Disney movies and fairy tales are meant to provide comfort—and life lessons, for little children.
But their origins—that is, the fairy tales and myths the scripts are sometimes based on—are sometimes the stuff of nightmares. Surreal, possibly drug-induced, nightmares.
Since we never get any sleep anyway, we took a real deep dive into the background of these horrifying Disney and fairy tale origins. What we found involves murder, sabotage, abuse and a whole lot of poison.
In the Disney movie, we’re supposed to assume that Hercules is the son of happily married couple Zeus and Hera.
But in the original Greek tale, Hercules is the son of Zeus and a mortal, Alcmene. That’s right, Zeus had a wandering thunder bolt, which is a pretty tame origin story compared to some other Disney adapted fairy tales.
The Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve original and the Disney remake are pretty similar.
Girl meets beast, beast steals girl, girl falls in love with beast in spite of the kidnapping. The largest difference is Belle is actually granted a furlough from captivity in order to visit her family.
In the original tale, her sisters are jealous of her new luxe lifestyle with ol’ Beasty, as most sisters are when they learn one of their own has been kidnapped, and try to plot a sabotage.
In short, it’s to keep Belle from going back to the palace in hopes that she’ll get in major trouble with the beast (read: eaten). Spoiler alert: It doesn’t work.
We’re ranking this as a two out of five on the scary scale, since it’s actually pretty tame.
This story, written by Carlo Collodi, includes the addition of Pinocchio’s majorly rebellious stage.
He runs away from home, which causes guardian Geppetto to spend some time in the slammer on account of his poor supervision. Pinocchio is then forced to go to school, but he sells his books for drugs. (Just kidding, it’s theatre tickets.)
Like so many of us, P eventually wises up and becomes a real boy. Two out of five scaries—there’s some messed-up stuff, but nothing that most ordinary angsty teens haven’t tried.
Besides all the sad stuff about the stags abandoning their young after the does give birth, Bambi is also shot in the original book.
And he is taught to walk in circles to spread the blood around to confuse the hunters and the dogs tracking him. Yeah. No one wants to see cartoon blood, so we understand why Disney cut this out.
Oh, and “He” (the hunter) is shot and killed by another man, and the old Prince makes sure Bambi sees the body to prove that man isn’t all-powerful.
5. Snow White
The Brothers Grimm book paints the evil queen as much more goal-oriented; she straight-up tries to kill Snow White twice before resorting to the poison apple.
The Prince, who she eventually marries, takes her away while she’s unconscious in a glass coffin (creep alert!), and it’s only a coincidence that she wakes up.
At the wedding the evil queen has to wear hot iron shoes and dance until she’s dead. Three out of five on the scary scale, for a very troubling relationship.
6. The Hunchback of Notre-Dame
The animated version is certainly one of the darkest films released by Disney, but the book version is even darker.
Esmeralda is hanged after Frollo betrays her, and Quasimodo pushes him off the roof to his death. Later, Quasimodo visits Esmeralda’s grave and refuses to leave, so he starves to death. Happily ever after? Nope, not so much.
7. The Little Mermaid
Man, Hans Christian Andersen was one creepy dude. For starters, the stakes are higher in his tale: If Ariel fails to convince the prince to fall in love with her during her tenure as a human, she will DIE (instead of just turning back into a mermaid like the Disney version).
Also, the price Ariel must pay for the privilege of having legs is that every step feels like walking on broken glass. And not the happy-go-lucky Annie Lennox kind of broken glass. The actually walking on broken glass kind.
Spoiler alert: the prince does not fall in love with her, because—long story short—he has to marry someone else, so the sea witch orders Ariel to murder him in exchange for being turned back into a mermaid and escaping death. Well, she can’t do it so throws herself into the sea and basically commits suicide.
But she becomes sea foam so it all works out in the end…we think?
The Brothers Grimm, you guys are sickos. This version has no adorable bird helpers, but instead some seriously messed-up sisters.
In their overzealousness to fit into the iconic glass slipper and get an in with the Prince, Cinderella’s stepsisters resort to self-administered plastic surgery. One cuts off her toes; the other cuts off her heel.
