Disney rips their movie plots straight from the headlines... of books about classic fairy tales, but they often take artistic license. And by "take artistic license," I mean they leave out important details, like if the main character dies or if the world is a miserable, unfair place. Enjoy these comparisons between Disney movies and the real stories they are based on.
Two orphaned princesses, Anna and Elsa, grow up with a strained relationship because Elsa wants to protect Anna from her magical ice powers. Once Elsa accidentally reveals her powers, she runs away, sending the kingdom into an ice age while singing the catchiest song known to mankind. To save the kingdom and their relationship, Anna retrieves Elsa and rekindles their bond.
In The Snow Queen, the story that Frozen was based off of, the two protagonists, Gerda and Kai, are not sisters. They are childhood best friends who grew up next to each other (I'm forced to assume the foundation of their friendship was geographical convenience and weird names). Kai is kidnapped by the Snow Queen after her kisses freeze him and erase his memory. Gerda goes on a long quest to rescue Kai and ultimately saves him. With a kiss. A very traumatic kiss since the last kisses he received paralyzed and brainwashed him.
Rapunzel lives in a tower with controlling Mother Gothel. The charming fugitive, Flynn Rider, helps her escape and explore the kingdom. While Rapunzel falls in love with Flynn, despite learning his real name is Eugene, she also learns she is actually a princess. They get rid of Mother Gothel and the two live happily ever after.
One day, a prince climbs into Rapunzel's tower and falls in love with her. When Dame Gothel finds out, she lures the prince to the tower by cutting off Rapunzel's hair and dangling it out the window (this is Rapunzel and the prince's not-so-subtle signal. Like the Bat-Signal. But, like, even less subtle.) When the prince is confronted by Dame Gothel and not Rapunzel, he jumps from the tower and lands on the thorns below and is immediately blinded. And that's why you don't break your fall with your eyes.
The princess, Snow White, is driven out of her home by her jealous step-mother, the Evil Queen. She takes refuge in the forest with seven friendly dwarves. When the Evil Queen finds out that her step-daughter is still alive, she disguises herself as an evil witch and persuades Snow White to eat a poisoned apple. Snow White falls into a sleep from which she is awakened by a kiss from Prince Charming.
The biggest difference between the Disney movie and the original Brothers Grimm's fairy tale is the Evil Queen's punishment. When the Evil Queen arrives at Snow White and Prince Charming's wedding, Snow White punishes her step-mother by forcing her to wear hot iron shoes and dance until she dies. Do you think Snow White made her dance to Cotton-Eyed Joe? Or Cha-Cha slide?
Pocahontas, a Native American princess, falls in love with John Smith, a British colonist, despite the rising tensions between her tribe and the colonists. She saves John's life before her father can execute him, and her heroic act brings peace to the two opposing groups.
This is the only Disney princess movie based on a true story. It is also the most distorted story. After John Smith returned to England, Pocahontas was kidnapped for a while during which she converted to Christianity and married John Rolfe. Years later, she visited London and was exhibited as an example of a "civilized" Native America. Before she could return home, she died of unknown causes. Worst of all, though, there were absolutely no accounts of Pocahontas frolicking with an endearing raccoon or a talking tree. NONE.
Disguised as a man, Mulan enlists in place of her elderly father. With the help of her spiritual guardian, a miniature dragon named Mushu, she distinguishes herself as a strong warrior. She returns home, having made her family proud and won the heart of her handsome general. Voiced by Donny Osmond.
The original story is a ballad called Hua Mulan. In the ballad, Mulan returns home happy and safe. However, an addition to the original ballad, Sui Tang Yanyi, ends with Mulan returning home to find her family has fallen apart. Her only option is to become a concubine. She commits suicide instead. I guess Mushu couldn't intervene and find her a better job than sex slave.
A beautiful mermaid, Ariel, falls in love with a prince. She trades her voice for legs so she can court her love. Fortunately, the nice-legs, no-voice combination totally works for Prince Eric. Ariel and Prince Eric get married and live happily ever after.
In Hans Christian Anderson's Little Mermaid, the bargain with Ursula is the same. Except the detail that walking on her new feet is incredibly painful for Ariel. And the stipulation that Prince Eric must fall in love with Ariel or she will die. Despite all of the painful dancing Ariel does for his enjoyment, Prince Eric falls in love with and marries another girl. Ariel dies and dissolves into sea foam. Did I mention Ariel is 15 years old?
A human boy, Mowgli, is raised by a pack of wolves. When his wolf-mother learns that a man-eating tiger has returned to the jungle, she sends Mowgli to a human village to save his life. Although he is very reluctant to rejoin human society, he changes his mind when he sees and becomes instantly smitten with a human girl.
In Rudyard Kipling's collection of short stories The Jungle Book, Mowgli never adjusts to village life because, uh, he was raised by wolves. (He's probably sexually attracted to wolves, not human girls. Kipling doesn't explicitly say this, but we can assume.) Also, Kipling wrote that Mowgli was 11 years old and naked when he fought a tiger.
A hard-working, entrepreneurial waitress, Tatiana gets turned into a frog when she tries to help Prince Naveen. The two travel through the bayou, searcing for a solution, before they fall in love, reverse the curse and live happily ever after.
The Princess and the Frog is based on the book, The Frog Princess, which is based on the fairy tale, "The Frog Prince." In the original story, a frog tells a princess he needs her help to be turned back into a human. In disgust, she throws him against the wall. This, not a kiss, suffices to break the spell, and he is revealed to be a handsome (and badly bruised) prince. This is a better "How We Met" story than the one most of us have, which is: "I saw a small photo of her/him and swiped right!"
Pinocchio is a wooden puppet who wants very badly to be a real boy. In his naivete, he makes a few poor decisions and learns a few important lessons. Ultimately, the Blue Fairy grants his wish and he becomes human.
The original Pinocchio is a menace whom Gepetto should have used as kindling. In Carlo Collodi's story, the puppet gets Gepetto arrested for child abuse (Do the laws of child abuse apply to puppets?), and he murders a talking cricket (Jiminy Cricket!). As Pinocchio continues his delinquency, the ghost of the cricket warns Pinocchio to reform his immoral ways. The wooden punk ignores him (who could ignore the advice of AN INSECT RETURNED FROM THE GRAVE?!) and continues to make Gepetto's life a living hell before he gets turned into a real boy anyway!