Though I am not a fan of gritty reimaginings of children's media, products, and stories, as I feel like these are often done in poor taste and to elicit a certain reaction (though dark reimaginings can be fun if well done and thought out and not just an attempt to garner views through half-baked attempts at edginess), I have to admit that I do love myself some dark fairytales. I love a good happily ever after as much as the next guy but there is just something so fascinating, alluring, and exciting about seeing the other side of the rainbow, so to speak. There is just something so wonderful and enticing about seeing fairy tales in the true forms.
And I understand that Disney needed to ensure some changes in order to make these more mature tales suitable for modern day children. I am always down for a Disney marathon but sometimes something in my heart craves something… something darker. And before I know it, I find myself knee-deep in classic fairy tales and the intense details that fill their pages. From blinding swarms of birds and girls doing everything that they can to fit into a pair of shoes to finding oneself at the base of a tower after being atop of it moments ago, these stories contain any and everything. And I am going to take you through some of my favorites. So sit back, relax, and be prepared to thank Disney for sparing you from the harsh realities of these intense fairy tales.
25 A Thorned Rose
Okay, where to start with this one? Well, for starters, true love's kiss is not the thing that wakes Aurora from our internal slumber. No, Aurora is awoken by her child (who was both created and born thanks to a very unchivalrous king whilst Aurora was under the influence of Maleficent's sleep spell) nibbling at her finger which caused the silver that put her under to become dislodged. Imagine taking a nap and waking up to find out that you both created and had twins without even knowing it.
24 One Week Only
In the original version of this story, a smitten Beast allows Belle a week's vacation from her life sentence which she uses to return home and visit her sisters. They become jealous of her circumstances due to the amount of trinkets that she brings home and convince her to extend her visit (in the hopes that the beast will be so mad that he consumes her upon her return). She returns, a day or two late, to a fallen beast. Luckily, her guilt ridden tears break the spell and revive him.
23 Do Not Dare To Disobey
Like most children’s stories, the original version of Pinocchio was a highly moral tale which preached good behavior to its young readers. But it took the consequences for his mistakes to a serious extreme that was, thankfully, edited out of the Disney versions. A naughty and misbehaving Pinocchio was punished in a very archaic manner for his crimes that may have involved a rope and a definitive end to any future misdeeds. Dark, but any child who read this version would never consider misbehaving ever again.
22 All's Sad That Ends Bad
Though I have not seen The Hunchback of Notre Dame since I was scarred for life by it as a small child, it is important to note that things could have been a lot worse. Apparently, in the original version of the tale, Esmeralda does not make it to see the end credits and Quasimodo does not take to that loss well.
He spends the literal rest of his life grieving her and does nothing else. Not sleep, not drink, not even eat. And he pays the price for it as well.
21 Burst Into Seafoam
We all loved seeing Ursula get her just desserts and watch Ariel and Eric get married underneath that beautiful rainbow. But what if I told you that, in the original version, the prince choose the imposter and that the little mermaid had to choose between either ending him and becoming a mermaid once again or choosing to let him live with this other girl and dealing with the consequences. The little mermaid chooses the latter and dissolves into a pile of seafoam. Happily ever after indeed.
20 No Kiss Needed
In a lovely, less macabre twist, the original version of Snow White found a simpler way to free the princess from that dreaded spell that the Evil Queen placed upon that poisoned apple. It turns out that she did not need a kiss from some stranger to break the curse. All she needed was a little shove. While the dwarves were carrying her casket, they jostled her around enough that the little piece of apple that was caught in her throat was dislodged and she suddenly awoke. Piece of cake.
19 It Gets Worse
Yes, it does get sadder than the Disney version. Disney was just trying to protect you. If you do not to feel true pain, please scroll past this entry. Don’t say I didn’t warn you. In the original novel, Tod does not make it.
But neither does Copper.
