The Disney Princesses have been a marketing dream for Disney, but until now that dream has died around age 5 or 6.
The little princesses grow up and move on to iCarly or Hannah Montana (if Disney's lucky).
But with Hannah Montana in her last season -- and Miley Cyrus making parents cringe ever harder -- is it any surprise Disney is making the princesses grow up?
The Disney Marketing Team unveiled the new Princess and Me line on Tuesday, a line the press reps say is an affordable addition to the girls' friend doll market at $49.99 (insert thinly veiled -- and oft-deserved -- knock on American Girl).
The 18" posable dolls were created to look like they're somewhere in the tween years -- essentially the standard Disney Princess only younger -- and are more substantial than the fashion dolls made for the younger girls.
Say the folks at Disney, this is a doll for girls who are 5, 6, and up. It's for girls who are now old enough to take care of a "real" doll, with the accessories (her own bed and wardrobe, each retailing for around $49.99) to play out their own friend fantasies.
A doll clothing and matching girls' clothing line will keep the money pouring in for Disney -- and enhance the girls' doll-to-kid connection.
Just for transparency's sake, I attended the press event with my child in tow, and they have offered to send her her own doll (sans accessories). So I'll have to tell you my response BEFORE that offer came up: It's about time.
Because the problem with Disney's tween idols is they have to grow up. These human stars cannot remain pristine examples to our little girls forever, and it's a disservice to them as humans to expect it.
But when our 5- to 6-year-old daughters age out of pre-school TV and into their older sisters' passions, they're still too young to separate the person from the star.
And that leaves them vulnerable.
Enter the princesses.
Who will never grow up. Who can be molded by the virtue of fiction. Who won't let us parents down.
Say what you will about princesses, but you won't see them gyrating on a stripper pole anytime soon.
And I've confessed time and again that I'm an ardent fan of Tiana -- who happens to be my daughter's favorite -- and I learned this week she's already the best-selling princess of all time, though she was the first introduced in 10 years when The Princess and the Frog hit theaters late last year.
But a "take everywhere with me doll" quickly ceases to be about the story of the character and more about the story of the little girl who loves her. If my daughter does get a Tiana doll, I expect she'll just be a plain old doll -- and the subject of myriad adventures.
The Princess and Me line will be unveiled on QVC next month, then be on sale exclusively in Toys R Us stores with the entire princess line -- including the new Rapunzel princess from Tangled. An eventual inclusion in Disney Stores is in the works.
Are you looking forward to a grown-up princess?
Image by Jeanne Sager