Why Disney Sacking James Gunn Is Bullshit

So over the weekend, Disney decided to fire writer/director James Gunn from his duties on the up and coming Guardians of the Galaxy 3. This is after Gunn had already penned and helmed the first two films for Marvel who are owned by Disney which went on to become huge box office hits and an important piece of the growing Marvel Cinematic Universe. Gunn was fired in relation to a handful of Tweets he made with jokes about rape and paedophilia, now on the surface and given Disney’s strict “family friendly” persona that yes, sacking someone who would make such Tweets is understandable. On the surface. Walt Disney Studios’ Chairman had this to say on the matter…

“The offensive attitudes and statements discovered on James’ Twitter feed are indefensible and inconsistent with our studio’s values and we have severed our business relationship with him.”

Fuck off Disney as if you’ve never been offensive in  the past. Which brings me nicely to my main gripe. I have a few problems with the whole thing and Disney’s blatant hypocrisy over the whole affair. Yes Gunn made some questionable Tweets…some of which are a decade old. Are Disney really going to bring up the past of someone as a negative about who/what they are today? If so, then I feel there should be a balance and on the subject of being fair – lets look at Disney’s past…

What about their animated propaganda film, Education For Death? For those not in the know, this was an animated short showing the evolution of a Nazi soldier form birth to adulthood. Given the fact that it was strongly believed that Walt Disney was a Nazi supporter/sympathiser. Would it be acceptable to bring this past up too then Disney? You know, just to be fair. Just imagine what it would be like if Disney also had one of their most famous characters like Donald Duck dressed as a Nazi giving a photo of Hitler the Nazi salute or reading Mein Kampf…

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Oh yeah, that happened too in the cartoon Der Fuehrer’s Face. Funny though, Disney don’t seem to bring this slice of their past up all that often, as if it was something they no longer associate themselves with as they were different back then to who they are now. A bit like James Gunn and his Tweets. You can’t walk around Disney World and line up for a Nazi Donald Duck ride for example, nor will you find any Nazi Donald Duck merchandise.

Or what about the fact that Walt Disney himself refused to hire women to work as animators at the studio? Its true, Disney felt that “women do not do any of the creative work” and declared “that work is performed entirely by young men”. So if you were a talented animator and female back then…well fuck you. No penis, no job.

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Yeah it all a bit unfair to bring up the past as a punishment for someone today isn’t it? Yet still – there’s more. Song of the South a Disney film surrounded by infamy and a film that still has never seen a home release in the U.S. But why? Mainly due to its massive racist under and overtones. Now to be fair, Disney have never fully banned the film, they have released clips and even songs from the film, most famously the Oscar winning Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah for example. Plus there is the Splash Mountain ride at Disney theme parks that is inspired by the movie…none of the racist stuff made it into the ride though for some reason. Still, even after all these years, the film has never been given a home release in the U.S. despite several times over the years where Disney have said they fully intend to do just that, the most recent of which was back in 2010 by Disney creative director Dave Bossert who said that Disney intend to give the film a U.S. release but still that has not happened. Does it really take over eight years to get a film released for the home market?

There is a lot more to Disney’s rather checkered and questionable past and some of it can be a bit more recent than the 1930s and 40s when times were different. I mean I could bring up their refusal to put up warning signs about the population of alligators at Disney World in Florida as they believe these warnings would break the illusion and magic they strive for at the theme park. Well lets be fair, they now have these warnings in place, but only after the death of a two year old boy in 2016. Its just a shame it took the death of a child before Disney did anything about it though eh?

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Or what about the working conditions at Disneyland Paris where so far two employees have committed suicide over their treatment. With one of them leaving the suicide note of “Je ne veux pas retourner chez Mickey” (I don’t want to work for Mickey any more). Expecting staff do work longer hours for minimum wage and numerous staff cuts despite the increasing visitor numbers?

Maybe I’m getting a little off track here, but my point is that Disney sacking James Gunn over Tweets made a decade ago is more then a little hypocritical given their own past and some of their questionable standards. Much like Disney, Gunn is not the same person he was a decade ago they have both changed. Surely if people can and have forgiven Disney for some of their questionable history, then Disney can do the same with James Gunn? He clearly feels remorse over his past humor.

“My words of nearly a decade ago were, at the time, totally failed and unfortunate efforts to be provocative.

I have regretted them for many years since – not just because they were stupid, not at all funny, wildly insensitive, and certainly not provocative like I had hoped, but also because they don’t reflect the person I am today or have been for some time.

