I think it’s proven fact now that every little girl has her favorite Disney Princess. Whether it’s her passion for reading, her love of nature, or her fabulous fashion sense, there’s a Disney princess for everyone!
And behind every Disney Princess is a woman who brings her to life. Not much is known about these amazing women who have lent their voices to some of the most iconic characters in movie history…but that is all about to change.
Broken down into the Classic Era Princesses (Snow White, Cinderella, and Aurora), the Renaissance Era Princesses (Ariel, Belle, Jasmine, Pocahontas, Mulan), and the Modern Era Princesses (Tiana, Rupunzel, Merida), this “Where Are They Now?” segment is a little lesson in what happened post “happily ever after.”
CLASSIC ERA PRINCESSES:
These lovely ladies are the classic fairy tale princesses. Born into poverty and marrying into royalty, these princesses must overcome evil and face personal struggles before ultimately winning out in the end. All in all, these fine damsels inhabit the ultimate in the fairy tale fantasy.
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1938)
Voiced By: Adriana Caselotti
Born in Bridgeport, Connecticut, Adriana Caselotti began her working life as a teacher and vocal coach. The daughter and sister of two professional opera singers, Adriana was a gifted musician from her very early years. Following a brief run as a chorus girl at MGM, Walt Disney hired Adriana to voice his beloved heroine, Snow White. She was paid $970 to work on the film (about $15,900 today) and was given a terrible contract, preventing her from appearing in any other film or media, even for Disney, after the release of Snow White. Disney was obsessed with not spoiling the illusion of Snow White and he did not want children recognizing Adriana as the voice or inspiration for his sweet character. The only other work Adriana was able to get after her work on Snow White were two small unaccredited roles in The Wizard of Oz (small voice-over as Juliet in the Tin Man’s song, “If I Only Had a Heart”) and It’s a Wonderful Life (bar singer). Later in life, Adriana wrote a how-to book about singing and even tried to pursue an opera career like her mom and sister. She continued to sign autographs and promote Snow White throughout the remainder of her life, participating in several Disney events and even was awarded the honor of becoming a Disney Legend. Over the course of her life, Adriana was married four times. She passed away from respiratory failure and lung cancer in 1997 at the age of 80.
Voiced By: Ilene Woods
The daughter of a true stage mom, Ilene Woods began her acting career at the age of two. Her mother worked behind the scenes of Hollywood and pushed her daughter to pursue a career in acting, despite Ilene’s wishes to become a schoolteacher. At the age of 15, he had her own radio show, The Ilene Woods Show, which consisted of 15 minutes of music, broadcast three days a week. Many songwriters came on the show to present their music, including two up and coming musicians named Mack David and Jerry Livingston. Mack and Jerry joined forces with Ilene in 1948 to record “Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo”, “A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes”, and “So This is Love”. The songs were presented to Walt to be used in his upcoming movie, Cinderella. Disney was in love. Two days later, he asked Ilene to voice the character. Ilene beat out more than 300 other women up for the role and helped to promote the movie by singing for President Franklin D. Roosevelt and President Harry S. Truman. Like Adriana, Ilene was awarded a Disney Legend title and continued to sign autographs and promote Cinderella after her retirement from show business in 1972. Ilene went on to be the matriarch of a loving family and eventually passed away in 2010 after a long battle with Alzheimer’s Disease.
