What Disney Princesses say about us

Cinema Still: Moana, featuring the voices of Dwayne Johnson as demi-god Maui (R) and Auli'i Cravalho as Moana (L)
PHOTO: Walt Disney Pictures

Moana is already making waves, but what does the future hold for the studio's animated heroines?

Moana is a groundbreaking film for Disney, because it features the studio's first Polynesian princess - but that's not all.

The film's title character is also the first princess to possess an 'average' body, who unlike her counterparts, does not have a tiny waist and unusually long limbs.

The film has just opened in cinemas and has been winning some positive early reviews, with Slant magazine praising Disney's latest princess for being "neither selfishly rebellious nor simplistically innocent".

Rebecca Hains, author of The Princess Problem: Guiding Our Girls through the Princess-Obsessed Years, definitely views Moana's physical appearance as progress.

"I think that's very significant," she says. "It's clear to me that Disney has been listening to its critics. Having more heroines on screen who have a more average body type is really important, and it's a positive sign that Disney is taking some of these parental concerns to heart."

But conservative writer and talk show host Debbie Schlussel sees a thicker framed Moana as one more example of political correctness gone too far.

"I think it tells girls that they don't have to be fit," she says. "I think it's setting up girls for unhealthy lives in the future and also for disappointing romantic lives."

Princess problems

The film's male mythological figure, Maui, a demigod of South Pacific legend, has also been criticised for being too big and bulky, and giving a distorted view of Polynesians.

But Disney's princesses always attract a special scrutiny because those characters so thoroughly pervade the minds of young girls.

"We're seeing girls as young as 2 and 3 wanting to be princesses," says Hains.

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