Even these many years later, I take full responsibility for the way I conducted myself then. All I can do now, beyond my sincere and heartfelt regret, is to be the best human being I can be: accepting, understanding, committed to equality, and far more thoughtful about my public statements and my obligations to our public discourse. To everyone inside my industry and beyond, I again offer my deepest apologies. Love to all.”

If it really is Disney’s policy of sacking people who work for them over questionable jokes that person has made, then they’d have to fire pretty much any and everyone associated to the Disney company as everyone has made an off colour joke/comment in their lives.

Hey Disney, that fella that plays Tony Stark/Ironman in your movies – you may want to look into his past as you may find he has said and done some questionable things too, drugs, firearm offenses and the like…

But wait, I have another slice of hypocrisy for you. Disney have recently bought 21st Century Fox for $71.3 billion. That’s a big chunk of cash alright and Disney now own all the IPs and licences that 21st Century Fox owned, that includes the film rights of a certain other Marvel superhero…

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Yup, Disney now own the Deadpool movies and if you’ve seen either of the two movies, then you know that they are hardly “family friendly” and really do not fit into the Disney mantra. But even more specifically, Deadpool 2‘s main villain is Firefist who was brought up in an orphanage and its made pretty clear that he was sexually abused there too…and there are several jokes about paedophilia within the film. The very same reason Disney have sacked James Gunn to begin with. The only difference is that Gunn’s comments are years old, Deadpool 2 is just over two months old. I’m still willing to bet that Deadpool 2 will see a home release and fully uncut with those paedophilia jokes in tact even though its now owned by Disney who clearly have a problem with such humor. The irony eh?

Moving on from Disney’s obvious hypocrisy, James Gunn was known as a comedy writer, he was known for his near the knuckle comments and jokes long before he was hired by Disney. So they must have already known what he was like beforehand right, they must have done their homework on the person they chose to head-up and be part of one of their biggest franchises? I mean, that would have been like Disney asking Richard Pyror to appear in a Disney film in the 70s/80s but not knowing he had a penchant for saying “nigga” beforehand. But now his past comments have been brought up…now they decide to sack him? Utter bullshit.

I don’t know James Gunn, never met the guy and for all I know he could be a complete prick. So my offering any kind of opinion on the man would be pretty pointless. But what about people who do know him, worked with him? His cast members from the Guardians of the Galaxy films as an example have spoken out on how much of a great guy he is and how wrong Disney are for sacking him. Actors like Dave Bautista

“I will have more to say but for right now all I will say is this.. is one of the most loving,caring,good natured people I have ever met. He’s gentle and kind and cares deeply for people and animals. He’s made mistakes. We all have. Im NOT ok with what’s happening to him”

Or Selma Blair

“@JamesGunn I thank you for your talent, your decency and your evolution as a man. You propped me up when I was in a scary place, and guided me towards the decent and right thing to do. You have shown strength of character more than most anyone I know. You understood.”

Because if people are punished despite changing, then what does that teach people about owning mistakes and evolving? This man is one of the good ones.”

There’s a long list of celebs echoing similar views and opinions, they all know Disney are in the wrong here.

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A petition has been started to get James Gunn reinstated and back working on  the Guardians of the Galaxy sequel, and rightly so too. Disney should be offering Gunn an apology right about now while crawling back to him on their knees asking him to return. He has done nothing wrong. Do me a favor, sign the petition. Its currently smashing its target and even if Disney do not reverse their pathetic decision, at least it shows support for a man who has been wronged.

Happily ever after… Part II

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Part II and still more dark, disturbing tales to be told as I compare the Disney versions to the original stories they were based on. How about a nice story about a sleeping girl, surely that one can’t get twisted?

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Sleeping Beauty: Really, how can the classic, Sleeping Beauty be twisted? Its a simple enough yarn and one of Disney’s most famous. You know this one, after many years of a childless marriage, the King and Queen finally welcome the birth of their daughter, Princess Aurora. A christening is arranged and this is where the evil Maleficent appears and places a curse on the young princess. The curse states that before her 16th Birthday, Aurora will prick her finger on the spindle of an enchanted spinning wheel and die. But a fairy weakens the curse so that the princess will just fall asleep and can only be woken by her true love’s first kiss. Long-ish story short, Aurora does prick her finger and falls into a deep sleep and a prince finds Aurora asleep, kisses her and she awakens. And of course, they live “happily ever after”. After Cinderella, this must be Disney’s most famous story.

