* Princess Kida
(Atlantis: The Lost Empire
It is truly bogus that even though she is technically a princess, Kida isn't marketed as such just because her movie didn't do well. Her ties to royalty are more real than, say, Mulan's are. Anyway... this woman is so badass. Physically, Kida can hold her own against anybody who tries to take her on or who poses a threat to her people. She's speaks a ton of languages, she's compassionate, she doesn't take crap from anybody, and she and Milo are equals in their relationship – he rescues her, but then it's her turn to save him – and her entire civilization – from being exterminated. What a boss.
(Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind
Disney and Dreamworks usually fill up lists like this, so I wanted to add my favorite “outsider,” Nausicaa, who is a Miyazaki heroine. This girl... she's got guts, first and foremost. She fearlessly walks into a toxic wasteland with just her wits to guide her. And she really is smart – and not in the informed, “tell, don't show” sense, either. Nausicaa studies the ecology of her post-apocalyptic world to get a better sense of how to navigate it and constantly has to rely on her instincts to get herself out of danger. Her empathy for all living things fuels her curiosity and compels her to make their toxic world peaceful and livable once more.
5. Charlotte LaBouff
(The Princess and the Frog
I've always had a soft spot for animated friendships between actual human beings (Talking animals weird me out for the most part.) There really aren't many of these friendships out there; I wish there were more. Charlotte and Tiana are a great pair, and Charlotte is a compelling character in her own right: Disney could have gone the easy route, could have given us an overdone archetype in the rich bitch with ridiculous bullshit demands and who can't lose graciously etc. etc.. But Tiana isn't the only one smashing through stereotypes in The Princess and the Frog
. Lottie does retain some of the entitlement that comes from being raised filthy rich – just enough to be realistic – but when the chips are down she is selfless, compassionate, and willing to put her lifelong dream, possibly the only thing she's ever truly wanted, on hold when she realizes how deeply in love Tiana and Naveen are. She doesn't begrudge her best friend anything. To top it off, she is freaking hilarious – all of Charlotte's scenes crack me up; I can't even pick my favorite one. She engages you in every scene she's in. I really hope that if Disney tries a sequel or a spinoff, that she's the star. I'd watch the heck out of a Charlotte movie.
(Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas
The Nostalgia Critic was right: the team that designed the Goddess of Discord deserves all
the Oscars. Like literally all of them. The way she moves... I can't even describe it, so I won't. I'm also a fan of her personality-wise. This is another villain who isn't driven by the same old urge to rule the world/have a ton of money that we've seen a billion times already. Quite simply, Eris's reason for being is just to screw with people and shake up the world a bit. She isn't really good or evil exactly – her desire to plunge the world into glorious chaos
has her on your side sometimes, and other times it makes you an enemy. And actually, Eris is a pretty gracious loser. Instead of fighting Sinbad to the death for control of the book of peace, she simply hands it over like a champ and then moves on to wreck someone else's life. She's a woman of her word. I wonder how many other animated villains wouldn't have met such a bad end if they knew when to fold like Eris does.
(The Princess and the Frog
I've said it before on Fanpop, but I don't especially like Tiana as a person – she's judgmental, emotionally distant, and she's got a strong self-righteous streak. She strikes me as someone who would be really hard to befriend IRL. Flaws aside, though, she is an excellent role model – Tiana is resourceful, fearless, and doesn't suffer fools. Most importantly, as with Miriam (my all-time fave), I have tremendous respect for characters who are screwed over by society but still have enough inner strength to refuse to be bent by their circumstances. And Tiana not only dares to dream big in the face of people who cut her down for her color, her gender, and her class, but she actually goes out there and lines things up to the best of her ability to make those dreams come true. Tiana's growth as a person is the most real and believable that I've seen in a CAMH, and I love that her work ethic rubs off on Naveen (and that his appreciation for the little things rubs off on her). She is hands-down my favorite Disney Princess – warts and all.
(Lilo and Stitch
Another criminally underappreciated heroine. Nani gives up her dreams to help raise her sister when anybody would have forgiven her for not taking on that responsibility at such a young age. And Nani doesn't just care for Lilo on a basic level; she actually encourages Lilo's quirks and never makes her feel like it's wrong to be different. She makes sure Pudge the fish gets his peanut butter sandwich every week, lets Lilo snap weird photos to her heart's content, and even gets them developed for her. When Nani realizes that how lonely Lilo is without friends she lets her get a pet, and when Stitch turns their lives upside down, Nani never really takes it out on him or Lilo. The only time Nani truly freaks out is when she's worried that child services is gearing up to take Lilo away from her. And the whole time she's scrambling to provide for her family – she keeps at it no matter how often her jobs fall through. Oh, and can we talk about her design? She's beautiful, while being realistic and a refreshing break from the way Disney usually designs its women.
(The Prince of Egypt
You guys, I could write whole articles on her (and I probably will :)). Miriam comes from what are arguably the worst circumstances of any animated heroine: a lifetime spent in slavery. The Jewish slaves aren't even seen as people in Egyptian society – they have nothing, they are
nothing, and they resign themselves to their fate. Miriam is the only one who hasn't been totally broken by the experience. She can imagine a life outside of slavery and then spends the rest of her screen time working to make it happen.
Miriam is important to how The Prince of Egypt unfolds, and she gets so much done considering she doesn't have a lot of screen time to work with.
A fair amount of the plot movement and mood shifting happen directly or indirectly because of what she says and does; take her out of the movie and there's a lot that either doesn't happen, or it happens differently.
Daring to hope in those conditions is an act of courage in itself. But like Tiana and her wishing star, Miriam understands that hoping for things isn't enough: As a child, she follows Moses's basket to make sure it ends up in a safe place. When she realizes Moses has no idea who he really is, she risks her life to tell him herself. Miriam opens Moses's eyes to the suffering all around him; gets him to intervene for a fellow slave; is the only Hebrew to stand by Moses when he comes back; shores up support for him among the Hebrews; and is constantly encouraging Moses to live up to the promise she sees in him. Miriam's faith in her brother is often what keeps Moses going. It is amazing how she channels her faith (spiritual faith, but also faith in herself and the people around her), the only resource she has, and uses it to rise above her circumstances, lifting her people up with her.
As a character, she's a great blend of old-school softness and the fire and passion of the modern heroines. Miriam isn't quick-tempered or snarky like Tzipporah, but at the same time she doesn't take shit from anybody. She uses her words to comfort just as easily as she uses them to shove Aaron off his dumb high horse. As a bonus, she is the first animated Jewish heroine, which is a big deal to me because I'm also Jewish. (This is why I don't mind when people praise Tiana for being black. Representation matters.:) ) This girl does not get enough credit, not even in the fandom, for what she does. To me, she's as much a hero as Moses is.