The stories and tales behind Disney movies
Like art or literature, the film industry has been finding contributing masters and making it the seventh art of today. Great names such as Hitchcock, Scorsese or Tarantino earned their own place in their genres and marked the way for those who came later and built on the foundations they had already laid. Well, if we talk about animation cinema there is one name that should stand out in the first position: Walt Disney.
The creative entrepreneur made cartoons a success. With his complex principles and all the controversies he had, his films showed that the work of those cartoonists and animators could have complexity and quality that many saw as impossible in a product they considered "childish". Although they were not the first, characters such as Mickey Mouse or Donald Duck opened up a world of possibilities with some funny and ingenious short films in which music and a careful aesthetic stood out as the main characters. These were followed by feature films, a tradition that began with Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs in 1937 and continues to this day.
The constant production of new films and products by Walt Disney Studios made their stories present in the childhood of several generations, almost as a constant for all those children who grew up, were entertained and learned values through films. However, a running joke is often made that Disney films have traumatized many of these children with their habit of killing the parents of the protagonists (never forget Mufasa), the whole world would be shocked if the production company had respected the original stories on which its films are based. Dozens of folk tales, fables, myths and novels reinterpreted for modern times and suitable for all audiences.
But since knowledge is power and since we support the philosophy of always going to the most reliable and direct source possible, we collect the stories behind some of the most famous films from Walt Disney Studios.
The first feature film from Walt Disney Studios is based, despite the many versions of the story, on the one written by the Brothers Grimm, although adapted and softened for all audiences. In the original story, the queen asks the hunter for Snow White's heart and liver in order to eat them and thus appropriate the beauty of the girl (who has not even reached adolescence). She also makes several failed attempts before carrying out the plan for the apple and at the end of the story, the prince who has saved Snow White condemns her to dance in red iron shoes until she dies of her wounds and exhaustion.
Based very freely on the work of Carlo Collodi, Disney made a story for children of what its author hoped would scare the little ones to educate them through fear. In the book, Pinocchio is a selfish creature who only cares about himself and whose bad deeds begin as soon as he comes to life when he runs away naked and gets Geppetto arrested for "having abused him". From then on, he kills Pepito Grillo with a hammer blow, burns his legs and ends up hanging from an oak tree for getting together with some swindlers. The story was to end there but Collodi's editor wanted a happy ending and he wrote more adventures and made Pinocchio a real boy.
Bambi is considered an animation masterpiece and one of Walt Disney's best works, as well as probably the first film to traumatize its viewers with the death of the protagonist's mother. Based on the novel Bambi, Life in the Forest by Austrian Felix Salten, the original text strove much harder to maintain the animal aspect of the protagonists, had more variety of forest characters and the hunters were a constant threat, not something anecdotal. Another notable difference is that Bambi, after mating with her cousin Faline, leaves to be with her father.
The Cinderella story has many and varied versions in countries around the world but one of the best known is that of Charles Perrault, which seems to have been inspired by Disney as they present the young princess as a charitable soul who forgives her stepsisters at the end. However, there is another version written by the Brothers Grimm in which the stepsisters even cut off their toes and heel to fit the shoe, the deception being discovered by the blood coming out of their wounds. At the end of the story, during Cinderella's wedding, they are attacked by some birds that leave them blind.
Based mainly on Lewis Carroll's Adventures of Alice in Wonderland, the Disney version decided to take some scenes and characters from its sequel Through the Looking Glass and what Alice found there. Taking out this detail, the truth is that the film respects quite a lot the original material even if it is true that it adapts, cuts and reconfigures it as it considers to take it to the audiovisual medium.
Based on the play (and later novel) by James Matthew Barrie, the Disney film does a good job of adapting the story of that boy who didn't want to grow up. The most important changes are found in Peter himself, who is far more self-centered and cruel and shows his hatred of adults very often; Captain Hook and his ending in the jaws of the crocodile and in the very symbolism the author gives to the story by making Peter Pan an angel who takes the souls of dead children to Neverland so they can have adventures.
The first version of this story was called Sun, Moon and Talia and was written by the Italian author Giambattista Basile in the 17th century. Very different from what Disney taught us, the prophecy of Talia's death is made by the wise men of the kingdom and not by a witch's curse; besides, what will cause her death is not the needle of a spinning wheel but a linen thorn. However, the great change is found in the prince who, once Talia has fallen asleep and is locked up in a tower in the forest, is found by this nobleman who was passing by and who decides to rape her, leaving her pregnant with the twins Sun and Moon.
