Ever wondered if Ariel always had such spunk? Curious about whether Belle was always an avid reader? For any fan of Disney‘s most beloved fairytales and their leading ladies, here’s a chance to revisit the princesses in a new way.
Following the success of similar dolls for The Princess and the Frog‘s Princess Tiana and Tangled‘s Rapunzel, Disney has created a new collection of plush toys featuring 10 of its most iconic princesses reimagined as toddlers for the Disney Animators’ Collection.
Crafted under the guidance of veteran Walt Disney Animators Mark Henn and Glen Keane – the creative forces behind such heroines as Ariel, Pocahontas, Belle and Jasmine – the one-of-a-kind collection was a new opportunity for the pair to put their artistic talents on display, and bring these characters to life yet again.
“When you’re designing a character for an animated film, it feels like the character exists before you drew it,” Keane tells PEOPLE. “There’s a whole history to a character before they’re created. That was the attitude Disney Consumer Products came at us with. They wanted to see what these Disney princesses looked like as toddlers because they really were toddlers at one point.”
“What was fun is you never quite knew how it would come out,” adds Henn. “There were certainly some iconic shapes that each of these characters had that we wanted to get into each of these dolls. Glen and I both felt really strongly that these are characters. These are all unique little girls.”
Designing the dolls also proved deeply personal for both animators, who had often turned to the women in their lives for inspiration when creating these characters.
“I’m really excited to package up a Jasmine doll and give it to my mother because Jasmine I based largely on my younger sister Beth,” says Henn, “so I’ve kind of created a doll of my sister, which is very unique.”
Adds Keane, “The whole experience of designing Rapunzel was very personal, because I’d take my own little granddaughter, who had just been born, and hold her and try to draw this baby Rapunzel based on her.”
Furthermore, the Animators’ Collection comes packaged in boxes which showcase both Henn and Keane’s original artwork for the princesses, an exciting aspect for the duo.
“I think it’s really, really cool to go to a store and see a product on the shelves with my rough sketches on the box,” says Keane. “I was really honored they wanted to use our rough drawings on the packaging. I just thought that was such a sign of the integrity behind this collection.”
“I know that what we do here means a lot to us because you’re not doing it just for one generation, but that this is going to live on long after we’ve been gone,” he continues. “I hope these dolls are around as well. They really are that quality.”
– Kiran Hefa