MovieChat Forums > Animation > Square peg round hole protagonists of th...

Square peg round hole protagonists of the Disney Renaissance


I just realized that most of the protagonists of the Disney Renaissance were an outcast or an oddball within their environment in some way. This character might just be a dreamer or have a "weird" hobby, that will make him/her different from his/her peers. He/she might be from a different background (social status, ethnicity or maybe even species) or might even have a handicap, that will set him/her apart from what people can see as normal. Or maybe, he/she is just considered odd in some other way or disliked for some other reason.

But either way, he/she will either be a tough rebel or a victim for the local bullies. Maybe both! But mostly, he/she will be plucky enough to defy all those pesky traditions and conventions, which stop him/her from following his/her dreams, or doing the right thing. Since they are protagonists in Disney movies, all of these characters will be good people deep down and loyal friends. Some of them might of course be a jerk occasionally, but you can always count of them in a time of need.

So here is the list:
* Ariel of "The Little Mermaid" - She's a princess of Atlantica (a kingdom for merpeople), but she can't stop dreaming of living a life on land. She's also the only person in the kingdom, who dares to speak up to her father King Triton.
* Belle of "Beauty and the Beast" - She's a middle class bookworm in a working class village, where nobody except for her own father and the book shop man seem to like her for who she is. She dreams of something else.
* Aladdin of " Aladdin" - He's a poor street rat, who has to steal food to survive. And he always is in trouble with the local law enforcement. He dreams of leaving all of his hardships behind him.
* Pocahontas of "Pocahontas" - She might be the one character in this list, who is the hardest to describe as a person. But she too seems to have dreams (even if they are very vague) about following a path of her own and doing something different.
* Quasimodo of "The Hunchback of Notre-Dame" - He's deformed and a Romani, plus he was sheltered from other people until he was twenty years old.
* Hercules of "Hercules" - He's clumsy and unpopular and turns out to be a demigod among normal mortals. And he must go to a special trainer to learn how to handle his super strength.
* Mulan of "Mulan" - She's a tomboy and not a "perfect bride", even if she tries her best to be. She has to disguise herself as a man to find her purpose in life.
* Tarzan of "Tarzan" - He's the only human in the jungle from when he's a baby until he's twenty years old, and even his adoptive father seems to dislike him because he's not a gorilla like him and his wife.

Two exceptions:
* Bernard and Bianca of "The Rescuers Down Under": This movie is different from the rest of the Renaissance, and it doesn't seem to have a "square peg, round hole" theme. Besides, I have not seen it since I was seven years old, and I hardly remember anything about it, so I can't say much anyway.
* Simba of "The Lion King": He's like an inversion of the often rebellious "square peg, round hole" archetype. He has to learn to take his responsibility by fullfiling the old traditions of the lion kings. So that is interesting indeed. Timon fits the mold though in "Lion King 1 ½", where he appears as a dreamer and visionary, who annoys the other meerkats so much, that he finally has to leave the colony. (They accept him again in the end though.)

There have of course been some square peg round hole Disney protagonists after the Renaissance too (Milo Thatch of "Atlantis", Lilo of "Lilo & Stitch" and Chicken Little of "Chicken Little" are only three good examples of that.) But it seems like this trope was most common during the Renaissance. Do you have any theories on why?

reply