Disney Princess is a franchise incorporating select female heroines from the Disney Animated Canon, many of whom actually are princesses (by birth or marriage).Disney officially applies this title to (in order of their film releases):
Cinderella has a silver dress and strawberry-blonde hair in her film, but in the franchise she usually has a blue dress and golden blonde hair.
Aurora's hair is lightened from a dusky blonde to also golden blonde. Her skin also tends to lighten up a bit in comparison.
Advertised Extra: Pocahontas and Mulan. They're both considered "official princesses", but they are left out of majority of the advertising.
Art Evolution: When the franchise first debuted in early 2000, the princesses were simply shown in their unmodified dressed from the films. Later on, they started to make their dresses more elaborate, such as giving them more frills, mink trims, recoloring them all gold, being encrusted with jewelry, making them sparkle, and now, having them appear metallic. For The New Tens, their looks were adapted for modernity, with all of the princesses from before 1995 getting an update on their look. It appears to be for the 3D animation seen in Sofia the First.
Artifact Title: Disney's definition of "princess" is more "popular heroine" than a literal title. The line was created in 2000, and Mulan and Pocahontas were already inducted in. The less popular Disney heroines, like Esmeralda, Megara, Wendy, or Alice, are occasionally seen in merchandise, but were never a part of the official line-up, or only briefly considered in. Eilonwy and Kida, on the other hand, are not so lucky and Calla from the Adventures of the Gummi Bears TV series does not count.
It seems the only jewels on Pocahontas' redesign costume are turquoise, which was popular among Native Americans...in the Southwest. A Native from coastal Virginia would more likely wear shells than turquoise as decoration.
Authority in Name Only: The princess title is applied rather broadly to some of these characters. Six were born royal, and three married into it (though one of those was to a prince in exile). Contrary to this trope, Pocahontas and Mulan never actually become princesses—in fact, in the former's sequel, she's made to fit into the "princess" peg as a form of cultural imposition and she's fairly uncomfortable with it.
The Beautiful Elite: All the princesses are attractive, and is often a major point of the movie. Especially justified with Aurora in that she was given a blessing to be gorgeous. Notably, their lives appear much more glamorous in the merchandise than their movies: only Ariel, Jasmine and Snow White lived as princesses during the beginning of their movies, the last two of whom take a stint at being a peasant.
Clothes Make the Legend: Their most iconic dresses are still the base for many of their new outfits. Cause of a couple of issues when merchandising Ariel, Mulan and Pocahontas: Ariel's most iconic outfit is a bra, Mulan's most iconic outfit is a dress that represented a life she did not fit, and Pocahontas' dress is notably more practical and plain than the other ladies', although she is sometimes put in her European ballgown from her second movie.
Color-Coded for Your Convenience: Each Princess has their own color, and a 3-year old girl can spot them from across the Disney Store. Snow White is white (or the primary colors), Aurora is pink, Cinderella is blue, Ariel is sea green, Belle is yellow, Jasmine is teal, Pocahontas is tan, Mulan varies between red or green and yellow, Tiana is green, Rapunzel is lavender, and Merida is royal blue or dark teal. Makes it real easy to tell which princess is currently your daughter's favorite.
Before Tiana and Rapunzel came along and took green and purple for themselves, Ariel and Jasmine tended to switch off who was green and who was purple. If it was Jasmine's turn to be purple, she wore the shimmery outfit from the end of her movie.
Cool Crown: Their tiaras come in many forms, although Aurora and Tiana are notable for having tiaras that are a part of their main look (Tiana wears three!).
Costume Porn: All of the girls have themed dresses: holiday, flower, designer, gold, bejewelled, etc. The iconic costumery of the princesses is a very popular subject for fanartists to play with: you can find mod, hipster, school girl, historic, designer, and more versions of their dresses if you look.
Damsel in Distress: Most of the princesses were in distress in their movies at least once, most notably Aurora, Ariel, Jasmine, and Snow White who were in mortal peril and whose rescue was the climax of the movie.
Notable averted, however, with Mulan, Merida, and Tiana, who were all very active in their own movies and were never helpless. Furthermore, Ariel, Jasmine and Rapunzel, qualify as damsels out of distress or Defiant Captives.
Ermine Cape Effect: In their movies, they have modest dresses that they wear most of the time, but in the merchandising, the fancy gowns are the most prevalent. In the Enchanted Christmas midquel, Belle's favorite outfit is a scarlet cloak and pink dress, both bordered in fluffy white fur.
Expy: Cinderella, Ariel and Belle get rock-star-doll counterparts in the form of Ella, Ari and Gabrielle - the popDreamers. There's a music album. Around the same time, there was also the Disney Girls children's book series, which centered around girls who were basically otakin of six of the princesses.
