- Melia Robinson/Tech Insider and Walt Disney Animation Studios
Over the years, 17 women have lent their voices to bring Cinderella, Belle, Mulan, and the other Disney princesses to life.
“Moana” this past weekend became the second-biggest box-office opening ever on Thanksgiving weekend, second to “Frozen.”
Here’s a little background on Cravalho and the leading ladies who came before her.
Snow White befriends small forest creatures and takes a long, curse-induced nap in 1937’s “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.”
- Walt Disney Productions/”Snow White”
In real life, Adriana Caselotti was a convent-educated teenager who beat out 150 actresses.
Walt Disney personally hired 18-year-old Caselotti for the role of Snow White in his first feature-length cartoon. She made $20 a day reciting lines and singing, which is reportedly less than for one of the actors who voiced a dwarf.
After “Snow White,” Caselotti sang opera, worked briefly in real estate and the stock market, and wrote a book on singing.
In 1950’s “Cinderella,” the princess made an unforgettable appearance at a ball.
- Walt Disney Productions/”Cinderella”
The actress who voiced her, Ilene Woods, had her own radio show by age 11.
- Wikimedia Commons
Woods captivated audiences with her voice long before she sang “A Dream Is a Wish Your Heart Makes.” The New Hampshire native performed in her own local radio show at 11 and in a network show at 14.
Two songwriter friends asked her to record a demo of some tunes they’d written for a coming Disney feature, and two days later she wound up in Walt Disney’s office.
Woods later became a spokeswoman for United Cerebral Palsy telethons.
Princess Aurora catches up on some beauty sleep in 1959’s “Sleeping Beauty.”
- Walt Disney Productions/”Sleeping Beauty”
Mary Costa auditioned for Aurora because she wanted to meet Walt Disney.
- Wikimedia Commons/S. Hurok
Costa made an impromptu performance at a dinner party when, unbeknownst to her, the choral director casting Princess Aurora was in the room – and he was hooked. The animators later modeled the character off the Knoxville, Tennessee, native.
Costa led an illustrious singing career and threw herself into charity work after retiring from show business. She’s 86.
Thirty years later, Ariel traded fins for a pair of legs in 1989’s “The Little Mermaid.”
- Walt Disney Productions/”The Little Mermaid”
Jodi Benson made such a splash as Ariel that Disney invited her back again and again.
- Chris Pizzello/AP
Benson took a break from the Broadway stage to record her voice-acting debut as Ariel. She had no idea it would be a hit.
After living under the sea, Benson went on to voice Thumbelina in 20th Century Fox’s movie of the same name, Weebo in “Flubber,” and Ariel in every subsequent video game, TV show, short, and sequel. She reprises her role as Barbie in “Toy Story 4” in 2018.
In 1991’s “Beauty and the Beast,” Belle cracked some book spines and tamed a beast.
- Walt Disney Productions/”Beauty and the Beast”
Paige O’Hara is a self-described Disney fanatic who identifies with her character, Belle.
- Frederick M. Brown/Getty
Broadway starlet O’Hara auditioned with 500 others for the part of Belle and booked the gig after the fifth audition, on her birthday. The animators squeezed some of O’Hara’s mannerisms into Belle’s character, like the way she brushes her hair out of her eyes.
O’Hara signed with Disney Fine Art two years ago to paint “Beauty and the Beast”-inspired art. She also starred in Las Vegas’ long-running “Menopause the Musical.”
Jasmine is a strong-willed, free-spirited princess on the run in 1992’s “Aladdin.”
- Walt Disney Productions/”Aladdin”
For the first time, two women, Linda Larkin and Lea Salonga, voiced a Disney princess.
Larkin auditioned over several months for the prized role of Jasmine, and she thought she’d lost the gig when she told producers she couldn’t sing. But they were taken with her speaking voice, and Larkin has since reprised the role in several straight-to-video sequels.
Salonga, on the other hand, is a singing machine. Since landing her big break at 18 and earning a Tony Award two years later, the Filipina actress graced the Broadway stage in “Les Misérables” and “Flower Drum” and lent her voice to another Disney princess, Mulan.
In 1995, Chief Powhatan’s daughter fights for her independence in “Pocahontas.”
Irene Bedard and Judy Kuhn brought Pocahontas to the big screen together.
Bedard gave her speaking voice and live-action modeled for the titular role in “Pocahontas.” The Alaska Native actress went on to portray other strong indigenous women in TV and movies, including Pocahontas’ mother in the 2005 drama “The New World.”
