The release Disney's 'The Princess and the Frog' has sparked a hailstorm of chatter in both the mainstream media and the blogosphere over the fact that the movie features the first black princess.

But the critics and commentators may be ignoring a bigger story: Are Disney Princesses still as popular as they've been in the past, or has the storied tradition began to fade -- and will sales of backpacks, princess costumes and movie tickets drop in favor of an entirely new fad?
The release Disney's 'The Princess and the Frog' has sparked a hailstorm of chatter in both the mainstream media and the blogosphere over the fact that the movie features the first black princess.

But the critics and commentators may be ignoring a bigger story: Are Disney Princesses still as popular as they've been in the past, or has the storied tradition began to fade -- and will sales of backpacks, princess costumes and movie tickets drop in favor of an entirely new fad ... like, say, 'Hannah Montana'?

In an informal poll that I took, the results were mixed. Julia, age 6, from Long Island is over princesses, but Naomi, also 6, from Florida, still loves princesses and looks forward to wearing her princess costume when she goes to Disney World. Oona, age 3, from Massachusetts, doesn't watch the Disney movies and owns no princesses paraphernalia. Despite her parents' efforts to shield her from the mass marketing, she sometimes tells her mother, "I am a Princess!"

Meanwhile, the past few years have seen Miley Cyrus' alter-ego Hannah Montana become the dominant Disney property marketed to young girls, with a wildly popular TV show and concert tour and a pair of movies, 'Hannah Montana & Miley Cyrus: Best of Both Worlds Concert' and 'Hannah Montana: The Movie' raking in $65.3 million and $79.6 million, respectively.

But don't count out princesses just yet. Disney's last princess-centric movie, the 2007 live-action animation hybrid 'Enchanted' -- which starred Amy Adams as a princess who falls in love with a (Mc)dreamy modern-day single dad played by Patrick Dempsey -- racked up $127.8 million at the domestic box office ... almost as much as the two 'Hannah Montana' movies combined. You see, inside the mind of the American female toddler, whose main thoughts revolve around sippy cups and Tupperwares filled with Cheerios, Disney Princesses equal the ultimate in excitement.

When I was a toddler in the 1970s, my exposure to princesses (Snow White, Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty) was limited mostly to storybooks -- but even then I picked up on the fact that princesses are "pretty" and I wanted to be just like them. When I finally met one in person on my first trip to Disney World, I was star-struck. (This may explain the fact that, to this day, when I wake up in the morning, bluebirds fly in through my window, grabbing the corners of my sheets to help me make the bed. I also get great advice from a trio of t-shirt-wearing mice who have somehow avoided the glue traps my husband put around our living room.)

There is every reason to believe that 'The Princess and the Frog' will open to huge box office numbers. Unlike Cabbage Patch Kids or the new battery operated hamsters, there is something classic and enduring about the princess character that captures the imagination of little girls.

For many girls, a Disney Princess is their first exposure to images of beauty and femininity and like it or not, it's only natural that they should want to emulate it. In fact, even before all of the merchandising, little girls were showing up to Disney on Ice dressed up as princesses, which gave Disney the idea for the Disney Princess line, which now features over 25,000 products.

And why not? Disney Princesses generally don't have moms, so there's no nagging about bedtimes or cleaning up your room. They get to live Happily Ever After. And they all have hot, charming boyfriends who wear puffy shirts and leggings. It's certain that Tiana will be just as popular as Belle, Ariel, Jasmine and the other princesses and that little girls will find her ... enchanting. Which, in turn, should translate into one 'Enchanted' box-office ride for 'The Princess and the Frog.'

Are Disney princesses still as popular and relevant today as they've always been?
Yes. 21st Century girls still want to be royalty.1032 (74.1%)
No. Now they'd just rather be Hannah Montana.360 (25.9%)





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