Since 1937, Disney's animated films have featured plucky princess heroines who find themselves in difficult situations, but by the end of the film have married a prince to live happily ever after. Some debate has arisen over whether or not the princesses are unsuitable role models for young girls, yet very little attention has been paid to the princes themselves.
So what qualities do the Disney princes exhibit? What do they have in common? And first of all, what qualifies a Disney hero to be considered to be a prince?
A Prince among Men?
Marrying a prince makes a woman a princess, but marrying a princess does not make a man a prince (although marrying a woman of a higher rank, such as Queen or Empress can). So Disney's princess-marrying heroes, such as Flynn Ryder who marries Rapunzel in Tangled, do not count. Aladdin, who marries Princess Jasmine, is a street rat by nature, and though he impersonates a prince, calling himself Prince Ali, he is not in fact a prince.
Similarly there are a couple of characters who bypass the Prince phase completely and go straight from being common to king. In The Sword in the Stone, Wart, who initially is merely his older brother's squire, becomes King Arthur when he pulls a sword from the stone. Similarly Milo Thatch becomes king at the end of Atlantis: The Lost Empire after being chosen by both a sentient crystal and the previous king on his deathbed to be his successor, although being in a relationship with princess (later queen) Kidagakash Nedakh helped.
Lions are considered to be the king of the jungle, but in Disney films, it is the princes who are often the most lion-like. Princes are lions in Robin Hood and The Lion King. Although the inspiration for the appearance of the Beast in Beauty and the Beast came from wolves, a mandrill and a gorilla seen in London Zoo, with a hint of buffalo and wild boar, there is a strong suggestion of lion there too.
The most important task for a prince to do is continue the family name and line. This means that they must marry and breed, a task that they seem to find surprisingly difficult. The Prince in Snow White tries serenading the titular princess, but instead scares her away. Prince Charming in Cinderella not only fails to get his love interest's name and address, he is incapable of keeping up with a woman wearing new high-heeled glass slippers and a big dress descending a staircase. Prince Eric was unable to kiss a woman so desperate to be kissed that her life depended on it, despite the aid of mood music and a romantic atmosphere.
This factor, that princes just cannot get the girl without considerable help, is something recognised by their relatives, advisors and closest friends, who are often desperate to help them out. In Cinderella, Prince Charming's father, despairing of his son's ability to get married on his own, arranged a whole ball to help him meet women. In The Little Mermaid Prince Eric's father-figure Grimsby attempted to set him up with the Princess of Flowerhaven and admitted feeling that Prince Eric wasn't looking hard enough for the right girl. Perhaps it is because of this that many princes are betrothed at an early age, such as Prince Phillip in Sleeping Beauty or Simba in The Lion King.
Perhaps the reason why Disney's princes so enjoy kissing women others consider to be corpses, such as Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, Meg and Giselle, is because they know that breeding somehow involves women lying down?
Good and Evil Princes
In Disney films, Princes who do not find a partner by the end of the film are invariably evil. This is because they are neglecting the natural order and their solemn duty. In fact, the unwritten law of Disney princes seems to be that in a Royal Family, the oldest son is always good, pure, handsome etc while their younger brothers are maliciously untrustworthy and spend all their time scheming to take the throne.
Although most Disney princes are heroic, fictional characters, two are based on notorious historical figures. Certainly the most unexpected Disney prince of all is Adolf Hitler, despite not being a prince in real life. Still alive at the time the short wartime propaganda film featuring him was made, extracts from his speeches were used so that his character is actually voiced by him.
Fight or Flight?
Some princes are brave and bold, while others, especially the baddies, prefer to run away. Not all princes are heroic, though; the princes in Snow White, Bambi and Cinderella don't really do a lot. If you're holding out for a hero fear not, for fortunately princes Philip, Eric, Mickey Mouse, Beast, Simba and Hercules are prepared to come to the rescue and fight against lions and dragons, gods and witches despite the rising odds.