When they are forced to end Cinderella’s eventual wedding to the Prince, they have their eyes pecked out by birds. The end!
9. The Fox and the Hound
Daniel P. Mannix’s story takes the cake for its sheer tragic twists. The eponymous fox is raised by a seemingly nice hunting family and everything is going great—until it’s returned to the wild. This is when things get real.
He decides to start taunting the hunting dogs in retaliation, and one of them breaks loose and is hit by a train during the subsequent chase. The fox then DIES from chase-fueled exhaustion, and another dog become so old that he needs to be shot. This one gets a full five, because WTF.
The Disney-fied version is hugely responsible for nearly every little girl’s dream of being rescued by a prince and finding love at first sight (kiss?).
Giambattista Basile’s original version is hugely responsible for our wanting to call the poor girl a lawyer.
You see, the king’s (nope, not a prince here; also, he’s got a wife) first course of action isn’t to kiss the girl awake, though we sorely wish it was. Instead, he has sex with her…while she sleeps!
And it gets even worse: she pops out a couple of kids while she’s knocked out, wakes up as a single mother and only learns who the father is when the still-married king decides to pay her another visit. This is gross on every level.
Disney’s version, Tangled, is so cute and innocent that it makes us laugh. The Grimm Brothers’ tale is much less so.
For starters, Dame Gothel takes Rapunzel as payment for her father’s thieving ways. Way to set a great example for your kid. The prince who finds Rapunzel knocks her up upon meeting her, because if the king in Sleeping Beauty can do it, then why can’t he?
Obviously Dame Gothel isn’t an idiot, and cuts off Rapunzel’s hair before banishing her. When the prince comes back for Rapunzel and finds her gone, he takes the most logical course of action and flings himself from the tower. The fall doesn’t kill him (darn!) but the thorns at the bottom of the tower blind him. Ouch.
You’ve heard this one time and time again: the poor miller’s daughter is so desperate to keep her life that she ends up promising her first born to Rumpelstiltskin if he helps her.
Come collection day, she dupes him into letting her guess his name in exchange for the child’s freedom. She guesses his name and all is well, right? Well, yeah, for the princess and her kid.
Rumpelstiltskin, however, quite literally rips his own body in half. Wait, what? That part wasn’t in Once Upon a Time, was it?! Last time we checked he was still alive.
13. Little Red Riding Hood
There are several old and delightfully macabre versions of this one, but our favorite is an Italian version titled El Cappelin Rosso. Why? Because ogres, that’s why.
Instead of a wolf, the antagonist is something straight outta Shrek. Although we don’t remember Shrek feeding an innocent child the blood, teeth and jaws of her recently deceased grandmother.
Oh yeah, and the ogre uses granny’s intestines as a pull rope for the door latch. Can’t forget that gem.
14. Goldilocks and the Three Bears
Robert Southey’s 1800’s version takes home intrusion much more seriously than the family-friendly version we know today.
His Goldilocks is actually an old woman, who gets up to the same amount of mischief as the heroine we all know in the modern version.
However, her escape is much less fruitful: while modern Goldilocks trots away into the forest unharmed, Southey’s version speculates that the old woman either broke her neck in a fall from the bears’ window, or was sent to a correctional facility where she presumably still rots in fairytale hell. Neither sounds particularly appealing.
15. The Princess and the Frog
The Brothers Grimm have done it again. Next up on “fairytales we’re going to ruin for you forever” is the beloved story of the frog prince, so recently turned into a cutesy film by Disney.
The idea is that once the princess kisses the frog, he’ll turn into a prince, but the Grimm version’s princess is a lot less thrilled about that idea than Tiana is (and that’s saying something).
To the princess’ credit, the frog-ified prince pulled a couple of creepy stunts by trying to crawl up her pillow and eat off her plate with her, but we’re not entirely sure that slamming his amphibian body against a wall was an entirely appropriate reaction. At least it got him to change back, right?
This probably isn’t the Mouse Factory’s idea of cheesecake.
Los Angeles-based artist Andrew Tarusov who recently transformed Disney princesses into vintage pin-up models is now giving the same sultry treatment to some of the film studio’s most notorious villains.
