As longtime Hollywood royalty, Disney Legend Julie Andrews is the perfect person to introduce National Princess Week. She first met Walt Disney when she was playing the part of Queen Guinevere in Camelot on Broadway. After seeing her performance, Walt invited her to Hollywood where he cast her in his classic live-action/animation film, Mary Poppins. During her extraordinary career, Julie has portrayed queens and princesses, including the title role in the 1957 television broadcast of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella as well as Queen Clarisse in The Princess Diaries and its sequel.
The Academy Award®-winning actress, singer, and children’s book author is now collaborating with The Walt Disney Company and Target to celebrate the inaugural launch of National Princess Week. On April 22, Target commemorated this auspicious new holiday by showcasing a variety of Disney Princess merchandise including apparel, toys and books, DVDs and CDs, stationery, and more featuring such beloved princess characters as Cinderella, Snow White, Ariel, and Belle.
National Princess Week coincides with the Blu-ray release of The Princess Diaries starring Julie Andrews and Anne Hathaway, which will be available in a Target exclusive two-movie collection featuring The Princess Diaries and The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement. Also featured at Target will be The Very Fairy Princess: Here Comes The Flower Girl!, the latest release in Julie’s No. 1 New York Times bestselling The Very Fairy Princess children’s book series, co-authored with daughter Emma Walton Hamilton and published by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers.
What is National Princess Week, and how did it come about?
Julie Andrews: It came about as a happy collaboration. I’ve long had a relationship with Target and also, of course, with The Walt Disney Company, and it is so magical that they have come together to help create and hugely support National Princess Week, which began April 22, and is planned as a yearly event. What it boils down to is that everything princess will be combined under one roof, especially since many of Disney’s animated films have been about a princess or somebody very, very special who believes in themselves. Additionally, I have a picture book series called The Very Fairy Princess, and this first National Princess Week coincides with the release of the third book in the series called The Very Fairy Princess: Here Comes The Flower Girl! So it’s a win-win situation for all of us.
Kids are so creative, innocent, and inventive, and this is the perfect event to bring that out.
And what will National Princess Week mean to kids?
JA: National Princess Week allows young children everywhere to celebrate role-playing and become little princes or princesses. It’s an opportunity to celebrate inner and outer sparkles, dress up, and dream. Kids are so creative, innocent, and inventive, and this is the perfect event to bring that out.
Why do you think princesses are so popular?
JA: I think every little girl everywhere feels that she is secretly a princess inside. Disney has a lot to do with young ladies thinking that they may be a princess because their stories are all about believing in yourself and using your imagination, and that’s a very powerful tool for children growing up. So if you believe that you’re a fairy princess deep down inside, that fantasy is probably going to stand you in some good stead as you go on in life. Fantasy plays a powerful role for children in their being able to cope and developing a wonderful imagination.
Your latest The Very Fairy Princess book is also being released during National Princess Week. What is this book about?
JA: It’s called The Very Fairy Princess: Here Comes the Flower Girl! and it’s about our little Geraldine, or Gerry as she’s called. In each book, she goes out to meet her destiny, and she passionately believes that she is a very fairy princess so that ultimately, by the end of each book, she convinces everybody else that maybe she is. In this one, she’s asked to be a flower girl at her aunt’s wedding, and she makes a smashing wedding for Aunt Sue by decorating the cake and hanging everything off of the garden trees and making Aunt Sue feel happy. It’s about the power of love and inner sparkle that makes a great, great day.
What do you hope that young people take away from National Princess Week?
JA: I think some of the best qualities about being a princess are what you carry inside. It’s about being generous and kind and creative and setting an example. As Gerry says in The Very Fairy Princess books, “Everybody can be a princess. You just have to let your sparkle out.”
So what initially inspired you to start The Very Fairy Princess book series?
JA: It was my granddaughter Hope, and just an idea that a princess doesn’t only have to be glamorous on the outside, that started it all.
