disney Vision and Values: Come up with an internal "Disney Perspective" on the traits that Disney want girls to embody when they grow up based on Disney's vision and values

  5. Build Prototypes of Disney Princesses: Based on the customer insights and Disney's vision and values, prototype several Princesses

  6. Test Prototypes with Real Customers: Test the Princess Prototypes with real customers (both young girls and their parents)

  7. Repeat

What characters would you want the next Disney princess to embody? What would her story be? What would you want your daughter to learn from her? What do you think about the role of a handsome prince? Is it still a necessity?

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Luciano Wilcox
Luciano Wilcox
02 mar 2021


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