Celebrating Disney Princesses of Colour

Something a little different from me. Today I want to celebrate some Disney Princesses.

You can’t escape seeing merchandise adorned with the likes of Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Merida, Ariel, and Snow White – and of course the as yet unofficial Disney Princesses of Frozen’s Anna & Elsa.

But as well as being Disney women, they also have something else on common – all of them are white.

As parents of a mixed race daughter, it’s important we include representations of girls & women of colour in stories, films, and merchandise she is exposed to. As far as Disney Princesses are concerned, the women of colour tend to be far less prominent than their caucasian counterparts, so here are some Disney Princesses of colour that I have made a point of introducing our daughter to.

Princess Jasmine in Aladdin (1992)

Disney Women of Colour, Disney Princesses of Colour, Disney Women of Color, Disney Princesses of Color, Princess Jasmine, Aladdin, 1992
‘Aladdin’ (1992), Dirs: Ron Clements, John Musker
© Walt Disney Pictures

One of the early films in the Disney Renaissance, this sees Princess Jasmine as the female lead opposite the eponymous Aladdin. Of presumably Persian royalty, she is a character who is destined for an arranged marriage but is looking for more than a foppish or arrogant prince. Could Aladdin be the one?

The animation is classic Disney, the characterisation very American, and the songs are catchy enough. Jasmine has an independent spirit, but storywise she’s really there to support Aladdin. And the fact is that the human characters are all upstaged my Robin William’s genie anyway – one of the first times a big star was cast in an animated movie.

Probably the best reviewed and most popular film on this list, it is a fairly safe choice. However, some scenes may be a bit intense for young children. I had lots of cuddles during the finale.

Pocahontas (1995)

Pocahontas, 1995, Disney Women of Colour, Disney Princesses of Colour, Disney Women of Color, Disney Princesses of Color
‘Pocahontas’ (1995), Dirs: Mike Gabriel, Eric Goldberg
© Walt Disney Pictures

Imagine Avatar minus spaceships, plus songs. That’s kind of what Pocahontas is.

I’m doing this film a disservice. While it was cited as one of the main sources of theft inspiration for James Cameron’s sci-fi saga, it’s a far more involving movie than that (not a fan).

A highly fictionalised version of the true story, this focuses on the romance between the Native American ‘princess’ Pocahontas and the English Captain John Smith.

Pocahontas shares similarities with Princess Jasmine, in that she is expected to be married off to a husband of her father’s choosing – but she wants more.

Featuring some stunning design and animation, this was a far better movie than I remember. It was an engaging mix of comedy, drama, and action – and a great starting point for conversations about race, colonialism, and the consequences of the choices we make. The casting of Mel Gibson as John Smith, in this tale of racial tolerance, seems somewhat ironic in the light of later events

I also found myself humming the standout musical numbers of ‘Just Around the River Bend’ and ‘Colours of the Wind’ for many days afterwards.

Mulan (1998)

'Mulan' (1998), Dirs: Tony Bancroft, Barry Cook  © Walt Disney Pictures
‘Mulan’ (1998), Dirs: Tony Bancroft, Barry Cook
© Walt Disney Pictures

Based on the Chinese legend of Hua Mulan (or Fa Mulan), and voiced by Ming-Na Wen (now well known as Melinda May in Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.), Mulan is a woman who joins the Chinese army in the place of her elderly father, disguising herself as a man.

The film possibly tries a little to hard with the ‘women can do what men do too’ angle, and it perhaps falls into the trap of songs that pause rather than progress the plot – but the most memorable number of all, ‘I’ll Make a Man Out of You’ navigates this adeptly.

Mulan is a welcome Disney Princess because she is a woman of action. We need more of those, alongside princesses known for dancing or sleeping.

Honourable Mention…

Esmeralda in The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996)

Esmeralda The Hunchback of Notre Dame, 1996, Disney Women of Colour, Disney Princesses of Colour, Disney Women of Color, Disney Princesses of Color
‘The Hunchback of Notre Dame’ (1996), Dirs: Mike Gabriel, Eric Goldberg
© Walt Disney Pictures

You probably won’t find Esmeralda on any backpack or water bottle at the Disney Store. She was never fully admitted to the hallowed ranks of the Disney Princesses, and has now all but disappeared from the world of Disney. This is a real shame.

Based on the book by Victor Hugo, the film liberally adapts many elements of the story, including this character. Voiced by Demi Moore, here Esmeralda is a dark skinned Romani Gypsy, who displays the exuberance of a woman who is confident and adventurous, as well as being kind and empathetic.

