Guest Post: Fairy Tales and Disney Classics by Elizabeth Eckhart

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From Old Days to Live Action: Disney’s Classics Set to Become New Again

by Elizabeth Eckhart  

People have been enjoying fairy tales for a very long time. While some fade away as years pass, some stories have stayed with us for centuries. The ones that have truly captured our hearts are still being told and retold for each generation. Some have been taken from books and made into Disney movies, and some of those beloved movies have been remade again, making these timeless tales even more relatable for modern audiences and for audiences of all ages.   
 
The Little Mermaid is a very well-known tale in America because of the famous Disney movie of the same title. The original story was written in 1836 by Hans Christian Andersen, and while it shares a lot in common with the Disney version, it is much more tragic and startlingly dark for a fairy tale. In this story, the mermaid gives up her tongue in exchange for human legs, as well as a human soul and a chance at winning the prince’s love. She knows if he marries another, she will die. Even though they become close, the prince falls in love with someone else. The mermaid has a chance to kill him to save herself, but she refuses and casts herself into the sea. The story does redeem the mermaid in the end by giving her the chance to obtain a soul and go to Heaven, but she never truly gets that happy ending. Disney gives this tale a much more cheerful spin by having the prince fall in love with her. A remake is in the works that will take the story back to its roots. This live-action film will be directed by Sofia Coppola. The remake is believed to stay truer to the original story, keeping in line with Coppola’s irreverent and often dark style of filmmaking. No word out yet about really anything aside from the fact that it’s in development.   
 
Cinderella is one of the oldest fairy tales around and has variations on the same basic theme in dozens of cultures around the world. The Brothers Grimm wrote one well-known version in the 1800s, and it is much more gruesome than its Disney counterpart. One of the most memorable details of the story is the punishment given to the evil stepsisters in the end, whose eyes are pecked out by doves during Cinderella’s wedding. Of course, Disney’s version had all of these questionable parts removed to make it more appropriate for children. In 2015, it was retold once again as a live-action romance film, bringing the classic story to a contemporary audience. Many details are borrowed from the Disney film, but this new version of Cinderella gives much more depth to the character of Cinderella and is almost like a grown-up (but still kid-friendly) retelling of the beloved tale. Audiences seemed to approve of this remake and came out in droves.  
 
Sleeping Beauty is another story by the Brothers Grimm, originally called Briar Rose, and the tale would not be considered appropriate for children now. In the original, the prince sleeps with the princess while she is sleeping and she gives birth to twins. This problematic message is completely scrubbed from the Disney version, which instead has Princess Aurora wake up from her deep sleep with a chaste kiss. The story was remade but with a twist, instead focusing on the villain in Maleficent, which is just now hitting movie channels. Of course the remake took plenty of liberties filling in the blanks with Maleficent’s life and made what was promoted as a dark and sinister film into a much more subdued, family friendly film.   
 
Pinocchio is another example of a classic tale that was sanitized by Disney. The original tale by Carlo Collodi was published in 1883 and ended in Pinocchio’s execution for his misdeeds. The Disney version portrayed Pinocchio as a misguided but overall well-meaning puppet that just wanted to be a real boy. Disney just announced at the beginning of April the beloved wooden puppet will come to life once again in a live-action remake and will presumably put a more modern twist on Disney’s version of the tale.   Many are unaware of this, but the Disney film Mulan was based on the life of a real female warrior, Hua Mulan, and the famous poem written about her, The Ballad of Hua Mulan. Many of the events in the film really happened, like Hua Mulan taking her elderly father’s place in battle and becoming a war hero. Still, there are differences between the two; in reality, she did not fall in love with a general, and Disney intentionally omits Mulan’s suicide from their version of events. A new live action film telling the story may provide audiences with a more realistic rendition of the tale.   
 
Beauty and the Beast is a beloved Disney film, but it is also based on the French fairy tale La Belle et la Bête by Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont, which was originally released in 1756. Surprisingly, there are very few differences between this film and the original story. The live action remake starring Emma Watson is currently in pre-production, and is expected to be released in 2017. The love for these tales never truly fades, and parents to share the magic of their favorite tales with their own children. While the original Disney films and even the books they came from are still beloved all over the world, the remakes of these classic stories bring them to fans in a modern way, updating them for a new audience. The heart of the story remains the same, uniting us all, young and old, in our love for fairy tales.  

Follow Elizabeth Eckhart on Twitter @elizeckhart 

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