One of the most popular aspects of Disney cartoons are the couples. Ever since Disney premiered Snow White back in 1937, various Disney couples have become synonymous with loving relationships. Old-school Disney movies relied on ancient ideals of love and relationships - Snow White and The Prince, Aurora and Phillip, Cinderella and Prince Charming. Relationships where the man "saves" the woman and she dotes on his bravery and chivalry. It makes sense, of course, seeing as how these stories were adapted from ancient fairy tales.
The '90s saw a bit of a Disney renaissance, and the relationships were similarly updated for modern audiences. In these stories, the man is often flawed - a far cry from the male paragon of fairy tales. As such, the relationships themselves are just as complex. Couples like Mulan and Li Shang, Pocahontas and John Smith, and Belle and the Beast exemplify this ideal.
But that's not to say that Disney hasn't evolved since the 90s. Like the Great Disney Renaissance, the 2010s saw yet another leap in the depiction of relationships (thanks in large part to their acquisition of Pixar.) The Disney relationships of the 2010s are often more forward-thinking and progressive, more palatable for modern audiences and modern ways of thinking. They also tend to be more realistic, which serves as a major departure from the fairy tale romances of Disney's Golden Age.
Regardless of the time period, there will always be good and bad relationships. These are fifteen couples that hurt the movie, and ten that saved them.
Ariel is a problematic protagonist. The film's detractors consider Ariel to be selfish and reckless, the embodiment of a rebellious and naive teenager. Not only that, but she potentially curses her own existence for a man she doesn't even know! But perhaps the biggest flaw of this movie is Ariel's lack of voice. Not only is this lack of communication a terrible way to depict a serious relationship, but it takes away her independence and agency. It's a pretty silly message to teach the kids.
Nick and Judy are not a romantic couple, but they certainly make a great duo. Throughout Zootopia, each teaches the other a little something, and they both grow as people (or animals.) Nick schools Judy on discrimination, while Judy encourages Nick to put his brains to better use. Both are flawed individuals, but both utilize their knowledge and strengths to make the other more rounded and fulfilled. Plus, it's refreshing to see a compatible duo NOT become a romantic couple for once.
These two couldn't be more incompatible. Felix is the goody two shoes hero who wouldn't hurt a fly, while Calhoun is a gun-toting soldier who brings a mini-gun to her wedding! And despite Calhoun's cold exterior, she eventually falls for Felix because... reasons. Yes, she was depressed over her programmed backstory, but just because she finally has sentience doesn't mean she would grow to love Felix. This movie needed to devote more time to these characters, because their romantic relationship is way too rushed and nonsensical.
Frozen was praised not just for its incredible visuals and songs (LET IT GOOOO!,) but for flipping the traditional Disney narrative. In this movie, Anna is the strong and protective Princess who vows to save her sister, and Kristoff is the one who needs saving. Not literally, of course, but figuratively. Kristoff is initially depicted as pessimistic, anti-social, and snarky, but Anna helps uncover the happy and more fulfilled individual underneath. It's nice to see a change in the hero dynamic.
Speaking of the hero dynamic, here we see a very traditional (and very outdated) tale of a strong and brave man risking his life to save a helpless woman in need. You all know the story - Aurora and Phillip instantly fall in love (of cours,e, Aurora falls asleep, and Phillip literally slays a dragon to save her. It's no doubt a good story (it wouldn't' be so famous if it wasn't,) but it's also a problematic story viewed through a modern lens.
Tangled is obviously based on Rapunzel, but only on the surface. Rather than being the typical damsel in distress, Rapunzel is a strong and determined heroine who is talented and able to fend for herself. And rather than being the flawless, rich hero, Flynn grew up poor and serves as a selfish, anti-heroic thief for much of the movie. Flynn only grows into his heroism and selflessness through the determination of Rapunzel. It subverts expectations and once again proves that men sometimes need saving, too.
Prince Florian is the quintessential fairy tale hero. He's handsome, he's charming, and he saves the day. Which is why Snow White is so problematic in the 21st century. Snow White shows a complete lack of independence - she not only wishes for a Prince to whisk her away to riches and happiness, but she becomes helpless and requires saving. And wouldn't you know it, the dashing Prince saves her and whisks her away to his castle. These movies are classics, but the relationships are archaic.
Forget Snow White and the Prince. The Parrs is where true love is at. Bob hates his boring white collar job and mundane existence, so he seeks out adventure. Helen is a loving mother who is comfortable in their domestic life, but she is also just as adept as Bob when it comes to fighting crime and saving the world. The two are not only committed to each other (despite their differences,) but they're on equal footing when it comes to being a hero.
The story of Cinderella is a little hard to believe, what with all the magic and Fairy Godmothers and stuff. But what's even harder to believe is the relationship between Cinderella and Prince Charming. For one thing, they fall in love with each other after one quick dance. Talk about prematurely jumping in! And then the Prince's plan to find Cinderella is to force the lost glass slipper on EVERY maiden's foot. What kind of goofy logic is that? The whole thing barely makes any sense.
The story of Carl and Ellie's relationship was more investing and emotionally affecting than most full-length movies. It tells a gripping and heartbreaking story about the random nature of life and its penchant for obstructing plans. While they want Paradise Falls more than anything, more pressing matters always come up, and tragedy falls upon them on numerous occasions. Up will forever be remembered as "that movie with Carl and Ellie," even though the whole thing took five minutes of screen time.
Talk about squeezing in a romantic subplot. The primary role of Bo Peep is to defend Woody's honor against the other toys. And... that's about it when it comes down to it. She is given very little (if any) character development, and she doesn't have a story or arc of her own. Toy Story 3 only reinforces her uselessness by not even including her in the cast! She served little purpose, and she had little character of her own. What was the point?
