The Dark Stories Your Favorite Disney Movies Are Actually Based On

Photo: Moviestore/REX Shutterstock.
February 26 is National Tell a Fairy Tale Day. This, of course, makes us think of the preeminent teller of fairy tales in our culture: Disney. The thing is, Disney is not the originator of the tales it tells. Ol’ Walt wasn’t sitting around in his apartment on Main Street concocting tales about little mermaids and magical lamps. I mean, it’d be cool if he had been, but Walt Disney had other things on his mind. Mice named Mickey and ways to make people linger in his parks longer, for example. I imagine his scratchpad contained notes like, “Enclose entire thing under massive roof? No, would lose so much money selling plastic ponchos when it rains.”

Anyway, Disney and his team of animators merely adapted tales about Cinderella and Snow White into feature films that became beloved classics. They found source material in folklore from various cultures and countries, although the majority of the Disney Princesses’ back stories seem to come from the Brothers Grimm and Hans Christian Andersen.

Before these stories could be told to impressionable young children via the Disney conduit, however, they had to be cleaned up and neutered. The stories needed to get that oh-so-recognizable Disney formula — you know, the pretty Princesses have to find their perfect, handsome Princes, the big bad whatever must be thwarted, and everyone has to live happily ever after. In many cases, though, they also needed to undergo some massive changes to eliminate some horrifyingly dark details that you might never know exist in the originals if you only know the Disneyfied versions.

Well, on this National Tell a Fairy Tale Day, we’re going to tell you the real versions of your favorite Disney fairy tales. It’s time to blow the lid off the twisted, sordid details in The Little Mermaid, The Snow Queen (the basis of Frozen), and more beloved tales that became Disney classics. Are you ready? Say it with me: Once upon a time...