I’m a child of the classic Disney generation. Most of the present generation will know Disney/Pixar animation, but not the best of the Disney fairy tale days. We all know there’s some problematic elements to the Disney movies (what popular phenomenon doesn’t have those?), but I’m not here to talk about that. I’m here to show how fairy tales shaped me, influenced me, and why they have a special, if not perfect, place in my heart.
One of the girls from my first church used to babysit me, and a few years later we met by chance at a bowling alley (I was in elementary school at that point, and she worked there). She said I used to want her to call me Snow White. I don’t remember that very well, and maybe what I remember only comes from people telling me about it. I do remember that my first Disney Barbie was a Snow White (and with a specially made Halloween dress for Barbie dolls, which Snow White found herself in often, go figure), followed by Ariel and Jasmine.
My earliest memory of my Disney fairy tale love is of a Halloween costume, when I went as Belle from Beauty and the Beast. These days, I sometimes go into the Disney Store for a bit of nostalgia that’s getting harder and harder to achieve, since their merchandise is increasingly of recent movies more than the classics. That isn’t a bad thing, just an indicator of time passing and my refusal to acknowledge this inexorable fact.
But with the princess craze, I sometimes still see costumes of the most popular princesses, including Belle’s iconic ballroom gown. But none of them hold a candle to the original gown quite like my costume. It didn’t have the petticoat, but the general design of it was very similar. I identified with Belle in elementary school like I identified with Hermione in my teen years, being the daydreaming bookworm that I was.
And that dress made me feel so pretty.
Later, I shed Princess Belle for Princess Leia, which is – as you can imagine – a different tack entirely (but I pulled it off, dammit, cinnamon buns and all, see below). But Beauty and the Beast and its various versions, particularly the Disney movie and the Broadway show, is still my favorite fairy tale, the one that stays with me.
Dresses no longer make me feel pretty, I’ll never have that long brown hair again, and I’ve since abandoned my pursuit of a prince. I find I’m no longer looking for that kind of thing. Besides, I always like the Beast before his transformation anyway. I think most people do.