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937)
|Prince||A Prince (Harry Stockwell)|
|Princely Credentials||He has his own horse and lives in a castle. He also has a dagger.|
|Character||He has only two blink-and-you'll-miss-him appearances, at the start and at the end of the film.|
- Horse riding
- Playing musical instruments
- Looking down wells
|Karaoke Number||'One Song'|
|Songs About||'Some Day My Prince will Come'|
|Attracted to||Snow White (Adriana Caselotti)|
|Prince||Bambi (Donnie Dunagan and Hardie Albright)|
|Princely Credentials||Son of the Great Prince of the Forest|
|Character||A young child, full of curiosity and ignorance|
- Ice skating (not successfully)
|Attracted to||Faline (Cammie King and Ann Gillis)|
|Prince||The Great Prince of the Forest|
|Princely Credentials||Well known as being the Great Prince of the Forest|
|Character||Not much of a husband or a father.|
|Attracted to||Bambi's Mother (Paula Winslowe)|
Education for Death (1943)
|Prince||Adolf 'Prince Charming' Hitler (Himself)|
|Princely Credentials||Has his own horse and rescues the sleeping princess from a fearsome Wicked Witch.|
- Speech making
- Horse riding
- Defeating the Wicked Witch of Democracy
|Songs About||'Heil Hitler' (to the tune of Wagner's Ride of the Valkyries)|
|Attracted to||Germany, the Sleeping Beauty|
|Prince||Prince Charming (William Phipps)|
|Princely Credentials||Son of the king, with balls held in his honour.|
|Character||The silent type, he doesn't like to speak unless spoken to.|
- Being charming
- Being silent
- Having a foot fetish
- Attending and/or Holding Balls
|Songs About||'So This Is Love'|
|Attracted to||Cinderella (Ilene Woods)|
Sleeping Beauty (1959)
|Prince||Prince Phillip (Bill Shirley)|
|Princely Credentials||Son of King Hubert|
|Character||Brave, he is the very model of a modern 14th Century Prince.|
- Horse riding
- Being betrothed to a baby
- Knowing his fiancée (especially the gleam in her eye) once upon a dream
- Pruning thorns
- Fighting dragons
|Karaoke Number||'Once Upon a Dream' (duet)|
|Attracted to||Princess Aurora 'Briar Rose' (Mary Costa)|
Robin Hood (1973)
|Prince||Prince John (Sir Peter Ustinov)|
|Princely Credentials||Younger brother of King Richard the Lionheart|
|Character||Greedy, selfish, envious of his older brother who his mummy loved more.|
- Counting his money
- Sucking his thumb
|Songs About||'The Phony King of England'|
The Little Mermaid (1989)
|Prince||Prince Eric (Christopher Daniel Barnes)|
|Princely Credentials||Prince of an unnamed coastal kingdom|
- Playing the flute/piccolo
- Love of animals, especially his dog, Max
|Songs About||'Kiss The Girl'|
|Attracted to||Ariel and Ursula|
The Prince and the Pauper (1990)
|Prince||The Prince (Mickey Mouse)|
|Princely Credentials||Wears a royal ring|
|Character||Bored of luxury, desiring freedom, though initially naïve and ignorant of events around him, he soon takes a stand.|
- Pretending to be a Pauper
- Annoying Donald Duck and impersonating Horace Horsecollar during lessons.
- Saying either What a splendid idea, good thing I thought of it or Guards, seize him!
- Pulling down Pete's trousers
|Attracted to||Unusually, there are no main female characters in this short film.|
Beauty and the Beast (1991)
|Prince||Beast aka Prince Adam (Robby Benson)|
|Princely Credentials||Ruler of an entire castle.|
|Character||When first seen he is spoiled, selfish and unkind, grumpy, self-pitying and reclusive, but later there might be something there that was not there before.|
- Answering the door to passing old beggar women and telling them where to go.
- Snowball fights
- Ballroom Dancing
|Karaoke Number||'Something There'|
|Songs About||'Beauty and the Beast'|
|Attracted to||Belle (Paige O'Hara)|
The Lion King (1994)
|Prince||Simba (Jonathan Taylor Thomas & Matthew Broderick)|
|Princely Credentials||Son of King Mufasa |
|Character||A young child who is manipulated and betrayed by those he trusts, before finally finding his own path along the circle of life.|
- Being unable to wait to be king.
- Eating grubs and insects.
- Blaming himself for his father's death.
|Karaoke Number||'I Just Can't Wait to be King'|
|Songs About||'Can You Feel the Love Tonight'|
|Attracted to||Nala (Moira Kelly)|
|Prince||Scar (Jeremy Irons)|
|Princely Credentials||Younger brother of King Mufasa|
|Character||Witty, patiently brooding but ultimately selfish.|
- Being prepared
- Forming alliances with hyaenas.
- Having the last line.
- Listening to singing, anything but 'It's A Small World'
|Karaoke Number||'Be Prepared'|
|Prince||Hercules (Tate Donovan)|
|Princely Credentials||Son of Zeus and Hera, the King and Queen of the Gods.|
|Character||Inarticulate and clumsy, but beneath it all a true hero.|
- Defeating Monsters
- Rescuing Your Basic DID (Damsel in Distress)
- Training to be a Hero
- Selling shoes and fizzy drinks.
|Karaoke Number||'Go The Distance'|
|Songs About||'Zero to Hero'|
|Attracted to||Meg (Susan Egan)|
|Prince||Hades (James Woods)|
|Princely Credentials||Younger brother of Zeus, ruler of the Underworld|
|Character||Bitter, angry, sour.|
- Spending 18 years planning on overthrowing his brother.
- Ruling the Underworld
- Making deals.
|Prince||Prince Edward (James Marsden)|
|Princely Credentials||Prince of Andalasia, a kingdom ruled by his stepmother|
|Character||Narcissistic, he considers all those around him to be peasants, but his heart is roughly in the right place.|
- Dreaming of a true love's kiss
- Hunting trolls
- Obstructing cyclists
- Attacking public transport
|Songs About||'True Love's Kiss' (duet)|
- Giselle (Amy Adams)
- Nancy Tremaine (Idina Menzel)
The Princess and the Frog (2009)
|Prince||Prince Naveen (Bruno Campos)|
|Princely Credentials||The Prince of Maldonia. He is also turned into a frog, an animal famed for being one that princes become.|
|Character||A lazy, self-centred hedonistic playboy who abuses his valet and is disinherited by his parents.|
- Kissing girls
- Spending money
- Playing the banjo
- Secreting mucus
|Karaoke Number||'When We're Human'|
|Songs About||'Dig a Little Deeper'|
|Attracted to||Tiana (Anika Noni Rose)|
|Prince||Prince Hans (Santino Fontana)|
|Princely Credentials||Younger prince of the Southern Isles|
|Character||At first glance the perfect prince, but how trustworthy are first impressions?|
- Being ignored by three of his brothers.
- Finishing other people's sandwiches
- Horse riding
|Karaoke Number||'Love is an Open Door'|