Fairytale Wedding Dress: Cinderella, Ariel, Tiana and others just for the toy lines and artwork. And now you can buy one for your own wedding! Prior to Alfred Angelo designing those wedding gowns, Kirstie Kelly was in charge of "Disney Fairy Tale Weddings", and had four collections, each featuring lines inspired by Ariel, Belle, Cinderella, Jasmine, Aurora and Snow White. Each collection featured bridal gowns, bridesmaids' dresses, flower girl dresses, and jewelry.
Follow the Leader: Barbie, in terms of the toys. Mattel is behind both doll franchises. Another Mattel property, Ever After High, also calls back to fairy tales and has many characters based on the princesses whose stories are covered in this line. (In fact, in EAH, princesses are a privileged social class, which seems to be inspired by the success of the Disney Princess line.)
Friend to All Living Things: Every Disney princess had some kind of Animal Friend, or even a whole posse: Snow White and Aurora had various woodland animals (Snow White is usually pictured with songbirds, and Aurora with the owl); Cinderella had birds, mice and a dog; Ariel had a fish, seagull and crab; Belle has her horse; Jasmine had a pet tiger that drove away unwanted suitors; Pocahontas had a raccoon, a hummingbird, an army of technicolor leaves, and later a pug; Mulan had her pet dog, a dragon, a cricket and her horse; Tiana had a firefly and a trumpet-playing alligator; Rapunzel had a chameleon and later a horse ally; Merida had her horse (and of course her mother and brothers as bears).
Rapunzel has her purple and lavender dress with pink touches.
Jasmine has two: one she wears when her engagement with Ali is to be announced, and a slightly varied version seen in The Return of Jafar.
Aurora sometimes wears a purple dress as a compromise between her pink and blue dresses.
All the girls get a few in the various non-canonical outfits.
Hair Decorations: Snow White, Cinderella, Aurora as a peasant, and Jasmine all wear headbands. Cinderella, Ariel and Belle wear bows as commoners. Tiana, Aurora and Rapunzel wear tiaras as princesses. Mulan is given a beautiful comb from her father, which she leaves in place of his military draft when she goes to the army. Rapunzel has her hair decorated with flowers when it's braided, which is her main look at the parks. Pocahontas never has anything in her hair (except in the sequel), and Merida is the only princess who never has anything in her hair (because surely her hair is decoration enough).
Hot Consort: Cinderella, Belle and Tiana. It goes the other way too, as Aladdin and Flynn marry into royalty, making them the Hot Consorts.
Hotter and Sexier: In some stickers and pictures, they use the same pictures of the princesses due to the fact that they always copy and paste them onto merchandise, only there's a very noticeable cleavage line drawn onto their outfit. Rather jarring considering Snow White is rather flat-chested and her dress is pretty high cut, yet she still apparently has the boob-line.
Hourglass Hottie: Most of them, particularly those made during The Nineties. The exceptions are Snow White (who is 14, and existed in a time when less curvy figures were fashionable), Merida, Mulan, and Rapunzel (who are wide in the hips, small in the bust and all part of the 3D styled princesses) and Pocahontas (who is the opposite of Rapunzel - wide in the bust and shoulders, small in the hips).
Iconic Item: Each of the princesses tend to be represented by a primary and secondary symbol of their movie:
Snow White: Her apple more than anything else, then also her red bow appear quite frequently.
Cinderella: The glass slipper is her primary symbol, and a pumpkin (usually just a pumpkin, not the carriage) next.
Aurora: Her crown stands out the most (it's used at Belle's Cottage in Walt Disney World to symbolize◊ that Belle's favorite book is the Disney version of Sleeping Beauty), with The Tragic Rose being secondary.
Ariel: Seashells are used most often, but her symbols tend to be accoutrements of sea-related things.
Belle: The Beast's rose is frequently use to represent her, and more rarely, the mirror.
Jasmine: The Genie's lamp (being an overall representation of the movie) is used most often, but also frequently a jasmine flower (or even the small white song birds she frees).
Pocahontas: Her mother's turquoise necklace gets used as often as an array of colorful leaves.
Mulan: She has the biggest predicament, as no one symbol is ever really associated with her (although some could be used like her sword or medal or lotus comb, none ever stuck to the public consciousness). She generally is just represented with something that looks Chinese.
Tiana: The lilies from the swamps get used exclusively, including a lily pad and vines.
Rapunzel: The sun symbol of Corona, as well as the colorful daisies and flowers that decorated her hair appear the most.
Merida: Her bow represents her personally, but her mother as a bear is used frequently as well.
