Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Disney Characters in a "Non-Disney" Show

So I'm sure you've heard of the new ABC series "Once Upon a Time"?  It's an interesting idea, really: fairy-tale characters being taken to the real world and not remembering who their fantasy counterparts are.  And while I haven't watched the show yet (parents, ugh), I do honestly like it.

Except for the Disney characters tossed in.

I have to say that this show isn't really using Disney characters.  I mean, they are: obviously Belle is from the Disney version Beauty and the Beast.  But the show is taking these characters (and by the way, they're allowed to use the Disney characters; Disney owns ABC) and changing their stories.  So other than the fact that their names match up, they aren't really Disney characters at all.

And just so this is clear, I'm not counting basic fairytale characters as Disney characters, such as Cinderella.  That's the name of the girl from the fairytale; Disney did not make it up.  No, I'm referring to Belle, Gaston, Maleficent...names and sometimes characters that Disney created for their films who are now put in these episodes.

And correct me if I'm ever wrong in this post: I haven't watched the show remember?  I'm going off by what I've read.

So let's compare the characters to their Disney counterparts.

Take Maleficent for example.

In "Year of the Disney Dragon," I shared with you that Maleficent is my favorite Disney villain.  And I'm very picky about how my favorite characters are portrayed (which is a hint that I'm not too thrilled about the upcoming Maleficent on that later).

Just take a look at this.

Maleficent from the original movie.
Photo from the Disney Wiki.
Maleficent in "Once Upon a Time."
She is portrayed by Kristin Bauer van Straten.
Photo from Wikipedia.

Do they even bare a slight resemblance?  Oh, of course, the horns.


Not even some green skin.  Even Elphaba got it in all her shows: it'd be horrifying if she didn't appear without it!  Everyone knows the Wicked Witch of the West has green skin; what about Maleficent?

And now she has blond curly hair?

Skin Deep: Beauty and the Beast Characters

First, let's take a look at Belle.

Belle from the original movie.
Photo from the Disney Wiki.
Belle (foreground) in "Once Upon a Time."
She is portrayed by Emilie de Ravin.
Photo from the Once Upon a Time Wiki.
That's Rumpelstiltskin in the back, who ends up
being the Beast.

Yes, these two do look awfully alike, don't they?  Much better than Maleficent.  I'm actually quite happy with how they portrayed one of the most popular Disney characters of all time.  Also very jealous of that dress.

Aside from their physical appearance, there are a few interesting differences between the original Disney version and the one who stars in the episode "Skin Deep."

Firstly, Belle is engaged to Gaston when the episode starts out!  That's the most preposterous thing I've ever heard!  Wasn't the original movie based off of how she rejected Gaston because all he cared about was physical beauty (going back to the whole idea of "Skin Deep")?  And yet here she's engaged.

It sounds awfully similar to some fan stories where Belle and Gaston end up getting together instead of Belle and the Prince.  However, here in "Once Upon a Time," things get...better.

Another thing I thought was also interesting was that Belle's father Maurice is the king or something of a kingdom.  Wasn't he the crazy inventor?  (And I realize in the original fairytale, Belle's father is a merchant, but don't forget I'm focusing on the Disney version.)

Also note that this makes Belle a princess from the gecko, instead of through marrying her prince.

I found it cute however that she stills calls Maurice "Papa," just like in the original movie.

Now the thing that bugs me the most: Rumpelstiltskin is the Beast!  What happened to Prince Adam?

Again, let me remind myself about them not being really the Disney characters or stories...

Moving onto Gaston...

Gaston, with his "biceps to spare," from the
original movie.
Photo from the Disney Wiki.
Gaston in "Once Upon a Time,"
portrayed by Sage Brocklebank.
Photo from the Once Upon a Time Wiki.
What really bugs me about Gaston is that he's lost all of his character.  He's no longer the self-absorbed guy who cares about skin deep beauty.  Nor is he muscular: where did his "biceps to spare" go?

Being the villain of the Disney version, Gaston was killed by falling to his death.  Not exactly the Beast's fault, as Gaston seemed to have lost either his footing or grip.  But in "Once Upon a Time," the "Beast" aka Rumpelstiltskin turns him into a rose to give to Belle, who sorta just shrugs off the fact that their marriage was arranged.

Only pictures this time for Maurice.  Just want you to get a good look at the physical differences.

A clipart version of Maurice from the original movie.
He's shorter than Belle.
Clipart from the Disney Wiki.
Maurice in "Once Upon a Time."
He is portrayed by Eric Keenleyside.
He's taller than Belle.
Photo from the Once Upon a Time Wiki.

So the verdict: Belle is the only one who really looks like her "Disney" counterpart?

Looks like it.

One Final Question

The last thing that I've been wondering ever since I first heard Maleficent was to appear on the show is why use these Disney characters?

Why not be original, like the show already is with the story ideas, and use your own characters?  Do you need Maleficent from Sleeping Beauty or couldn't you have just made a new name for an age-old character: the evil fairy?

I think this site is worth reading.  But it still doesn't completely answer my question.

So to close this post: Why Disney over more original?


  1. Last semester they also refer to the cricket from Pinnocio as "Jimminy Cricket" which was only his name in the Disney version, just FYI. Also the fact that they used Rumplestiltskin as the Beast runs along with the whole story. They needed to make a love connection for him and the original Rumplestilskin doesn't have one. I think that was really the only fairy tail they could have used well for his charactor. What really bugged me about the episode "Skin Deep" is that Belle speaks in an English accent. Why couldn't she have done French? Whatever. Once Upon a Time is still my favorite TV show... :)

  2. I also don't like the Disney references either. They can get kinda annoying when they totally change the charactors. Maleficient was terrible... I have a feeling they make all the references just because they can. :P

  3. Yes, I was going to do Jiminy, but he's harder to do since he's a cricket, not a person. Crickets all look an awful lot alike.
    Yes, agreeing with your last comment.


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