Fairy tales have been an integral part of the animation genre ever since its inception, as the very first full-length animated movie, 1937’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, was based on a well-known Brothers Grimm tale. Movie theaters have been flooded with adaptations of other fairy tales in the years since, with the following five standing as the best that the genre has to offer:
Disney’s 50th animated release, Tangled actually marks the first time that the Brothers Grimm’s classic fairy tale has been adapted into a full-length feature. The original story was first published in 1812 under the title Rapunzel, which is what the Disney version was also going to be called before it was changed to Tangled. Both the original story and the animated film share a basic premise – a young girl with long, flowing hair is held in an isolated tower by an evil witch – but the similarities end there. Disney’s take on the material involves plenty of adventure and comic relief, while the Brothers Grimm offer up a typically bleak tale in which Rapunzel rarely leaves the tower and her love interest is blinded by a witch.
Though it lampoons a number of different fairy tales, Shrek actually started out as a fairy tale itself. In 1990, William Steig, a prolific but obscure novelist in his 80s, published a 32-page children’s book called Shrek!, which tells the story of a feared ogre who finds love after leaving his home for the very first time. And while the movie replicates the book’s basic storyline, the filmmakers at DreamWorks Animation have essentially used the premise as a jumping-off point for a satire of the fairy tale genre’s various conventions and clichés.
3. 'The Little Mermaid' (1989)
The Little Mermaid holds a special place in the hearts of most animation buffs, as the film marked the beginning of Disney’s fabled renaissance that resulted in modern classics like 1992’s Aladdin and 1994’s The Lion King. The movie is based on Hans Christian Andersen’s 1837 fairy tale, and the filmmakers stick quite closely to the source material – up to a point. In the movie, Ariel is permanently changed into a human by Triton and she lives happily ever after with Prince Eric. In Andersen’s dark tale, however, the Little Mermaid dies after the Prince marries the Princess he believes saved his life (although it was actually the Little Mermaid that saved him).
4. 'Beauty and the Beast' (1991)
Released in 1991, Beauty and the Beast remains one of Disney’s most cherished and successful fairy-tale adaptations. The original story was written in 1740 by a French author named Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve and basically follows the same storyline laid out in Disney’s versions, although there are a few changes here and there. Perhaps the biggest change between the two stories is the fact that Belle is an only child in Disney’s adaptation, as the character, in the original tale, has a pair of evil sisters who trick Belle into staying away from Beast for one day longer than she had promised – which, Belle’s siblings hope, will make Beast so angry with Belle that he’ll eat her alive.
5. 'Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs' (1937)
As Disney’s first animated film, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs instantly created the fairy-tale mold that many of the studio’s films have followed in the decades since its release. The movie is based on a German story that was eventually popularized by the Brothers Grimm, and unlike many adaptations of Brothers Grimm works, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs retains many of the plot twists and characters found in its literary inspiration. The biggest difference between the two stories involves the poisoned apple that Snow White inadvertently eats, which, in the original story, is eventually dislodged and that’s how Snow White wakes up from her deep sleep. (In the movie, of course, it’s a kiss from the Prince that awakens Snow White.)