If you’ve ever wondered what Maleficent, Cruella De Vil and Ursula might look like in a naughty cabaret, this is your chance.
The Evil Queen, Snow White
Cruella de Vil, One Hundred and One Dalmatians
Maleficent, Sleeping Beauty
Mother Gothel, Tangled
Madam Mim, The Sword in the Stone
Queen of Hearts, Alice in Wonderland
Madame Medusa, The Rescuers
Lady Tremaine, Cinderella
Ursula, The Little Mermaid
Have you considered that perhaps you may have the hots for Ursula from The Little Mermaid? Well, you have now. Deal with it.
Remember that moment when girls stopped being gross and boys suddenly started being interesting?
Chances are that you were watching a Disney movie after school at that very moment and thought to yourself: “Hold on – this character is making me feel things…”
And then you finished eating your smiley potatoes with dinosaur chicken nuggets. Yet the strange feeling of unease followed you for days after.
That thing you experienced is called lust. A sexual awakening, if you like. A rite of passage for every confused kid.
So just to transport you to that magical place again, here’s a list of 14 Disney characters who definitely awoke your sexuality at some point of your childhood.
1. Aladdin – Aladdin
Let’s be honest, there’s just something very sexy about a half-naked street rat running around and fighting the evil. He can DEFINITELY show you the world. And then some.
2. Esmeralda – Hunchback of Notre Dame
Esmeralda not only had a heart of gold and amazing clothes, but she also had LOOKS. A full package, really. People felt things, in their hunches, too.
3. Gaston – Beauty and the Beast
Admit it. You TOTALLY had a crush on Gaston too.
4. Jasmine – Aladdin
Something about those hips, the way they moved, got you hooked and you just couldn’t look away… still can’t.
5. Ariel – The Little Mermaid
A little basic, we know, but who can resist red hair and a beautiful smile?
6. Kocoum – Pocahontas
If you were not attracted to her per se, you must admit that her perfect hair, the way it moves and stays neat, caused you to feel a bit queer (pun intended).
8. Mulan – Mulan
One of the strongest role models out there. Brave, strong, adventurous. Massive turn on, no doubt about it.
9. Tarzan – Tarzan
Look at the picture. Now back at me. Now back at the picture. Tarzaaaaaaaan.
9. Li Shang – Mulan
Uber-cutie. Even now you wouldn’t mind if he Shang you, let’s be honest.
10. Princess Aurora – Sleeping Beauty
Another cliché, but you just couldn’t help it, could you? Very much like in the case of Meg from Aladdin, we blame the hair. ON FLEEK.
11. Peter Pan – Peter Pan
Another classic. An endless dreamer. Everything is possible with a lad like Peter. Second star on the right and straight till morning, eh?
12. Simba – Lion King
Another lion, another questionable choice. Although you’d be lying if you said you didn’t think about it.
13. Pocahontas – Pocahontas
She talked to trees and could see colours in the wind. Enough said. Even as kids we knew that was something special.
14. Jafar – Aladdin
Everyone had a thing for a bad boy, even if they don’t want to admit that. And Jafar, with his dark eyes and mischievous smile, made a lot of people hot.
So if you had a Disney crush as a kid, don’t worry, you are not alone.
There are, surprisingly, many Disney Princesses, let alone heroines who are normally forgotten, and they have great qualities which should make them one of the favorites.
10.Maid Marian (Robin Hood)
“Princess” is a rather fuzzy term for Disney. Just look at official Disney princess Mulan, who has no family connection to royalty whatsoever.
Maid Marian isn’t the daughter of a King or other powerful figure, but she’s a king’s niece and that’s close enough.
Also, she’s a fox (literally) and the king’s a lion. Try not to think about it too hard.
Maid Marian wears more clothes than most of her fellow animal princesses. But a fox head on a Barbie doll is a creepy prospect that keeps her from going to the big leagues.
9. Princess Giselle (Enchanted)
Giselle is the only Disney princess to start out as an animated character and then transition over to live action in her movie.
