In many ways, Disney Princesses are the ones who dominate Walt Disney film productions, entertainment, and public interests in general. From appearing as themed toys and apparel to making appearances throughout various Disney Park and Resort locations worldwide, second only to Mickey Mouse and the Gang, the Princesses are often the first ones that come to mind when you think about Disney.
However, it’s well-known that not all “Disney Princesses” are actual princesses. And by that same token, it can be argued that not all Disney Princes are actually princes. I’m loosely using the term “Disney Prince” to describe any leading male protagonist who demonstrates character, likability, personality, and charisma. In fact, given the earlier wooden nature of so many Disney Princes in the past, it may even be fitting to say that the vast majority of male equivalents in favorability to Disney Princesses aren’t even royals at all. From their massive fan followings to their shining spotlighted personas and presence in a particular film, here are some of the likeliest Disney Princess male equivalents ever to emerge from Walt Disney Entertainment.
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Disney first introduced us to this titular boy, who never grew up, in 1953 with the theatrical release of the animated classic Peter Pan. Not only has Peter Pan gone on to become one of the best-known original Disney Characters of all time, but his popularity has remained consistent over the years. A direct-to-video sequel, Return to Neverland, came out in 2002, followed by a live-action remake of the original story a year later. Now, with the soon-to-be release of Peter and Wendy on Disney+, Peter Pan’s popularity trends are expected to grow even more.
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Disney’s presentation of the animated classic The Jungle Book, back in 1967, introduced us to Mowgli—a young boy growing up in the jungle, raised by wolves. The story may very well have been a game changer in the hearts of children looking for a “wild child” Disney protagonist to emulate. Aside from the aforementioned Peter Pan and even Alice from Alice in Wonderland, most Disney starring roles at that time focused explicitly on Princesses or even animal protagonists. As a kid, Mowgli is just more relatable to children, especially boys. In 2003, Disney released a direct-to-video sequel—The Jungle Book 2. Then, the classic story got a live-action remake in 2016.
The titular Beast of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast (1991/2017) is one of the few legitimate royals on this list of male equivalents to Disney Princesses. And truth be told, he pretty much deviates from what had already long ago been established as the norm for all Disney Princes before he came onto the scene. For one thing, he spends most of his story arc not as a human but instead assuming a beastly form. Second, he plays an equally important role in tandem with Belle—the Disney Princess of this tale. And third, his strong personality and demeanor make him far more multifaceted than some of the arguably wooden Disney Princes of old, who only served as fillers in the background (to save the day and not do much else), living in the shadows of their leading ladies.
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Aside from the Beast, Aladdin may very well serve as one of the most comparable examples of a male Disney Princess of all. The original animated classic came out in 1992, during the peak of a second-wind Disney Princess revival, so to speak. And although the film introduced us to Princess Jasmine, the street-smart thief Aladdin earned first billing as the title character here. Before the release of Aladdin, Disney films often focused on females endeavoring to become royalty (either through default or as an additional perk associated with true love). Aladdin was the first non-royal male longing to be a prince, for the sake of love. It’s also undeniable that he has more personality and charisma than was typical of Disney Princes of the time, aside from the titular Beast of Beauty and the Beast. Aladdin’s continued presence in Disney Parks and the live-action release in 2019 are testaments to Aladdin’s ongoing likability as a character.
When Disney’s animated film, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, came out in 1996, it may not have been one of the more popular films of the day, but it did introduce us to a protagonist whose charms lie deep below the surface of outward appearances. Despite his still being a vastly underrated hero, Quasimodo is a genuinely inspiring character who teaches children that looks aren’t everything. And seeing the portrayal of a physically “grotesque” character demonstrate true inward beauty really is a game changer.
He may not be of royalty, but being a god is more than adequate qualification as a male equivalent to a Disney Princess. Additionally, the title hero of Disney’s Hercules from 1997 has both brawn and a winsome personality at that. And yet, he remains humble, even a little insecure at first for being so different. That just makes him even more likable as a role model.
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The titular Tarzan has much of the same wild child appeal that Mowgli demonstrates in The Jungle Book. Although there are still differences between the two, their similar roles seem to say a lot about the kinds of heroes boys tend to look to as male Disney Princess equivalents. Also, there was once a popular fan theory that’s since been laid to rest with the release of Frozen II in 2019. To clarify things, no, Tarzan from the 1997 animated classic is not the long-lost brother of Elsa and Anna. He is in no way a royal, although he is the king of the jungle.
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Other than the previously profiled Beast, Prince Naveen of Disney’s The Princess and the Frog from 2009 is actually a royal. Furthermore, his naivety, unintended levity, and the fact that he too spends very little time during the film as a human being all work in his favor, endearing him as one of the most likable Disney Princes, to say the least. While Tiana still assumes the lead in the film, Prince Naveen’s important role-playing, and their dual chemistry, makes them an absolute amphibian power couple.
Eugene Fitzherbert, better known by his assumed identity as Flynn Rider from Disney’s Tangled (2010), is an undeniably devilish yet charming guy. Despite having many enemies and falling into constant mischief, he really is one of the most likable guys in any Disney film. And again, he has excellent chemistry with leading lady Rapunzel, who is an actual royal.
While Prince Hans of the first Frozen film (2013) may fit the bill of a Disney Royal, it’s really Kristoff who demonstrates the most princely of qualities. He is chivalrous in helping Princess Anna on her quest, albeit grudgingly, and can’t hide his softhearted nature and concern. And the fact that he is so caring with his reindeer Sven also shows him as being loyal and capable of lasting friendships. Despite being an orphan, raised by Trolls, he’s not some shut-in loner. He’s an all-around likable guy.
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This may be the most controversial consideration of a male equivalent to a Disney Princess. That’s because this demigod, who fulfills the supporting lead role in Moana (2016), is essentially both the problem and the solution driving the overall plot. Furthermore, Maui may be funny, but he can be pretty obnoxious, also. And many have argued whether or not he is a problematic protagonist in other ways as well. Still, he’s a popular fan favorite just the same, and that garners him honorary prince-like status.
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With the exception of those films with live-action remakes, Captain Jack Sparrow of the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise is the only character on this list who isn’t animated. But he’s become one of the most favored Disney Characters of all time, just the same. Furthermore, it’s been a long-established fact in Disney Parks that Pirates and Princesses just go together. Therefore, it can’t be denied that a famous pirate like Jack would be a premium recommendation as a male Disney Princess equivalent.
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There are so many other leading males throughout Walt Disney Entertainment that can rightfully be equated to Disney Princess status in addition to these top contenders. You have unsung heroes like Wreck-It-Ralph, superhero key players from Marvel Entertainment, and then let’s not forget about all those existing Star Wars sagas from Lucasfilm. The standards for leading men counted among Disney Princes are forever changing in all new ways.