Holiday Princess Specials

December is here, which means there's no fighting the holiday spirit. Lights are twinkling, Christmas songs are invading all the radio stations, and princesses are spreading their holiday cheer. Holiday specials that feature our favorite princesses usually come in the form of cheaply produced sequels, but there are other forms of media as well. For instance, there was a Disney Princess DVD called "A Christmas of Enchantment" released in 2005 that contained mash-ups of clips and shorts from various Disney productions, but it quickly fell in the same direction as the Disney Princess Enchanted Tales series. There was also a Disney Princess Christmas Album released in 2009 with new holiday songs performed in many of the original voices of the Disney Princesses in which they harmonize beautifully about their excitement for the holiday season along. The album contains a few covers of classic Christmas songs as well.

The newest holiday princess special is the 21-minute long Frozen short that precedes Disney and Pixar's newest theatrical release, Coco. The short, "Olaf's Frozen Adventure," tells the story of Olaf going from door to door trying to learn about different holiday traditions so that he can pick one for himself. I have not seen it personally, but I have heard it was pretty awful, which doesn't surprise me considering how I already feel about Frozen. Still, can we take a moment to appreciate these gorgeous new princess fashions they've designed for Anna and Elsa to celebrate in style? Anna looks amazing in periwinkle velvet, and Elsa's rhinestone and fur-trimmed accents are a dream come true. Sorry, I'm done ogling, I swear.

Today is the premiere another Wassailia episode of Sofia the First. For those of you not familiar with Wassailia (which is most people), it is a made-up holiday celebrated in Sofia's fantasy kingdom of Enchancia. It combines traditions from different real-life holidays, such as decorating a Christmas tree and lighting candles for Hanukkah or Kwanzaa. I really appreciate the effort that the creators put into the world of Sofia the First to show children that not everyone celebrates Christmas. Growing up Jewish, it was very difficult for me to relate to holiday specials because they were almost always about Christmas. There are no Jewish princesses (unless you count Rebecca Bunch from Crazy Ex-Girlfriend), so that was the one respect of being a princess that I was never able to relate to. Though today's episode of Sofia the First does make Wassailia more Christmas-like than previous years by adding a non-traditional version of Santa Claus, I still appreciate the show's sensitivity on the matter.

While historical monarchies with real princesses were primarily Christian, there is one great story from Jewish history that I've always associated with fairy tales. Purim is a Springtime holiday that usually falls around Easter, so the story is less appropriate during this time of year, but since people seem to focus more on religion now than at any other time, I'm bringing it up anyway. The story of Purim is about a king who sought to marry the most beautiful woman in the land. Esther was chosen for her beauty despite having no desire to be queen. Can we say Cinderella? When the king's wicked vizier Jafar Haman threatened to kill the Jewish people, Esther's cousin Mordechai helped her devise a plot to humiliate Haman and save their people. When she revealed her Jewish roots to her husband and told him of Haman's evil schemes, the king had Haman executed, saving the Jews from his persecution. So basically, though she was chosen for her beauty, Esther used the power of innocence, humility, and love to save her people.

As much as I'd love to talk more about my own Jewish heritage, there's no arguing with the fact that most holiday-themed princess movies are about Christmas. The most famous of these is probably the 1997 direct-to-video sequel Beauty and the Beast: The Enchanted Christmas. Despite being a sequel, most of the movie takes place prior to the beast's transformation back into a human. It introduces a new villain named Forte, a power-hungry organ who wants to ruin Christmas and prevent Belle from breaking the spell on Beast and the rest of the castle. It's not a terrible movie, but not exactly a great one either. There are some decent songs, and it focuses on the importance of giving, which is something that should be taught year round, not just during Christmas.

On the other hand, the 2012 direct-to-DVD CGI vomit fest The Swan Princess Christmas is quite possibly the worst thing I have ever seen in my entire life. Even though all of the CGI Swan Princess sequels sport hideous animation, this one is particularly awful because it was the first time the studio had tried to convert the hand-drawn 1994 masterpiece into computer animation, and I use the term "tried" loosely. The movie had the incredibly uninspired plot of bringing back the original story's villain, Rothbart, as a ghost who wants to (wait for it...) destroy Christmas. Somehow, Odette and Derek are the only ones who can save Christmas. Why? Uh... It really doesn't make a whole lot of sense if you think about it too hard. This movie was more focused on religion than other children's Christmas specials because the director of The Swan Princess movies, Richard Rich, is extremely religious. He actually got his start animating biblical shorts for children. The limited focus on giving and extra focus on Jesus Christ made this sequel even harder for me to relate to than most, but that's less relevant to the fact that the whole thing is garbage in general.

As a JAP (Jewish American Princess), I generally have mixed feelings about this time of year. I love the lights and the colors and the warm fuzzy feeling of giving presents and drinking hot cocoa on a snowy day, but I wish there wasn't so much pressure to conform to something that is not part of my culture. Even princesses who wouldn't know what Christmas is, such as Ariel and Pocahontas, have been included on princess albums and DVDs. I'm more grateful than ever to Sofia the First for showing us that the holidays are about spending time with loved ones and not just shouting about your religion from the rooftops.


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