Set against a backdrop of the Romani people being demonised as subhuman criminals (sound familiar?), Esmeralda is both despised and lusted after by the villain of the tale Judge Frollo, who is waging a campaign against all Romani in Paris yet is having trouble dealing with some repressed feelings for Esmeralda. She is a trusted member of her community, who is older and wiser than most Disney females, a step ahead from the teenage heroines we are generally used to.

Again, this film offers a good starting point for discussions about discrimination and injustice, while presenting a well rounded female character who is full of life and determination.

And I wish I could get my daughter an Esmeralda lunchbox at the Disney Store.

Representation Matters

Disney have made a decent effort over the past twenty or so years to be more racially diverse (recent examples also include Princess Tiana in The Princess and the Frog, and the forthcoming Moana, set in the south pacific). While I appreciate there are overriding issues with gender representation and Disney Princesses (admittedly only two of these movies – barely – pass the Bechdel Test), that is something that I can address by talking to my daughter about these stories. But there is no substitute for her seeing women who look like her, or at least the woman she will grow up to be, on films, tv, and merchandise.

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Disclosure: I am a member of the Netflix #StreamTeam program. Our household receives free Netflix for a year and I post about how our family uses the service.

To check out these Disney movies featuring women of colour, please head to Netflix.

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Has the New Big Screen Batgirl Been Revealed?

We knew Jena Malone (The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, Inherent Vice, Contact) was cast in the forthcoming Batman V Superman movie, and it was assumed that she was most likely being set up as a female Robin, as depicted in The Dark Knight Returns comic.

However, Latino Review reports that this may not be the case – that she may in fact be playing Barbara Gordon, aka Batgirl. The character was previously seen onscreen in the critically mauled Batman and Robin, played by Alicia Silverstone.

What do you think? Would she make a good onscreen Batgirl?

Playtest: LEGO Star Wars – Imperial Assault Carrier (From Star Wars Rebels)

For our latest LEGO playtest, we chose the Star Wars Imperial Assault Carrier. It’s based on one of the Empire’s spaceships from the Star Wars Rebels TV show, which featured prominently in the finale of season 1.

Initially the main attraction for us was the choice of minifigures – specifically, this set includes the female Rebel fighter Sabine Wren. She’s been in a previously released LEGO Star Wars set, but this time she comes with the addition of her distinctive Mandalorian armour helmet.

LEGO Sabine is such a badass #StarWarsRebels

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Sabine’s outnumbered by the Empire, as this comes with five other mini figures – all of them imperial: Agent Kallus, an Imperial Officer, 2 x Tie Fighter pilots, and an Imperial Astromech Droid (aka R2 unit).

LEGO Star Wars Imperial Assault Carrier 75106 minifigures, Star Wars Rebels LEGO

This is a large set with over 1,200 pieces, and it took us a few construction sessions to finally assemble it, following the 170 page instruction booklet.

It was really fun to construct, with a mixture of standard and technic elements, and a great activity for me to share with my 3-year-old daughter. While putting together a LEGO build of this nature on her own is clearly not feasible yet (the set advises age 9-14), the experience of assisting me helps her with many aspects of her development of such as motor skills, patience, and following instructions.

She was constantly asking me, over the days it took us to make this, to ‘do another packet’ (the numbered bags that large sets are divided into – this one has nine).

LEGO Star Wars Imperial Assault Carrier 75106 Tie Fighters underneath CROP
Inspecting the undercarriage

The finished vehicle has a number of neat little extra elements and moving parts, such as:

  • 4 releasable mini Tie Fighters
  • A missile launcher (with a locker for spares)
  • Rotating mini cannon turrets (also with storage for spare ammo)
  • Removable top
  • Hinged cockpit

Plus it has a hook as part of the structure, for flying it around going “Vroom, pew pew!”. At least, that’s what we used it for.

The set has a kind of dual scale element, as the Tie Fighters are much smaller relative to the Tie Fighter pilots. I kind of liked this approach.

Tie Fighter and Tie Fighter Pilot minifig from LEGO Star Wars Imperial Assault Carrier 75106 CROP

The little Tie Fighters are also the perfect size for my daughter to fly around.

She is delighting in the play opportunities this set affords, and is already engaging Sabine in joint adventures with a fellow female star wars minifig Princess Leia from the Imperial Shuttle set.

As the father of a mixed-race fangirl, I admit to being a little disappointed that Sabine’s skin colour seems to have changed from the light brown of the show to light pink here. But she still looks badass.

And while we’re talking about changes, did you know that the Imperial Officer minifig is in fact an Imperial Postman (according to a certain 3-year-old).

