Disney Will No Longer Produce Animated Films Based On Classic Fairy Tales

"We don't have any other ... fairy tales lined up ... for the foreseeable future."

Sad and very disappointing news to pass along today Disney Animation fans … according to the company itself, The Walt Disney Company will no longer produce animated/musical films based on classic fairy tales. Tangled, Disney‘s modern take on Rapunzel, hits theaters next week and altho the film will not be presented in traditional 2D animation, it will feature a classic fairy tale story (like Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs) set to a musical soundtrack (like The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin) … and, sadly, it will be the last Disney animated feature to do so … at least for the “foreseeable future”:

Once upon a time, there was a studio in Burbank that spun classic fairy tales into silver-screen gold. But now the curtain is falling on “princess movies,” which have been a part of Disney Animation’s heritage since the 1937 debut of its first feature film, “Snow White.” The studio’s Wednesday release of “Tangled,” a contemporary retelling of the Rapunzel story, will be the last fairy tale produced by Disney’s animation group for the foreseeable future. “Films and genres do run a course,” said Pixar Animation Studios chief Ed Catmull, who along with director John Lasseter oversees Disney Animation. “They may come back later because someone has a fresh take on it … but we don’t have any other musicals or fairy tales lined up.” Indeed, Catmull and Lasseter killed two other fairy tale movies that had been in development, “The Snow Queen” and “Jack and the Beanstalk.” To appreciate what a sea change this is for the company, consider that a fairy tale castle is a landmark at Disney theme parks around the world and is embedded in the Walt Disney Pictures logo. Fairy tale characters from Disney’s movies populate the parks, drive sales of merchandise and serve as the inspiration for Broadway musicals … Over the decades, Disney has benefited from the ticket sales and licensing revenue generated by such princess-driven properties as “The Little Mermaid,” “Beauty and the Beast” and “Aladdin.” The studio’s most recent offering, however, was a clear disappointment. Although critically acclaimed, last year’s “The Princess and the Frog” was the most poorly performing of Disney’s recent fairy tales. In the age of mega-franchises when movies need to appeal to a broad audience to justify a sizable investment, Disney discovered too late that “Princess and the Frog” appealed to too narrow an audience: little girls. This prompted the studio to change the name of its Rapunzel movie to the gender-neutral “Tangled” and shift the lens of its marketing to the film’s swashbuckling male costar, Flynn Rider …

The article excerpt continues, after the jump …

So why has the clock struck midnight for Disney’s fairy tales? Among girls, princesses and the romanticized ideal they represent — revolving around finding the man of your dreams — have a limited shelf life. With the advent of “tween” TV, the tiara-wearing ideal of femininity has been supplanted by new adolescent role models such as the Disney Channel’s Selena Gomez and Nickelodeon’s Miranda Cosgrove. “By the time they’re 5 or 6, they’re not interested in being princesses,” said Dafna Lemish, chairwoman of the radio and TV department at Southern Illinois University and an expert in the role of media in children’s lives. “They’re interested in being hot, in being cool. Clearly, they see this is what society values” … “You’ve got to go with the times,” MGA Chief Executive Isaac Larian said. “You can’t keep selling what the mothers and the fathers played with before. You’ve got to see life through their lens” … Bonnie Arnold, an animation veteran who most recently produced DreamWorks Animation’s “How to Train Your Dragon,” said animated films must vie in the cineplex with effects-laden action films that a generation ago might have been considered more mature fare. “You see elementary school kids standing in line to see ‘Iron Man’ or ‘Transformers,’ ” Arnold said. “To be honest, that’s who we’re all competing with on some level.” In an effort to give the Rapunzel story a more contemporary feel, Catmull and Lasseter pushed the reset button in 2008 and brought in a new directing duo who had both worked on Disney’s animated movie “Bolt.” The Rapunzel film underwent a “total restart,” Catmull said: All the prior work was scrapped and the movie was reconceived as a musical with five songs by Disney’s veteran, multiple-Oscar-winning composer Alan Menken. The only surviving elements, Catmull said, were “the hair, the tower and Rapunzel.”