His owner is getting up in age and a bit too friendly with a vice, so he makes plans to get himself into a retirement home. The problem is is that they do not accept dogs. So he takes Copper out himself. Because, of course he does.
18 Long Live The King
For those of you who did not have to read Hamlet at any point in your formal education, allow me to fill you in. We all know that Scar does not make it, but neither does anyone else. Nala does not make it, his mother does not make it, and Simba himself does not make it at all. Not in the slightest. Though things do not start to get real for Hamlet until he makes the decision to move on with his/his father's revenge plot, things really do pick up once he puts the plan into motion. Unfortunately, the final step concluded his life as well as his targets.
17 If The Shoe Fits
Cinderella has some incredibly small feet. Some versions of the story even claim that her feet would be considered a size 3 (US) by modern day standards. So there is no way that those beastly step sisters are getting those meaty feet into those delicate little things. But they want the prince. So what does their mother suggest? Mother dearest simply decides that the best way to make the slipper fit is to remove whatever part of the foot that is preventing it from sliding on. Be that a toe...or a bit of the heel.
16 Nerve Damage
It turns out that being human was not the walk in the park that Ariel imagined that it would be. Though the Sea Witch did bless the little mermaid with lovely human legs, it was really uncomfortable for her to use them. Each and every step caused her significant discomfort and she would often have to do everything that she could to mask that pain.
If she had chosen to off the prince at the end of her story, she could have had her fins back.
But her broken heart still continued to beat for him, so she chose the path that lead to a seafoam-themed end.
15 Herc The Jerk
Greek legends, myths, and gods truly are not family-friendly and Disney had to take some serious artistic liberties in order to make the legend of Hercules something that a parent would willingly show to their children. Though many of the details from the Disney film are in line with the original story, it is important to note that Disney seemed to have left out all of the lives that Hercules ended single-handedly. There were so many. Including his own children. Hades was right about him. Meg should have listened.
14 The Work Of Nightmares
Though I refrain from watching the Disney version of Bambi because of the intense and emotional nature of the story, I would much prefer it to the original version. The original version of the story was a gripping tale that dealt with the harsh realities of the circle of life and survival in the animal world. And boy, did it get into the nitty-gritty details of how harsh the natural world can truly be. The movie was a light and fluffy ride on the Cotton Candy Express in comparison.
13 Anastasia Was Not Lost
The first time I watched the film Anastasia (which is now owned by the Disney company so I chose to include it in this list) with my husband, he remarked that every single thing after the films title appears on screen is a work of fiction as the Romanov family did not survive the revolution. And though it hurt my feelings that he would say something so bold yet so true, I have to admit that he was right. Though this is one of my favorite films, it truly does stray quite a far away from the original story.
12 A Meal For The King
It turns out that the wife of the king who “gifted” Aurora with those nap-time children was not too fond of what had transpired. When the king tried to be rid of her, she retaliated, stole the children, and attempted to make a special sort of soup using a secret ingredient that may or may not have something to do with what she had stolen. Though she was stopped, and thankfully so, I am incredibly glad that that entire section of the story was omitted from the Disney version of the tale.
11 Thrown From The Tower
Though Tangled was considerably intense for a children's movie, one must note that things got a bit darker in the original story. The witch cut Rapunzel's hair and hid her away. She waited in the tower, dropped the chopped hair down for the prince to climb up, and tossed him from the tower when he reached the top.
He landed eye first (I really don’t know how that is possible) on a bunch of thorns that blinded him very quickly. Luckily, both versions of Rapunzel have healing tears so his injuries were healed quickly.
10 John Smith, Who?
Yeah, very few things about this film were accurate. Though it was a nice story, it was little more than that. John Smith and Pocahontas really did not interact much, according to legends. In fact, the straight to VHS sequel, which featured Pocahontas being brought back to England as a bit of an advertisement for the new world as well as a spectacle to amuse the rich English people with, was far more accurate to how things went down for her and women in her shoes. I recommend everyone look up the legends of this amazing, and real, woman when they get the chance.