Its kind of hard to see how the story the Disney version is based on can be that dark considering one of the main characters is asleep for most of the tale. But…

Like most Fairy Tales, this too has various versions and for this comparison, I’ll be using Giambattista Basile’s version of Sleeping Beauty (Sole, Luna, e Talia/Sun, Moon, and Talia) from 1634 as its pretty messed up to be honest. In this version the sleeping beauty is called Talia, so there is your first difference and things are only going to get worse from this point on.

Talia is born to a great lord, wise men and astrologers predict that later in her life Talia would be endangered by a splinter of flax. To keep his daughter safe, the lord forbids any use of flax in their home. Years later and now a grown up young woman, Talia comes across an old woman spinning flax on a spindle. She asks the woman if she could use the spindle herself. Talia begins to spin but a splinter of flax gets embedded under her fingernail and she drops to the ground (supposedly) dead. The great lord can’t stand the thought of burying his only child so instead he places her on a velvet throne in a house on one of his estates, the lord locks the doors and abandons the house forever.

The old woman shows the young woman the spindle.
The old woman shows the soon to be sleeping beauty the spindle.

Sometime later, a King is hunting in the woods near the house and one of his falcons flies inside. The King knocks on the door but nobody answers, so he climbs through a window to retrieve his falcon. Inside, he finds the unconscious Talia still sitting in the throne and he tries to wake her but is unsuccessful. Now I know what you are thinking here, he gives her a gentle kiss and she wakes up to her one true love its a classic… no, that’s not what the King does. Instead, the King carries the unconscious Talia to a bed in the house and rapes her… yes, he rapes her. He then leaves the unconscious girl on the bed and returns to his kingdom. Months later and the unconscious Talia gives birth to twins, one of the babies starts to suck on Talia’s finger and this draws the flax splinter out and she wakes up from her sleep. Talia names the two babies; Sun and Moon and they live together in the house. The King returns to the house and finds Talia awake and now with two babies, he explains who he is and what happened and he also promises to look after Talia and the children but has to return to his kingdom.

Back home, the King is asleep next to his Queen but while asleep he says the names; “Sun, Moon, and Talia”. The Queen does not know what that means so she bribes and threatens the king’s secretary to tell her what is going on. Now aware of the truth, the Queen forges a message as the King asking Talia to send the twins to the kingdom which she does do. The Queen orders the King’s cook to kill the children and cook them in a meal for the King to eat (and you thought the rape was bad right?). The food is served to the King and the Queen sits there watching him eat and continually taunts him with cryptic words about what he is eating. Later, the Queen has Talia brought to the kingdom and she commands that Talia is to be brunt alive. The King learns of this and instead he orders that the Queen and everyone who betrayed him to be burnt alive instead including his own secretary. The Queen tells the King outright that the meal he ate was in fact his own children and so the King also orders the cook be burnt alive too. This is when the cook reveals that the meal he ate was just lamb and that his children are safely hidden away, so the King rewards the cook and just kills the Queen and secretary for their betrayal. The story ends with the King marrying Talia and they live “happily ever after”.

So there you go, I told you it was going to get dark. We had rape, kidnapping, insinuated cannibalism and even people being burnt alive… I wonder why Disney skipped these parts for their version?
This one is a bit of a strange tale as yes, the King gets his revenge on those that wronged him and Talia ends up living a happy life as well as the two children, so everything is perfectly fine then. But you do have to remember that the King RAPED an unconscious woman and so everything was his fault to begin with. “Happily ever after”?

Now, lets take a look at a story about a liar.

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Pinocchio: This Disney film is often regarded as the finest Disney film ever made. You all know this one right? With Jiminy Cricket singing the classic; “When You Wish Upon a Star” before explaining how wishes can come true. Then there is lonely, old man Geppetto carving away at a piece of wood and he eventually makes a marionette he names Pinocchio. Geppetto makes wish that Pinocchio would come alive and during the night, a fairy turns up and makes the wish come true. While Pinocchio is alive, he is not human… yet. But the fairy does say that if Pinocchio is truthful and selfless that he will become a real human boy and she also assigns Jiminy Cricket as Pinocchio’s voice of reason and conscience.

Pinocchio is led astray a few times, but generally remains a good kid throughout the film despite a few hiccups and white lies (and growing nose) along the way. Pinocchio gets caught away from home and Geppetto goes looking for him but ends up being swallowed by a giant whale. Pinocchio and Jiminy jump into the water to save his father and also gets swallowed by the giant whale and find Geppetto still alive inside, this is when Pinocchio devises a plan to escape the whale’s belly. They all escape and Pinocchio saves his father’s life however, Pinocchio lies motionless on the ground. Geppetto takes the apparently dead Pinocchio back home and the fairy decides that, despite a few mishaps, Pinocchio had been a good kid and his risking his own life to save Geppetto’s was a selfless act. So the fairy brings Pinocchio back as a real human boy… and of course, they all live “happily ever after.”

