The Beginning of the LEGO Disney Princess Theme (2014)
In 2014, LEGO expanded their line of products marketed towards girls with the Disney Princess theme, making it the second theme ever to feature minidolls. The first one was LEGO Friends which debuted in 2012. The Disney Princess sets focused on building scenery from famous Disney movies so the kids could easily recreate scenes or make up their own. I’m mainly interested in the minidolls and how they differ from the ones available in sets today (2021), but I will take a look at the sets first to put the whole theme into a broader context.
All LEGO Disney Princess minidolls from 2014
We got a total of six sets (not counting the Rapunzel polybag) that were based on four Disney movies: Cinderella (1950), The Little Mermaid (1989), Tangled (2010), and Brave (2012). The prices ranged from 13 € to 70 €. The “older” princesses Ariel (The Little Mermaid) and Cinderella got two sets each, while for the newer ones Merida (Brave) and Rapunzel (Tangled) one was apparently enough. I assume Cindy and Ariel got included in the most sets because of their well-known timeless popularity, while Merida and Rapunzel weren’t as time tested. The only thing they had going for them was that they were the newest additions to the Disney Princess franchise and therefore still fresh in the audience’s memory.
The six Disney Princess sets of 2014
Here, I feel I need to address the missing elephant in the room called Frozen. The movie came out in 2013, so in hindsight this would have been the perfect time to sell Elsa’s Ice Castle. Lots and lots of Elsa’s Ice Castles. But LEGO hadn’t made any. I think that’s due to two factors. First is that Anna and Elsa weren’t (and still aren’t) a part of the Disney Princess franchise. Therefore, LEGO would have had to buy a separate license to create anything Frozen related. LEGO, of course, did that when they saw what kind of a phenomenon the movie became, but the 41062 Ice Castle didn’t come out till 2015. That, I believe is also due to the second factor. LEGO takes a long time to produce a set. All the testing and making sure the set breaks in the right way if a child falls onto it, means that up to three years can pass for an idea to turn into a set on the shelf. And, although it’s very hard to believe it now, in 2012 nobody expected Frozen to be a hit. Especially not this big of a hit. Therefore, no Frozen sets were produced in 2014.
Let’s get back to the sets we did get in 2014. The recommended age for the theme was 5-12 years which explains all of the following statements. The buildable parts focused on shrunken and simplified buildings, built with large pieces and with open backs. For ease of play and to keep the cost of the set down. The colors used are mostly a mix of neutral and bright with golden details. Wherever the sets needed a splash of color, the designers put in a few flowers, gems or stickers. And I’m here for it. Those relatively cheap details elevate the otherwise bland buildings.
All animals from the 2014 Disney Princess sets
Keeping the 5- to 12-year-olds still in mind, at least one animal is included in every set. LEGO tried to make the animals relevant to the stories and they mostly succeeded at that. What happened with 41052 I can only guess. They budget for new molds ran out, so instead of the red crab Sebastian, they included a generic green frog. Oh, well. In 2015 they managed to squeeze Sebastian into the budget, so we only needed to wait the one year to get him.
Would you mix up Sebastian and a green frog?
Other animal companions are all great. I particularly love Merida’s brothers - the three little bears. Not only are they adorable, they are also unique. The 41051 set was and still is the only one to feature them.
Merida and her bear brothers
And now I can finally focus on the minidolls. There were nine of them. Six female and three male. Which, for minidoll based sets, is really good. In fact, one third to two thirds split is the best ratio we have ever gotten in any minidoll theme ever. To this date (end of 2021).
Prince Charming, Eric, and Flynn
The not-so-good statistic is that all of the dolls represent Caucasian characters. Taking into account the source material and that this was the first year for the theme, I can see how this distribution came to be. It doesn’t mean it’s fine, just that I don’t think LEGO could have done much differently in that year. Later, when they knew the line sells, they should have tried more. But I’ll get to that when I analyze the following years.
New great hair styles!
The male hair pieces are all “borrowed” from minifigure lines. Boring. On the female side, Cindy, Ariel, and Rapunzel got new hair molds and Merida got a recolor. Now, that’s interesting. The three new hair styles have been recolored in the following years, just as they should have been.
