Review: Beyond the Tiara

In the early 2000s, I purchased a thin hardcover book entitled Disney Princess: The Essential Guide because I felt it was important to have the reference materials to back it up my princess fan status. At that time, there were only six official Disney Princesses, and the brand was still fairly new. Since then, the Disney Princess brand has exploded into a corporate empire that has kept my blog alive and thriving for over five years. So it seemed like a good time for an upgrade. Beyond the Tiara by Emily Zemler is a nearly 200-page long coffee table textbook that puts The Essential Guide to shame. It contains quotes, concept art, memorabilia, and other Disney Princess facts that make it the most comprehensive guide on the market for the Disney Princess brand today. Plus, it has a sparkly holographic cover.


This book contained everything I was hoping for and more. It covers each and every aspect of the Disney Princess brand from conception to reception. Just about everything that I've ever posted about in my blog that relates to Disney was mentioned at some point. I kept thinking "I could have written this!" Emily Zemler sounds like a genuine fan of all things princess who understands the positive impact that princess culture has on society and celebrates the old and the new with photos, quotes, and obscure historical facts. The first chapter of the book was my favorite. It was the longest by far and gave a brief summary of how each princess movie was developed alongside quotes and stories from the production teams. Each princess got a full-page spread that depicted the women who inspired their character designs from popular celebrities to the original voice artists and live-action models.


The rest of the book covers everything in the Disney Princess fandom that has ever paid tribute to the characters from Kingdom Hearts to Sofia the First to popular cosplayers. It referenced other things I've posted about in my blog that I thought were long forgotten as well such as the #DreamBigPrincess campaign and the discontinued Disney Princess Majestic Quest app. It also paid homage to the women who worked behind the scenes such as Mary Blair. Nearly every page has lush full-color artwork and photos of various merchandise and conceptual designs that had rarely been seen before these films were released on DVD in the mid-2000s. I learned something new about Belle from a Paige O'Hara quote in which she expressed how she thought the original design for the character was too refined and perfect for audiences to relate to, so the animators reworked the character to give her more of a "girl next door" look so that fans would be able to see themselves in her. That stray wisp of hair on her forehead that the animators like to talk about in interviews was likely related to this.


In addition to being a reference guide for the Disney Princess movies, Beyond the Tiara also serves as a history book. Snow White, the first Disney Princess, came out in 1937, which was over 80 years ago, making it a historical brand. The look and personality of each princess is a reflection of what the ideal woman is like during that time period. The book references famous women throughout history who provided inspiration for the Disney Princesses such as Audrey Hepburn and Princess Diana. The merchandise section shows the evolution of the dolls over time and reveals all kinds of experimental themed products such as Snow White-themed house cleaning fluids! The music section serves as a reminder that recorded soundtracks predate home video, so in the era of Snow White, Cinderella, and Sleeping Beauty, the only way that fans were able to re-experience their favorite moments in the films was by listening to the soundtracks. It shows us how far we've come and not to take modern streaming services where we can watch out favorite princess movie at the press of a button for granted.


Beyond the Tiara is the ultimate guidebook for every Disney Princess fan to keep on hand and learn about how the brand has evolved over the years. Though the book attempted to reference future properties like the upcoming Tiana series, it failed to reference Raya as an official Disney Princess even though the movie was mentioned in a blurb about Disney films exploring other cultures. Another minor error I found was Aurora's page listing her film as 1955 instead of 1959, but this could have been an editing mistake rather than part of the manuscript since the author seemed to know her stuff pretty well. If you're on the fence about buying this book, I say go for it! Not only is it a nice display piece, it's also just as much fun to flip through the pictures as it is to read the actual text. Plus, it's a great way for millennial parents who grew up with the Disney Princesses to bond with their daughters and stealthily teach them about women's history.

Comments

Princess sofia: "they didn't mentioned me in that book?"
Lisa Dawn said…
Hi Alejandro,

They did discuss Sofia the First, as I mentioned in the third paragraph of my review.

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