‘Enchanted’ parodies many of the Disney princess tropes and Giselle herself is as sweet, kind and naive as Cinderella, Snow White and the rest.
Giselle almost ended up being an official Disney princess. But her most unique quality turned out to be her downfall — making Giselle part of the Disney princess brand would require securing lifelong likeness rights from actress Amy Adams.
Animated Disney princesses never have such problems.
8. Princess Atta and Princess Dot (A Bug’s Life)
If Merida counts as a Disney princess, so should the two daughters of the ant queen from Pixar’s ‘A Bug’s Life.’
Dot is adorable, plucky and as close to a real little girl as an ant can get. Atta is her older sister, a soon-to-be-queen who actually has some royal responsibilities, a rare thing for a Disney princess.
Neither of them are fashion plates, but they’re both strong characters capable of holding their own against a hoard of grasshoppers.
7. Nala (The Lion King)
Is Nala a princess? Simba doesn’t get called a prince much, but he is Mufasa’s son and the future king.
Nala is his betrothed and, according to some theories floating around the internet, might be Mufasa’s daughter. Either way, she has the “related to royalty” part down.
If being a Disney princess is about being a good role model for little girls, then Nala has a lot in her favor. She’s strong enough to take down Simba, ventures out on her own to find help for her pride and calls Simba out for ignoring his responsibilities.
Unfortunately, lions make lousy fashion dolls, so we’re unlikely to see a coronation for Nala anytime soon.
6. Princess Megara (Hercules)
One acceptable way to become a Disney princess is to marry a Disney prince. Megara’s main squeeze is the son of Greek gods, so he’s definitely got parents with some serious power.
Megara is unique among Disney heroines because she’s not merely disinterested in love, but actively opposed to the idea thanks to a bad relationship that literally cost Meg her soul.
That could’ve been very interesting for a Disney princess, but ‘Hercules’ had mixed success in theaters, so Meg never made the cut.
5. Princess Melody ( The Little Mermaid 2)
Everybody loves the Little Mermaid, but how many are aware that there is a sequel to the movie?
Princess Melody is the protagonist in the film The Little Mermaid II: Return to the Sea. She is the daughter of Ariel. Simply because she is a daughter does not mean she can be left out.
She takes proud interest in her mermaid heritage, and when given the choice of sea or land- even though she has no friends on land and loves the sea, she chooses the land for the happiness of her parents.
4. Princess Faline (Bambi)
Princesses in the animal kingdom can be tricky to identify, but Faline is a pretty clear-cut case. Bambi is the young prince of the forest. Faline is his mate. Conclusion: princess.
Unfortunately for Faline, she and her fellow animals princesses can never wear beautiful clothes, which seems to be a requirement for official Disney princesses.
3. Princess Kida Nedakh (Atlantis: The Lost Empire)
Unlike most Disney princesses, Kida is a formidable warrior. She is the daughter of the King of Atlantis and actually becomes the queen by the movie’s end, another rarity for a Disney princess.
Kida’s chances of ever being an official Disney princess are hindered by the poor performance of her movie and the lack of Atlanteans interested in buying Disney merchandise.
2. Princess Tiger Lily (Peter Pan)
Being the daughter of a chief doesn’t make Tiger Lily a princess, but ‘Peter Pan’ isn’t known for its accurate depiction of Native Americans.
In addition to good fashion sense, Disney princesses are supposed to have personal strengths that little girls can emulate.
Tiger Lily is certainly brave, refusing to tell Captain Hook the location of Peter Pan’s hideout even when her own life is at stake.
But she never speaks and her role in the film is mainly being rescued by Peter and flirting with him afterwards.
1. Princess Eilonwy (The Black Cauldron)
Most of the princesses Disney has chosen to forget about come from films that were not financially successful, an understatement in the case of ‘The Black Cauldron.’
Eilonwy had the double misfortune of starring in a massive flop and being a major downgrade of the strong-willed character from the book on which the film is based.
Eilonwy just doesn’t have much to do and the fact that she’s a princess is only barely mentioned.
Simply because their films were made in the long lost Disney days, doesn’t mean they should simply be forgotten!