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The Happier Endings: How Disney Makes Hans Christian Anderson More Appealing

written by: Sarah Degnan Moje • edited by: Tricia Goss • updated: 8/29/2014

Students and teachers need to look no further than The Little Mermaid and The Snow Queen, known now to girls worldwide as Frozen, in order to get a sense of just how different a movie can be from an original story.

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    Why Hans Christian Anderson?

    When one first reads a fairy tale by Hans Christian Anderson, a shock may occur. Far from happily ever after, his stories often feature heroines whose dreams do not come true, misunderstood queens believed to be evil and instances where good does not always triumph. His work is not the stuff of daydreams, but when compared with the Disney adaptations of his works, his writings lend themselves to some excellent opportunities for compare and contrast essays.

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    The Little Mermaid

    Little Mermaid Forget about a happy ending, and don’t read on if you have not yet read the text version of The Little Mermaid. There is no happily ever after for our young mermaid princess. She dies soulless and is doomed to an existence as sea foam until she can earn a soul. This is after, of course, she is encouraged to murder the prince by her mer-sisters and after she endures unbearable pain every time she walks on her new legs. She still has no voice and there is still a sea witch, but aside from that, Disney gave us a much happier and for many, more enjoyable version of this story.

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    Frozen vs. The Snow Queen

    The Snow Queen Illustration You may find it difficult to consider using Frozen in the classroom, as young girls have spent the past year worshipping Queen Elsa and force-feeding the film to adults. What can I say about those negative feelings except, “Let it go!" because using Frozen to teach compare and contrast is an excellent lesson for middle school students. Disney may have changed the name, but they kept true to the idea of a misunderstood queen who is hated by people because she is different. The Snow Queen may not be as nice as Elsa is and may not get her happy ending, but the character in both the story and the film share a remarkable number of traits that students can only truly see if they engage in an in-depth character study. It just may be time to teach Frozen in English class.

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    PowerPoint Downloads

    Using the downloadable PowerPoints as guides, engage your students in some princess compare and contrast that will leave them surprised.

    The Little Mermaid

    Frozen

Comparing Disney Movies with Their Source Material

Disney often uses a broad creative license to change the original fairy tales quite a bit. Can you recognize the source material from the end product? This series is appropriate for Middle School or High School students
  1. The Draught of Sleep… Disney, the Grimm Brothers and Two Sleeping Gals
  2. How Disney Puts a New Spin On Cinderella and The Frog Prince
  3. The Happier Endings: How Disney Makes Hans Christian Anderson More Appealing

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