Do Disney's New Theme Park Costumes Go Too Far?

I mentioned in my "Theme Park Princesses" post that the Disney Princesses get occasional updates on their costumes every few years. However, the updates for the European princesses were much smaller than the changes Disney has made to their ethnic princesses as of late. I was one of many princess fans who was quite shocked by how much they had altered Jasmine's costume. Mulan and Pocahontas's signature dresses have been changed quite a bit from the original movies as well. Were these changes about political correctness, or were they genuinely trying to improve the outfits from these classic animated '90s movies? Let's take a look.

First up, we have Princess Jasmine, who used to wear a skimpy crop top in the vein of her outfit in the movie with additional bling. Jasmine's original costume was very similar to something a belly dancer would wear in her culture, not a princess. Still, the look was all the rage when Aladdin came out in 1992. The new costume has the appearance of a one-piece jumpsuit with delicate gold embroidery and a sheer drape around her pants like she has in her design from Sofia the First. There is some debate over whether Jasmine's costume was redesigned due to complaints about showing too much skin, but blogger Kenny the Pirate claims that it was just the look they decided to go with for her latest redesign. Regardless, of all the new Disney Princess costumes at the parks, this one seems to have gotten the most drastic upgrade.

Most fans were unhappy with the changes, myself included, at least from what I've seen in photos. The main issue is that it just doesn't look like Jasmine anymore. Instead, it looks like a generic Arabian Princess costume that just happens to be the same color. She also has awkward bangs in the middle of her forehead that look like she forgot to brush her hair. I have read that the details are much prettier when you see it up close. There is a subtle picture of Rajah's head embroidered on her belt in gold along with glitter and other fine details in the sheer overlay fabric. "Retired Disney Princess" Jennifer Oakes posted a review of the costume on YouTube, stating that it looked much better in person than in photos. I'm still on the fence about it, but maybe I can see it in person myself one day.

Though not quite as drastic as Jasmine's upgrade, Mulan's new look is also very different. Her original costume, which was based on her matchmaker dress from the movie, was a bit of an odd choice. Not only did she hate wearing it, but it wasn't exactly her best moment in the film. Even her gussied up Disney Princess look was a fancier version of the dress she wore at home in the beginning of the movie, when she was still in her element. I'm not saying she should be doing meet'n'greets in full armor, but the dress she wore during the climax would have been just fine. Her new costume doesn't resemble anything she wore in the movie unless it's some kind of weird Frankenstein mash-up of everything she wore. The skirt has the same colors as the dress from the climax, but the top is closer to the matchmaker dress.

The backlash for this change was not nearly as severe as Jasmine's, but I do think it's a step in the wrong direction. She is completely unrecognizable as Mulan. It looks like any generic Chinese dress. I've heard comparisons made to the dolls on the "It's a Small World" ride, and I have to say I agree. It's something someone would wear to represent China at an international gathering. The skirt has more poof than anything she wore in the movie, and the top lacks the beautiful layered look of the original matchmaker dress. Her belt is very regal with its red and gold embroidery, possibly to solidify her Disney Princess status. However, it doesn't look like anything she would ever actually consider wearing. If that little round green thing hanging from her waist is supposed to represent the crest of the emperor that she was rewarded at the end of the movie, it would be a pretty clever detail. Unfortunately, she wore it around her neck, not her waist, and it looks nothing like it.

Finally, there's Pocahontas. I feel like no matter what I say about this, I might offend someone unintentionally, but I'll do my best. Her original outfit was pretty much a direct translation of the one portrayed in the movie. It had the same bright yellow color, crown tattoo symbolizing her Disney Princess status, and bright blue beaded necklace that her mother gave her. The new one is what the movie version probably would have looked like if it had been live-action instead of animated. She has a more authentically colored deerskin dress, moccasins, a beaded handmade bag that looks like something you might find in a museum, and a feathered hair accessory.

The biggest shock is how drastically they changed her necklace. Though her new white shell necklace looks more natural and native to her culture, the bright blue necklace was used for two iconic plot points in the movie. There was one major scene where her father gave it to her, and another later where Kocoum broke it after being shot. A lot of fans were surprised that Disney would change this detail at their parks in favor of making the character look more historically accurate. Just like Jasmine and Mulan, Pocahontas's outfit looks like a generic "Indian Princess" costume you might find at Party City, instead of the specific version that Disney created in their 1995 film.

With Halloween just around the corner now, people are eager to find the most unique costumes they possibly can. Disney is doing just the opposite with their new theme park meet'n'greet costumes. Jasmine, Mulan, and Pocahontas are now more blended with their cultures than ever, but at what cost? Is it really worth being more culturally accurate if it means losing the things that made their animated movies from the '90s unique? Personally, I think that they could do better.


Anonymous said…
I feel like calling traditional ethnic outfits “generic” is not the best move for expressing distaste about the new costume design.
Lisa Dawn said…
I have to say these look more costumey than traditional to me, but I might not be educated enough in cultural fashion to have an accurate opinion. All I know is that they look very similar to costumes I've seen at Party City as a child.
Lisa Dawn said…
I don't think they care as much about being culturally accurate for European white princesses...
Sam said…
@Lisa Dawn That's because there is no social power imbalance going on that would make inaccurate European dresses a mockery of European culture.
Lisa Dawn said…
Hi Sam,

I feel that the Disney Princess movies celebrate their respective cultures rather than mock them, but perhaps that's just my interpretation.
Unknown said…
You said that Pocahontas’s new dress looks like something that would be found at Party City. I get your point but I feel the need to comment that Party City discontinued all of their “Native American” costumes and accessories years ago. They finally realized that Native American culture should be appreciated and not cheaply replicated as a costume for non-natives to profit off of.
Anonymous said…
Also Lisa, you should not refer to Pocahontas's dress or culture as "Indian", she is Native American. Not Indian.

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