Disney princess culture is alive in Calgary

If you have in your possession seven short roommates, a glass slipper, a magic spinning wheel, a flying carpet, an enchanted castle, singing woodland creatures or a 70-foot mane of glowing golden hair, then you have the makings to be a Disney princess. For millions of little girls, that is the dream.

Disney princess mania is about to land in Calgary.

From Dec. 27 to Jan. 1, Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast: The Broadway Musical” will be playing at the Southern Alberta Jubilee Auditorium. The original film will be back in theatres Jan. 13 in Disney Digital 3D as well.

For young girls like nine-year-old Ashleigh Coldwell, seeing a Disney Princess live can be an exhilarating experience. She has already seen the stage musical when it first came to Calgary and also got a chance to visit with princesses in Disneyland.

“She was just in awe,” Ashleigh’s mom, Jennifer Ryan said of seeing Beauty and the Beast’s character Belle live. “A magic came over her and her whole face lit up and she’s all-consumed by this one person standing in front of her.”

Since 1937, when “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” appeared on screen, promoted by Walt Disney himself as the first ever full-length animated feature, the Walt Disney Company has produced almost 75 years of memorable movies for the young at heart.

In the following years, Snow White would be joined by nine more unique princesses — starting with Cinderella in 1950, Aurora in 1959, Ariel in 1989, Belle in 1991, Jasmine in 1992, Pocahontas in 1995, Mulan in 1998, Tiana in 2009 and most recently Rapunzel in 2010.

Little “princesses” Sophie (left) and Ashleigh Coldwell, bond with their mom Jennifer Ryan Sunday nights when they watch princess movies together. Ryan says she doesn’t worry about princess culture negatively impacting her daughters because, “It’s nice to be able to dream.”
Photo by: Allison Chorney
Ashleigh has found a favorite princess in Belle and can often be found dancing around her home in the princess’ trademark yellow dress. Ryan said she had the same fascination growing up as Ashleigh, but for Ryan it was Snow White that was her favorite.

Ryan has recently enjoyed being able to share memories with her daughters, Ashleigh and two-year old Sophie, watching the CBC Sunday night movies. This past Sunday, they sat down together and watched “Beauty and the Beast.”

“It’s the same as I felt about Snow White,” Ryan said. “It was my grandfather’s favorite movie and it holds memories for me and I hope that’s what it creates for Ashleigh.”

Ashleigh isn’t alone in her fascination. Thousands of children flock to Disney stores around the world to grab dolls, plush toys, pajamas or play sets bearing the characters’ faces from the newest films.

Kirsty Miller watches Disney fans of all ages flood in to explore the newly renovated Disney Store as one of the managers at the Southcentre Mall location.

“The new store is designed to create a place for kids to come in and experience Disney with their full imagination,” Miller said.

The store boasts a play castle for the inner princess to try on dresses, a child-powered windmill, and a giant screen where children can see their names magically appear on their birthday.

“Every time a new movie comes out or one is re-released in theatres, we see an increase in sales,” Miller said. “Right now it’s all about Rapunzel, but I expect we’ll see the same increase as “Beauty and the Beast [the Broadway Musical]” comes to town and as the movie goes into 3D in January.”

Disney has recently made being a princess a truly royal occasion. In the past two years. Disney princesses have started receiving official coronations. The first African-American princess, Tiana, from “The Princess and the Frog,” was welcomed to the royal court in New York City in 2010, and Rapunzel from “Tangled” received a procession this year in London to welcome her.

Although the Disney princesses are being brought into modern day, some might wonder what influence they have on young girls. Is it an old-fashioned belief to want the dress, the crown, the castle and to wait for your prince to come? Mom Jennifer Ryan believes not.

“That’s not who my parents raised me to be and that’s not how I raise my daughters,” Ryan said. “So much fun gets taken out of life and I think you have to have that magic. It’s nice to be able to dream.”

skingsmith@cjournal.ca