Disney is a historic juggernaut of media and entertainment in the childhoods of girls all over the world. Disney relationships have been under analysis for decades, and details are still coming to light, with both the old classics and the new features. 

There are inspirational marriages, powerful friendships, and even toxic authoritative relationships, however, one relationship dynamic has been a staple of Disney media, and has undergone many different forms: Sisterhood. 

Celebrations of the family are often major themes across Disney’s range of films, with very clear values to be upheld and lessons to be taught through the interactions of the characters. Often children are able to create parallels between what they see on the screens, and what they experience in real life, which is why positive children’s media is so important. According to the University of Pennsylvania; character strengths are foundational to well-being, and for children, “movies are a rich source with which to build character strengths,” and so children can draw from examples in the media they grow up watching and develop their own character strengths (Capstone, 2014). However, it is important to acknowledge that there are times where Disney’s stance on the empowerment of girlhood has come into question through the Princesses and what messages to girls about relationships and gender roles. 

It is very important for representation of the different types of family and sibling dynamics in beloved media, especially from a company like Disney, which is close to the hearts of girls all over the world.

Elsa & Anna: Frozen (2013) 

An analysis of Disney sisterhood would not be complete without the newest set of Disney sisters, Elsa and Anna of Arendelle. Sisterhood is at the forefront of the plot, and the forming romantic relationship takes a backseat, to a point where there is a comedy in how they make commentary on the idea of love at first sight, which many have criticised Disney for using in previous films.

Elsa and Anna as individuals are a refreshing addition to the Disney Princess franchise. Frozen sees Elsa living in fear of her ice and snow manipulation abilities, and she feels that she needs isolation in order to maintain control and not hurt anybody, like how she accidentally hurt Anna when they were children. Anna, who is the extroverted and hopeful half of the pair; yearns to understand, and despite all of the uncertainty and secrets kept from her: she never waives her belief that Elsa is not dangerous, nor that they can be best friends again. The sisterhood of Elsa and Anna is one of the most endearing and heartwarming in the Disney catalogue, and have quickly cemented themselves as favourites amongst the Princesses. 

Their sisterhood is charming, but very real at the same time. There is never any love lost between them, however, there are times where they are disconnected, particularly when Elsa isolates herself, or runs away from the Kingdom without explaining why.  As the modern representation of sisterhood in the Disney family, a lot of people look to Elsa and Anna as symbols of sisterhood and sisterly love in the film. This is a good thing, the films are fanciful and contain all kinds of messages about family when under analysis. 

Many also point to the sisters as challenges to the norm from Disney princess-stories, the sisters, as a unit and as individuals; make mistakes, find forgiveness, and have some very real weaknesses and struggles, that audiences of all ages can relate to. They’re princesses in the Disney Princess family who stand on a higher pedestal because of the messages they symbolise.

-Emily Rawle
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.


Feder, S. 2014, College Feminisms: Slamming the Door: An Analysis of Elsa (Frozen), The Feminist Wire, retrieved 30th May 2020, <https://www.thefeministwire.com/2014/10/slamming-door-analysis-elsa-frozen/

Rebecca N. H. de Leeuw & Christa A. van der Laan (2018) Helping behaviour in Disney animated movies and children’s helping behaviour in the Netherlands, Journal of Children and Media, 12:2, 159-174, DOI: 10.1080/17482798.2017.1409245

Rufer, Linda Jones MD, “Magic at the Movies: Positive Psychology for Children, Adolescents and Families” (2014). Master of Applied Positive Psychology (MAPP) Capstone Projects. 68. <http://repository.upenn.edu/mapp_capstone/68

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