The Disney film was based on Carlo Collodi’s; The Adventures of Pinocchio from 1881 which was originally printed as a serial story which appeared in a newspaper at the time before being turned into a book later. While (like most Disney adaptions) the basic story is pretty faithful, its some of the smaller details from the original story that bring a few interesting changes. Pinocchio was a bit of a scamp in the film, in the story he is an outright manipulative and evil little bastard. You remember that lovable Jiminy Cricket from the film? Well there is also a talking cricket in the story too only his life is cut rather short when Pinocchio kills him with a hammer and he even tells Geppetto that it was the cricket’s fault he died. So what evil did the cricket do to warrant such a terrible death? He offered Pinocchio some friendly advice, fair? Also in the story, Pinocchio has his feet brunt off when he falls asleep near a stove, he also runs away from home and leads people to believe that Geppetto had been abusing him which lands Geppetto in prison.

Pinocchio tries to kill the cricket with a hammer.
Pinocchio tries to kill the cricket with a hammer.

The cricket dying is not the end of the character though as he pops up throughout the story in ghost form and continually tires to keep Pinocchio honest… which doesn’t always work out. Just like in the film, Pinocchio is lead astray by a shady fox and cat. The cricket tries his best to warn Pinocchio about the two shady characters, but he ignores his advice. The fox and cat tell Pinocchio if he buries the gold coins (he got from performing on stage) that a tree will grow with even more gold coins growing on it. Eventually the fox and cat betray Pinocchio and hang him. Now, originally, this is where the story ended with Pinocchio actually dying via being hung. Carlo Collodi wanted to convey a moral that being bad, lying, etc can have terrible consequences… like death. But the editor of the newspaper the story was being printed in didn’t like the ending, so he convinced Collodi to write more. So…

Pinocchio being hung.
Pinocchio being hung.

Pinocchio is brought back from death by a fairy and the story is pretty much the same as the film from this point onward, a few minor details aside. Pinocchio steals some food from a farmer and gets involved in a few small incidents, but then tires hard to be a good boy. Geppetto, while out looking for Pinocchio get eaten by a giant dogfish (not a whale). Meanwhile, Pinocchio starts to do well at school and slowly learns to be a good boy but gets involved in a fight after being teased about Geppetto being eaten. The whole donkey thing is also in the original story, only in the film Pinocchio just grows donkey ears, in the book he fully turns into a donkey and he is sold to be skinned and turned into a drum. Pinocchio gets away and turns back into a wooden boy but is thrown into the sea and this is when he is swallowed by the same dogfish as Geppetto. Pretty much the same as the Disney film as
they eventually escape the dogfish. Pinocchio gets a job working on a farm while Geppetto falls ill so he takes care of his father. Long story short and the fairy from earlier turns Pinocchio into a real boy for his selflessness while Geppetto gets better and they all live “happily ever after.”

So the basic plot is pretty much the same in both the original story and Disney’s version… but it could have been so much more different if that newspaper editor hadn’t convinced Carlo Collodi to write more chapters after killing of Pinocchio originally.

To finish up this comparison article, I’m going to end with one of my favourite stories…

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The Hunchback of Notre Dame: This really is a great story about a misunderstood, deformed man and I also love the film… not the Disney one but the 1939, Charles Laughton/Maureen O’Hara starring one. Great film. But I’m not here to talk about that classic, this is about comparing the Disney version to the original story. The Disney version adds a backstory not in the original which explains the origin of Quasimodo. Twenty years later and Quasimodo is living in Notre Dame cathedral and he attends the “Festival of Fools” against the wishes of the man who raised him, Frollo. While at the festival, Quasimodo is humiliated by the crowd and Frollo refuses to step in. This is when gypsy, Esmeralda intervenes and helps Quasimodo with the use of magic. They both hide in the cathedral and the two become friends. But Esmeralda is being sought after by guards for alleged witchcraft. Trapped inside the cathedral, Quasimodo helps Esmeralda escape and she gives him a a map to the gypsies’ hideout. A manhunt (or in this case, womanhunt) is organised by Frollo to find Esmeralda. Captain Phoebus, one of Frollo’s guards, defies orders to find and kill the gypsy Esmeralda and for this he is sentenced to death. Phoebus is hit by an arrow and falls into the River Seine but is saved by Esmeralda and they fall in love.

