In the eponymous star of Disney’s latest princess movie, Moana, the company delivers its first ever Polynesian princess: a whip-smart, athletic heroine who goes on an awe-inspiring quest to save her island home and doesn’t so much as think about falling in love.
But while several recent Disney movies – Moana, Brave and Frozen among them – have mercifully refrained from suggesting that every princess just wants to find a prince, they still haven’t taken that stance to its logical conclusion: that some princesses might want to fall in love with another princess instead.
Now, Moana’s directors have revealed they think we could see an LGBTQ Disney princess in the not-too-distant future. In a recent interview with the Huffington Post, Ron Clements and Jon Musker said they were optimistic about the chances of a non-heterosexual Disney romance.
“It seems like the possibilities are pretty open at this point,” said Clements.
Musker indicated that, equipped with the right team, an LGBTQ Disney princess could appear on our screens sooner than we might think.
“It would be driven by a director or a directorial team that really wanted to push that, but I would say we haven’t ever really had restrictions placed on what we’ve done,” he said.
Calls for an LGBTQ Disney princess have been building in earnest since earlier this year, when Frozen fans took to Twitter to campaign for Princess Elsa to be given a female love interest in the upcoming sequel using the hashtag #GiveElsaAGirlfriend.
2012’s zombie thriller ParaNorman featured the first openly gay character in a mainstream animated picture – the character Mitch (Casey Affleck) talks about his boyfriend – but their love story did not feature prominently in the film.
And the president of GLAAD (formerly the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) says that we are long overdue a depiction of a lesbian and gay relationships in animated movies.
“I think we have reached a point of ‘enough is enough’,” Sarah Kate Ellis told The Hollywood Reporter in June, adding: “These portrayals help real LGBT youth to recognise that they aren’t alone and validate their identity.”
Moana isn’t the first time that Ron Clements and Jon Musker have directed a Disney movie that pushes the boundaries of how we see Disney princesses. The duo’s early films include The Little Mermaid and Aladdin, in which Ariel and Jasmine demonstrate significantly more energy, agency and personality than passive early Disney princesses like Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella.
Later, Clements and Musker directed Hercules – in which the dry-witted Meg spends a large part of the movie being distinctly unimpressed by her supposed hero – and The Princess and the Frog, which featured Disney’s first African-American heroine in the shape of ambitious waitress Tiana.
When it came to directing Moana, both Clements and Musker said that they wanted to make a film that continued to disregard conventional Disney princess tropes.
“There was never a romance in that [Moana] story,” they said. “It was a True Grit thing of this young girl on a quest, and the balance of nature and the fate of her world is at stake.”
It was also important to create a princess who was physically fit and strong, the directors said. “We made her legs fuller and her hips are fuller to make her capable of these action stunts that we wanted to do, where she can dive off cliffs and those sort of things.”
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Their attitude echoes that of Emma Watson, who demanded comfortable costumes to play Belle in the upcoming live-action Beauty and the Beast.
“In Emma’s reinterpretation, Belle is an active princess,” revealed the movie’s costume designer, Jacqueline Durran. “She did not want a dress that was corseted or that would impede her in any way.” Even Belle’s shoes were updated to “something that Belle can run in and that she can go off and save her father in”.
The times, it seems, are a-changing – and not a moment too soon.