'Princess Academy': The Female-Based, 'Avengers'-like Disney Movie That Never Happened

'Princess Academy': The Female-Based, 'Avengers'-like Disney Movie That Never Happened

May 15, 2013

Olivier Ciappa and artist David Kawena created a short animation project as a tribute to the Mouse House's movie princesses. "We wanted to create a very artistic, classy, but also very funny hand-drawn short," Ciappa said. The team locked down Academy Award-winning composer Alan Menken to score Princess Academy. "[He] was very excited about the project and agreed to work on it the moment we would have green light from the studio." They set about creating hundreds of storyboards that recalled the studio's heyday of hand-drawn animation. Sadly, Disney recently sent its hand-drawn animators packing, and Ciappa and Kawena felt stunted. "There was no point for us to even show that project." Although the project has been shelved for now, the concept art for Princess Academy details a female-fronted empire that's reminiscent of a superheroine universe. The duo wanted to captured a mix of "artistic, high standard and humor" in their art, which we've shared with you, below.
Disney's most memorable princesses are featured, along with more obscure characters like the Golden Harp from Mickey and the Beanstalk, a centaurette from the "The Pastoral Symphony" in Fantasia, and Madame Adelaide from The Aristocats. "It was my goal to try and keep the characters on model and as recognizable as possible out of respect to their original designers and animators," Kawena said. The Princess Academy building, a grand palace and princess headquarters, "was to be a gigantic complex, with a feeling of an ancient palace with fountains, gardens, paintings and statues." Kawena also referenced several famous paintings and sculptures in the short. "Director-writer Olivier Ciappa and I wanted to create something that would bring back the somewhat lost respect for hand-drawn animation as an art form. By doing so, we decided that the entire look and feel of the short movie will be inspired by the world’s greatest works of art," Kawena added.
We appreciate the idea, but the portrait of Jasmine based on Ingres' famous painting Grande Odalisque — a painting of a nude concubine — is a strange and uncomfortable choice, even if the image is nicely drawn. One can't help but also wonder about the use of the word "princess" for the project. It works from a branding perspective, but many of the characters are not princesses, and there have been endless articles written about the negative effects of the princess persona on young girls. Characters like Brave's Merida also indicate the company's attempt to steer public opinion in a more positive direction (or at least we'd like to think so). Still, the artwork is beautifully done and leaves us wondering what might have been. See more on BuzzFeed.

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