Frollo tricks Quasimodo in to revealing where the gypsies are hiding and discovers their camp when he follows Quasimodo as he uses the map Esmeralda gave him. Frollo captures all the gypsies and prepares to burn Esmeralda at the stake for her witchcraft. Quasimodo rescues Esmeralda and takes her back to Notre Dame cathedral while Phoebus frees the gypsies. Frollo chases Quasimodo and Esmeralda to the cathedral and onto a balcony where he and Quasimodo both fall off. Frollo falls to his death but Quasimodo is saved by Phoebus. Phoebus and Esmeralda are now free to live together while Quasimodo is accepted into society by the citizens, hailed as a hero and they all live “happily ever after.”

I don’t much like the Disney version as it adds a lot of unnecessary crap to the story (magic?) and pads out an otherwise short but well told tale, and about that original story… Victor Hugo published the story; Notre-Dame de Paris in 1831 before English translator Frederic Shoberl re-titled the novel to; The Hunchback of Notre Dame in 1833. A lot of the characters are in both the Disney version and the story including, Captain Phoebus, Claude Frollo and of course both Esmeralda and Quasimodo. In the story, Esmeralda is a temptress and seduces men wherever she goes. Frollo orders Quasimodo to kidnap Esmeralda so he can have her all to himself, but the hunchback is captured by Phoebus and they save Esmeralda. Quasimodo is sentenced to be flogged and turned on a pillory. During this, he calls out for water and Esmeralda steps up to help him and Quasimodo falls in love. After this, Esmeralda is captured and charged with the attempted murder of Phoebus. Though it was in fact Frollo who actually attempted to kill Phoebus in a jealous rage after seeing him trying to seduce Esmeralda. She is sentenced to be hung to death and as she is being lead to her demise, Quasimodo swings down to save her and takes her away to Notre Dame cathedral for safety.

Quasimodo jumping from Notre Dame cathedral.
Quasimodo jumping from Notre Dame cathedral.

Frollo arranges to have Esmeralda caught and killed but the other gypsies hear news of this and they charge into Paris to rescue her. Quasimodo sees the gypsies and assumes they are trying to hurt Esmeralda so he scares them away but he mistakenly thinks that Frollo’s men are trying to help her so he leads them to Esmeralda instead. Frollo hands her over to the guards and she is finally hung. Frollo watches and laughs at Esmeralda as she dies. This angers Quasimodo and he pushes Frollo from the heights of Notre Dame cathedral to his death in an act of revenge. Later in the story, Quasimodo goes to the Gibbet of Montfaucon a graveyard in Paris where the bodies of the condemned are dumped… no buried just dumped. He finds Esmeralda’s body and ‘lies’ with it. Now this is where I want to bring up interpretations of ‘lying’ with Esmeralda’s body as some people believe it is as innocent as just lying down next to her dead body, but others have interpreted it as to meaning he has sex with her dead body… you choose. Anyway, several months later and among the many dead bodies in the graveyard, two skeletons are found. One belongs to a woman and the other to a man with a dis-formed spine as Quasimodo stayed with Esmeralda and starved to death. Someone tries to separate the two skeletons and they turn to dust.

Yep, Victor Hugo’s; Notre-Dame de Paris/The Hunchback of Notre Dame is a pretty depressing love story especially when compared to the Disney take on the tale. But its also wonderfully written and told, well worth reading.

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So there you go, six Disney films compared to the stories they were based on. We have had betrayal, murder, rape, disfigurement, inferred cannibalism and necrophilia, plenty of death, punishment and torture… and even a few twisted “happily ever afters”. But there are even more to take a look at (maybe another time?) with stories like Beauty and the Beast, Tangled/Rapunzel, Frozen/The Snow Queen, The Princess and the Frog/The Frog Prince, The Fox and the Hound and more. I could do all of these as I love the original fables and fairy tales they are based on.

If you ever find yourself in Disney World/Land and see Snow White, Cinderella, Quasimodo, Ariel or any of the others doing their thing walking around. Why not go give them a hug as they have had to endure some seriously messed up shit over the years. But give Pinocchio a punch in the face for being such a little bastard.

