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U.S.A. Popcorn Adventure #68
October 08, 2008

Crowned with Brains

Sleeping Beauty + Counter Programming for Princesses

Once upon a time, in a faraway land, a King and Queen longed for a child.  So begins Sleeping Beauty (re-released this week by Disney for the first time in six years), the classic fairy tale that has bewitched little girls for generations.  Like all good fairy tales, the royal couple is blessed with a beautiful baby, and in this kingdom, fairies are invited to a bash to bestow wonderful gifts upon the new Princess Aurora. Unfortunately, an evil fairy delivers a curse -- that Aurora will prick her finger on a spindle when she turns 16, and die.  Although one fairy is able to mitigate the death sentence to one of sleep, the royal couple banishes all spinning wheels from the kingdom and sends their beloved babe deep into the wood to be raised by peasants until her sixteenth birthday passes. Alas, the spell comes true, and the despairing king and queen put the entire castle to sleep, only to awake when Aurora does.  Surprise, surprise, Aurora's true love breaks the curse with a kiss, a royal wedding ensures, and everyone lives happily ever after. A classic is a classic for a reason, and we expect to see lots of Princess Auroras trick-or-treating this Halloween!

Need an antidote to Princess-mania?  Here are our tips for giving your princess-wanna-be a dose of girl power.  First, sit on the couch with your little royal (it's fun to introduce a classic tale, after all), reminding her that Princess Aurora's sole dream of falling in love with a prince is a bit passe; after all,  Aurora has left no room for other life goals, like going to school, playing sports and becoming the first female President of the United States.  Next, stock your book shelf with a variety of counter-princess books -- scroll to our KOTC Kernels below for kid-approved literature featuring characters who have bigger dreams than being swept off their feet. Finally, continue counter-programming with a trick right out of Sleeping Beauty: when Aurora wakes up, time has passed.  Play the time travel game with your daughter by asking her what she imagines her life will be like in 20 years, and make a time capsule of her life goals.  Who knows?  If your little princess ever decides to marry, that list may just come in handy as a toast to her accomplishments. (We'd love to hear your favorite counter-princess measures.  Click here to share your family's tips with other readers on our blog).

Film Title: Sleeping Beauty
Directed By: Cylde Geronimi
1959, Rated G, 75 minutes

Our Buttery Bits of Wisdom about this Film:

  • Why It's Worth It: Who can resist? Made in 1937, this belongs in your permanent collection since Disney releases the classic DVDs in strategic, and infrequent, bursts. The new 50th Anniversary Edition will be released on October 7, for a 'limited time only'. 
  • Red Flags: None at all - fine for everyone over 4!
  • Further Viewing:  Our favorite princesses? Mulan, for her warrior spirit, the love affair in Shrek and the spin on the classic tale in last year's Enchanted. And don't forget Ever After, with Drew Barrymore. Older girls can study up on real royalty, in Elizabeth or The Queen.

Our Tips for Talking with your Kids about this film:

  • Feedback Loop: Do you deal with this IN YOUR HOME?  Click here to visit our Blog - tell us how you counter program powerful media messages in your household.
  • Animation Savvy: Walt Disney's first major animation success was Snow White, and Sleeping Beauty was designed to follow up on that film's tremendous success. The studio spent 6 million dollars on this film, and it took animators six years to complete the work. And, we're still watching it today. Have the kids look at the intricate backgrounds, and point out that the colors are quite varied and rich, especially as compared to Snow White.
  • Score Savvy: Tchaikovsky's Sleeping Beauty is used to perfection for the soundtrack. Do the kids notice the music, and how it helps to tell the story?
  • Tech Savvy: "In particular, NYT says Disney is pinning its dreams for higher Blu-Ray DVD sales of the forthcoming 50th anniversary edition of Sleeping Beauty by connecting it to a range of features, known as BD Live, including showing friends’ instant messages on the same screen the film is playing on. Parents will also be able to program timed messages to their kids that will pop up at a certain point during their viewing. Sleeping Beauty will offer a trivia game where viewers can challenge each other."


Counter Programming for Princesses

Books and Family Activities to Add a Modern Filter to Princess-Mania

Lucy's Book List: Our KOTC librarian has compiled an extensive list of books. For more information, or to purchase our counter-princess tales, please click here for our Amazon store.

  • Picture Books: The Princesses Have a Ball by Theresa Bateman, tells the story of twelve princesses who wear out their shoes playing basketball; Do Princesses Really Kiss Frogs by Carmela LaVigna Coyle is about a girl who asks her dad a lot of royal questions; An African Princess by Lyra Edmonds is about a girl who visits the Carivvean and realizes her family treee includes African princesses;  The Princess Knight by Cornelia Caroline Funke is about a girl who disguises herself as a knight in order to win a jousting contest; Princess Grace by Mary Hoffman tells the story of a girl who has to decide what type of princess she will represent on a community princes float; The Red Wolf by Margaret Shannon tells about a girl locked away in a tower who knits a red wolf suit in order to escape; P is For Princess- The Royal Alphabet introduces royalty from around the world.
  • Chapter Books: The Frog Princess by E.D. Baker tells the fable about a teen princess who becomes a frog and must set out into the world to become human again; The Princess and the Peabodys by Betty G. Birney tells the story of a medieval princess who gets released from a rusty box to join a modern family; Dragon's Keep by Janet Lee Carey is about a dragon queen's darkest secret; Nobody's Princess by Esther M. Friesner is about the young Helen of Troy: The Ugly Princess and the Wise Fool by Margaret Gray is about an unusual friendship; Just Ella by Margaret Peterson Haddix is a continuation of the Cinderella story; Princess Academy by Shannon Hale is about girls in a princess school; The Two Princesses of Bamarre by Gail Carson Levine is about two sisters who must cure the Grey Death.
  • Modern Must-Have Classics:  We still keep copies of our favorite counter-princess programming books on our daughters' shelves though they have long passed the age for princess costumes.  We have a soft spot for Princess Smartypants by Babette Cole and The Paper Bag Princess by Robert N. Munsch.  No girl's home library is complete without these modern classics!

Our Tips for Extending this Experience:

  • Counter Program  with a Time Capsule: We asked our daughters to create their own versions of time capsules, telling them we would open them when they turned 16, the same year Princess Aurora pricked her finger.  They each chose a different vessel, but the fun came when we interviewed our daughters about their life goals.  We recorded the predictable (fireman, ballerina, mommy) to the unusual (rocket designer, teacher, chef, dog doctor, tennis player), asked them a host of quick one word questions (favorite color, tv show, movie, food, school subject, best friend, favorite activity with grandparents, little sibling, etc) then made a big production about sealing it up and putting it away to be read on their Sweet 16.  To make it truly modern, skip the capsule, create a word document, and make a tradition of asking your little darling the same questions every year for a treasured keepsake!

Want more? Here are KOTC's picks of films, books, music, and websites that connect your family to more culture.

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