In time, Talia would wake up when the linen was removed from her finger and have a relationship with the prince, who was already married. His wife would invite Talia to the palace where she would order Talia to be thrown into a bonfire and cook her children for the prince to eat. Luckily the plan was discovered and the one who ended up dying in the flames was his wife and not Talia.
This may be one of the films that distance itself most from the original story. Based on the legends of the Arthurian Cycle, a series of texts by various authors in which the life and works of Arturo Pendragón are narrated, Merlin the Wizard takes only the first moments of these and adapts them with a childish and comic tone that has nothing to do with them. While the part about the sword in the rock is correct, the rest of the story is quite different: Merlin is a wizard son of a demon and a nun with great powers and very wise and Madame Mim is a studio invention, perhaps slightly based on the figure of Morgana.
The innocent Arthur, who is the fruit of an unconsensual relationship and who has just sat on the throne of England, has a rather hard life ahead of him. He will spend long years trying to keep the peace and in a fruitless search for the Holy Grail, he will be betrayed by the woman he loves (Guinevere) and his right hand (Sir Lancelot) and will die at the hands of Mordred, his own son.
The disputes between Walt Disney and writer P. L. Travers about how to bring Mary Poppins' story to the big screen are more than familiar and actually ended with the author disavowing the film. The big differences we find between the classic Disney film and Travers' work lie in some change in Mary Poppins' character (much less severe, strict and egomaniacal in the film) and the adaptation of the adventures that the Banks children live with their nanny. The main criticism of Travers came because it considered that Disney had not known how to transfer their texts to the screen, turning the story into a childish pantomime.
The dances of Baloo Bear and Bagheera Panther have little to do with the bloody and ruthless story that Rudyard Kipling told in his novel, in which the wild element and the importance of the "law of the jungle" was clear. In the original story, Mowgli learns the law of the jungle through many blows, kills the tiger Shere Khan by crushing him in a stampede of oxen, and destroys the village where he lived after they tried to drive him out.
This anthropomorphic animal film is based on the ballads and folk tales of Robin Hood that emerged from the 16th century, when the bandit was already a character in popular culture and his image was sought to be sweetened. But the truth is that in the first stories of Robin Hood, those of the 14th century, swords and arrows were commonly used and usually ended up stained with blood. We can highlight the meeting between Robin Hood and Guy de Gisborne in which they have a duel and ends with the good Robin decapitating his rival and nailing his head on the tip of the bow as a trophy.
It is one of Disney's best-known classics and one of the most famous stories by the great writer Hans Christian Andersen. In the original story, the mermaid (which has no name) cuts out her tongue in exchange for having legs, suffers the pain of a thousand knives sticking in her feet at every step, is treated like a pet by the man she loves and tempted to kill him when he decides to marry another woman. In the end, believing that not having obtained the love of the prince she would turn into sea foam, the little mermaid decides to commit suicide and is trapped in a kind of purgatory as a daughter of the air.
The story of Beauty and the Beast has its origin in the novel of the same name written by Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve in the 18th century. In this version Beauty has three envious sisters and ends up in the castle of the beast in her father's place, but the creature treats her with love and respect from the beginning. There are no talking dishes and furniture or a handsome and cruel man who stands in the way of this peculiar couple's love.
Bella returns home for a week but her sisters trick her into staying longer in the hope that this will infuriate the beast and eat her sister, which does not happen. In the end both declare their love, the spell is broken and it is revealed that Bella is the daughter of the king and a fairy and therefore a cousin of the prince who was hiding under the appearance of the beast.
Aladdin's is a free interpretation that takes the elements that he considers appropriate from the original story, belonging to the collection of stories The Thousand and One Nights. In the story, Aladdin lives in China and gets the lamp and a magic ring (both objects contain genies) from a sorcerer who claims to be his late father's brother. With the magic of the lamp he becomes very rich and manages to marry the sultan's daughter instead of the royal vizier, whom he ridicules. The sorcerer from the beginning will return to retrieve the lamp and take it to his wife, but Aladdin will manage to give her a potion to make her sleep and then he will cut her head off with a scimitar.
Probably one of the most beloved Disney movies for the studio fans. The Lion King is "based" (shamelessly copied) on Kimba, the White Lion, a Japanese film from the 1960s, but it also bears some similarities to William Shakespeare's Hamlet. In the play, Hamlet discovers that his uncle Claudius killed his father in order to marry his mother and take the throne of Denmark, and he begins a crusade to seek revenge. The play ends with all the main characters (including Hamlet) dead.