But with so many changes from the original source material I wonder why Disney altered so many of these stories and what sort of company would they be like now if they didn’t? I best visiting Disney World would be a whole difference experience and would make Universal’s Halloween Horror Nights look tame by comparison…

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Pleasant dreams kids…

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Happily ever after… Part I

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Ahhhhhhhh, the classic Disney fairy tale. The beautiful princess who overcomes adversity to walk off into the horizon with the prince while the sun sets and the birds sing a happy tune.
Disney have become the production company to go to when you want a happy ending, in fact the whole “Disney ending” has become a successful trope over the years and is part of our lexicon. You want a sugary sweet end to a story, you want to see the downtrodden female (most of the time) get the prince at the end and live a happy life? Then Disney are the films to watch. However, I remember some of these classic fairy tales from when I was at school. I recall the teacher reading us and reading for myself; The Little Mermaid, Cinderella, The Hunchback of Notre Dame and so on. I don’t remember that “happily ever after” thing though. In fact, as far as I recall, I remember death, disfigurement, depression and despair (and alliteration). Yes, pretty much all of those “classic Disney stories” that are so famous and loved were taken from slightly more nefarious and darker tales.

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Hans Christian Anderson and The Brothers Grimm to name only a few. The writers of those much loved Disney stories… or at least the stories the Disney films were based on, had very different views, set ups, plot lines and endings to what Disney made famous and what we now know. So here, I’d like to take a look at some classic Disney stories and compare them to the tales they were based on to see just how much different and darker those old stories originally were.

Things are going to get a bit macabre, but I’ll start off with something a little softer…

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Snow White: To be fair, the Disney version does not differ too much from the nineteenth-century German fairy tale (Schneewittchen) on which it is based. Some of the wording is a little darker, but the main plot and characters are pretty much faithful throughout. The evil Stepmother/Queen is there, the magic talking mirror is too as is the jealousy from the evil Queen to Snow White over who is the prettiest. Yes even those damn dwarfs are in both versions.

The Disney version jumps straight to the infamous poisoned apple, but the original story had two other encounters before that where the Queen tried to kill Snow White. In the story, the Queen tracks down Snow White to the cottage in the forest that she is staying in with the seven dwarfs. Disguising herself as an old peddler, the Queen offers Snow White a colourful, silky lace bodice. She convinces Snow White to try on the most beautiful one as a present. Snow White agrees to try it on and the Queen laces it up so tightly that Snow White can’t breath and she faints as the Queen to leaves her for dead.

The evil Queen visits Snow White in the forest.
The evil Queen visits Snow White in the forest.

The dwarfs return from work in time and find Snow White unconscious and loosen the bodice which allows Snow White to breath once more. The Queen tries to kill Snow White again, but this time disguised as a comb seller and convinces her to take one her her combs as a present. The Queen even offers to brush Snow White’s hair for her, but the comb used is poisoned. Same story as before, Snow White faints and the Queen leaves her for dead… and yes the dwarfs turn up just in time (again), remove the poisoned comb from her hair and she recovers. Its the third attempt where the Queen, disguised as a farmer’s wife, offers Snow white a poisoned apple. Snow white falls unconscious and this time, the dwarfs can’t revive her. Believing Snow White is now dead, the dwarfs place her in a glass casket.

In the Disney version, this is where the evil Queen dies when the dwarfs return home and chase her to a cliff-side, lightning strikes and the evil Queen falls to her death. A prince comes along, finds Snow white in the glass casket, kisses her and she is revived and they all live “happily ever after”. The end.

The story differs quite a bit at this point as the Queen does not die after Snow White eats the apple and she actually gets away before the dwarfs return. It is also not a kiss that revives Snow White either. The prince still turns up while Show White is in the glass coffin, but instead of kissing her, he lifts the coffin to take her away and drops the coffin. This dislodges the piece of apple Snow White ate and she wakes up. The prince declares his love for her, a wedding is soon planned and everyone is invited… including the evil Queen. At this point, the evil Queen believes Snow White is finally dead and is unaware that the woman the prince intends to marry is actually Snow White. She once again asks the mirror who is the fairest in the land and again the mirror declares that there is somebody else prettier and states that is it the woman the prince intends to marry.

The evil Queen arrives at the wedding.
The evil Queen arrives at the wedding.

The evil Queen arrives at the wedding and sees for the first time that the prince’s new bride is in fact Snow White, who she believed was already dead. The Queen literally chokes with rage and drops down dead right there and then. The story is a happy ending too with the prince and Snow White living a happy life together and they even visit the dwarfs to thank them for being so kind to Show White previously. There is another version of the ending from the Bothers Grimm where the fate of the evil Queen is to wear super heated red-hot iron shoes and “dance” until she drops dead, which is pretty brutal.

Its also interesting to note that it has been theorised that the whole Snow White story is somewhat based on fact.

From one classic Disney princess tale to another that has multiple “original” versions.

