by Jeremy Rodriguez)
Some of the world’s most well-known fairy tales were written by Hans Christian Andersen. It’s no wonder his beloved short stories have survived since the early 1800s and have been told and re-told in countless different formats. However, some of the most memorable versions of these stories have come from Disney. With major adaptations such as The Little Mermaid and Frozen (a loose adaptation of The Snow Queen), Disney brought these stories to life for children everywhere. But what other Andersen tales should Disney bring to life? We've got a few suggestions.
1. The Ugly Duckling: As one of Andersen’s most beloved stories, it’s surprising Disney hasn’t picked this up as a major animated film (though they did make a Silly Symphony animated short). The story is about a duck who is outcasted by his own family for looking different only to eventually be accepted and embraced by a group of swans. Eventually, the ugly duckling becomes a swan, himself.
If Disney brought this story to life, it could teach lessons to children not only to believe that things get better but that family isn’t necessarily about blood. Your family consists of the people who treat you like family. Also, while this is briefly touched on in the Silly Symphony short, how would the ugly duckling react if his family decided to accept him after he became a swan?
This story would surely feature dozens of "Let It Go"-style musical numbers as the ugly duckling accepts himself and his new family.
2. The Princess and the Pea: Andersen’s version of the story follows a prince who wants to marry a “real” princess. When a girl claiming to be a real princess comes to the castle in the middle of the storm, the queen is immediately suspicious. So she puts a single pea underneath twenty mattresses and has the princess sleep on top of them.
When asked about how she slept, the princess immediately responds that she was miserable and had several bruises. This solidifies that she was a real princess since she was able to feel a pea underneath all of those mattresses and the prince takes her as his wife.
While the story ends with a happily ever after, one must question how the characters got there. The prince basically chose the girl as his wife because a tiny seed bothered her while sleeping. This does not sound like the beginning of a healthy relationship and the whole concept could be analyzed by feminist groups for hours. The prince obviously set his expectations too high in order to get the “perfect” woman. Disney could either take the angle of having the princess leave the prince for being so shallow or the princess could be the “perfect” girl in a love triangle involving the prince and an average girl. The story could be used as a stepping stone to show children that no one is perfect...an ugly duckling, you might say?
3. The Shepherd’s Story of the Bond of Friendship: Disney hasn’t had a great film revolving around a friendship between two dudes since The Fox and the Hound. This Andersen tale could be the next great story about putting friendship before relationships. The story follows the narrator as he grows up with the love of his life, Anastasia. Things get complicated when the boy’s friend, Aphtanides, falls for Anastasia as well but Aphtanides ends up putting his friendship with the narrator first.
While the story is simple enough, Disney could easily add more layers to make it a multi-faceted story about the importance of friendship. What other arguments did the two friends go through? Could there be another villain? Disney is no stranger to adding more to stories and characters and this tale would be the perfect way to enforce important lessons while adapting a classic story.
4. There Is No Doubt About It: Stories about misunderstanding have been told countless times in different formats but only Disney would be able to deliver a story with comedic flair. This Andersen story follows a community of birds who distort a story so drastically, the original point gets lost. It starts off when a hen overhears another hen plucking out her feather. After the story gets passed along, it ends up turning into a bloodbath as each bird slowly distorts the story from what really happened.
This story would be hard to work into a full-length animated movie but it could be a nice short film where children can learn the importance of listening to a story before passing it on to others. It could even show dark turns by showing the dangers of revealing a story to the wrong person. Also, while it would be humorous to see this story with birds, imagine if it focused on classic characters such as Mickey, Minnie, Donald and Goofy. That would be a hilarious good time for both children and older Disney enthusiasts alike.
5. The Girl Who Trod On the Loaf: Don't let the weirdo title turn you off—this is a classic story of redemption and forgiveness that Disney audiences haven’t seen since Beauty and the Beast. It follows a vain and selfish girl named Inger who takes everyone in her life for granted. After getting a loaf of bread from the family she works for, she heads home only to be stopped by a mud puddle. Since she is too scared to get her dress ruined, she uses the loaf of bread as a stepping stone. Inger regrets that decision as soon as she sinks to the bottom of the mud where she is turned into a statue by a bog witch for several years. After spending years regretting her cruel ways, Inger is eventually turned into a bird and she gathers up bread crumbs for the hungry birds to eat. She eventually accumulates enough breadcrumbs to equal the loaf of bread she stepped on and her soul is free to go to heaven.
This story takes a darker turn than most Disney tales, but remember: the original source material for The Little Mermaid also differed drastically from the final Disney product. It would be interesting to see Inger turn back into a human after finally redeeming herself similar to how the Beast from Beauty and the Beast became a better person. This would give children a chance to see a flawed character transform from evil to good and how she works toward redemption.