That Princess Girl | Feb 12, 2012
Artist Claire Hummel wasn’t thinking “series” when she began work on her historically accurate rendering of Belle from Disney’s Beauty and the Beast. She was thinking something more along the lines of, “Wouldn’t it be fun to adjust Belle’s dress to 1770’s French court fashion?” The response on Tumblr and Deviant Art was so overwhelming, however, that she was inspired to take on the overwhelming task of revising the iconic costumes of all the Disney Princesses.
Since last March she has completed all the “official” Disney Princesses (as outlined in my previous post, minus the popularly requested Eilonwy, who is not actually an “official” Disney Princess) and she’s just begun work on the non-Princess Disney gals. Claire’s stunning design for Meg from Hercules is already up on her website.
Claire is an artist and cosplayer currently working in the video game industry. That Princess Girl couldn’t resist a chance to chat with her and grill her about her gorgeous art, as well as her cosplay tendencies.
A fan (and proud collector) of Claire’s Historical Disney Princess series, I couldn’t help myself when it came to the first question of the interview. So I led with…
So, when’s Eilonwy going to be ready?
Claire: [Laughing] She’s on my to-do list… when I started the series, I immediately went to Wikipedia and looked up a list of the Disney females, and Eilonwy was on that list. I’ve had enough requests for her that I’m starting to feel guilty that I haven’t drawn her yet.
Claire went on to explain that she’s not a big fan of The Black Cauldron, and I really can’t blame her. Pro Disney Tip: If you haven’t seen this shabby feature, skip it and read the wonderful Lloyd Alexander series that it’s based on.
Did you expect your historical Disney Princesses to take off the way they did? Belle has 174,000 views on DeviantArt, and Jasmine has 200,000!
I have a lot of people following me on DeviantArt, so I figured they were going to like it. I think that Belle was one of the first things I posted on Tumblr, so it was my first experience seeing something explode virally like that. It’s such a great website to get your art out in front of a lot of people, really fast- I can’t even remember what I did with myself before Tumblr.
What was your research process for these ladies?
With Belle I didn’t really have a process in place yet, she was just sort of off the cuff and I was looking at a few choice dresses for reference. I ended up making folders on my computer for all the female characters I could think of when I started considering the project as a series, pawing through the movies looking for references to the time period. I have a lot of historical reference books and blogs that I read as well, and they’ve been immensely helpful.
As a Princess Aurora fan, I was excited to see that you posted both pink and blue versions of the Sleeping Beauty gown.
I had to! I was predicating that people would complain about it one way or the other. People have since pointed out that I should do a version where she’s splashed with both colors, so we’ll see.
Which historical piece are you the happiest with?
Probably Tiana. I just like the balance of “it still looks like her in her dress” but “I also got to do a lot of fun new things with it.” I also love Jasmine — to be honest it was fun to draw a tiger, and it was refreshing to draw something that wasn’t just western clothing.
Now that you’re done with Princesses and have completed Meg from Hercules, which character do you think you’ll go on to next? We won’t hold you to your word if you don’t want us to.
I’m afraid to promise anything, I feel like people will come after me with pitchforks if I change my mind! I have one friend who wants to make an Alice costume, so I might do that next. My friends in LA who’re planning on doing a cosplay group have been nudging me to do certain characters, so that’s why I did Megara.
How do you feel about others cosplaying your art?
Oh, it’s so exciting to me. Honestly, I probably wouldn’t have the patience to do my own designs- I put a lot of detail into some of those drawings. People e-mail me to ask for my blessing and I always say yes, with the provision that they send me pictures of the cosplay when they’re done! So far I’ve only gotten one, of Snow White, but I can’t wait to see more.
Cosplay by Laura Kane
How did you get into cosplay?
I guess my first cosplay was when I was in middle school, when I was ten or eleven; I dressed up as Sailor Moon, and then Sailor Neptune the following year. My mom was amazingly accomodating back then, and helped me with sewing all my costumes. I didn’t realize I was doing cosplay back then, or at least I didn’t realize there was a word for it- I was just making costumes from popular culture. Later on in high school, I ended up making Eowyn and Grima Wormtongue from Lord of the Rings.
