The Voices Behind Your Favorite Disney Heroines
Disney has no shortage of exciting and inspiring leading ladies. Since the debut of the first princess Snow White in 1937's Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Disney continues to create likable, strong and endearing heroines that grab the attention of audiences across the world. Here is a list of the voices behind these beloved Disney characters.
Adriana Caselotti, Snow White (Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs)
The first Disney princess Snow White was voiced by Adriana Caselotti in the 1937 film Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. The actress was paid $970 for the role (equivalent to $16,905 in 2018). Walt Disney did not want Caselotti's voice used in any other project, and once told a radio show host, "I'm sorry, but that voice can't be used anywhere. I don't want to spoil the illusion of Snow White." She had two more film roles, one in The Wizard of Oz and one in It's a Wonderful Life. Both were uncredited. Caselotti became a Disney Legend in 1994.
Ilene Woods, Cinderella (Cinderella)
Ilene Woods voiced the rags-to-riches character Cinderella in the 1950 film. The actress auditioned with the songs "Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo", "A Dream Is a Wish Your Heart Makes" and "So This is Love" and won the role over 300 others who tried out. Of her experience, Woods said in an interview, "Seeing it [the film] in its new form was breathtaking for me. It's so beautiful. The color is magnificent, it just took my breath away, it was so wonderful. I sort of forget when I'm watching the movie that I had anything to do with it." The actress became a Disney Legend in 2003.
Kathryn Beaumont, Alice & Wendy (Alice in Wonderland & Peter Pan)
Kathryn Beaumont is known for voicing two famous Disney heroines: Alice in Alice in Wonderland (1951) and Wendy Darling in Peter Pan (1953). The young actress was personally picked by Walt Disney for the roles after her performance in the 1948 film On an Island with You. Not only did Beaumont provide her voice for the characters, but she also served as the performance models. The actress retired from acting and became an elementary school teacher, but continued to voice Alice and Wendy until 2005. She became a Disney Legend in 1998.
Mary Costa, Aurora (Sleeping Beauty)
Mary Costa provided the voice of Aurora in the 1959 film Sleeping Beauty. She auditioned for the role in 1952 at a dinner party and sang "When I Fall in Love." Walt Disney personally called her within hours of her audition to offer her the part. The character of Princess Aurora only had 18 lines of dialogue, and though the film was initially a critical and commercial failure, Costa's performance was praised. This inspired her to pursue a full time opera career; she would go on to appear in 44 operatic roles. She became a Disney Legend in 1999. The panning of Sleeping Beauty discouraged the studio from adapting fairy tales for 30 years, until the release of The Little Mermaid in 1989.
Jodi Benson, Ariel (The Little Mermaid)
Jodi Benson provided both the singing and speaking voice of Ariel in 1989's The Little Mermaid. She auditioned by singing a portion of "Part of Your World" and was ultimately given the role. The film became a critical and box office hit, and was nominated for three Academy Awards. It would go on to win two of them, Best Original Score and Best Original Song ("Under the Sea"). Benson has gone on to lend her voice as Barbie in Toy Story 2 and Toy Story 3, Thumbelina and also appeared in the Disney's live-action film Enchanted. She became a Disney Legend in 2011.
Paige O'Hara, Belle (Beauty and the Beast)
Broadway and stage actress Paige O'Hara voiced Belle in 1991's Beauty and the Beast. She auditioned for the character at the age of 30 after reading about the film in The New York Times. Jodi Benson (Ariel) had originally been considered to voice Belle, but creators felt she sounded too young and wanted the character to be more mature and womanly. O'Hara auditioned 5 times and beat out 500 other actresses. Belle's facial features were modeled after Vivien Leigh and Audrey Hepburn, as well as being inspired by Natalie Wood, Grace Kelly and Elizabeth Taylor. O'Hara voiced Belle in video games, film and shows until 2011. She became a Disney Legend that same year.
Linda Larkin, Jasmine (Aladdin)
Linda Larkin provided the speaking voice of Jasmine in 1992's Aladdin. In order to voice the princess, Disney required the actress to lower her voice because it was too high for the role. Lea Salonga served as Jasmine's singing voice. Larkin has continued to voice the character and has appeared as Jasmine in video games, and the sequels The Return of Jafar and Aladdin and the King of Thieves. The film was a critical and box office success, and earned two Academy Awards: Best Original Score and Best Original Song ("A Whole New World"). Larkin became a Disney Legend in 2011.
Irene Bedard, Pocahontas (Pocahontas)
Native American actress Irene Bedard voiced Pocahontas in the 1995 film. Broadway performer Judy Kuhn provided the singing voice for the character, and was actually cast before Bedard. Kuhn once explained, "They said, 'You are going to do the dialogue unless we find a Native American actress whose singing voice matched yours.' I was cast before Irene, so it actually went backwards." Bedard had been busy filming Lakota Woman: Siege at Wounded Knee (1994) at the time when she auditioned. Pocahontas was modeled after Bedard. The actress created "Sleeping Lady Film" and "Waking Giants Productions" in 2012, in order to bring Indian Country stories to the world.
Demi Moore, Esmeralda (The Hunchback of Notre Dame)
Demi Moore was already a very successful actress when she provided her voice as gypsy Esmeralda in 1996's The Hunchback of Notre Dame. She had previously appeared in the hit films St. Elmo's Fire (1985), Ghost (1990) and A Few Good Men (1992). After meeting with Alan Menken and Stephen Schwartz and singing a few demos, Moore had said, "You'd better get someone else" for the songs. Heidi Mollenhauer therefore provided Esmeralda's singing voice. Moore has gone on to have a highly-successful career, appearing in films like G.I Jane, Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle, Mr. Brooks and Rough Night.