9 Mathematical Adventures
I have never understood why people are so determined to make Alice and Wonderland about illegal things and psychedelic adventures. The original story was about math. That is it.
The author felt like the new mathematical principles were ridiculous and that the logic was highly illogical.
The book included lengthy passages where the characters would talk themselves silly but believe themselves highly logical in attempts to mock the mathematical principles that were being taught at the time. Few made it into the film, unfortunately.
8 Reunited Families
I, for one, am incredibly glad that Disney decided to inject a happy ending into the film version of this classic poem as the original ending was incredibly grim. In the original version of this poem, Mulan loses the war. Then, after returning to her family farm, she realizes that her father has passed away while she was gone and her mother remarried during her absence. This is just too much for our poor heroine and she decides that she must join her father...and then does so.
7 The Greatest Style
Though I will credit the old versions of these classic stories with one thing, they sure did know how to make the bad guys pay for their crimes. Seriously, sometimes Disney gets it right but other times the bad guys’ only punishment is that their plan did not work out and, from a spectator point of view, that is seriously unsatisfying. In the original version of Snow White, the Queen is forced to wear red-hot iron shoes and is made to dance until she perishes for the princesses amusement. That is a much better ending than simply falling off of a cliff.
6 Splattered Princes
The original version of this fairytale makes it much harder to break the curse that was placed on the poor frog prince. Most versions stay true to the fact that the prince is supposed to be brash, rude, and take advantage of the kindness that the princess shows him (though other versions portray the princess herself as brash and rude). And though the original versions of the story seem to disagree on the amount of force needed to end the curse, most agree on the fact that slamming the frog into things (as a punishment for his rudeness) is the best way to cure him of his frogginess.
5 The Lost Lost Boys
Every eternal child wished that they could go to Neverland and never have to grow up. There is just something so magical about the idea of never having to grow old. But there is a beauty in aging too. Unfortunately, Peter Pan and I do not see eye to eye on this point. In original versions of the story, the lost boys did age… in a way. But when they reached the age of adulthood, Pan would deal with them and replace them with new stolen children. And that is concerningly sinister.
4 A Longer Night
In the original version of Cinderella, she ran outside to weep on her mother's eternal resting place and her tears caused the willow planted beside it to grow to an immense size and the ball that she attended was three nights long rather than just one.
And Cinderella ran away before the stroke of midnight each and every single time.
Like clockwork. The slipper was not lost by a mere accident but rather caught in a layer of tar that the Prince placed upon one of the steps on the staircase. I have not decided whether that is clever or creepy.
3 Unnecessary Sequels
Disney could have just skipped this one. They really did not need to make a sequel to Aladdin and they did not have to base it on this story. In the original story that this lackluster sequel was based upon, Aladdin’s father did not have as easy as a time as the film made it seem. It turns out that thieves do not take kindly to anyone mucking about in their midst. Aladdin’s father was given the Humpty Dumpty treatment. But don't worry, they put him back together again in the end for the sake of his family.
2 No Rest In The Jungle
In the Disney version of this story, Mowgli follows a lovely young lady into a human village, is adopted by a lovely family, and he teaches the people of the town that the jungle is not something to fear. In the original version of the story, Mowgli finds out that the people living in that village are unkind and him and his animal friends seek revenge for their misdeeds. He later finds a group of English settlers who take him in. I gotta say, I like the Disney version better. I gotta have my Beatles-esque vultures.
1 A Swarm Of Birds
As mentioned elsewhere in this article, Disney rarely delivers the ‘just desserts’ that the audience so desperately craves. We want revenge. We want a spectacle. Our gladiatorial ancestors demand it. I get it, Cinderella is not the type of girl to seek revenge. But her animal friends are not as forgiving. At least, they weren’t in the original versions of the story. As Cinderella left to achieve her happily ever after, her little birdie friends decided that sight is a privilege that her stepsisters no longer deserved.