The Evolution of the Disney Princess Anthem

Yesterday, Disney released a new music video of Auli'i Cravalho performing the latest incarnation of the Disney Princess anthem, "Live Your Story." The video looks like your average Disney Channel pop remix even though it's performed by an actual Disney Princess instead of a Disney Channel pop star. It works to Disney's benefit that the actress they cast for Moana was so young, considering their obsession with creating teen pop stars. The music video contains clips of a magical bedroom with subtle nods to Disney Princess movies, a balloon-filled bubble room and some shots that look similar to The Last Bookstore in Los Angeles, hearkening to Belle's library. This video is the latest in a long line of Disney Princess anthem songs that date as far back as 2004.

The first Disney Princess anthem, called "If You Can Dream," was released as a bonus song on the Disney Princess Sing Along Songs Volume 1 DVD in 2004. The song was alongside a video made entirely of Disney movie clips, something that was very popular at the time. I, myself, had made many Disney Princess fan music videos under the handle of Lady Heartilly. "If You Can Dream" was also a big deal because it was the first time all of the original singing voices of the Disney Princesses got together to perform an original track. It was very similar to what the Wreck-It Ralph sequel is doing with spoken dialogue. The song was a beautiful arrangement with lovely instrumentals and breath-taking harmonies by some of the most beloved princess voice artists. Its lyrics were a little cheesy, often borrowing from each princess's most famous song, with lines such as "It's a tale as old as time," "The colors of the wind will lead my heart right back to you," and "There's a whole new world waiting there for us." The song matched the themes represented by the Disney Princess movies leading up to the late '90s, but it quickly became outdated after the turn of the century, which is why it didn't get as much publicity as it arguably deserved.

On the second Disney Princess Sing Along DVD in 2005, there was a similar music video mash-up called "Where Dreams Begin." This one did not catch on nearly as well as "If You Can Dream," on account of having an unknown singer and an overly synthesized sound to it. It wasn't the worst song in the world, but the melody did not scream "Disney Princess" like its predecessor did. The lyrics were pretty similar, but they were a bit more modern and generic. "Where Dreams Begin" was the first Disney Princess anthem that sounded like it could be a Disney Channel pop song, even though I'm not sure if it ever actually aired on Disney Channel. Since it never quite caught on, "If You Can Dream" was still generally accepted as the Disney Princess anthem for the following decade until the "Dream Big, Princess" campaign in 2016, where it was replaced with "Hall of Fame" by The Script featuring This song had an enormous marketing platform with tons of Disney Princess mash-up videos all over social media, causing it to overshadow the outdated "If You Can Dream."

I always thought "Hall of Fame" was an odd choice for a Disney Princess anthem, as it clearly wasn't written for that purpose. The song was released about five years before Disney started using it for their campaign, and the lyrics don't apply directly to the Disney Princess movies. It's pretty obvious that Disney only used it to try to create a wider appeal for their princesses and show the world that they were rejecting their old themes that could be considered anti-feminist by some people, such as needing to be rescued and find love. Of course, the presumed negative effects of princess culture on society are highly debatable. The thing that bothered me the most about "Hall of Fame" is that the song was performed entirely by male singers when it was supposed to promoting female empowerment. Sure, it was played over footage of girls being active and doing impressive feats such as scuba diving, rock climbing, and winning races, but wouldn't it make more sense to back up those images with an empowering female voice? I guess someone at Disney finally realized that out a few months ago because the song was replaced earlier this year with "Live Your Story."

"Live Your Story" was written and performed by an unknown singer (at least to me) named Tina Parol. It was a better fit for the Disney Princess movies than "Hall of Fame" on account of the fact that the lyrics were actually written to fit the "Dream Big, Princess" campaign. The footage of girls being active was very similar to that of the previous music video, but now it was accompanied by a female performer telling girls to "dream, see, write, live your story." This makes more sense than "standing in the hall of fame" because the Disney Princesses were never in competition with other people. They were princesses because they were either born into it or married into it. "Live Your Story" is more about dreaming of adventure and love and actively pursuing what you want. I like that the song reminds us that most of these movies originated from stories that are several hundred years old. Disney Princesses inspire girls to go on adventures and write their own story exactly as the song states. The only thing that was missing from the good old days of "If You Can Dream" was the voice of an original Disney Princess. Having Auli'i Cravalho release a cover of it resolves that issue. I appreciate that Disney continues to update their movies to match with modern feminist ideals, but I still miss the calming instrumentals and harmonizing vocals of "If You Can Dream."


Anonymous said…
why wasn’t there an anthem for disney company?
Lisa Dawn said…
I suppose "When You Wish Upon a Star" from Pinocchio is used as a Disney anthem of sorts.

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