Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The Influence of Fairy Tales

Over the holiday weekend, my family went to see Tangled in theaters. One word came to mind when Disney's latest fairy tale came to a close - adorable. Tangled is the story of Rapunzel, which pulled in an unexpected $49 million opening at the box office, a record for Disney fairy tales and second only to Toy Story 2 for all other Disney animations.

One of the reasons I wanted to see Tangled most (besides thieving hero, Flynn Rider, who is based on Errol Flynn) is because this is probably the last Disney fairy tale we will see for some time. According to studio reports, to prevent alienating young male viewers who are more interested in action and superheroes, there are no plans to continue making fairy tales and musicals. While it's understandable that little boys would much rather see Spidey on screen and there are only so many of these classic fairy tales to spin fresh onscreen without being redundant, I'll certainly miss the animated HEA's. It's a sentimental thing, I guess. The first movie my parents took me to see in theaters was The Little Mermaid. Who can beat that? And the first story I wrote as a child was heavily influenced by Cinderella.

Is there a romance writer out there who hasn't been influenced in some way by fairy tales? The great thing about the genre, for me, is that they are stories with familiar themes as well as hope and morals, but they also have a dark side filled with monsters and ghouls, the mythical and the physical. Whether it's the voodoo man in The Princess and the Frog or the witch, Maleficent, in Sleeping Beauty, there is always some kind of dark or misguided villain. My favorite is Jafar from Aladdin. And how about lovable secondary characters and sidekicks? Disney fairy tales have them in spades. Tangled serves as an excellent example - Rapunzel's constant companion is in fact a chameleon named Pascal who serves as somewhat of a big brother. Flynn's reluctant ally is the noble and doggish steed, Maximus. The pub thugs offered up a lot of laughs and a helpful hand. Even villainous mother figure Gothel has a couple of roguish sidekicks. A lot of the themes and story elements in romance can certainly be indenfied with fairy tales - whether they were brought to us by Disney or the brothers Grimm.

So who else will miss Disney's fairy tales? Any other writers influenced by them? And I'd love to hear faves! Beauty and the Beast is still #1 on my list. What bookish girl didn't relate to Belle? Screw roses. I'll take the library any day :)


Missy Roth said...

I saw this movie, also, and enjoyed it so much I've compared it to the likes of Beauty and the Beast and Sleeping Beauty (which is my favorite). It was beautifully designed and animated, and Alan Menken is an incredibly talented composer. There wasn't a slow spot to be found!

I love the escape these stories provide for us and wasn't aware that such changes were on the horizon. In a house full of boys, a girl needs somewhere to hide! I will certainly miss them!

Amber Leigh Williams said...

Me, too, Missy! I think the big opening for Tangled should open Disney's eyes to the fact that fairy tales do still have a large audience and they should keep making them :)

Thanks for stopping by!

Anonymous said...

Fairy tales have always been a huge part of my childhood and I still would prefer watching a Disney movie over any other. The concept of fairy tales provides the beautiful hope for a happy ending. Beauty and the Beast is also my favourite movie and this one really does seem a bit similar. Libraries are way cooler than roses ;) I will miss Disney fairy tales a lot, but we always have the classics.