Disney Princesses Drawn With Disabilities Emphasize Ableism In The Magic Kingdom


Well, this is cool. I’m getting kind of weary of Disney princess reboots, but this, from disabled artist Alexsandro Palombo, might be one of the most worthwhile ones I’ve seen. Here’s Ariel, Belle, Jasmine and the whole beautiful-because-they’re-drawn-that-way gang—depicted as disabled.

There’s Snow White and Belle in a wheelchair, Cinderella missing part of her arm, Pocahontas on crutches and more. Palombo tells the HuffPo Uk that he was inspired to create depictions of disable Disney princesses because:

“Two years ago I had a rare form of cancer and after surgery to remove it some parts of my body are now paralysed. I am now a disabled person, and every day I have to deal with all forms of discrimination. Through this series I wanted to give visibility to this problem of strong discrimination directed to the persons with disabilities who live in our society.”

Here are some of the images Palombo created:

ariel-disabled sleeping-beauty snow-white

Awesome, right? And stirring, somehow, to see these classic characters depicted in a way you’d never expect. Kinda turns your notions on princesses upside down, no? Like the little girl who wants to see a disabled American Girl doll, it’s important that children see their favorite characters depicted in ways that resonate with their own experiences, whether that’s as a child of color, a physically-disabled child, or maybe even a child with a learning disability. Hell, it’s important that children see characters that are different than them, too, so they can learn that the world contains a vast diversity of people with different sizes, abilities, shapes, skin colors and more.

Disney isn’t too great at showing those different skin colors, as we know. Disney is one of the biggest media companies in the world, and continues to be the one of the largest influences on children (even despite the many other awesome and more inclusive forms of books and media that are now being produced for children). But aside from the continued discussion about Disney’s problem with people of color, I think that Palombo’s art brings up a number of other important questions about representation and discrimination.

Can we get a dyslexic Disney princess up in here? Or maybe a princess with Asperger’s Syndrome? (Although Asperger’s is commonly seen as a difference rather than a disability, as I understand it). Granted, I’m sure it will be a long long long long time until we see a Disney princess who is disabled or “different,” if we ever do.

Still, these continued re-imaginings of the characters show that people’s patience with Disney’s patented brand of white, able-bodied, thin, flawless femininity is growing thin. Maybe one day, perfect, aspirational fairy-tale characters will no longer be the norm and there will be a little less ableism in the Magic Kingdom.

Photos: Humor Chic by Alexsandro Palombo

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    • Kaitlin Reilly

      It would be great to see a Disney movie with a disabled character as a lead. As for the whole Disney princess thing, it’d be cool if the princess idea was shelved for a while. (though I am told Frozen and Brave did some cool stuff with the idea of the Disney princess — I haven’t seen either yet so I won’t judge)

    • Sirah

      As many people commented on Buzzfeed, I think this a poorly executed idea. I wish the artist had put a bit more effort into it instead of solely cutting limbs and adding wheelchairs. This project represents only one type of disability, which does not seem to alter the Disney image at all. It feels a bit lazy.

      Also, if people are so fed up of Disney princesses, why do they keep drawing them?

    • AlexMMR

      I want a fat princess. Or at least an average sized waist on one of them.

    • Elena

      Ariel walked on what felt like broken glass, and Rapunzel’s prince had his eyes gouged out from falling on the briars around Rapunzel’s tower. Aladdin’s princess was from China like him, and if we take that to mean Han Chinese instead of Muslim Chinese, she probably had her feet broken and bound when she was a girl.

      It’s just that Disney has disneyfied the original tales. I’m not even going into Sleeping Beauty originally waking up after giving birth to twins, but yeah…

      • Gangle

        Sleeping Beauty. The original date rape story.

      • Elena

        It’s not date if she’s, like, in a coma.

    • CrazyLogic

      1) Asperger Syndrome is not a daisies. It’s a disorder.
      2) Asperger Syndrome does not exist as a diagnosis anymore. It’s Autism Spectrum Disorder.

      If you’re going to speak on my behalf, at least make get your facts right.

      • Gangle

        Than you! I was going to say the same thing myself! My nephew is not diseased. He has a neurological difference and he is damned fine just the way he is!

      • CrazyLogic

        You can also make arguments that Ariel, Bell and Rapunzel show symptoms of having mild ASD. All three show some classic symptoms. Bell and Rapunzel especially. And Elsa is all but confirmed to have an anxiety disorder, although she seems to be on the mend by the end of the movie.

        It’s part of why I relate to those two so much.

        At least it’s been corrected in the article (but not noted that there was one needed)

      • G.S.

        Elsa is totally my spirit animal.

    • Renee J

      These images didn’t disturb me. But, as a mother of a son with a partial arm, I don’t consider that a disability, either. It hasn’t stopped him. He just has to do things a little differently.

    • RICK

      it’s really time people started realizing people with disabiltys are not just something to point at and laugh