Kuhn sang with a 90-piece orchestra while recording music for “Pocahontas.” The four-time Tony Award nominee starred in the original Broadway productions of “Chess,” “Les Misérables,” and “Rags,” and she now appears in “Fun Home.”
In 1998’s “Mulan,” the teen uses her smarts to bring honor to her family.
- Walt Disney Pictures/”Mulan”
Ming-Na Wen and Lea Salonga helped make Mulan so incredibly fierce.
Wen launched her voice-acting career as Mulan, but these days fans are more likely to find her kicking butt in live-action roles. The Macau-born actress landed recurring roles in “ER” and “Eureka.” She now handles all kinds of weapons in “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.”
Salonga, who also voiced Jasmine in “Aladdin,” said in an interview that Mulan was her favorite Disney princess. In 2011, Disney honored her with a Disney Legend award, making her the first Filipina to receive it.
Tiana dreams of opening her own restaurant in 2009’s “The Princess and the Frog.”
- Disney/”The Princess and the Frog”
Anika Noni Rose beat out Jennifer Hudson and Beyoncé to play Tiana.
- Jamie McCarthy/Getty
Before bringing the first black Disney princess to life, Rose won a Tony Award for “Caroline, Or Change” and played a backup singer in “Dreamgirls.”
Since her fateful kiss with a frog, Rose earned recurring roles on “The Bates Motel” and “The Good Wife,” and she starred in a miniseries adaptation of “Roots.” She’s now filming “Everything, Everything,” based on a young adult novel, due in theaters in 2017.
Merida brings chaos to her kingdom in 2012’s “Brave.”
- Walt Disney Productions and Pixar Animation Studios/”Brave”
Kelly Macdonald ditched the cocktail bar where she worked to pursue acting.
- Brad Barket/Getty
Macdonald was working as a barmaid when someone handed her a casting call flier for Danny Boyle’s “Trainspotting.” Macdonald has since led an illustrious acting career on both sides of the Atlantic, appearing in “No Country for Old Men” and “Boardwalk Empire.”
Landing the lead in “Brave” was a “dream come true,” Macdonald said in an interview. The Glasgow-born actress persuaded animators to sneak a few local slang words into the script.
Rapunzel leaves her tower in search of adventure in 2010’s “Tangled.”
Mandy Moore gave Rapunzel her pep.
- Richard Shotwell/AP
Having a hit single wasn’t enough to land the role of Rapunzel, apparently. Singer-actress Moore belted Joni Mitchell’s “Help Me” during her audition and won the part.
Before getting tangled up in those famous tresses, Moore starred in teen flicks “A Walk to Remember,” “The Princess Diaries,” and “Saved!” She’s set to voice Rapunzel again in a coming TV series on Disney Channel, and she is filming a drama, “I’m Not Here.”
Anna saves her kingdom from an eternal winter in 2013’s “Frozen.”
Kristen Bell caught the attention of Disney’s casting directors when she auditioned for “Tangled” years back.
- Getty Images / Jason Merritt
Though acting is what she’s best known for, Bell grew up singing opera and studied music in college. Landing the lead role in “Frozen” brought the “Veronica Mars” star back to her roots. Bell will return for the highly anticipated “Frozen” sequel.
Bell can be seen opposite Ted Danson in “The Good Place.”
While she isn’t a princess, per se, Queen Elsa embodies royalty in “Frozen.”
Idina Menzel gave Queen Elsa her powerhouse voice in “Let It Go.”
- Jason Merritt/Getty
Before she was Elsa, Menzel held reign over Broadway. The Tony Award-winning actress starred in the original productions of “Rent,” “Wicked,” and “If/Then.”
Like her costar Kristen Bell, Menzel also auditioned for “Tangled.” She said in an interview that during the “Frozen” production, she liked to hang around the studio and watch the animators work to embed herself in the production process.
A chieftess-in-training delivers a demigod across the ocean in 2016’s “Moana.”
- Walt Disney Animation Studios
Auli’i Cravalho never had to officially audition for the part.
- Melia Robinson/Business Insider
Sixteen-year-old newcomer Cravalho auditioned for a local nonprofit event when a Disney casting director came across her tape. The rest is history.
Cravalho, a high-school student, was born and raised on the Hawaiian islands. She has performed in backyard plays, but “Moana” marks her first major film role.