My daughter has decided that this sad, dejected, desperate looking LEGO Star Wars figure – is a postman.

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The Imperial Assault Carrier is a great addition to our LEGO Star Wars collection. While the ship seemed a little uninspiring from imagery prior to getting it, in reality it is a really cool vehicle when constructed. As with her other Star Wars LEGO sets, my daughter has made no attempt to pull this apart as she’s enjoying using is as a playset and prop far too much.

Star Wars Rebels LEGO, LEGO Star Wars Imperial Assault Carrier 75106, Review====

Disclaimer: While I was not paid to write this review, we did receive this LEGO set free of charge. All opinions stated remain our own.

The LEGO Star Wars – Imperial Assault Carrier set (75106) has a RRP of ÂŁ99.99, and can be purchased from Amazon.

Family Fever

Marvel UK’s 1978 Star Wars Weekly Comic

A Cover Gallery of a Slightly Different Galaxy Far, Far Away

While recently rifling through the boxes of stuff I still have cluttering up my parents house, I found one containing my old Star Wars Weekly comics.

For many a young Star Wars fan in 1970’s Britain this was their first exposure to the galaxy far, far away.

While the movie was released in London at the tail end of 1977, over half a year after it debuted in the US, it took many months to reach the rest of the country outside the capital. The Marvel Comics adaptation first appeared on UK shores in the shape of a reprinted large format 2 issue US Treasury Edition, but more widely in February 1978 with Marvel UK’s immensely popular Star Wars Weekly.

The 6 issue monthly US run was divided and published across 12 black & white weekly UK issues – with various age-innapropriate back up stories making up the rest of the comic.

While Star Wars Weekly shared a few covers with its monthly US cousin, the vast majority were different – and at times bear little resemblance in terms of look, plot, or character to the actual movie. What they do have in spades is bombast and melodrama.

This was the way I understood Star Wars until I was actually taken to see it (in April 1978, a year after it’s US release). Seeing these covers reawakened evocative memories of those months before I saw the movie, of what I thought was happening in the story, rather than what actually did.

So here they are – to experience for the first time or to rekindle childhood memories – the first twelve Marvel UK Star Wars Weekly covers.

Marvel UK Star Wars Weekly Comic 1978 - issue 1
The same cover as the US Marvel issue 1. Quite how Luke was on course to destroy the galaxy remains to be seen. The promise of the cut-out X-Wing far exceeded the reality.
Marvel UK Star Wars Weekly Comic 1978 - issue 2
I love the colours of this cover, and the scene depicted is a striking one that really made me want to see the movie. The cut-out Tie Fighter was even less exciting when assembled than the X-Wing.
Marvel UK Star Wars Weekly Comic 1978 - issue 3
I love the fact that this cover (a US one) shows Luke taking charge in the cantina fracas – when of course we know he was pushed around while Ob-Wan dealt with it.
Marvel UK Star Wars Weekly Comic 1978 - issue 4
Enter Han Solo, but with Luke once again shown taking charge and telling everyone what to do. As a kid, I always thought the faces looked more like they originated from Asia.
Marvel UK Star Wars Weekly Comic 1978 - issue 5
I can only assume this cover has some kind of Close Encounters of the Third Kind idea going on with the 3 phases concept. And of course we didn’t see Luke – or anyone – battle the Death Star yet. Han looks far more scared than his onscreen space pirate persona was.
Marvel UK Star Wars Weekly Comic 1978 - issue 6
Our first look at Princess Leia on this (badly) reprinted US cover, who looked more ‘exotic’ to me than the photos I had previously seen. I was also struck with how completely unlike the real actors Han and Luke had also been drawn here. Having said all that, it was a pretty exciting looking cover.
Marvel UK Star Wars Weekly Comic 1978 - issue 7
I loved this cover. Great colours, dynamic action – and pretty fair to the scene in the movie too.
Marvel UK Star Wars Weekly Comic 1978 - issue 8
I always thought this was a rather mundane cover given the part of the story that’s being depicted.
Marvel UK Star Wars Weekly Comic 1978 - issue 9
Again a fairly functional cover, but I like the panel approach.
Marvel UK Star Wars Weekly Comic 1978 - issue 10
A wonderfully melodramatic scene of what was one of the calmest parts of the story – going to the rebel base. I think by this time I had seen the movie, and it was my first realisation that you shouldn’t judge a (comic) book by it’s cover. It’s interesting that the base is referred to as “The Hidden Fortress” – the name of the Kurosawa movie that was cited by George Lucas as a key inspiration on Star Wars.
Marvel UK Star Wars Weekly Comic 1978 - issue 11
A rather loose interpretation of Luke’s part in attacking the Death Star (or “Death-Station”). I remember I kind of wished this scene had happened, as it looks like Luke’s X-Wing is about to fly into the same room as Vader, who is then going to fight it off with his lightsaber.
Marvel UK Star Wars Weekly Comic 1978 - issue 12
This cover made me realise what the film was missing – a lightsaber duel between Luke and Vader. As it is, this is a nice rendition of the conflict in both spirit and (filmic) reality – although the way Luke is holding his lightsaber has always annoyed me.

