A lot has gone down since 2017. A lot. What has been six years, in reality, has felt like six lifetimes. And while much of it has been sad, tucked into that tumultuous time turned out to be something worth celebrating: Savannah Guthrie and Allison Oppenheim’s No. 1 New York Times bestselling book series, Princesses Wear Pants, first published in 2017, was adapted into a new Netflix animated preschool series called Princess Power. Now, it’s finally here.
To chat about the series, I had the chance to hop on a quick Zoom with Guthrie and Drew Barrymore, who is a co-executive producer through her production company, Flower Films.
“Netflix put so much care and love into realizing the books and coming up with multidimensional characters, and really I think timing is everything,” Barrymore told me, adding, “I’m glad that it’s coming out now.”
Princess Power, she says, is a series born “from a conversation that started and then many years of work and love and care and concern that went into the show.”
Guthrie agreed, sharing, “It’s so exciting, because [it] started as this seed of the Princesses Wear Pants books and has now expanded, and it’s leaping from 2D to 3D in the most colorful and entertaining and adventurous way — but also really ambitious in terms of what we’re trying to achieve and the messages we’re trying to send.”
The show follows the princess of the four fruit kingdoms: Kira Kiwi, Beatrice “Bea” Blueberry, Rita Raspberry, and Penelope “Penny” Pineapple. All distinctive in their personalities and quirks, the girls empower and support each other as they work together to make their world a better place.
It’s a celebration of self-expression, diversity, teamwork, and friendship. The central theme: “It’s not just what you wear but what you do that makes all the difference.”
The show is all the things you’d expect from an animated Netflix series for preschoolers. It’s bright, dynamic, and full of music (seriously, I can’t stop singing some of these songs). Plus, the princesses have adorable pets that take part in their adventures, and what kid doesn’t love a cute animal companion?
But as the mother of two young kids, I appreciate that this isn’t all dazzle without any depth. Princess Power reinforces that it’s OK to like princesses and all things sparkly — it doesn’t mean you can’t also like sports, or science, or rolling your sleeves up and working hard.
And while that might all sound lofty for a show aimed at preschoolers, Guthrie says it doesn’t make the show any less captivating for kids.
“I don’t want to be giving the wrong impression, like it’s a boring preachy show. Because it isn’t; it’s really fun,” she said. “But we’re trying to send a message that you can love all that stuff in the princess space. You can be into your crowns and your gowns and tiaras and your dazzle, but you really want to make sure you’re also getting things done and being a girl of substance, a young lady who’s a leader and helping her friends. The show really expands on that exponentially, and we’re just super tickled and proud.”
What struck me was how much watching Princess Power took me back to watching my favorite cartoons growing up.
My brother and cousin were always sitting next to me on the nubby brown shag carpet of my childhood home anytime Rainbow Brite or Strawberry Shortcake played on our big clunky box TV. It didn’t matter what audience the shows were intended for; they found an audience in all of us because they made us feel like we were part of something magical.
Princess Power has that same universal appeal. It’s a show built on girl power, but it isn’t necessarily just for little girls. Moms will get a kick out of it, too. So will little brothers and cousins. As Guthrie pointed out, although her daughter Vale inspired the book series, her son Charley has watched the show, and “he loved it!”
Barrymore, who has two daughters, Olive and Frankie, was drawn to the series because of that inclusivity.
“I always thought that I was given license and green lights as a girl that I could do what boys do without trying to be a boy or fighting against boys. I think the inclusion of everyone has been such a big theme in my life. And I sensed that from the books,” said Barrymore.
“Yes, it’s for everybody,” added Guthrie. “We were trying to be inclusive in every sense of the word. The most important thing is to have your head on straight and have that internal substance. But beyond that, there’s a path for everyone.”