If you ever wondered what your favorite Disney princess might look like as a queen, you’re in luck!
Earlier this year, costume designer Nephi Garcia and photographer Tony Ross recruited a team of models to portray timeless Disney princesses such as Belle, Ariel and Mulan. But the duo added a unique twist to make their project special: They had the models enlist their real-life mothers to depict how the princesses would look like as regal queens.
“We wanted the theme to not only center around daughters and mothers, but on the connection to children and their parents,” Ross, 23, from Brea, California, tells PEOPLE of when Garcia first pitched him on the idea. “Despite all of the troubles that happen, the connection between mother and child is still one of the closest bonds in someone’s life.”
Though Ross and Garcia had collaborated before, Ross says the two wanted to challenge themselves to tell a meaningful story using their photographs and subjects. Their goal this time around was to illustrate the relationship between daughters and mothers by highlighting their similarities.
When the two friends set out to bring the idea to life for Mother’s Day, they reached out to models and scouted locations that resembled the worlds of the characters. This took them from beaches in Southern California to areas across Utah, where Garcia lives.
“It was a lot of driving!” Ross says, “but we decided to just set times and schedule as many people as we could.”
Garcia, who has a large social media following thanks to his costume-crafting talents, put together the elaborate and elegant dresses for models Amber Arden (Snow White), Traci Hines (Ariel), Bethanie Garcia (Belle), Leslie Nhan (Mulan), Lexi Mae Walker (Cinderella) and Richard Schaefer (Elena).
Production for the photo shoot took about four days over the course of several weeks, and Ross says they wanted to keep things light and entertaining to help the mothers—who didn’t exactly have the modeling experience of their social media-savvy children—comfortable and relaxed.
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Though the moms may have been a bit nervous at first, when they were reminded of the message Ross and Garcia wanted to get across, they seemed to settle right into their royal roles.
“We told them the thesis of what we were trying to accomplish, and when they took in the idea, they really started to believe in it, and it made them feel better about being in front of the camera,” Ross says. “We were all very comfortable, taking our time and just making jokes. We just made a day out of it, acting like goofs, taking the pressure off and reminding them it was just a fun project.”
Ross would like those who view their photo shoot to remember the importance of connecting with their parents while they’re still around.
“Appreciate the time that you have,” he says. “It’s really important to understand that, ultimately, you just have one mother and one father, and the time with them is limited. Appreciate them for who they are, the things that they’ve done and what they’ve sacrificed for you.”