5 Famous Stories Disney Stole (And Made Significantly Less Depressing)

God, life is rubbish isn’t it? It’s cold, you’re unattractive, that umbrella you nicked has been nicked off you (how dare they) and you’re really really unattractive. Every time you turn on the news there another story of global disaster that you’re going to have to pretend you understand, the only thing in the fridge is a questionable jar of Nutella and every website you visit keeps going on about how unattractive you are. Is it any wonder you turn to the glittery, warm and bosomy embrace of the cinema in order to block out the horrors outside?

At least we can count on Disney – unstoppable global terror that it is – to provide us with some respite. Disney films, no matter what, can be counted on to give us some joy, to feed us a shiny apple of hope in the depression-fried meal that we call life. But even big dog Disney needs inspiration. And a lot of the time, inspiration comes from existing tales, from history, from myths, from life itself. But life, as we have discussed, is often about as full of light as the inside of a handbag inside a mouth.

We’ve taken a look at the inspiration for five of our favourite Disney films, and discovered that the stories behind them aren’t quite as full of singing ducks and endless cake as we first thought. Take a breath, take a look, and cling on to the good times. Don’t say we didn’t warn you…

The Lion King

disney - lion king
The Disney Story

Released in 1994, The Lion King has delighted young and old with its wonderful songs, loveable characters and it’s disturbing ability to make you fancy cartoon lions. Simba battles his evil uncle Scar for control of his murdered father’s pride of lions, and eventually goodness triumphs, leaving Simba in charge and Scar thrown to his hyenary death. Hurroooaaar!

The Real Story

The story is actually based on Shakespeare’s Hamlet, the tale of a boy who’s father, the King of Denmark, is murdered by his uncle so that he can marry the Queen. This story has origins in Scandinavian legend, and actually ends with everyone dying horribly, either in battle or by poisoning. Sorry Simba. Oh and really, Nala goes mental and drowns herself in a river. Not sure what the accompanying musical number to go with that scene would be…

The Little Mermaid

disney - mermaid
The Disney Story

A story of how true love will triumph, even if you are a bit inconveniently a fish. A young mermaid swaps her voice for some legs, and with the help of some delicious friends convinces a fairly dull Prince that she’d be perfect Queen fodder. Singing, dancing and lots of skimpy underwater clothing, The Little Mermaid teaches us to never stop dreaming those big, leg-based dreams. In your FACE octopus monster woman.

The Real Story

The story was originally written by Hans Christian Andersen, and for those who don’t know, Hans probably had a mum that wished he’d been born a girl, as well as a lot of angry, angry time on his hands. In his version, the mermaid does gets her legs in exchange for her voice, but every step she takes feels like knives are being embedded in her skin. The Prince likes having her around, but eventually dumps her for someone a bit chattier. Without a chipper and slightly racist crab friend to cheer her up, the little mermaid dies, dissolving into a foam and disappears forever. Jesus.


disney- mulan
The Disney Story

The tale of a plucky young girl taking on the entire Hun army in order to show that the ladies can be well hard too. She makes her parents proud, falls in love with a Chinese warrior general and cracks a lot of jokes with Eddie Murphy in lizard form. Though she is found out as a woman, in the end she saves all of China and gets honoured as The Best Person To Ever Do Stuff Ever by the Emperor. To be honest, this army life sounds like one big party to us, especially with all the singing the soldiers seem to do all the time.

The Real Story

The legend of Mulan has been around for many, many years, and was immortalized in an ancient poem The Ballad Of Mulan. In it, as with the Disney version, a young girl secretly joins the Chinese Army in order that her father would not have to serve The difference is that although she was indeed honoured as a great solider, she was honoured as a man. Mulan never came clean as a woman until many, many years later as she was terrified – and with good reason – that she would be very, very murdered by the Chinese Government for deception, war hero or not. Sing it loud, and sing it proud, indeed.


disney - poca
The Disney Story

The central message of this lovely, terrifying-tree based tale is that you must stay true to your roots, know your place in the world and seek out your own path in life. Though Pocahontas loves John Smith (for baffling, unknown reasons), she knows her place is with her Native American family and they part, knowing that their destinies lie not with each other.

The Real Story

Yeah, you know why they don’t lie with each other? It’s cos the real Pocahontas never actually fancied the lisping painting that was John Smith. However, when John Rolfe turned up after Smith had minced off back to England, Poca-babe was more than happy to shoot off to England forever. And to add insult to injury, she died a year later. We bet John was secretly a bit smug about that.


disney - hercules
The Disney Story

A boy who has to prove his worth to big dog Zeus and mum Hera, a long training process to become a hero, and an eventual decision to stay on earth with his true love – it’s enough to make you weep. Herc swaps an immortal life with his family for lots of mortal sex on Earth (fair enough), and teaches us all that when we find where we belong, we won’t need to prove our worth to anyone. Sob!

The Real Story

Yeah that’s nice and all, but Disney forgot to mention that actually Herc was concieved by Zeus and some mortal chick, making him a Godless bastard that Hera actually hated with the power of a thousand knives. And true, he did marry a lass call Megera, but in a slightly unfortunate twist, he also went mad and murdered all their kids. And her as well. Still, he went on to have like seven more wives, so that’s something to sing about, right?

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