Wednesday 24 October 2018

An artist reimagined Disney princesses as scientists – and it makes so much sense

‘As I thought more about it I realised that the princesses are set up for science’ – JoAnna Wendel.

(JoAnna Wendel)
(JoAnna Wendel)

By Nilima Marshall, Press Association

An illustrator has envisioned what careers the women of Disney would have if they were scientists, based on their magical powers and where they live.

JoAnna Wendel, who works in communications at Nasa and is based in Washington DC, said she came up with the idea of reimagining Disney princess as researchers after being inspired by fellow artists who were recasting the heroines as modern-day women.

Ms Wendel, 27, said: “As a science communicator, my life revolves around learning about and telling people about science, so that’s sort of the lens I see the world through.

“I’ve seen so much ‘Disney princesses as…’ artwork and it just hit me – scientists are missing from these alternate universes!

“As I thought more about it I realised that the princesses are set up for science – they have adventures in nature, they fly to great heights, they live underwater, extreme environments don’t bother them. They’d be great scientists!”

Ms Wendel said she grew up watching Disney films but admits she wasn’t into princesses.

She said: “I loved the adventures. I wanted to be the girl version of Aladdin and my favourite character is the Genie.”

When it came to reimagining the popular Disney princesses as women of science, Ms Wendel spent some time thinking about the scientific expertise that would fit the characters.

ipanews_8d86bb57-f84d-4cde-8a49-3012f2122969_embedded875509
(JoAnna Wendel)

Elsa from Frozen, for example, is a glaciologist while Mulan scours the planet for fossils as a palaeontologist. And the Little Mermaid’s Ariel, of course, is an oceanographer.

She said: “Some were obvious and based on their locations or magical powers Ariel being a mermaid could easily study what’s under the ocean.

“Elsa, as an ice queen, obviously can research ice because she can move it around with her hands.

“Mulan was a little harder, but I decided that because some of the biggest dinosaur finds came from China, and she has an adventurous spirit, she should be hunting for fossils.”

ipanews_8d86bb57-f84d-4cde-8a49-3012f2122969_embedded875503
(JoAnna Wendel)

In her alternate Disney universe, Jasmine from Aladdin is an atmospheric scientist “because Carpet can take instruments up as high as she needs him to”, while Brave’s Merida works as a park ranger and conservation biologist “because she’s so tied to nature”.

Ms Wendel said: “I like the idea of her [Merida] tromping through a forest as a park ranger, yelling at campers to pack up their trash.”

She says her work has been appreciated by children who had the chance to look at the illustrations.

She added: “I’ve seen a few comments about people showing them to their kids as well.

ipanews_8d86bb57-f84d-4cde-8a49-3012f2122969_embedded875501
(JoAnna Wendel)

“I think my favourite comment was someone appreciating that the princesses are all dressed appropriately for their science – I wasn’t about to have some scantily-clad woman taking an ice core!”

As a science communicator, Ms Wendel says she wants to see more heroines in children’s entertainment engage in problem-solving and fighting their own their battles.

She said: “Scientists are still thought of as white, older men.

ipanews_8d86bb57-f84d-4cde-8a49-3012f2122969_embedded875497
(JoAnna Wendel)

“I want to see books and movies about little girls – or women of colour – going on adventures and learning, using their brains, and not depending on men to fight their fights or solve their puzzles.”

So what’s next on the list?

Ms Wendel said: “I’ve got ideas for Snow White, Moana, Tiana, Pocahontas and Belle – although I probably won’t do those all at the same time.

“It’s hard to fit in all the drawing I want with a full-time job!”

Press Association

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Editors Choice

Also in World News