Iconic Outfit: Pretty much every Disney Princess has one of these. Ariel is a bit unfortunate, in that her most memorable attire is as a mermaid, and she only wears a Seashell Bra. So her representation varies the most out of all the princesses—either she's shown as a mermaid (sometimes balancing on her tail in art) and her tail is decorated and bejeweled, or she's dressed in the pink dress. Ariel's redesign shows her in a green dress, like sea foam.◊ These outfits are so iconic, often elements of them are used in non-Disney fairy tales to make it instantly clear who the character is:
Snow White: Nearly Snow White's whole outfit tends to get used as being iconic—yellow skirt, red-slashed blue sleeves, white collar, and red bow are used in pieces or even all together to represent her.
Cinderella: The big ballroom dress in blue (usually with short, attached sleeves) is almost always used to represent Cinderella.
Aurora: The white neckline is the most iconic part of it after the crown, though a dress is often pink. More relevant is that fairy tale princesses often are similar to Aurora in appearance—long, curly blonde hair with (mistakenly) blue (or even accurately) violet eyes in pink is a very common way to represent a princess, and in particular, Japan tends to make Sleeping Beauty-inspired princesses more overt◊.
Ariel: Rather than a particular dress, long, bright red hair with a lavender seashell bra and green tail is the most common way to represent The Little Mermaid.
Belle: Less common to see Beauty from the fairy tale look specifically like Belle (save perhaps brown hair), it's more common to see the Beast be quite inspired by the Disney version.
Jasmine: A unique example, as the folk tale is rarely represented in the media, but when a Bedlah Babe needs to make an appearance, you'll bet she'll be dressed to look like Jasmine.
Pocahontas/Mulan: Since neither are represented in fairy tales, generally the only depiction is the Disney version.
Tiana: The Frog Prince's princess is more and more often represented as a young black lady.
Rapunzel: Rapunzel's Rapunzel Hair being blonde is a very common depiction of the princess anyway.
"I Want" Song: In chronological order: "I'm Wishing"/"Someday My Prince Will Come", "A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes", "I Wonder", "Part of Your World", "Belle (reprise)", "Just Around the Riverbend", "Reflection", "Almost There", "When Will My Life Begin?", "Touch the Sky" (although not sung by Merida). Unusually, it took Jasmine 15 years to get her own "I Want" Song. She didn't have one in the original Aladdin or in either of its sequels, but finally got one in her mini-movie on the Disney Princess Enchanted Tales DVD.
Long Hair Is Feminine: Applies to most of the Disney princesses to some measure (Snow White is an aversion, wearing a short 1930s style), provided it was fashionable at the time the movie was made.
Aurora, Ariel, Belle, Jasmine, Pocahontas and Merida have long hair.
Cinderella and Tiana have shoulder-length hair.
Mulan originally had long hair, but after cutting it, she now has medium-length hair.
Rapunzel was born with long hair that eventually grew up to be 70 feet long, but after Eugene cut it, Rapunzel's hair resembles a pixie cut.
Magical Girl: There is a Manga in that genre, Kilala Princess, featuring most of the princesses. No, they are not magical girls themselves. They are just helping the heroine, who is.
Missing Mom: Ariel, Belle, Jasmine and Pocahontas don't have mothers, but fathers.
Modular Franchise: No Disney Animated Canon work depicts these heroines together in any combination, but that's about the only place where they haven't been brought together. However, in pictures of the ladies all together, they are often shown staring off at various directions or looking straight ahead into the "camera": this was to acknowledge that they're not really "together" and existing in the same universe. The line has even extended to include Pixar heroine Merida.
Ms. Fanservice: Ariel and Jasmine perhaps have the most exaggerated figures and the most skin showing. Jasmine especially, as she is seen through the eyes of the male hero who is in love with her.
That said, most of the princesses are from various real-world countries—it is never explained which one. It can be presumed Snow White is from Germany, as the fairy tale it's based on is set there, as well as the inspiration for the clothing. Similarly, Sleeping Beauty is probably set in France, as the anthem of the French monarchy plays at Aurora's arrival, and the movie is based upon the French version of the fairy tale.
Neutral Female: Despite being stereotyped as "sitting around waiting to be rescued", this trope is actually averted. Never has a Disney Princess stood and watched while the man fought; at worst they're incapacitated by magic or attempting to fight as best as they can. It isn't ideal, but at least they're not just standing there shrieking.
No Name Given: Snow White, Cinderella and Belle's respective beaus in their respective movies. However, Beast was given the name Adam in a CD-Rom game made by Disney. Cinderella's prince, according to Disney press material, is actually named Charming. Snow White's prince is sometimes referred to as "Ferdinand", but this is actually a misinterpretation from fandom, who mistook Shirley Temple referring to various Disney characters like Snow White, the Seven Dwarfs, and Ferdinand—the Bull, not the Prince. "Frederick" and "Florian" are names given to the prince, allegedly.