Susan Egan, Megera (Hercules)
Susan Egan actually originated the Broadway role of Belle in Beauty and the Beast; she played the character for one year during its debut run. She won the character Megara in 1997's Hercules, and provided both her speaking and singing vocals. The role was "based on a '40s screwball comedienne", which Egan effortlessly evoked. The actress has gone on to have a very successful stage career, appearing in productions such as The Sound of Music, The Unsinkable Molly Brown and Thoroughly Modern Millie. She has reprised her role of Meg in the video games Kingdom Hearts II and Kingdom Hearts III.
Ming-Na Wen, Mulan (Mulan)
Macanese-American actress Ming-Na Wen starred as the titular character in 1998's Mulan. She was offered the role after filmmakers listened to her narration at the beginning of The Joy Luck Club. Producer Pam Coates had said, "When we heard Ming-Na doing that voice-over, we knew we had our Mulan. She has a very likable and lovely voice, and those are the qualities we were looking for." Lea Salonga offered her singing voice once more for Mulan, previously singing for Jasmine. Wen has found much success since the film, appearing in ER, Stargate Universe and she currently stars on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
Minnie Driver, Jane (Tarzan)
Minnie Driver starred as the eccentric and kindhearted Jane Porter in 1999's Tarzan. Driver previously appeared in the Oscar-winning film Good Will Hunting, for which she was nominated for Best Supporting Actress. Many of Driver's mannerisms and characteristics were incorporated into Jane's animation. The actress actually improvised the scene where Jane describes meeting Tarzan for the first time to her father and Clayton, which the producers loved. The film won the Academy Award for Best Original Song ("You'll Be in My Heart"), a song by Phil Collins. Driver currently stars on the ABC sitcom Speechless.
Anika Noni Rose, Tiana (The Princess and the Frog)
Anika Noni Rose beat out Hollywood heavy-hitters Beyoncé, Alicia Keys, Tyra Banks and Jennifer Hudson when she was cast as Tiana in The Princess and the Frog. She auditioned three times for the role, ultimately becoming Disney's first African-American princess. Rose had previously appeared in the 2006 musical Dreamgirls alongside Beyoncé and Hudson. The actress inspired much of Tiana's animation. Rose continues to act in film and on stage, most recently appearing in productions of A Raisin in the Sun and Carmen Jones. She was named a Disney Legend in 2011.
Mandy Moore, Rapunzel (Tangled)
Singer and actress Mandy Moore was cast as the ultimate dreamer Rapunzel in 2010's Tangled. Kristin Chenoweth and Reese Witherspoon were originally cast and Idina Menzel auditioned for Rapunzel before Moore nabbed the role. She had sang the song "Help Me" by Joni Mitchell during her audition. The character's appearance and personality was inspired by Ariel. Prior to the film, Moore had a lot of success in both films and music; she released 6 albums and starred in the films The Princess Diaries, A Walk to Remember and Saved! Moore currently stars on the hit NBC series This Is Us.
Kelly Macdonald, Merida (Brave)
Scottish actress Kelly Macdonald had an impressive resume before being cast as Merida in 2012's Brave; she appeared in works such as Nanny McPhee, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows-Part 2 and on the HBO show Boardwalk Empire. Reese Witherspoon was originally going to portray Merida, but she had to decline due to scheduling issues. Creators opted for a true Scottish actress, and Macdonald was cast. Her performance was well-received by critics, as was the film itself. She most recently appeared in Black Mirror and Holmes & Watson.
Kristen Bell, Anna (Frozen)
Kristen Bell plays the hopeless romantic Anna in 2013's smash hit film Frozen. She completed her recording sessions when she was pregnant, and had to re-record some of her lines after her pregnancy since her voice had deepened. The actress was famous for her roles in the show Veronica Mars and the films Forgetting Sarah Marshall, When in Rome and You Again. Bell wanted to make the character seem relatable, excitable and awkward. She has recently appeared in the films The Boss, Bad Moms and its sequel and currently stars in the hit comedy sitcom The Good Place.
Idina Menzel, Elsa (Frozen)
Idina Menzel had previously auditioned for Rapunzel in Tangled, before she was asked to audition for Elsa in 2013's Frozen. Menzel and Kristen Bell sang a duet together, "Wind Beneath My Wings" which was praised by the directors and producers. Menzel was a Broadway veteran, having starred in productions of Rent, Hair and Wicked. She reprised her role of Maureen Johnson in the film version of Rent, and also appeared in Enchanted. Menzel has released 6 studio albums, most recently 2016's Idina and starred in the theater production Skintight in 2018.
Auliʻi Cravalho, Moana (Moana)
Auliʻi Cravalho was just 14-years-old when she was cast as the titular character in 2016's Moana. At that point in time, Moana's personality and face had already been designed, and Cravalho's obvious similarities was merely a coincidence. The actress was born in Hawaii and is of Native Hawaiian heritage. Moana was her first acting credit. She has since gone on to appear in the short-lived series Rise, as well as in Weird City. Cravalho once again voiced the character in a cameo in the film Ralph Breaks the Internet.
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© 2019 Rachel M Johnson