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Only A Few Actors Can Say They’ve Played More Than One Disney Princess On Screen


Prior to “The Little Mermaid” in 1989, actress Jodi Benson had appeared on stage, singing in a production of “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” before making her Broadway debut in “Marilyn: An American Fable” in 1983. In 1986, she appeared in the Howard Ashman musical “Smile,” which gave her a connection to Disney. Ashman was producing an animated version of “The Little Mermaid” for the studio, and Benson was able to secure an audition to play the title character. She got the part. Benson’s voice, paired with Alan Menken’s songs, might be one of the central reasons why “The Little Mermaid” was a big hit. 

After “The Little Mermaid,” Benson secured a great deal more voice work for films and TV, playing Barbie (both the Mattel and “Toy Story” versions), Thumbelina, Pepper-Ann, Aquagirl, Helen of Troy, Lady (of “Lady and the Tramp”), and a ballerina toy in “The Little Engine that Could.” For a generation of cartoon consumers, Benson’s voice became a new standard. She was simply how cartoon heroines were supposed to sound. 

Only deep-cut Disney fans will also know that Benson also played one of the Big Thirteen in the 2001 series “House of Mouse.” That show was set in ToonTown, where animated characters from across the Disney canon could gather and interact. On the few occasions where Belle from “Beauty and the Beast” appeared, she was played by Jodi Benson. Why original Belle actress Paige O’Hara didn’t play the role is not widely known to the public, but one can posit that Benson was given O’Hara’s blessing. 

Incidentally, Jodi Benson also played a character named Belle in a 1997 animated version of “A Christmas Carol.”

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