Yep, it's official – Frozen's Elsa and Anna aren't officially part of the Disney Princess line-up. You might be wondering just why that is, considering the sisters are certainly royalty, and are more than popular enough to go shoulder to shoulder with Cinderella and co. As it turns out, the Disney Princess club is an exclusive one. Just being part of a monarchy isn't enough – and sometimes, you don't even need to be a royal at all (here's looking at you, Mulan).
We've taken a deep dive into the Disney Princess franchise to explain just why Elsa and Anna aren't part of the group, what it takes to make the cut, who's been dropped in the past – and who might be joining the line-up in the future. We even explain how this exclusive club even came into being, once upon a time in 2000. So, if you've ever daydreamed of being a Disney Princess, scroll on to pick up some tips…
A whole new world
The Disney Princess line-up didn’t start as a way of grouping the films. Instead, it all began with merchandise. Andy Mooney, former president of the Disney Consumer Products division, came up with the idea for a princess-themed line of merchandising in 2000 when he attended a Disney on Ice show.
"Standing in line in the arena, I was surrounded by little girls dressed head to toe as princesses," he told The New York Times. "They weren't even Disney products. They were generic princess products they'd appended to a Halloween costume. And the light bulb went off. Clearly there was latent demand here. So the next morning I said to my team, 'Okay, let's establish standards and a color palette and talk to licensees and get as much product out there as we possibly can that allows these girls to do what they're doing anyway: projecting themselves into the characters from the classic movies.'"
He started out with a simple collection: Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, Belle, Ariel, Pocahontas, Jasmine, and Mulan.
Such a category was a first for Disney, which until that point didn't group together characters from different films in its merchandise. Nevertheless, it was wildly popular – and still is. "We simply gave girls what they wanted," Mooney commented, "although I don’t think any of us grasped how much they wanted this."
Who are the Disney Princesses?
Since Mooney founded the Princess brand, more characters have been added to the line-up. The official group, as it now stands, is:
- Snow White
- Sleeping Beauty
If you head to the official Disney Princess site, you'll see Elsa and Anna under 'characters' – but in the intro, you'll find them separated from the groupL "For the first time in forever, we are celebrating the brave, beloved Disney Princess and Frozen heroes in the Ultimate Princess Celebration."
You'll also spot their pictures are their fully CGI selves, while the others all share a uniform, 2D art style. Elsa and Anna aren't part of the gang, but they are at least Princess adjacent.
When they are inducted into the group, each new Princess gets a real-life coronation (yes, really). Princess Tiana joined the line-up in March 2010 with a ceremony at the New York Palace, while Rapunzel joined in October 2011 at Kensington Palace in the UK. Merida was inducted to the hall of Princesses at World Disney World in May 2013. Moana, however, hasn't had an official coronation – though she's still part of the line-up.
Princess Tinker Bell?
What does it take to be a Disney Princess? The criteria is mysterious, considering Mulan isn't actually a royal at all. Tinker Bell, Peter Pan's fairy friend, was once a Princess, but soon flew away to headline her own franchise, Disney Fairies.
"We'd always debate over whether she was really a part of the Princess mythology," Mooney told the New York Times. "She really wasn't."
Esmerelda was also apparently a Princess, per a picture of her doll in a branded box, but has since fallen out of the official line-up. Harsh.
But what about…?
It's true, the rules of entry are quite confusing. For one thing, Mulan is part of the line-up, but she's not actually a princess in her movie – and Moana, Pocahontas, and Jasmine don't strictly have the title of princess in-universe, but the first two are daughters of Chiefs, while Jasmine's father is Sultan.
Then there are a few characters who seem like they should belong, but aren't in the group – Giselle from Enchanted has all the trappings of a Disney Princess, even if she doesn't marry the prince in the end, and Nala from The Lion King ends up Pride Rock royalty. Then there's young princess Sofia from the Disney Junior animated series Sofia the First, and what about Megara, who marries Hercules, son of Zeus? There's also Vanellope, princess of the Sugar Rush game, and Kida from Atlantis: The Lost Empire is the daughter of a king (and becomes queen herself). Plus, since Disney has acquired Fox, shouldn't that make Russian royalty Anastasia eligible, too? And what about Princess Leia, now that she's technically a Disney character?
The guidelines for entry aren't laid out anywhere publicly, but our best guess is that the character should be animated, at least be something close to royalty, lead her own movie (or be a significant character, like Jasmine), and come from a Disney or Disney Pixar movie – not a film Disney acquires later. There doesn't seem to be a magic scroll containing any hard and fast rules, though… unless it's locked in a Disney vault somewhere (and guarded by a dragon, we assume).
Ralph Breaks the Internet (and the rules)
While the criteria for joining the gang isn't clear, there is one guideline that governs how the Princesses are depicted when they're together.
According to Mooney, to preserve the "mythologies" of the Princesses, the characters don't make eye contact when seen in a group, essentially meaning they don't look like they’re hanging out in a Princess Extended Universe.
In fact, per The New York Times, Roy E. Disney (nephew of Walt) wasn't happy about the Disney Princess line because the characters were mixed together in one environment. That just isn't something Disney does (excluding the adult-orientated Who Framed Roger Rabbit).
Of course, that rule is broken in Wreck It Ralph 2, which saw the Princesses and Elsa and Anna all chilling together in a sleepover with Vanellope.
This could be explained away as the Princesses being in an online world, not the realm of their individual movies, making the rule redundant. But, still, they're all very clearly together, and the Frozen sisters are there in some cross-brand mingling, too. It seems, then, that the rules – as murky as they are – aren't always so strictly enforced.
So, why are Elsa and Anna no Disney Princesses?
The easiest answer for why the Frozen women don't count is simply that Elsa is a queen in the first movie, and gives up her crown for Anna to take over in Frozen 2. They are therefore Queens and not Princesses. But, as we've seen, royalty isn't even a condition of entry, so that alone shouldn't rule them out.
It might simply be that Frozen is a very strong brand in its own right (just think how many kids can recite "Let It Go" backwards), so keeping Elsa and Anna separated from the Disney Princess line makes sense from a merchandising point of view.
It's not a clear cut division, either. As we've seen, the sisters are on the official Princess site. They're also grouped on the Watch Princesses Disney Plus page (along with Anastasia, no less – though it should be pointed out this is just Watch Princesses, not Watch Disney Princesses). Plus, Disney World's site calls Elsa and Anna "friends of the Disney Princesses," and they were invited to the sleepover in Wreck It Ralph 2.
Whether Elsa and Anna are ever officially invited to join the ranks of the Disney Princesses remains to be seen, but, for now, they're out in the cold.
If our Disney Princess deep dive has you in the mood for a fairy tale adventure, check out our guide to the best movies on Disney Plus to plan your next movie marathon.