Sammy Nickalls
Updated Aug 19, 2015 @ 8:14 am
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If you didn’t know, we at HelloGiggles kinda sorta love Disney princesses. Especially the princess incarnations that have been totally taking over the Internet. Thanks to super talented illustrators and artists, we’ve been able to see what our fave Disney princesses would look like if they had iconic haircuts, realistic waists, famous red carpet dresses, short hair, or even dressed for outdoor music festivals (hey, it’s summer — princesses get to have fun, too).

But here’s an interesting question: how does one of the real animators of the princesses feel about the new versions that have been making their rounds on social media? Would said creator take all this attention as a compliment, or as an insult? Turns out that Walt Disney Animation Studios animator Mark Henn — the man responsible for Tiana (The Princess & The Frog) , Jasmine (Aladdin), Belle (Beauty and the Beast), Ariel (Little Mermaid), Mulan (Mulan), and Anna (Frozen), just to name a few — recently spoke to MTV News, and he has a lot of feelings on the subject.

“I take it as a positive thing. I think it’s kind of neat,” Henn told MTV at Disney’s D23 Expo. “What I think about is the fact that people love these characters so much that they’re willing to have fun with them.”

Appreciation of the characters means that Henn has done his job right, he explained. “To me, it’s about the fact that they like these characters,” he continued. “As an animator, that’s what we’re always hoping for. We create characters that we hope our audience identifies with and enjoys spending time in a movie theater with. And the life that goes on after that, it’s an unwritten chapter until it happens.”

Though he did mention a truth that hit home for all us Internet dwellers. “On the other hand,” he continued, “sometimes I think some people have way too much time on their hands [laughs].” Truth. But generally, he’s “flattered by it” and “think[s] it’s fun.”

Last year, Henn disclosed some of his own Disney Princess secrets—like the reason Ariel has red hair.

“One of the big challenges [with Ariel] was that there is this image in most people’s minds that mermaids have blonde hair,” Henn told Yahoo, “but the problem at the time was that the studio came out with this little film called Splash, about a year or two ahead of The Little Mermaid — and in that movie, you have a blonde mermaid.” To differentiate—and possibly because the film’s director had red hair—Ariel’s iconic look was born. Meanwhile, he revealed that Princess Jasmine was modeled after his younger sister. Aw.

Back at this year’s D23Expo, Henn relayed his excitement over the evolution of Disney princesses — not only on our computer screens, but on the big screens as well. With live-action reboots and reimaginings of our fave Disney ladies, their image has evolved from victim to heroine, Henn noted.

“The stories are much more involved today,” he told MTVNews, “and I think that requires more depth and a little more from the character that’s driving the story. In the past, the leading ladies were a little more like victims — things happened to them and they would just go, ‘Woe is me.’ That was just the style. It was a reflection of the time, and that’s OK.”

Now, the princesses reflect the modern times, he says. “Our leading ladies today tend to reflect more of their time, where you have more complicated stories and they’re more actively involved in their lives,” Henn said. “They’re making decisions that propel the stories and throw them into situations or consequences of those decisions.”

Overall, Henn is proud to be the creator of princesses that are so important in the lives of so many young girls (*cough* and grown women, like us *cough*). “People always use the phrase, ‘They’re strong women.’ And they are,” Henn told MTVNews. “That’s because they have their own minds and they have to live with the consequences of their decisions — good or bad.”

So there you have it — Henn is totally on board. Artists, pick up your styluses! There’s Disney reimaginings to be made!

(Image via Disney)