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Merida was Pixar’s first female lead character in the 2012 film Brave, and she appeared in a blaze of self-possession, fiery red hair, and perfectly-aimed arrows. While on paper she was a princess, she had absolutely no intention of settling quietly into married life with a handsome prince: Merida knew her own mind and set out to make sure she could keep her independence. Though Merida’s journey starts out as a stereotypical princess-in-a-castle fairy story, it escalates into a dark folk tale about dangerous magic, fate, and the changing relationship that every growing teenage daughter has with her mother.
An adventurous young pig who has a special fondness (and talent) for jumping in muddy puddles, Peppa is not a shy or retiring little girl. Whether it’s deciding where to plant a flower garden or wanting to win all the games at a birthday party, she’s never afraid to speak up and take the lead. Some might call that bossy – but being sure of herself and confident in her own abilities sets an encouraging example to her young audience.
A classic Disney princess who (spoiler alert) didn’t end up married to a handsome chap. The daughter of a Native American chief, Disney’s 1995 fictionalized version of the real-life Pocahontas was a spirited law unto herself, who would always rather commune with nature (diving off cliffs and befriending wild animals) than settle for sensible married life. So proud was she of her own identity that when she did fall in love, with the colonial settler John Smith, she refused to sacrifice her home to go with him to England.
Velma Dace Dinkley
In the motley crew of Scooby-Doo, Velma brings the brains. Originally created in 1969, Velma’s of-the-era attire has become synonymous with the female science geek and she is often the team member to solve the crime – even if her villain-chasing skills are frequently hampered by the loss of her glasses.