Saban Princesses

A few weeks ago, I received a comment on my YouTube channel to check out a '90s cartoon called Princess Sissi. I was never one to pass up the opportunity to discover a new princess show, so I did a quick YouTube search and commenced binging. The animation and acting were nothing to write home about, though Sissi's American voice is notably dubbed by Terri Hawkes, who is known for playing the most famous Magical Girl princess of the '90s, Sailor Moon. I found that her voice was far more suited to a mature duchess than an immature middle school student. What stood out to me about Princess Sissi was the overarching theme of romance. While princess movies often focus on true love, princess cartoons rarely incorporate it into their episodic storylines. For that reason, I was reminded of Saban's Adventures of The Little Mermaid, another '90s cartoon about the trials and tribulations of a blonde princess struggling to be with the man she loves. I did a little research and sure enough, both of these shows were produced by Saban International Paris.

Marina and Sissi are very much two sides of the same coin. They're both adventurous '90s heroines who love having fun and aren't afraid to break a few rules in the process. They care deeply about their friends and even more deeply about their princes. They are women of action who make enemies just as easily as friends. Marina's biggest enemy is Hedwig the wicked sea witch, who greedily stole the Golden Tablet that has the potential to unite mermaids and humans for good. For Sissi, it's Counselor Zotornick, who is determined to prevent her alliance with Prince Franz that would potentially bring peace to Bavaria. They also have rivals in love, though Marina's rival, Cecily, only shows up in one or two episodes after Prince Justin rejects her in the show's pilot, while Sissi's rival, Helena, is in practically every episode of the show with a new scheme to get Franz to marry her. Her catchphrase, "Ridiculous!" seemed like it was repeated a dozen times per episode. Marina had talking animal sidekicks such as Winnie, her flying seahorse friend, while Sissi's sidekicks were children such as Tommy, an orphan boy who went on spy missions for her and eventually learned the truth about his past.

The biggest difference between Saban's Adventures of The Little Mermaid and Princess Sissi is that one is inspired by a fictional fairy tale while the other is inspired by historical events. Princess Sissi is essentially what The Little Mermaid would have been without the magical elements. Marina is separated from Prince Justin due to being a mermaid who lives in the sea and must use magic to be with him, whereas Sissi is separated from Prince Franz due to political scandals and must use espionage techniques and secret messages to be with him. Though the shows have a lot in common, The Little Mermaid ended abruptly after 26 episodes with no resolution to the story, and Princess Sissi ran twice as long with 52 episodes and concluded exactly where it was supposed to with her wedding to Franz. Both shows were somewhat slow-paced and required a great deal of suspension of disbelief, but Princess Sissi picked up a lot toward the end with some exciting story arcs involving her father getting exiled and Franz thinking she had died. The Little Mermaid, unfortunately, has little to no particularly memorable episodes even though it was a fun concept in theory.

It is rumored that Saban's Adventures of The Little Mermaid ended early due to the popularity of Disney's The Little Mermaid series, which came out around the same time. The shows were quite different since the Disney series took place before Ariel met Eric and focused on her adventures with other undersea inhabitants instead of romance. It also had much stronger stories, characters, and animation. Princess Sissi probably outlived its parent show because there was no other animated princess show out at the time that also taught kids about history. Princess Sissi told a dramatization of the story of Duchess Elisabeth of Posse, whose nickname was Sissi. Yeah, I'm confused about that too. There were some things from it that were not only historically inaccurate but also confusing, such as why her rival Helena referred to Sissi as a peasant when she was the daughter of a duke who owned a great deal of land. The show's villains, Count Arkas and Counselor Zotornick, were such Saturday morning cartoon stereotypes that they were probably heavily exaggerated or made up entirely. Still, I learned a lot more about the history various European nations from this show than any other animated princess show I've seen. It wasn't until over a decade later that the CW released its primetime drama, Reign, which told a dramatized version of the story of Mary, Queen of Scots. Of course, Reign had a very different feel due to its older target audience and live-action format.

Though Saban International's two animated princesses are not particularly memorable in personality or design, I will always remember the way they made me feel. Saban's Adventures of The Little Mermaid and Princess Sissi are both forged from classical romantic themes of true love surpassing all obstacles. That's why it's such a shame that we never got to see how Marina ultimately would have ended up with Prince Justin. Princess Sissi's wedding to Prince Franz was well earned after 52 episodes, but the best story arcs of the show did not take place until the last couple of seasons. Saban International Paris was eventually shut down in 2009 after being bought out by Fox and later Disney. Today, we have lots of other princess adventures shows to enjoy on Disney Channel, such as Elena of Avalor and Tangled.


legogirl8 said…
Hi there! The commenter from Youtube here! <3
How happy I got to see this! Thank you very much for checking out Princess Sissi. And it makes me really happy that you got some enjoyment out of the show.

When you told me that Saban also produced the little mermaid show I decided to check it out. A childhood friend of mine had some of the episodes on VHS and I remember watching it with her. I’ve must have been around 4 or 5 at that time, and that has been my only encounter with the show until now.
I’m most say that the show has a great pilot but after that I lost interest pretty quickly. It had great potential and it’s sad that it didn’t get a prober ending at least.

Now with Princess Sissi.
One thing I really like about this show is that it is unique, being that its conflict is in the political instead of classical fantasy good vs evil. But still it has that feel of princess magic without needing to add actual magical elements to it. Like Don Bluth did with Anastasia and Disney with Pocahontas, two movies based on real people.
Yes, the Princess Sissi cartoon is not historically accurate but still. :)

Again, thank you for checking the show out! I hope I can sometime again give you some princess media tips.

(Sorry if my English is weird, it’s not my first language.)

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