A story of love and reconciliation between very different cultures that, unfortunately, never really happened. Disney relied on the exaggerated English chronicles as a basis to then add its magic touch. The truth is that, despite Pocahontas' efforts, the colonists and the Powhatan tribe did not have good relations and the former took advantage of the latter. The natives killed the captain of the settlers and the settlers, in order to take revenge, kidnapped Pocahontas, raped her, forced her to marry an Englishman and took her to England (under the name of Rebecca) to prove that "savages could be tamed". There, Pocahontas would soon die, probably of tuberculosis. And John Smith? Well, he just happened to be passing by, returned early to England because of an injury, and told the story of his love for Pocahontas to add to his legend.
Even though The Hunchback of Notre Dame presents one of the most mature stories ever seen in Disney movies (except for the talking gargoyles), it's very difficult to bring the tone and strength of Victor Hugo's work to a children's film. In the novel, Febo tricks Esmeralda and Frollo stabs him, then captures Esmeralda to torture her and finally kills her. In revenge, Quasimodo throws Frollo from the bell tower of Notre Dame and goes down to the crypt where Esmeralda is buried, where years later they find their two skeletons embraced.
This epic is based on the very mythological accounts of the most famous demigod of Ancient Greece and obviously differs greatly from what was seen on screen despite Disney's efforts to nod at the original story. Hercules is born out of the misleading relationship between Zeusy Alcmena, kills his teacher and the children he had with Megaara (he also had 50 other children), does the twelve jobs commissioned by King Eurystheus, brings Theseus out of the Underworld, marries four times and dies when a blanket covered with poisonous blood tears off his skin and falls onto a burning pyre.
In China, Disney's treatment of one of its most famous heroines was not very popular, but the truth is that the first sources that exist about this character are sketchy and, in essence, they are quite close to what was seen in the movie. Mulan decided to dress up as a man and go to war in her father's place because of her advanced age. In the army she becomes one of the most effective soldiers and wins the respect of the emperor himself, but decides to give up her fame and go home to live like the woman she is.
The legend of the boy who was raised by mangani monkeys in Africa gives rise to this mythical Disney film, whose origin lies in the novels of Edgar Rice Burroughs. Although many stories are told in them, all of them seem to pose far more difficulties for the young Tarzan than those seen in the film. They also witness the death of Kala, Tarzan's adoptive mother, his complicated relationship with Jane Porter and his journey to the civilized world, where he takes the place of the English lord he was born with, but ends up abandoning it to live freely in the jungle again.
It is curious to see how a film that takes one of the greatest adventure novels of all time and takes it out of its time and environment can end up becoming a more than correct adaptation. Based on Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island, Treasure Planet takes its story and main characters (with some acceptable exceptions for the actual work of adapting the novel to the screen) and takes them into a world of space piracy with a touch of steampunk.
A review of the writer E. D. Baker's story The Frog Princess Taken to Sparkling New Orleans. While the essence of this story is reflected in the film, the same is not true of the previous version written by the Brothers Grimm. In it, the princess breaks a promise she made to the frog and is forced to eat from the same plate and sleep in the same bed as the amphibian but, disgusted by its appearance, she throws it against the wall and kills it. This breaks the spell and the frog becomes a handsome prince. The kiss was added later.
While Rapunzel and his stepmother's relationship is already quite sinister in this Disney film, it remains a shambles compared to the (again) Brothers Grimm version. Rapunzel is given to her stepmother by her own parents as payment for some herbs they take from her garden; she decides to lock her in a tower in the middle of the forest until a prince finds her and, pretending to be her mother, goes up to see her and sleeps with her. When the witch (yes, she is not only a stepmother but also a witch) finds out, she cuts Rapunzel's hair and leaves her to her fate while she waits for the prince to appear, who jumps from the tower and is blinded and seriously injured after falling on the thorns of a rose bush.
Rapunzel gives birth to twins and the prince finds her as he wanders through the forest when he hears her singing. Rapunzel's tears of joy heal the prince's wounds and restore his sight.,
While the studio itself claims that its successful Frozen is based on Hans Christian Andersen's The Snow Queen, it should rather say that it is slightly inspired. In the original story we find Gerda and Kay (Anna and Kristoff?), two friends who are separated when Kay meets the snow queen and disappears soon after. Gerda will then begin a relentless search in which her tears and love will save her friend from being an ice statue forever.