I owe so much to my mom for entertaining the fact that her daughter wanted to dress up as a greasy villain from Lord of the Rings. It wasn’t until I got to college and started meeting other people making similar costumes that I realized, “hey, this is a thing!”
So now what’s your favorite cosplay project?
I had the chance to dress up Sarah Connor from Terminator 2 a few years back, which was one of my favorites to wear. I didn’t have to sew a lot, unlike most of my costumes, so it was easy to put together, I looked the part, and it was really fun. My friend Andrew was dressed as the T-1000, so we got pulled up on stage at the Terminator Salvation panel at Comic-Con…
Who’s your favorite non-Disney Princess?
Ooh, yikes! That’s a really tough call, just because my dad was working at Disney when I was a kid so I just completely ignored most of the other big studios. I feel bad saying that I thought Anastasia was a travesty, since a lot of people really love it… Probably Chell from El Dorado? Or Zipporah from Prince of Egypt.
What are you working on cosplaying right now?
I really want to do Jane from Tarzan because I’ve already made short, Victorian bustle dresses. That’s sort of why I’m holding out on drawing her for the Historical Disney Princes series– I don’t want someone to wear the design before I get a chance to!
I’d love to do Jesse from Toy Story, and- it’s slightly weird- but I’ve always wanted to do Jafar from Aladdin. I don’t know if I’d be a female Jafar, or if I’d just try to rock the beard. I find myself going back to Disney for ideas a lot, it’s hard to resist.
I like to choose characters that I at least think I could pull off to some degree- that’s usually my cosplay mantra. I’ve never really seen myself in any of the main Disney protagonists, so my sights tend to drift to sidekicks and peripheral characters.
If you were going to create a cosplay of one of your completed historical Disney Princesses, which would it be?
I love the stripes on Cinderella, so that would be kind of fun. And I love Snow White– I love any excuse to wear slashed sleeves.
Do you use wigs in your cosplays?
I didn’t used to, simply because most of the characters I chose to cosplay had brownish-blonde hair from the start. But with my most recent Poison Ivy costume, I’m learning how to shop for wigs, how to wear them properly and care for them. I’m also in the process of figuring out how to put on makeup like an adult, and how to use that to make myself look more like a character.
What’s your favorite convention/event?
I love San Diego Comic-Con. It’s such a madhouse, but it’s hard for me to imagine not going year after year.
When did you decide to become a professional artist?
This isn’t the most exciting response, just because I feel like every artist had this story of, “I’ve been drawing since I could pick up a pencil,” but, well, that’s kind of it. I just always drew, even if I didn’t think I was going to go to college for it or pursue it as a career. I used to visit my dad when he was working for Disney and Dreamworks, and being in that creative world was definitely inspiring to a little kid.
I’m working in the games industry right now, which I absolutely adore, but I’ve always pictured myself ending up in animation. And of course, in some corner of my mind I’ve always wanted to be an Imagineer… It’s something I’d love to do, I’d also have to actively shift my portfolio to include props and environment art, instead of just character design.
On a related note, I actually got to work on the new Kinect Disneyland Adventures game, which was a blast. Even if I don’t get to be an Imagineer, getting to design the digital counterparts for characters from the Pirates of the Caribbean and The Haunted Mansion was really fun.
So where can readers find you and your art?
I’m going to have a table at Emerald City Comic-Con at the end of March, and I’ll have art in the art show at Norwescon 35. I might be sharing a table at the Stump Town Comics Fest down in Portland, but I’m still figuring that out out.
Maybe 2013 at San Diego Comic-Con!
That Princess Girl is written by Sara Katz-Scher, a graduate of Northwestern University’s School of Communications. Sara is a transplanted New Yorker living in Los Angeles. She has worked at DC Comics and The Walt Disney Company. She is currently writing her first novel. Sara is also the co-founder of Flatbunny Studios, an iPhone app company that produces the game Adopt-A-Zombie. You can follow her on Twitter at @Tahrialah and catch a steady stream of princess cosplay on the That Princess Girl Tumblr.