And can you talk a little about co-authoring with your daughter Emma and how that came about?
JA: About 15 years ago, I was approached by my publishing company to write something for very, very young children, particularly boys. And since my daughter just had a new son, I asked her, “If you had to go to the library and pick just one book for Sam, what would it be?”
Emma quickly said, “Oh mom, there’s absolutely no contest. It would be a book about trucks because he is absolutely truck crazy.” And she struggled to find anything in the library that was family oriented in terms of its theme, and I said to her, “Well, should we try to write one together?” And that’s where it all started. To date we’ve written a lot of books together for both young boys and girls. In addition to The Very Fairy Princess books, we co-wrote the Dumpy the Dump Truck series.
What’s it like working with a relative—your own daughter?
JA: I love it. We found early on that we were very compatible together creatively. We formed our own little publishing company called The Julie Andrews Collection, and our books are now published by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers. We’ve been blazing away ever since. We’ve done about 25 books together thus far.
Emma and I are both absolutely passionate about having children learn to read early. We formed the publishing company that my daughter runs for me, and we have three words that are stamped on every book we publish: “Words, Wisdom, Wonder.” What could be better than that? All of our books are a very special genre of books. They’re not edgy. In fact, they’re a throwback to the older great books that I used to love. They all have themes of love of nature and empowering children to think for themselves and encouraging their imaginations. It’s also opening up a world to them that you hope they’re going to just take and run with.
Which modern-day princesses inspire you?
JA: Well, I think our lovely British princess who’s just become William’s wife is a wonderful inspiration, especially in terms to how much responsibility modern princesses have. It’s not just about dressing up and being glamorous. It’s a heavy responsibility to be a princess these days. They really have a lot on their shoulders. They are ambassadors. They carry out the messages and they work very, very hard.
What are some of the best qualities of princesses?
I think some of the best qualities about being a princess are what you carry inside. It’s about being generous, kind, creative, guiding other people, and setting good examples.
I’ve always loved Cinderella, and she really does become a princess in the end.
Do you have a personal favorite Disney princess?
I’ve always loved Cinderella, and she really does become a princess in the end. Snow White is pretty wonderful, too.
Do you have a favorite princess tale?
I love all the great Grimm Fairy Tales. They’re all about believing in yourself and using your imagination.
You come from a whole family of entertainers. Why do you think it’s important to experience entertainment, whether it’s in books or in films, together as a family?
JA: Well, I cannot imagine a world without the arts around. Arts in all forms stimulate us and show us who we are–they’re a mirror that reflects who we are, they nurture and they embrace us. I cannot imagine a world without music and theater, and I wish there were more programs in schools.
It’s important to bond as a family and connect via the arts. I can’t remember the statistics, but it’s something along the lines of . . . if you read to your child, they will do better in school, it will make their interpersonal relationships better, improve their social skills, and they are more likely to vote when they’re older. And it all stems from being read to as a child
Do you think it’s important to encourage imagination and creative play in kids today?
JA: I read a lot to my kids when they were growing up, and now to my grandkids as well. Books helped open up a world to them that you hope they’re going to just take and run with.
What is it that makes you like inspiring children?
JA: For some reason, and it’s nothing that I sought out, it seems that children–their growth, their young minds, and their education particularly–just resonates for me. And since I have a huge connection in these areas, I think it’s just been a great platform for me to be able to give back to children. And I love writing for kids.
Why do you think The Princess Diaries is still a great movie to watch at home with your family, and that a whole new generation of children are going to fall in love with it?
JA: To be honest with you, I think that every seven years, if you think about it, there’s a new generation and to be involved with a film that gives so much pleasure to children every time they stumble across the movie. It has been a gift for me. This also applies to Mary Poppins and The Sound of Music. There’s always a new generation that can discover it, and I think The Princess Diaries is that kind of a movie.
We sort of fell in love, in the loveliest possible way.
