Disneyfication of Fairytales

Cross-posting from Hollow Tree. Working on my Ice Queen myth and thinking about fairytales & the nature of retellings.

Yesterday I had the chance to watch Disney’s Cinderella for the first time in… forever. And even knowing what was going to happen, I found myself thoroughly enjoying it. Sure, it’s a classic. We all know and love it for that reason. But watching it after so long was almost like watching it for the first time, or watching it with a new pair of eyes. I smiled and sung along, delighted once again by Gus the big and lovable mouse and disgusted by the idiotic, large footed stepsisters and their devilish cat, Lucifer (I would have skinned him alive).

But the more I watched it, the more I realized how different it feels from another telling of virtually the exact same story, something like Ever After: A Cinderella Story. While one difference between them is obvious, in that one is animated and one is not, the tone and telling of the stories vary vastly. Disney has sugar coated a rather ugly situation and made it palatable to children, meanwhile the more adult version of Cinderella is witty, heartbreaking and action packed.

They both share the central love story, but while Disney makes it feel like holding hands and adoring glances, Ever After felt more edgy, sexy, and realistically impossible. While I love Disney cartoons, Beauty and the Beast and Little Mermaid being personal favorites, I feel many of their interpretations of classic fairytales fail to capture that darkness that all fairytales tend to have tucked deep inside. Sleeping Beauty might be the only exception, as that one is somehow remarkably dark, for a children’s film.

And really, let’s face it, that’s what they are, films targeted to children. It would be wrong to fill them with some of the sick undercurrents many genuine fairytales contain. Most times, I’m glad for that. There are times when I need the romanticism of it all, the very innocent magic of a Disney film.

But sometimes, I’m in the mood for something that’s true to form which is why I feel YA fiction has taken fairytales and turned them on its head. It’s great to see modern and edgy retellings of fairytales (like Beastly or Ash or A Curse Dark as Gold – RUMPLESTILTSKIN!) that speak to the familiar and yet take us to another place entirely.

So enjoy a classic Disney movie, but when you want the really meaty stuff, turn to a good book.

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