Official Cosplay Gear: So many outfits that young girls can wear. It was seeing girls, at a "Disney on ice" show, trying to dress as the princesses, but having no official outfits to wear, that inspired a Disney exec to start this line. Now official dresses of all sizes are available in many department stores.
Pretty in Mink: Many of their holiday dresses have fur trim. One set was their dresses all trimmed with white fur and them carrying white fur muffs.
Princess Classic: Snow White, Cinderella and Aurora. The other princesses, when in their ballgowns, sometimes get placed over here. Rapunzel is a more modern version, with a bit more energy and verve, but still embodies all of the traits associated with them.
Princesses Prefer Pink: Cinderella, Aurora, Ariel, Belle and Rapunzel each have at least one dress that is pink, though none of them are the main costumes within their movies.
Proper Lady: The three classic princesses Snow White, Cinderella and Aurora are all well-mannered and humble, quite different from the newer heroines.
Public Service Announcement: Cinderella has one reminding parents that children less than 4'9" (145 cm) tall need a booster seat when riding in a car. (She is the only one whose originating fairy tale specifically states that she goes for a ride in a wheeled vehicle.) Ariel and Aurora promote ocean protection and forest fire prevention, respectively. Belle and her friends head a campaign for healthy eating and exercise.
Purity Personified: Snow White, Cinderella, Aurora and Rapunzel are usually depicted as being the most innocent (and flawless)—the other princesses at times count, too.
Rapunzel Hair: Jasmine's hair goes down to her thighs, Merida has hair down to her hips curled (and would therefore be enormously long straight) and Rapunzel... Well...
Satellite Love Interest: The lack of character of the Snow White's Prince and Prince Charming (and occasionally Prince Phillip and Prince Eric) is subject to much mocking by fans. The princes with the most development—Aladdin, Beast and Naveen—also are in the title of the movie, or otherwise the title doesn't mention a character at all, in the case of Flynn. Cinderella's prince got a lot more likeable and charismatic in the sequels, in particular A Twist in Time. Part of why Snow White's and Cinderella's princes are so bland is that the animators had difficulty animating realistic men. They originally had a much larger part in the story, but due to time constraints and difficulty, their role was slashed.
Eric got some decent character development eventually, but not until the Broadway musical since most Little Mermaid spin-offs take place before Ariel meets him.
Simple Yet Opulent: Their main princess dresses are mostly on the low end of "pimped out", if even that. Belle's and Tiana's dresses are the exceptions.
Single Woman Seeks Good Man: Even though some of the princes are undeveloped, all of them are good men—or at least, in the case of Naveen, the Beast and Flynn, become so at the end of their movies.
Sliding Scale of Beauty: This is Disney so none of the princesses ever fall below World Class Beauty standards, though one or two repeatedly get mentioned as being the most beautiful both within their respective universes and sometimes even in Real Life. This is usually visually represented by having the female lead drawn differently in comparison to other female characters. The best example would be that of Belle and the Bimbettes. Merida is perhaps the only princess whose physical attractiveness is never mentioned or implied in her movie, although is apparent from her appearance.
At least six new shorts were prepared for a direct-to-DVD series called Disney Princess Enchanted Tales, but the ban on Direct-to-Video Disney sequels killed the line after the first volume. As a result, only one Aurora short and one Jasmine short became available, and the ones for Belle, Mulan and Cinderella (as well as a second one for Aurora) might never see light of day. The original DVD of Cinderella III: A Twist in Time contained a preview and a trailer for the unreleased Aurora tale, that show just enough clips for fans to piece together the storyline.
A Spear Counterpart called Disney Heroes was planned to focus on many of the male protagonists (as well as other heroic characters like Robin Hood and Peter Pan) but fell through when the few action figures released sold poorly.
Teen Protagonist: All the Disney Princesses are teenagers, the majority of which are in the 16-18 age range (Snow White is 14, Cinderella and Tiana are 19). Generally the girls are this young in part because they're at that age in their fairy tales, and because girls relate better to them.
The merchandise and sequels as compared to the original films. This hits the first three princesses especially hard, because while the later ones are remembered for a few stock traits, any semblance of a personality from the earliest princesses is replaced with generic "sweetness". Can you imagine the plastic heroine of Cinderella II Dreams Come True going after a cat with a broom?
In Belle's Magical World, the Beast's castle looks like a bland fairy tale castle whereas it looked gothic and elegant in the original film. They manage this even when showing the same rooms which appeared in the original film.
Virtual Paper Doll: A few games and on their main site now. Some of the dresses they wear are heavy on the Artistic License, as they make absolutely no sense for the time period or area that they live in. Mulan's many European ball gowns for one.
Voice Types: In the musical films the princesses are likely to be sung by sopranos.