The Voices Behind the Disney Princesses, Then and Now.Carolyn Castiglia
The 2011 Disney fan expo D23 was held last week at the Anaheim Convention Center in Anaheim, California and included a ceremony honoring Disney Legends. According to InsidetheMagic.net, among the honorees were Regis Philbin, Guy Williams, Jack and Bonita Wrather, Ray Watson, and Bo Boyd, “but it was the line-up of voices of Disney Princesses and a tribute to Jim Henson that stole the show, entertaining an audience of fans with familiar songs.”
Jezebel posted footage today of the singers behind Belle, Mulan, Jasmine, Tiana and Ariel belting out their respective Disney classics, and listening made it clear that some of their voices are living happily ever after… while others’ pipes have rusted. Here’s a side-by-side comparison of the Disney Princesses, then and now:
Let’s start with Tony Award winner Jodi Benson, who sang the role of Ariel in The Little Mermaid 22 years ago. Here she is then:
Considering the fact that Ms. Benson will be 50 this October, I’d say she sounds pretty damn amazing – and she looks great, too. Singing with that perfect “Disney mix” is no easy feat, and aside from a few held notes that were a bit covered, I’m gonna give her Disney Legends performance an A. Benson has had a strong career in animation, having voiced “Thumbelina” in Thumbelina (1994), “Tour Guide Barbie” in Toy Story 2 (1999), “Ariel” in The Little Mermaid 2: Return to the Sea (2000) and The Little Mermaid: Ariel’s Beginning (2008), “Lady” in Lady and the Tramp II: Scamp’s Adventure (2001), “Anita” in 101 Dalmatians II: Patch’s London Adventure (2003) and many other roles. She also appeared as Patrick Dempsey’s assistant Sam in Disney’s Enchanted, one of my daughter’s faves.
Moving on to Lea Salonga, another Tony winner who sang the role of not one but two Disney princesses, both Mulan and Jasmine. Any musical theatre geek knows Salonga is a living legend, having starred in Miss Saigon and Les Miserables. Miraculously, Salonga’s voice hasn’t aged a day. (She’s got those Filipina chords of steel!) Listen to her sing “Reflection” from Mulan, then and now. She puts Christina Aguilera to shame.
Salonga’s voice gives me chills – I could listen to the woman sing all day. To learn more about her many accomplishments – musical and otherwise – visit her website.
Unfortunately, Paige O’Hara’s voice hasn’t held up as well as those of her contemporaries. Known for her role as the plucky and precocious “Belle” in Beauty and the Beast, O’Hara hasn’t enjoyed the same level of career success as Benson and Salonga. O’Hara now resides in Las Vegas and according to her website, “has been performing as Soap Star in the smash hit Menopause The Musical, which opened at the Las Vegas Hilton, and is now playing at the Luxor.” O’Hara’s 1991 rendition of the Academy Award Nominated song “Belle” is stunning, but the 2011 version hardly holds a candle to the original. To her credit, O’Hara’s passaggio may be shot, but her belt is still very strong, and she ends her D23 performance literally and metaphorically on a high note.
“Belle” in ’91:
“Belle” in a Beauty and the Beast medley 20 years later:
I may be wrong, but I’m pretty sure Belle and Jasmine are the only Disney heroines who don’t have a solo ballad, which is why O’Hara performed a medley instead of an 11 o’clock number.
In closing, enjoy this footage of the amazing Anika Noni Rose, who won the Tony for her role in Caroline, or Change. The 38-year-old’s career is still in full swing and her voice is in tip-top shape. I’ll post both the recorded version of “Almost There” from The Princess and the Frog and the live D23 performance just so you can hear exactly how wonderful Rose sounds.
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It’s a shame the glorious goddess Judy Kuhn couldn’t have been honored as a part of this ceremony, but her character Pocahontas isn’t considered a Disney Princess. Here she is singing “Colors of the Wind” nonetheless, because no celebration of Disney divas would be complete without a shout-out to this mega-talent.
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Who’s your favorite Princess, vocally speaking? Do you and your kids share the same Princess love?
For a visual comparison of the Princesses, then and now, check out: Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty and Their Princess Pals Get Sexier by the Day
How do Fairy Tales and Disney Princesses affect young boys?