Jane Porter was one of the characters that popped up here and there in the provisional Disney Princess Lineup when it first launched, along with a couple of the other girls. Well then, why did she not make the cut? There are several possible reasons, most of which make sense, She does look an awful lot like Belle and their dress colours and styles are awfully similar. However, if we see how disney has redesigned and coloured Cinderella and Aurora, you could make a case that this isn’t a good enough reason anymore. What about the fact she isn’t given the label of ‘Princess’? This does seem to be the most logical reason, but then given how Disney have excluded actual princesses from the line, you’d argue they’re leaving this a little hazy anyway. I suppose part of this is what your definition of ‘Princess’ is. Some fans don’t consider Mulan a princess, even though by Imperial Chinese custom she could very well end up with the title ‘Princess’ upon marrying Shang. Megara, not a officially a princess, does end up with Hercules, a ‘prince’ of the gods. To some people this wouldn’t count in the slightest.
But to me, if I let Megara slide, then there’s enough reason for Jane to be considered ‘queen’ or ‘princess’ of the jungle due to her relationship with Tarzan, the adopted human son of the jungle king. As you can see, it all gets rather complicated. So let’s try simplifying it in a different way. Jane does exhibit many of the attributes of the Disney Princesses from around that era: she’s clever, spunky, knows her own mind and makes decisions which are true to herself and support the man she’s fallen in love with. So far, so princessy. In fact, considering how her film was comparatively successful, one almost wonders why she’s not included.
As these things often do, it comes down to lawsuits and character ownership, and since 2005 Disney has not been allowed on continue the franchise due to issues raised by the estate of the writer (Edgar Rice Burroughs). It’s a shame, for Jane’s characterisation and her unique place as a very autonomous young woman makes her more unique amongst her Disney heroine sisters. Bar Kida just after her, only Merida has truly carried the mantle of a non-fashion oriented, strong and physically able Disney Princess who grows free of social customs with women (that’s not to say Elsa or Rapunzel don’t go round kicking ass, but they’re still constricted by the implied time periods of their societies, and the expectations of femininity that can be seen in their modes of dress etc.). Merida is still placed in what we can assume in a patriarchal society, but the film makes much more emphasis on her physical freedom via riding, climbing, archery etc. Similarly by the end of the film, we see Jane swinging through the trees with as much ability as Tarzan – a far cry from when she first shows up in her cumbersome Victorian dress.
If placed in the franchise, she would have been a great princess to have, especially considering Kida’s exclusion two years later. I have a soft spot for Jane, and it’s always fun seeing her on screen. She’s the last Disney heroine of the Nineties and a good’un at that. If you haven’t seen the film in a while, go revisit it!
(photo credit: disneymovieyear.wordpress.com)