“The Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique is dedicated to every True Princess who ever dreamed her sneakers were glass slippers and to girls who believe it’s better to twirl than walk, sing than talk and that everything goes better with sparkles. For now, she wants her own Fairy Godmother, a little sprinkling of Fairy Dust, and the glamorous attention every Real Disney Princess deserves. You supply the dream and we’ll supply the style and magic to help you make your fairy-tale dreams come true.”
What Disney conveniently forgets to note here is that you not only supply the dream, but you also hand over your credit card at the same time.
Discussion centered on the Disney Princess phenomenon and its grasp on young girls around the world has dramatically increased recently, as epitomized by Peggy Orenstein’s New York Times article, “What’s Wrong with Cinderella?” This discourse generally focuses on the impact that the Princess paradigm might play in these girls’ futures as well as the possible reasons why the Princess brand sells in the first place. It has done nothing, however, to quell the power of “Princess” products, nor has it done anything to make Disney think harder about the terms and conditions it places within its “Princess” repertoire. (We can see examples of this in the mission statement above, taken directly from the brochure for the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique located in the new “Princess” room in the ‘World of Disney’ store at Downtown Disney, Orlando).
“Princess” means much more than royalty in Disney’s “Pirate and Princess” marketing campaign. It connotes simplified gender stereotypes and norms that in reality are much more complex and less rigid. This post aims not to recap other people’s arguments about the impact of the Disney Princesses, but to add to the discussion by analyzing one specific aspect of Disney’s “Princess” products — the full “Princess Experience” Disney offers to families and their young daughters while they are on vacation in Orlando.
In other words, when a little “Princess” comes to visit Cinderella’s Castle, she expects to live a more impossible fantasy than she can at home. By offering girls services such as the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique and My Disney Girl’s Perfectly Princess Tea Party, Disney involves girls in the creation of their own Princess dreams—for a steep price, of course.
The Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique and My Disney Girl’s Perfectly Princess Tea Party are extreme Princess experiences for girls ages 3 and up, designed to physically transform a young girl into a Princess and immerse her in a full-out Princess fantasy world.
At the Bibbidi Bobbibi Boutique, Disney takes dress-up to a new level, giving each girl her own station in the salon and her very own “Fairy Godmother-in-training” whose job is to pamper her with every accessory and service a Princess could possibly want. Parents can choose from three packages at the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique: the “Coach Package” which includes a hair style and shimmering make-up (for $35), the “Crown Package” which includes hair style, shimmering make-up and nails (for $45), or the ultimate “Castle Package” which includes the Crown Package plus a Princess photo shoot and a complete Disney Princess costume of her choice with accessories (starting at $175). After her makeover, each girl is given a pink sash that says “Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique” — so everyone who sees her knows that she’s an official Disney Princess.
My Disney Girl’s Perfectly Princess Tea Party is designed for girls who may have already been physically transformed into Princesses, either with an experience such as the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique or simply by putting on “their favorite Princess attire,” but who are still seeking a Princess experience where they can receive even more “royal treatment” while at Walt Disney World. For the mere price of $225, one parent and one child (usually a mother and daughter pair) can have a tea party with Sleeping Beauty’s Princess Aurora in Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort. The child attending will also receive “a special 18″ My Disney Girl doll dressed in a matching Princess Aurora gown plus accessories” as well as “take home [her] own ribbon tiara, silver Princess link bracelet, fresh rose, special princess scrapbook set and a “Best Friend” certificate.” If more than just one adult and one child would like to attend this experience, each additional adult is $75 and each additional child is $150.
I definitely don’t mention these services in order to advertise for them, but I also don’t mean to degrade them either. I seek here just to point out the extreme extravagance of it all, and to highlight just how crazy families can get when helping to fulfill their daughters’ (Disney-inspired) Princess dreams.