Sleeping Beauty (1959)
Voiced By: Mary Costa
A true Southern Belle, Mary Costa was born and raised in Knoxville, Tennessee. A Sunday school soloist at the age of six, Mary was no stranger to the spotlight. During her teenage years, her family moved to Los Angeles, where she completed her high school education and was awarded a Music Sorority Award for her outstanding voice. She continued her musical education at the Los Angeles Conservatory of Music and went on to sing and perform with Edgar Bergen, Dean Martin, and Jerry Lewis. In 1952, Mary was one of several hundred women who went out to audition for the voice of Princess Aurora in Disney’s Sleeping Beauty. Her audition was perfection. Disney called her personally within hours of her audition to inform her the part was hers. After her work on Sleeping Beauty, Mary took to the stage, performing in an astounding 44 operatic roles all over the world. She also made appearances on several TV shows, including Bing Crosby’s Christmas Show, The Hollywood Palace, and Frank Sinatra’s Women of the Year Special. Mary is now retired from show business and spends her time as an inspirational speaker. She is the celebrity ambassador for Childhelp, an organization to prevent child abuse, and she continues to do promotional work for Disney. She joined her fellow classic princesses as a Disney Legend in 1999, and was also awarded several other accolades, including Tennessee Woman of Distinction, honorary Doctor of Fine Arts, Tennessee’s 2015 Governor’s Art Award, and has a place in the Knoxville Opera Hall of Fame. Though she doesn’t reply directly to fan mail anymore, Mary continues to meet fans and promote her work on Sleeping Beauty at various Disney events.
RENAISSANCE ERA PRINCESSES:
Bold, strong-willed, and adventurous, these princesses want to challenge the iconic ‘princess’ facade their older Classic sisters worked so hard to create. Not so much driven by love as by adventure, freedom, and understanding, these women want adventure in the great wide somewhere.
The Little Mermaid (1989)
Voiced By: Jodi Benson
Unlike her fellow princesses, Jodi Benson has voiced Ariel in The Little Mermaid, as well as its sequel, prequel, and television series. She also voiced Barbie in Pixar’s Toy Story 2 and Toy Story 3. You can see her in Enchanted, where she makes a cameo as Patrick Dempsey’s assistant, Sam. A Tony-nominated actress, Jodi has a list of Broadway credits and continues to perform on stage at various venues. She also does a ton of voiceover work and can be heard singing and performing on several kids TV shows. She has performed on stage with some of the best musicians in the world, including The Boston Pops, The National Symphony under the direction of Marvin Hamlisch, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Tokyo Symphony Orchestra, and many more. She is the resident guest soloist for the Walt Disney Company/Disney Cruise Line and continues to portray Ariel in various productions and Disney celebrations.
Beauty and the Beast (1991)
Voiced By: Paige O’Hara
Another Broadway baby, Page O’Hara began her professional career in the 1983 Broadway rendition of Showboat. Eight years later, when she was 30 years old, she made her motion picture debut as the voice of Belle in Disney’s Beauty and the Beast. She reprised her role in the film’s two direct-to-video follow-ups, as well. She also went on to have a cameo in Enchanted and continues to do promotional work (including painting Belle for Disney Fine Art) for Disney.
Voiced By: Linda Larkin
Linda Larkin has voiced Jasmine in more than 20 Disney movies and video games. Mostly known as a vocal actress, Linda has also acted in a few TV shows and movies, including Murder, She Wrote, Doogie Howser, Wings, Anastasia, Runaway Bride, Law and Order, and has even played Jasmine on Aladdin on Ice. For her work as Jasmine, Linda became a Disney Legend in 2011 and continues to act and perform for Disney and other studios. She is married to actor Yul Vazquez (“The Soup Nazi” in Seinfeld) and is the aunt to actress Vanessa Aspillaga.
Voiced By: Irene Bedard
Born in Anchorage, Alaska, Irene Bedard is of Inupiat, Yupik, Inuit, Cree, and Metis ancestry. Though she’s best known for her role as Pocahontas, Irene has done work with several other Native American movies, and even went on to start two production companies aimed at bringing stories that are both positive and inspirational from Indian Country to the world at large. Irene didn’t only lend her voice to the role of Pocahontas, but she also served as the model for the character. She was selected as one of People magazine’s ’50 Most Beautiful People’ in 1995 and continues to work on projects that inspire and promote Indian culture. She won a Golden Globe in 1995 for her work on Lakota Woman and has several other acting awards under her belt. Today Irene can be seen and heard on several TV shows, including Young Justice and Longmire.