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Cinderella: As I said, there are multiple versions of this story that vary from country to country and even century to century. But for this comparison, I’ll be using the Brothers Grimm version (Aschenputtel) from the 19th century as this is the one I am most familiar with.

Everyone knows the Disney version of this story right? Evil Stepmother (again), dead father, ugly sisters, Fairy Godmother, pumpkin into a carriage, mice into horses, amazing ball gown with glass slippers, invitation to a ball, prince, dancing. Clock strikes midnight, spell is broken, glass slipper left behind… and so on. Prince finds Cinderella, she tries on the glass slipper and they live “happily ever after”. Its a classic tale and probably one of Disney’s most famous and popular. But the Brothers Grimm version (as well as all the others) differ quite a bit.

The Grimm’s version, Aschenputtel, is much more… well grim I guess. While the bare basic premise is the same telling the story of a downtrodden and mistreated girl being used essentially as a slave. In this version, there is no Fairy Godmother to provide Aschenputtel with all the things required for the ball. Instead, it is a tree that provides her with all she needs… but no ordinary tree. You see the tree grew from a twig that Aschenputtel placed on her mother’s grave and watered with her own tears over several years until it grew into a tree. Kind of beautiful and depressing at the same time, no? A white dove would nest in the tree and whatever Aschenputtel wished for, the dove would provide via the tree (AKA Mommy).

The King announces a three day festival and invites every young female of the land to attend so that the prince can find a bride. Pretty much the same as the Disney version here too with a few slight changes other then it being a three day festival instead of a ball. The two stepsisters are invited and Aschenputtel begs to also go, but the stepmother refuses and forces Aschenputtel to do cleaning around the house instead. Mainly having to clean up lentils that the stepmother throws on the floor, the stepmother says Aschenputtel can attend the festival if she cleans up all the lentils within two hours. With the help of a flock of doves, Aschenputtel manages to clean them all up in less than an hour. The stepmother redoubles the amount of lentils, halves the time and tells Aschenputtel to clean them all up again or she can’t go to the festival. And again, with the help of the doves, she manages the task but the stepmother breaks her word and leaves Aschenputtel at home but takes her two daughters (the stepsisters) instead hoping that one of them will marry the prince. Aschenputtel is left alone crying.

Aschenputtel/Cinderella with the doves that will return later...
Aschenputtel/Cinderella with the doves that will return later…

Aschenputtel returns to the tree and wishes to be dressed in silver and gold. The dove drops a silver and gold gown along with a pair of silk shoes. Aschenputtel attends the first day of festival in her new clothing where she dances with the prince until sunset and has to leave to go back home. The second day of the festival and Aschenputtel turns up in even more dazzling clothing and again dances with the prince until sunset and again she returns home. The third and final day of the festival, Aschenputtel arrives in even more grander clothing than before and a pair of golden slippers. This time, the prince is determined to not let her go home. He devises a plan of covering the stairway in sticky pitch and as Aschenputtel tires to leave as the sunsets, one of the golden slippers gets stuck and the prince declares that whoever fits this golden slipper is the girl he will marry.

The next day, the prince goes to the home of Aschenputtel in search of the person who owned the golden slipper. The first to try it on is the eldest of the stepsisters and under instruction from her mother, she cuts off her own toes so the slipper will fit. Satisfied he has found the right girl, the prince rides off with the first stepsister for his new bride. As they ride back to the castle, two doves fly down and tell the prince that blood is dripping from the foot of the stepsister. Knowing he has the wrong girl, he returns to the house and this time the other stepsister tries on the golden slipper. This sister cuts off her own heel so the slipper will fit… rince and repeat as before and again two doves fly down and inform the prince of the blood. Third time lucky and the prince asks Aschenputtel to try on (the now blood soaked) golden slipper and of course it fits. This is where the Disney version ends with the wedding and a live “happily ever after” ending… but the Grimm version goes on just a little longer here.

In this version of the story, Aschenputtel and the prince have a wedding and the two stepsisters are bridesmaids. As Aschenputtel walks down the aisle with her stepsisters, two doves fly down and attack the two stepsisters, the doves each peck out one of the stepsisters eyes. The wedding goes on as normal (as normally as it can with two bridesmaids each with a pecked out eye) and Aschenputtel and her prince leave the church… shorty after the two doves return and peck out the other two eyes of the stepsisters leaving them blind. I did tell you they would be back.

Some pretty brutal stuff in the Grimm’s version of this tale. Toes and heels being cut off, eyes pecked out… and there are even worse stuff from the numerous other variations too.

Next up a nice “tail” about a young mermaid looking for love.