This is also exactly why Disney keeps highlighting the “Dream” and “wishing” aspect of all of the Princess, as well as the Pirate and Princess, marketing. If they keep creating the “Princess dream” through their products and advertising they can also keep finding ways for people to fulfill that dream…and they are able to make a hefty profit doing so. These Princess experiences are just plain expensive, and it’s mostly middle-class families on vacation who shell out hundreds and hundreds of dollars to get their three-year-old a costume, a hairstyle, and some shimmering makeup.
With all of this hard-earned money spent on Princess-style pampering, it’s obvious that the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique and services like it are not just fulfilling the Princess dreams of the young child, but are also fulfilling some fantasy for the parents who pay for it. Parents not only greatly appreciate the “royal treatment” their daughters receive, but are also willing to go to great lengths to document these special and expensive experiences, taking hundreds of photographs, videotaping the whole thing, and even editing their photos together with Disney music and posting it on Youtube, thus sharing the extravagance of the situation with anyone who is willing to watch.
In addition to being there as a medium for recording the memories of it, though, some parents, and especially mothers, will also join in on the Princess experience themselves. Adults can go to the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique just like little girls, and it is not uncommon for a mother to get a Princess makeover along with her daughter (see “Walt Disney Princess Makeover” video below). This common experience for mother and daughter makes the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique and My Disney Girl’s Perfectly Princess Tea Party much more than simply dressing up like or meeting a Disney Princess. It is transformed into a mother-daughter (or caregiver-daughter) bonding experience the instant it becomes more about the relationship and commonality of the experience than about the actual products and services being provided. It is this bonding experience, where parents get to experience something extra special with their little girls, then, that Disney is selling to parents in these services, and it is an important reason why Disney can charge the prices that they do.
Whereas the little girl might think it is actually the dress, the tiara, and the pink sash that are important in going to the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique, parents who are paying for the makeover and photo shoot are actually paying to see their daughter transformed into a fantasy Princess right in front of their eyes. Parents are able to see their daughter grow up, complete with makeup, nails, and a pseudo-wedding dress, but they are still indulged in seeing her as totally innocent at the same time.
Whereas when their daughter actually grows up parents may, and probably will, miss out on many of her important and life-changing experiences, the Bibbidi Bobbidi allows parents to see the whole thing in less than two hours and not miss an instant. This also gives a motivation for parents’ apparent fascination with making sure they record this entire experience. After all, why pay so much to watch your daughter in her Princess moment if you can’t keep a record of it for years to come? (In addition to the videos below, also notice the ‘Dad’ in the background of the second Princess Tea Party photo who’s videotaping the whole thing.)
“Viola’s Princessification Part 1”
“Viola’s Princessification Part 2”
“Viola’s Princessification Part 3”
When moms choose to be made over with their young daughters, they are also proving that they are young at heart and innocent just like their daughters. They are not only keeping their little girl innocent by making her into an imaginary Princess, but they are also there to show that they are able to believe, or at least pay to pretend to believe, that they can be a Princess too.
Whatever the motive for parents to either record their daughter’s makeover and/or participate in it themselves, Disney has created a paradigm where a full family vacation is no longer complete without some sort of Princess experience for mom and daughter. They are able to charge exorbitant amounts for families to achieve these fantasies because they are marketed and presented as just that – fantasies, which can only be lived out in a Disney fantasy world.
The Disney Princess concept is not only intimately connected with the creation of the perceptions these little girls have about gender norms, stereotypes, and expectations, then (as many of the other discourses on the subject have proposed), but services such as the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique and My Disney Girl’s Perfectly Princess Tea Party are also evidence of how consumerism has shaped these little girls’ childhoods. Not only does the Bibbidi Bobbidi create the ideal of a “True Princess” who wants to “twirl” in “glass slippers” rather than “walk” in plain “sneakers,” but the Disney Princess paradigm inspires her to aim for the crystal slipper instead of the glass one and the updo haistyle with a tiara instead of the simple cut-and-wash, and to just ignore the price tag as she swipes her credit card and walks away.