andhe wrote:It's a shame they didn't give a full new dress print, and makes me wonder if they had a load of the slopes left over, so just added a new torso.
I can't imagine that's what happened. It's not like the factory is just producing pieces willy-nilly and then they design sets around the existing parts. Instead if they design a new fig with new printed torso and dress, they're going to produce them in roughly equal numbers. It's probably more likely that they already had the design for the dress and so they just re-used it.
It does seem like this is a dead-end set. If the Friends minidolls didn't exist (or if sales had been horrid and they'd discontinued them), I could imagine this being the starter for a small line of "My First Princess" sets. Now, as noted above, such a line is pre-empted by the Disney Princess Friends sets.
Here's some rampant speculation - I'm guessing they already had a deal worked out with Disney, since the Duplo Disney Princess line came out over a year ago. But then they were waiting to see how the Friends line worked out to decide whether System Disney Princesses would be done as minifigs or minidolls. The first Friends sets and also the initial Disney Princess Duplos both came out in 2012, but they waited until now for the Princesses in System, after the Friends were established as a successful line.
Even more rampant speculation - I wonder if there are minifig versions of Ariel, Snow White, etc in some LEGO designer's drawer, that got rejected when they went with Friends sets. Maybe we'll see these in 20 years or so (remember that BrickJournal article that came out a couple of years ago where they showed some rejected space fig prototypes that had been shelved in the 80's?). One interesting piece of information is that the new mermaid tail part first came out in 2011, and I suspect they had potential Little Mermaid sets as one possible use of the new piece.
Personally I wish they'd gone with figs, but that's because I don't think minidolls fit well into my minifig universe.
Back to this set, I see the point about a white horse, but the more odd color choice IMO is to make the princess' extra legs black. It seems like they should have given her white legs to go with her torso.