How did you get involved with The Princess Diaries movie?
JA: Garry Marshall–that’s exactly why. I didn’t even see the script. I just went to meet him, and we talked about it. We sort of fell in love, in the loveliest possible way. He so stimulated me with his dialogue and ideas and thoughts, and I thought I’d love to work for him so that’s what happened.
What was it like working with Garry Marshall?
JA: He’s a man who just has magic, anything he touches seems to be brought alive and seems to be magical, and we met and I loved him instantly. I don’t know a soul who doesn’t love Garry Marshall. And he gave me such creative freedom to sort of imagine what Queen Clarisse should be.
What was it like working with a young Anne Hathaway?
JA: I instantly knew that this was a very beautiful young lady but who also had talent. Her instincts are phenomenal and she’s lovely. She’s grown up through her roles so beautifully. She’s such a natural, and I used to look at her and think, “My god, you really do have it.”
Why do you think this film still resonates with audiences today?
JA: I think the film itself still resonates for every generation because it’s got a wonderful heart. It’s about responsibility and obligation and decency and growing up and discovering who you are inside. Again, I go back to that inner sparkle. What makes you tick? What turns you on? And if you can find that in life, you’re very, very lucky.
It is about time we talk about modern princesses and the obligations they have . . .
Did you know at the time that this movie was going to be putting sort of a whole new spin on being a modern princess?
JA: I certainly thought it was very, very timely. It is about time we talk about modern princesses and the obligations they have and the duties that they have and what it takes to cut the mustard, so to speak.
Do you have any favorite moments or funny sort of production stories or scenes from the film?
JA: Do I ever! Mattress surfing down the stairs is a hazard, I can tell you, and children often ask me, was that really you? And I say, “Yes it was, and I was absolutely terrified. I was hugely proud of myself when I pulled it off, but it wasn’t that easy.
There are still one-liners from the film that I use in my everyday life. The princess Anne Hathaway says, “Would you like to slide in first into the car?” and the queen says, “No, I never slide.” And so I cannot tell you how many times that comes up in my life, and I respond, “I never slide.” It’s definitely a small joke in the family.
Another funny line from the movie that continues to resonate is a scene where my character, Queen Clarisse, leaves a minor car accident with a San Francisco trolley car, and my character departs by saying, “goodbye trolley people,” and gives a royal wave of the hand. Kids love the goodbye trolley wave. When I’m signing books and children come to see me, they all ask if I can do the wave . . . it’s just great that they pick up on all those things.
Show me what an ordinary schlump-along looks like and then show me how a princess should walk.
Another moment I’ll remember fondly is when Garry Marshall just said, “Show me what an ordinary schlump-along looks like and then show me how a princess should walk.” And that’s where some parts of the movies just kind of evolved and we made a moment out of it.
Another time, Garry said to me, “Well, come on, we’re inventing this wonderful country, Genovia. Where is it? What are they famous for? And I put my thinking cap on and I said well, maybe they’d be famous for lace-ups, meats, their wonderful pears, fruits, and the cheeses that they make. Well, of course, the next thing I knew the set was just full of fake pears and pear statues and lace mats, and princess Anne Hathaway’s wedding gown was made of lace. Give Garry an inch and he’ll just run with it big time.
What better image could one ask for?
What are your favorite moments in your acting career, and why?
JA: Well first of all, I have been involved with so many wonderful films. How lucky can a girl get? I mean, I just happened to be the lady that was asked to play Maria von Trapp, Mary Poppins, and Queen Clarisse in The Princess Diaries. And I’ve loved being part of all these films.
I think that in my career, I’ve always tried to embrace anything that’s new and different and vital and what I hoped was worthy. It just happens that the movies that have been the most successful for me are the ones that are family oriented and that are geared towards family. And so it’s something that was kind of visited upon me in a way, but that I could not be happier about. I mean, heavens, what better image could one ask for?