Do Disney princesses still have a place in today's society?
Growing parental concern about young girls being inundated with princess culture is being addressed by Disney, the biggest global purveyor of princess characters on television and film.
The US giant's latest character, Sofia the First, has been launched in Australia and overseas with a modern twist to the story - the princess is not rescued.
The general manager of Disney Junior Worldwide, Nancy Kanter, said the company is unlikely to create another princess being saved by someone ''on a white horse''.
Princess party: (From left) Charlotte Dunsford, Maddi Calvert, Sophie Dunsford and Tallulah Calvert play dress-ups in Cremorne. Photo: Sasha Woolley
''We know there are people who have their opinions about whether the princess, as a model, is relevant today,'' Ms Kanter said, in an exclusive interview with Fairfax before attending the ASTRA television conference in Sydney this week.
''We're not suggesting you just sit and wait for somebody to ride up on a white horse and take you away. You have to make your own life, you have to decide who you want to be and go after it and be that person,'' she said.
It is believed Disney's careful development of the new character is based on a perceived parental backlash against princess culture and its associated merchandising.
Disney's newest princess ... Sofia the First
But some question why the company is still using princesses at all.
''I think a lot of mothers hate that as soon as they have a daughter, all these pink clothes are foisted on them and they start being inducted into the princess culture,'' said Amber Robinson, editor of Essential Kids, a Fairfax Media website.
''Disney and other movie-makers are realising parents are more savvy these days, and they don't want the princess who needs to be rescued.''
A new book released in Britain suggests princess culture has taken hold to the point where girls are blurring the line between fiction and real life - demanding to wear their own tiaras and princess dresses daily. ''Unless parents are careful, the dream can become an everyday reality and their daughter can slip into the princess role on a full-time basis,'' Sue Palmer, author of 21st Century Girls, told Britain's Daily Mail.
Ms Kanter said Disney Junior takes its responsibility in delivering content to children seriously. ''We made a very specific and conscious decision to make Sofia a young girl who is going to learn about what being a princess is about, not in a superficial way - not what dress you pick out or how sparkly is your tiara. We wanted her to be learning about what it takes to be a good person, what does it take to be your own person,'' she said.
Feedback from parents about gender stereotypes appears to be behind the move to broaden the princess model.
Ms Kanter said Disney had undertaken extensive research and audience testing, resulting in a more modern storyline.
''Mums are really sitting down with their kids and watching this show, which is really important to us on any number of levels,'' she said.
Ms Robinson said the Disney move was a step in the right direction, and that many parents want more varied characters as role models for their children.