Like Felix and Calhoun, the traditional gender roles between WALL-E and EVE are flipped - WALL-E is generally non-confrontational and passive, while EVE is the action girl with a literal cannon arm who gets herself involved with most of the film's set pieces. This adds some nice variety to the proceedings, and unlike Felix and Calhoun, their relationship is beautifully developed throughout the movie. WALL-E learns courage from EVE, while EVE learns selflessness and love. It's a soulful and humane relationship between two robots.
The Hunchback of Notre Dame's heart is in the right place. Captain Phoebus and Esmeralda fall in love, and Phoebus eventually turns on Frollo to protect the gypsies. But despite his change of heart, Quasimodo is absolutely heartbroken that Esmeralda has fallen for Phoebus. And then he just...accepts it. We suppose it's a nice change of pace from the predictable Disney love story, but it's still devastating to see Phoebus and Esmeralda end up together when it so obviously hurts Quasimodo.
It's beautiful to see such a supportive father figure in a children's movie. Despite not being related to Lilo, David serves as a loving father figure and constantly helps the two out of the pure goodness of his heart. He takes them both surfing when they're feeling down, and he informs Nani of a job opportunity. He's not only there for Nani whenever she needs him, but he also raises Lilo as his own daughter/big brother. He's a good man, and a great family man.
Cars 2 was... well, it was really bad, and the relationship between Mater and Holley certainly didn't do it any favors. We enjoy the imagery of the rusted-out hunk of junk paired with the sleek and shiny sports car, but there's little to like aside from that. Their relationship is incredibly rushed, like it was squeezed in in the third draft of the script, and it makes little sense. The whole thing is rather confusing and unnecessary, and it hurt the overall impact of the movie.
Beauty and the Beast is rightfully considered a Disney masterpiece (and a masterpiece in general.) While it's filled with gorgeous animation and classic songs, the heart of the story lies in the relationship between Belle and Beast. While it starts a little creepily (the whole prisoner thing), the two quickly develop feelings for each other. Belle loves the Beast for who he is, and she helps him overcome his insecurity. It's a love story for the ages, and the two are true Disney icons.
Mulan tells a beautiful and empowering story of a woman fighting in the Chinese army and defending the honor of her family. Mulan was one of Disney's first true heroines, and she still remains a paragon of strength, bravery, and resolve (the traits typically reserved for the males.) But OF COURSE she has to fall for Li Shang and marry him. This is a Disney movie, after all. This unnecessary relationship acts as an awkward wedge between traditional Disney love stories and true progression.
Aladdin is an exciting movie involving sorcery and magic lamps, but it's also a touching love story about staying true to yourself. Princess Jasmine refuses to marry a suitor, and she eventually falls for Aladdin, a poor street urchin. And while Aladdin uses the Genie to appear royal (Prince Ali Ababwa,) he learns his lesson and decides to stay true to himself. The two then marry, despite Aladdin's significantly reduced status. Aladdin and Jasmine love each other for who they are, not for what they represent.
The Princess and the Frog served as a mix of both new and old Disney - hand-drawn animation and a fairy tale story met progressive gender dynamics and the first black Disney princess. However, this mix only muddled the movie's message. Tiana is a strong character with crazy ambition, but she drops her dream on a dime to stay with Naveen. So, is the movie saying that you should give up on your dreams and ambitions for love? If so, that's one problematic message.
The relationship status between Peter Pan and Wendy has been hotly debated for decades. Some say they love each other, others say they're just good friends. Regardless, Peter Pan treats Wendy like absolute garbage throughout much of the movie. Maybe it's his childish personality, but he shows little respect or care towards Wendy's feelings, going so far as to laugh at Wendy when the mermaids bully her. He also seems to be a bit of a player. Wendy never had a chance.
Throughout The Lion King, Simba and Nala are portrayed as equals. They are both good fighters, they share a common goal, and they love each other unconditionally. Nala also acts as Simba's voice of reason, cooling him down and urging him to think logically when he gets too hot-headed. They then rule as King and Queen of the Pride Lands, equals in their newfound power and maturity. It's not often that we get a King AND a Queen, but Simba and Nala deliver.
We get sacrificing some things for love, but to drop your ENTIRE life? Jane and her professor father arrive on the island to study gorillas, only for Jane to fall for Tarzan. Jane even asks Tarzan to return to England with her (you know, him being a human and all,) but Tarzan refuses. So what does she do? She abandons her entire life (and civilization) to remain on some isolated island with Tarzan and a band of gorillas. Now that's just stupid.
Throughout much of Lady and the Tramp, the Tramp is horrible to Lady. He tells Lady that she'll be kicked out of her house. He calls her Pidge because he thinks she's stupid. He takes her to a romantic candlelit dinner but refuses to admit that he's a player (and has likely used the noodle trick on MANY dogs). This of course leads to her embarrassment. He doesn't rescue her from the pound. Need we go on? What does she see in this guy?
Did anyone buy this relationship? Hercules is naive but happy-go-lucky, whereas Meg is perpetually snarky and cold. Maybe it's just us, but we don't think they had any chemistry. Not only that, but their relationship is based on lies, as Meg was working with Hades to thwart Hercules. Call us cynical, but we don't know about getting with someone who sold you out to Hades after pretending to love you and knowingly leading you on. That might be a tad unforgivable.
We don't mind historical inaccuracy in our Disney movies, but this is just egregious. It spits in the face of the historical story. Their ages are way off (Matoaka was actually around 10.) John Smith was a scraggly mercenary. Smith was characterized as stern and selfish, not friendly. There is no evidence that the two were ever romantically involved. AND it's entirely possible that the whole story was fabricated, or at least grossly exaggerated. Yeah, so, they didn't love each other. Not even close.