I co-wrote this blog post with FearlessFanGirl
Disney movies are a well beloved past time for many people of all ages, but most fans have no idea what the origins are of their favorite Disney stories. While most know that things like Snow White and Cinderella are based off of fairy tales, but most don’t realize that every classic animated Disney movie was based off of some other work until the Aristocats in 1970. Some of the novels and short stories that Disney used as source material are still pretty well known, like Alice in Wonderland (Lewis Caroll’s, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland) and the Jungle Book (Rudyard Kipling’s book by the same name) but did you know that Bambi was originally Bambi, A Life in the Woods by Felix Salten and is considered the first environmental novel and a classic? Or that the Black Cauldron was based off of a whole series of books by Lloyd Alexander called The Chronicles of Pyridian. Then of course there’s Winnie the Pooh by A.A. Milne, Mary Poppins (all eight of them) by P.L. Travers and the Fox and the Hound by Daniel P. Mannix. All of the books were relatively popular and well liked at the time of their publication and are considered classic children’s literature, now most people have never even seen a copy of these books because the Disney Films have overshadowed them. While there’s nothing wrong wtih loving Disney movies or other films based on previous works, I do think we need to look at the repercussions of film taking away credit from the source material in the public memory.
The Disney fandom on tumblr is incredibly large, however after looking through tumblr and other sites not many members of this fandom know about the original stories that these popular disney movies draw inspiration from. In some cases that may be good for younger children as many of the stories can be graphic, but as these kids grow older they never learn the origins of these stories or pick up the books that started it all. With this happening, we may end up seeing the Grimm’s tales as well as others, disappear. The Disney fandom on tumblr is an interesting one to look at, they are ready to criticize and analyze all the new movies that come out. While this is good in some cases, in other’s it’s not. Parts of the fandom criticize the graphics while others criticize the story line. Some people even sympathize with the villains, but while the fandom does this they tend to over look what the orginal version of these stories had. It’s pretty common to hear fans complain or point out the graphic nature of the ‘original fairy tales’ but most have never read the original literature, especially the ones that aren’t based off of fairy tales. Because most of the classic princess stories are based off of folklore, many films are misattributed to fairy tales. For instance, The Little Mermaid was an original tale by Hans Christian Anderson not a recorded folk tale like the others that were based off of Grimms Fairy Tales. It’s pretty common for fandoms to jump on board criticizing the movie and other fans for not knowing original fairy tales, but at the same time they may not even be aware of the classic children’s literature that it was based on. The fact that these novels and subsequently their authors are being lost into the ether is in away even more of a shame than the original fairy tales being forgotten because with out the movies these novels may have still been read by children today.
Also, the Disney Fandom seems to leave out important characters and overshadow them with the Disney Princesses. For example, if you try to look up Mary Poppins or The Jungle Book in the Disney Fandom on tumblr you will find incredible difference between how many posts and items talk about these stories verses something like Tangled or Beauty and the Beast. In fact, if you search for Mary Poppins in tumblr’s tags you will get a few things from the original movie and from Saving Mr. Banks, but you will also find many of the disney princesses, and strangely enough the Phantom of the Opera. However, if you wanted to look up Sleeping Beauty, you will get more results where it’s just Princess Aurora. A theory for the reason why these movies are being over shadowed is because they were not in the “Disney Renaissance Era” which was from the mid 80s to 1999. However, that doesn’t explain some movies like the Hunchback of Notre Dame and many others that came out in that time period didn’t make it as big as the princess movies. In fact there are many lists of Underrated and overshadowed disney movies, most of these lists have the Aristocats, Robin Hood, Hunchback of Notre Dame, and the Black Cauldron. All of which are being overshadowed by the princesses and are losing their original stories. Without meaning to, we as a people are losing folklore and a culture that no one can restore. This is exactly what the Brothers Grimm and other authors tried so desperately to avoid, they wanted these tales to live on long after their generation and now we are losing them without meaning to.
Another thing to consider is that the fandoms may not know the original story because these stories are not taught in the same way. The Original fairy tales and folklore had meanings as to why people shouldn’t go out into the woods alone or why they shouldn’t only marry for looks or money. While they still hold some of that today, fairy tales and legends were a teaching tool back then today they are just something that children can enjoy and vent their imaginations on. Maybe we should go back to teaching through legends at times, because there are things you can learn from Robin Hood, the Black Cauldron and The Hunchback of Notre Dame. Like Merida said in the movie Brave, “ Legends are lessons. They ring with truths.”