Voiced By: Ming-Na Wen
Ming-Na Wen began her acting career in 1985 on the television series, Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. She also acted in As the World Turns, The Joy Luck Club, and ER before her big role on Mulan. In 2004, she took part in a Hollywood Home Game on the World Poker Tour and won! She went on to be a part of NBC’s Inconceivable and the FOX series, Vanished; however, both were cancelled early on in the process. Currently you can her Ming-Na in the Disney Channel show, Sofia the First, acting as the voice of Princess Jun.
MODERN ERA PRINCESSES:
With strong personalities and desires, these princesses are more relatable to young girls today. With different values, goals, and missions, the Modern Era Princesses have a lot to achieve before they say “I do!”.
The Princess and the Frog (2009)
Voiced By: Anika Noni Rose
A student of the American Conservatory Theatre in San Francisco, Anika Noni Rose has been a student of the stage since her high school years. Perhaps best known for her Tony Award-winning performance in the Broadway production of Caroline, or Change, she also got critical acclaim for her role as Lorrell Robinson in the 2006 film, Dreamgirls. In 2009, she was cast as Tiana in The Princess and the Frog and made history as the first African-American Disney princess. She has received several awards for her acting and singing and is currently acting on TV (Bates Motel, Power, and Roots).
Voiced By: Mandy Moore
Like several of the ‘princesses’ that came before her, Mandy Moore has voiced the character of Rapunzel in a Tangled sequel, several video games, and will do so again in a Disney Channel television series based on the film, due out in 2017. The song she performed with Zachary Levi, “I See the Light”, was a Grammy Winner in 2010 and she was ranked on VH1’s list of “100 Greatest Women in Music” two years later. After Tangled, Mandy tried to do some TV work, but several of her projects were canceled before they got off the ground. Mandy continues to expand her musical repertoire, working on her new album set to release sometime in 2016.
Voiced By: Kelly Macdonald
Kelly Macdonald made her film debut opposite Ewan McGregor in the film, Trainspotting. She went on to star in Finding Neverland, Gosford Park, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2, and the TV film, The Girl in the Café, for which she was nominated for a Golden Globe and won an Emmy Award. In 2012, she was cast as the loveable Disney/Pixar princess, Merida. Unlike her fellow ‘princesses’, Kelly’s filmography is mainly on-camera acting, including recent roles in No Country for Old Men, Choke, and Anna Karenina. She has won several awards for her performances on both the big and small screen and was most recently seen in the award-winning show, Boardwalk Empire. Kelly is currently filming Okja, a South Korean science fiction horror movie, set for release in 2017.
By Disney standards (yes, there are standards AND rules), these fine females have not made it on the Disney Princess list; however, I think they deserve a mention here as they’re all amazing characters with great heart and passion!
The Lion King (1994)
Voiced By: Moira Kelly
Best known for her roles in the film, The Cutting Edge and the TV drama, One Tree Hill, Moira Kelly has been acting and performing since high school. A devout Catholic, Moira often talks with her priest before accepting risqué movie roles. After voicing Nala in The Lion King, Moira went on to voice Nala in The Lion King II and The Lion King 1½. Since her work on The Lion King franchise, Moira has gone on to make guest appearances in TV shows, including Heroes, Law & Order, and Numb3rs.
Voiced By: Susan Egan
Another talent of the stage and screen, Susan Egan is an actress, singer, dancer, and comedian, best known for her work on Broadway. She originated the role of Belle in the Broadway musical adaptation of Beauty and the Beast before starring as Megara in Hercules three years later. A professionally trained dancer and singer, Susan has performed one-woman cabaret-style concerts and sings with symphonies all over the country.
Alice in Wonderland (1951)
Voiced By: Kathryn Beaumont
Kathryn Beaumont has the great honor of voicing not one, but two lovely Disney ladies. After her work on Alice in Wonderland, Disney cast her as Wendy Darling in Peter Pan three years later. Her work on both films earned her the honor of Disney Legend in 1998. After a break from acting, Kathryn reprised her role as Alice, voicing the character in two episodes of the animated series, Disney’s House of Mouse. She also voiced Alice and Wendy again in 2002 for the video game, Kingdom Hearts.