Checking out these covers was quite a blast down memory lane. One thing I do remember is that I was often more excited than my friends about the latest issue coming out – for instance I have a vivid memory of taking issue 5 out on the playground to read (in the rain) because I couldn’t wait until later, while my friends just wanted to run around. Even then it seemed I was a bigger Star Wars fanboy than my peers.

Star Wars is now back with Marvel Comics (as they are both owned by Disney), and a new generation of Star Wars fan is going to grow up with their own movies – starting with The Force Awakens – and hopefully a Marvel Comics adaptation too.

As we wait for Episode VII to be revealed to the world, I can’t help but wonder if my daughter will have her own memories of Star Wars comic covers, as vivid as those I have for these British ones.

Star Wars Weekly Cover Gallery

Win This Fantastic Rockabilly Lottie Doll!

My daughter recently received a new Lottie doll, kind of as a thank you from them for our previous post about these great dolls. For a general overview for why we like Lottie so much, please have a read of it.

However, while those other Lotties are awesome, I think this new one might be our favourite yet.

My daughter's latest addition to her @lottie_dolls collection. She rocks! 🙂

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We like this one so much we’re offering you the chance to own one too.

What’s so great about the Rockabilly Lottie doll?

The first thing that struck me about Rockabilly Lottie is her outfit is exactly like the kind of cool and quirky mash-up my daughter would put together. We’ve been letting her choose her own outfits since she turned 3, and she comes up with some amazing combinations.

Mixing a tutu with leggings and a vintage Letter Jacket is her kind of outfit. In fact, the other day we tried to replicate Rockabilly Lottie using items from her wardrobe – we came pretty close don’t you think?

Why we love @lottie_dolls – she's a lot like my daughter 🙂

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The only condition we really place on my daughter when choosing an outfit is that it needs to be weather appropriate. Other than that, pretty much anything goes (though I admit I did persuade her not to wear her micro-skirt as an even smaller dress recently).

I feel Rockabilly Lottie is a character who exhibits the same exuberance, of a child not yet confined by social strictures of how you should or should not dress.

This is yet another Lottie that will help reinforce my daughter’s self-esteem as she grows, supporting her in making choices that may be outside of what is considered the norm.

If Rockabilly Lottie were an actual little girl, I would love my daughter to be friends with her. She is a character who truly embodies her slogan of “Be Bold. Be Brave. Be You.” – an inspirational message for all of us.

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Disclaimer: While I was not paid to write this piece, my daughter did receive the featured doll free of charge.
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See below for your chance to win your own Rockabilly Lottie doll, or alternatively you can purchase one here.

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Rockabilly Lottie Doll, Lottie Dolls, Lottie Doll, Lottie

*** Please note that the competition is open entrants from all countries ***

First Look at Wonder Woman in ‘Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice’

While it’s pretty clear that Star Wars – The Force Awakens was the big winner at Comic-Con 2015, the Princess Leia reveal overshadowed another iconic female character who’s returning to our screens soon.

A new trailer for Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice gave us our first look at the brand new big screen Wonder Woman (played by Gal Gadot) in action.

Wonder Woman, Dawn of Justice, Batman V Superman, Gal Gadot

Wonder Woman, Dawn of Justice, Batman V Superman, Gal Gadot. comic-con 2015, female superhero

You can also check out the full trailer here:

I showed these images of Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman to my daughter (who has numerous items of Wonder Woman merchandise) and she had no idea who this was. However, she recognised Henry Cavill’s Superman and Ben Affleck’s Batman instantly.

I think it’s the colours. When I showed her this image, she recognised it straight away.

Wonder Woman, Dawn of Justice, Batman V Superman, Gal Gadot

What do you think of this first look at Wonder Woman in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice? Does she look like Wonder Woman to you?

First Look – Princess Leia in Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Well, this just dropped – the Star Wars: The Force Awakens – Comic-Con 2015 Reel.

If you’re a Star Wars fan I dare you to watch this and not have a smile on your face.

But the best part is it gives us our first look at Princess Leia since Return of the Jedi over 30 years ago.

What do you think?