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The Little Mermaid: The Disney take on this tale is, for the most part, pretty much the same as it is in the original Hans Christian Andersen version (Den lille havfrue). The basic plot is the same of a mermaid falling in love with a prince and she strives to become human. But there are several notable differences and small details that make the original story a little darker then Disney’s effort. There is no Ariel, no Prince Eric, no big bad Ursula. Nor is there a talking crab, etc. The original version doesn’t give the characters names, they are just the little mermaid, the prince, etc.

The set up to the main plot also differs slightly. In the original story, when a mermaid turns 15, she is allowed to swim to the surface to see the world for the first time. The little mermaid is the youngest of six and each of the mermaids are born one year apart. When the sisters become old enough they each go up to the surface to see the world for the very first time, one by one, year after year until it is finally the little mermaid’s turn on her 15th birthday. When she gets to the surface, the little mermaid witnesses a birthday celebration for a prince and she falls in love with him. This is when a violent storm hits and the prince is knocked into the ocean and the little mermaid saves his life. She takes the prince to a shore near a temple and this is where he is discovered by a young woman as the little mermaid retreats. The prince recovers and never learns that it was a mermaid that saved his life and believes it was this young woman from the temple who saved him.

The little mermaid, now back underwater with her family, becomes depressed and melancholy knowing she can never see the prince again. She talks to her grandmother and asks how long humans live for. The grandmother explains that humans have a much shorter life expectancy then that of mermaids, which is around 300 years. But the grandmother goes on to say how when a mermaid dies, they just turn into sea foam and no longer exist, but humans have a soul that will live on forever in heaven when they die. The little mermaid longs to be with the prince at any cost and she goes to visit an evil sea-witch for help. The witch agrees to help and sells her a potion that will turn her human and give the little mermaid human legs and a soul… but there is a price to pay. The cost of the legs comes in exchange for the little mermaid’s beautiful voice, this pretty much happens (a few details aside) in the Disney version too… but things go a little further in the story. Not only will the little mermaid lose her voice, but once she becomes human, she can never return to the sea. There’s more, as consuming the potion will make her feel as if a sword has been stabbed through her body and will cause her great pain. Not enough? Well while she will now have legs, she will feel as if she is continually walking on sharp knives, so each and every step she takes will be more and more painful. And on top of all of that, the little mermaid can only have a soul if she can win the love of a prince and they marry. If this does not happen then the little mermaid will not gain a soul and at dawn of the first day after the prince marries somebody else, the little mermaid will die of a broken heart and dissolve into the sea. The little mermaid agrees to everything, she swims to the surface near the palace, drinks the potion and becomes human (except for the soul) where she is found by the prince.

The prince finding the little mermaid after drinking the postion.
The prince finding the little mermaid after drinking the potion.

The prince is stunned by her beauty and grace, though everyone in the kingdom believe her to be dumb and mute as she can’t talk. One of the main things the prince loves about this mysterious girl is her dancing and she dances for the prince all the time despite the huge amount of excruciating pain she feels due to the effects of the potion. The two fast become close but this is when the prince’s parents demand he marries a princess from a neighbouring kingdom. The prince says he can not marry anyone but the girl from the temple who he believes saved his life and it just so happens that the princess from the neighbouring kingdom is the same girl from the temple. The prince declares his love for the girl and a royal wedding is announced.

The prince and princess marry and the little mermaid’s heart breaks, just as the sea-witch said it would. All of the pain she has endured and knowing that death awaits her by dawn had been for nothing. But before dawn comes, her sisters swim up to the surface and give the little mermaid a knife. The knife is from the sea-witch that the sisters exchanged for their hair. If the little mermaid kills the prince and lets his blood drip onto her human feet, she can become a mermaid once more and live out the rest of her life with her family. She sneaks into the prince’s bedroom where he is asleep with his new bride ready to kill him, but she can not go through with it. Instead she throws the knife and herself into the sea just as dawn breaks and she dissolves into sea foam. However, she does not just cease to exist as grandmother said she would, she feels warmth and realises that she has been turned into an ethereal spirit. She ascends into the atmosphere where she is greeted by other spirits and told she has obtained an immortal soul due to her selflessness and will one day rise up into the Kingdom of God.

There you have it. For the most part, a lot of the story is the same but there are still some dark parts in the original story, these mainly come from the effects of the potion. But that ending is hardly a “happily ever after” is it? I mean, the little mermaid doesn’t get the prince in the end like in the Disney version but its not exactly a terrible ending either right? Its bittersweet I guess.

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I’ll end Part I here, but I have three more Disney/fairy tales to look at in Part II.

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