The Encyclopedia of Walt Disney's Animated Characters: From Mickey Mouse to Hercules
Prince Phillip and his horse Samson
Character Description of Prince Phillip and Samson from "Sleeping Beauty" (1959)
The handsome Prince in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
was nothing more than a cipher - it was not thought necessary even to name him. Prince Charming in Cinderella
was more than just a plot device, but nevertheless still had only a minor part. For the third in their trio of great fairy stories, however, Disney gave the handsome Prince a far meatier role, and consequently his character had to be portrayed in more detail.
Phillip is gentle, good-natured, well spoken, courteous, romantic and above all courageous - just as you would expect him to be - but what is interesting is that these characteristics are all well blended together to create a convincing, fully rounded personality. When he fights his way through the forest of thorns or battles the Dragon, this behaviour is perfectly consonant with the gentleness he displayed towards Aurora as well as with his determination of mind when he tells his father that he is going to marry the peasant girl he loves rather than the intended Princess. It is in the course of this argument, by the way, that he comes out with one of the best gags in the movie:
: No, you can't do this to me! Give up the throne, the kingdom, for some... some nobody! By Harry, I won't have it! You're a Prince and you're going to marry a Princess!
: Now, father, you're living in the past. This is the fourteenth century...
It is astonishing that so many critics have condemned Phillip as "cardboard" or "two-dimensional", because he is much more than that: one suspects that they saw what they expected to see - a revamped version of Snow White's true love - and not what was actually there.
Phillip also enjoys an intriguing relationship with his horse Samson
, which like himself effects the transformation from good-natured jolliness to intrepid courage without any of the seams showing. When first we encounter Samson he seems to be nothing more than an incidental comic character, put in to create some light relief, but it is on his back that Phillip undergoes the terrifying escape from Maleficent's fortress and then the even more terrifying duel with the Dragon. When Samson needs to be he is a doughty steed, but otherwise he is ever so slightly a clown, more concerned with where his next bag of oats is coming from than with making sure he is an efficient warhorse. Nevertheless, it is obvious from the start that he and his master share a tremendous amount of mutual trust and understanding - invaluable, of course, when it comes to such serious matters as killing dragons.
Samson & Phillip