Modern Disney Heroines: Artist Uses Contemporary Twist to Examine 5 Classic Characters

Wellington, New Zealand-based illustrator and designer Alana Mays recently completed a graduation project at Massey University in which she explored Disney fairytales — and what she found were gender boilerplates. Lots of them.

“The aim of my project was to critique the stereotypes that Disney portrays through their female heroines,” she said.

So she focused on three areas: the beautiful ideal, the domestic ideal and the female object as a prize portrayed through characters such as Cinderella, Jasmine, The Little Mermaid, Sleeping Beauty and Snow White.

Using contemporary settings, Mays updated each character in an effort to look at the characters through a relatable, critical and modern lens.

Take a look at Mays’ Modern Disney Heroines — who are amazingly much less appealing when certain aspects of their tales are isolated:


  • Contemporary Classics 1 of 7

    Modern Disney Heroines — With a Twist

  • Beauty Rewards 2 of 7

    "In the Disney Film Snow White, the Snow White that we all know of is stereotyped as beautiful. Disney gives the impression that it is important to be beautiful on the outside in order to be rescued. In this concept, I have created a twist by making Snow White not beautiful. Snow White has passed out from choking on an apple and she is in need of CPR to be saved. A man is about to give her CPR but because he does not find her desirable he looks repulsed. This idea shows that if you are not beautiful, then you will not be rewarded."

  • A Prize to be Won 3 of 7

    "In the Disney film Aladdin, the heroine Jasmine has been stereotyped to be a prize. Men desired Jasmine for her title and beauty instead of her inner beauty. The concept shows Jasmine inside of a life size game machine, surrounded by toy cars, to play on the idea that she is a prize or trophy to be won by a male. She is worried as she knows that eventually she will be won by a man rather than be swept of her feet by a man of her choice. This idea implies that women are sometimes seen as an object rather than as an individual."

  • An Object of Ridicule 4 of 7

    "In the Disney film Sleeping Beauty, the main character Aurora, that we all know of is stereotyped as beautiful. In this concept there is an unattractive version of Sleeping Beauty inside of a kissing booth at a carnival, asleep as she has been waiting for too long for some one to arrive. This idea shows that if females don't meet the expectations of beauty then they will be an object of ridicule and will not be noticed by a male."

  • Compromise for Love 5 of 7

    "In the Disney film The Little Mermaid, the character Ariel is the stereotypical example of compromises made to meet the concept of ideal beauty. She transforms her tail for a pair of legs and sells her voice to win the man of her dreams. Disney is displaying ideals of beauty through portraying female characters as not good enough the way they are and that they should be willing to change their body for someone. This concept  shows Ariel getting plastic surgery transformation which shows that women today are focusing on their outer appearance and are going to the extremes of plastic surgery to meet societies expectations of beauty."

  • Gender Equalities 6 of 7

    "In the Disney film Cinderella, the heroine is stereotyped as a poor domestic slave. In this concept, Cinderella is in an office where she is working but is still wearing her dirty used kitchen gloves. This shows that even though women have the right to work these days, they still bear the title of being the domestic housewives when they go home."

  • Modern Disney Heroines 7 of 7

    For more from Alana Mays, visit her Behance site.


All images and descriptions used with permission from Alana Mays

More from Meredith on Babble:

Follow Meredith on Twitter and check out her regular column on the Op-Ed page of The Denver Post at

Article Posted 2 years Ago
share this article
facebook twitter tumblr pinterest
See Comments
what do you think?
share this article
facebook twitter tumblr pinterest
See Comments
what do you think?
what do you think?
close comments
Subscribe to the
Welcome to
Sign Out
Follow us on