With the news that Flynn will be leaving the Tangled meet and play, discussions abound about having the prince and princess available together at a meet and greet. In all honesty, it’s not uncommon – Ariel and Eric as well as Tiana and Naveen appear together at Magic Kingdom; Jasmine and Aladdin appear together at both Magic Kingdom and Epcot. But with Flynn being removed from the meet and play without any promise of his appearance elsewhere, the internet Disney community is suddenly discussing whether or not the prince matters.
In all honesty, it’s a worthwhile question. Disney’s classic princesses rarely appear with their male counterparts other than in shows where the beauties require a dance partner. For Snow White and Cinderella, that’s not much of a loss. The princes in those films had less character than the heroines’ animal companions. From Sleeping Beauty to Rapunzel however, the romance was decidedly mutual, and the princes were truly charming.
But does anyone care about the prince? Disney has made the princess their stock in trade for decades, and although their focus may be changing (I wrote about that in Is the Disney Princess Passe), princesses are a part of the Disney legacy. Plans for the new Fantasyland include the FairyTale Hall, a meet and greet with the princesses replacing the meet from Toontown – a meet and greet with the Princesses. Cinderella’s Royal Table and Akershus offer Princess dining where guests are able to interact with the ladies of Disney. It’s a “no boys allowed” club, but little girls don’t seem to mind. Message board readers often see the question “where can I find Belle in her yellow dress?” but rarely “where can I find Belle’s prince instead of the Beast?”**
Perhaps the princess is the main focus, particularly for little girls; the Disney princesses and the actresses who play them in the parks are certainly lovely, and they represent a beautiful, gracious ideal of womanhood. But there is a strong argument for pairing the lovely ladies with their handsome heroes, particularly at meet and greet locations. A pair of characters provides one of the great goals of Disney – interaction.
Watching the meet and greet locations around the park from an adult point of view, there is a great deal of enrichment added by having a pair of characters available for guests. If the prince and princess are well cast, they are able to play off one another, interacting in character with one another as well as with guests and making the experience far more engaging. The couples are also better able to give families with multiple children a good experience. Instead of one princess trying to give several children her attention, the royal couple can share the interaction (and autographs…and the positioning of the children for photos). Having a pair of characters rather than a single princess provides so much more opportunity for guests to feel they have “met the characters” rather than merely gotten their picture taken with a girl in a pretty dress.
Take, for a moment, a few examples. Naveen. In The Princess and the Frog, Naveen is, um, how shall I say it…charismatic? He’s an outrageous, charming, if occasionally irresponsible, von vivant. With their usual casting wisdom, Disney chooses their in-park Naveens to be the same kind of person. If you see Naveen in a parade or met him at the meet and greet in Liberty Square, you know that Naveen is a large part of what makes that meet fun. He flirts with every little princess; he teaches children dance steps; he flashes that indomitable smile. And, of course, his hijinks give Tiana something to play off of, letting her re-create the character from the film.
At the Rapunzel meet, Flynn provided a similar dynamic. Watching the stage where Flynn and Rapunzel hosted their meet, I have seen some of the most amazing interactions I’ve witnessed in the parks. On two separate occasions, I have seen young guests in wheelchairs interacting with the characters, and each time, the dynamic took my breath away. Seeing Flynn down on one knee showing off his loot bag, with Rapunzel scolding him, and watching the delight and faith on the face of a child unable to speak clearly because of a degenerative disease still makes be blink away tears.
So does anyone care about the prince? Yes. Flynn will be deeply missed at the Rapunzel meet, not just because of any guest’s love for Flynn, but because of the dynamic he provided. The Disney parks often walk a fine line between personalized experience and the need for what Walt’s Imagineers once called “hopalong capacity.” Streamlining the Flynn/Rapunzel meet and play is understandable (even though I dislike the loss of the personalized element) because of the excessively long lines it has generated. But removing Flynn from the dynamic? That seems unnecessary and unrelated to the length of lines.
Some have suggested that Flynn’s removal may be due to inappropriate conduct by adult guests (a part of the reason you can no longer meet Captain Jack Sparrow in Fantasyland). If so, therein lies a sad commentary on modern society (and females in particular; we haven’t seen female characters pulled because of such problems…) and a more creative solution than character removal needs to be found.
Walt Disney was a great believer in finding ways of giving people what they wanted, and the kind of interaction that can be given by a pair of characters comes closer to the experience people want. Here’s hoping that someone gets out a frying pan and keeps Flynn a part of the meet and greet dynamic, wherever Tangled’s interaction ends up in the Magic Kingdom. Flynn, and the other princes, add a depth to the meet and greet experiences that would be sorely missed. Rather than removing those characters, Disney needs to consider how to add more authenticity to “meeting characters” rather than just more photo opportunities.
Do you agree? Do princess enrich a meet and greet or are they a total waste of money and time?
**Belle can be found in her golden ball gown at the Princess meet currently on Main Street (moving to the new Fantasyland) and at Akershus. Belle’s prince (Prince Adam, if you didn’t know his name) is at Disneyland Paris…evidently we don’t like him enough here in the US to have him appear.