Recolors of the new hair molds that came in the following years
The faces are printed in the same smiling style as in the LEGO Friends theme. LEGO didn’t even try to capture the personality or likeness of any princess. They just reused Emma’s face for Rapunzel.
Is this Rapunzel or just Emma with a wig? I can't tell.
And Stephanie’s for both Cindy and Merida. Very lazy, LEGO, very lazy.
I think I'm seeing triplets (Cindy, Stephanie, Merida)
The princes*, in this particular case, had way more luck. Since there basically weren’t any male minidoll faces to copy, they each got a new face print. While I like all of these three faces, Flynn’s (Tangled) is the one with the most character and therefore my favorite.
Boring hair pieces reused from LEGO minifigures coupled with new face prints
Some of the outfit choices LEGO made are fascinating, so let’s discuss. Each minidoll prince wears the same ensemble they were in for the majority of their respected movie. That’s fine and expected. The same is also true for Merida and Rapunzel. Curious are Cinderella’s and Ariel’s attires.
Cindy changes her clothes several times during the movie and her most memorable dress is, without a doubt, the magically created one. No wonder LEGO chose it. Twice. Now, there’s a whole thing about how that dress was originally grey and then Disney changed it to blue and they keep changing it every now and again and it doesn’t matter. The point is that LEGO apparently looked at all of those dress variations and decided to add yet another two to the mix. I, personally, would have appreciated one of the Cindy’s to be either in her work clothes or in the pink dress her stepsisters destroyed (oh yeah, spoiler alert). That way, we would have been able to recreate the “bibbidi bobbidi boo” scene. But, alas, even seven years later we only have the lower half of the pink dress.
2014 and 2020 Cinderella minidolls
Ariel’s delightfully unusual situation of changing species multiple times during the movie, made it necessary to create her as a mermaid and a human. The mermaid outfit was a no brainer, as it’s the only one we’ve ever seen mermaid Ariel in. The human one, however, was much more difficult to decide. At least I assume it was, as I wasn’t actually in the room while her dresses were discussed. But I can guesstimate the logic behind the decision. “Let’s not do the wedding dress yet, let’s make it one of the other dresses Ariel wore. The sparkly purple one from the end is too similar to Rapunzel’s and speaking of other princesses - OH MY COLORS – we have no princess in a pink dress! Did Ariel ever wear a pink dress? She did? For like 5 seconds and only to point out how she doesn’t fit into the human world at that point, but she did! Excellent! We’re doing that!”
2014 and 2019 Ariel minidolls
Overall, the minidoll dresses are monochromatic with a few subtle sparkle prints and just a touch of metallic paints. However, I hesitate to call them bad. Yes, compared to the Disney minidolls you can buy today, the 2014 ones seem simple and dull. But I remember when they came out and I immediately had a strong urge to buy them all. That was the state of things back then. No better princessy minidolls existed, therefore these ones were the best. I think back then LEGO was figuring out what to do with both the minidolls and the Disney Princess franchise. They had to start with something, and I don’t think this was a bad start at all. I would also argue that some of the newer dolls have too many details on them, but I’ll get to that in a future video.
2014 and 2020 Rapunzel minidolls
If you’re wondering why I’ve only compared Cindy, Ariel, and Rapunzel to their newer selves and not Merida – that’s because there is no newer Merida. The movie Brave wasn’t a big hit, and the set presumably didn’t sell that well. LEGO discontinued it and never gave Merida another chance.
Luckily for us, the other sets seem to have sold well enough that the theme is still around seven years later. Even though it’s now simply called Disney and the recommended age is 4+, it’s still the same thing.
And the biggest conclusion I have drawn from writing this article is that I should have bought at least 10 Merida’s Castle sets. Back then when they were cheap and available. But I’m glad I didn’t buy 10 Cindy’s carriages. Because we got a whole caravan worth of Cindy’s and carriages in the following years.
*Yes, I know Flynn/Eugene isn’t technically a prince, but I don’t care. I’m not calling them “males” throughout the whole article.