The company feels that the use of fairy tales, a tradition upon which Disney Animation feature films was founded on back in 1936 with Snow White, has “run its course” and that they must focus on new stories to win “wider appeal”. I personally think this is bullshizz. While I LOVE new, original stories like Toy Story, Up!, Monster’s Inc., etc. I really feel that the heart and soul of Disney animation (and animated films in general) comes from the retelling of classic fairy tales. Fairy tales resonate within all of us … they are ancient tales that spark archetypes in our collective psyches and give us all a familiar point of reference to respond to. I don’t understand why there needs to be a complete cut off of that spark. The new animated films are fantastic, yes, but I’m really bummed that classic tales will be thrown by the wayside in order to appeal to a wider audience. Why can’t they alternate new and old stories? Why can’t they, at the very least, put out a classic fairy tale every other year … every 5th year, something? IMHO, the new stories told by Disney/Pixar have a decidedly Western feel to them (like Cars) … while classic fairy tales (like Aladdin, for example) have a much wider appeal. I dunno … this news just really rubs me the wrong way. What do y’all think … are you bothered at all by this news? Do you think telling fairy tales has “run its course” or do you, like me, believe that there is still merit and entertainment to be had in modern retellings of classic fairy tales?

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  1. Aylee

    Very sad to hear this. Those Disney fairy tales were my childhood growing up. And I definitely agree with you. Fairy Tales are classic, they could never run their course.

  2. nina

    Ugh, how sad. When my daughter was in 1st grade (2 years ago) we went to a birthday party where the music blasting was High School Musical and then half way through the evening the parents in charge wanted to pull out the movie for the girls to watch! The girls were 6 years old!!! I think parents have become lazy about what their children are seeing and expieriencing these days, and it’s not for the childs benifit! Childhood is basically over at 6 or 7 due to the parents.

  3. Joanna

    Everything I’ve ever come to know and love about Disney is gone:( I grew up on those fairytale movies. Cinderella, The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, etc. are some of my favorite movies. I think they are getting away from this format because they aren’t getting the same rave reviews for them like they used to. The Princess and the Frog was the first classic style Disney movie to get mixed reviews with a leaning more towards negativity in a long time. They are kinda like Fox in that they get negative feedback on their movies and axe the entire thing without telling the fans the TRUE reason why they did so. Wanting to win wider appeal my ass! The image that Disney has built up for such a long time as died with this announcement. You just know they are NEVER going to make those kinds of movies again and it is really a sad day. Peace the Spork Out indeed!

  4. Kayla

    This is so sad, like many others here I grew up on the Disney fairytale movies and don’t want to see Disney stop making them

  5. nicole

    i kinda get what there saying, but it breaks my heart. i mean, thats my childhood right there just getting cut off.

  6. ems

    I just wish Disney would go back to hand drawn animation. It is sad about the fairy tales, but I guess I understand it. Some of my favorite Disney films however weren’t of the fairy tale kind. 101 Dalmatians, The Great Mouse Detective, The Lion King, Alice in Wonderland, The Aristocats, and The Hunchback of Notre Dame were all great classic Disney flims. Pixar is great, but I really just feel that Disney has lost their magic and creating timeless films.

  7. loriannakim

    This is bullshit! period.

  8. Chris

    Sad news indeed. If they feel like they’ve exhausted the English language fairy tales, they should just look at the rest of the world’s. Classic stories are classic for a reason.

  9. Patty

    I feel like when Disney says it’s time to give up on innocence, it’s a sad, sad day. Boo. :-(

  10. Sara

    This is very depressing. Disney “magic” comes from their ability to tell/re-tell stories in their own way. My concern is that they will try to compete with ‘Transformers’ and ‘Iron Man’ in a new direction which will make Disney lose their “magic.” I think that could end up hurting them more than helping them.
    And, Nina, I agree that the parents are partially at fault. I know that my children will be watching the classic Disney movies while growing up.

  11. Robin

    It’s disheartening to know that the type of movies that provided the foundation for their empire is being completely abandoned. Kids today, unless they’re being introduced to the old classics are really only familiar with stuff like Tangled, and Toy Story which is a more modern/humorous approach to storytelling. Those ‘old’ princess movies are not just for girls, I put in the Little Mermaid once for my nephews and they’ve been bugging ever since to watch it again. They love the songs. I agree that they should maybe do one every few years.. there’s so many classic stories they have yet to work their magic on.

  12. Dora

    I can understand that in this day and age they have a “bottom line”. However, I agree with the others that those classic fairy tale old-school Disney movies are among my favorite movies of all time (both animated and non). Pixar is amazing and I love their movies, but in a different way. Pixar is modern and funny and smart, but those old Disney movies just have a MAGIC about them. They made me believe as a kid that magic was real and remind me as an adult, how vital and beautiful imagination is. What a shame that Disney will not fight the sad direction our children’s entertainment is going in but rather endorse it.

  13. MzWoods

    The Princess and the Frog got negative reviews because it was a bad movie…had nothing to do with it only appealing to a “small” demographic. If classic fairy tales had truly lost their appeal then I wouldn’t be able to pull out a DVD of Sleeping Beauty or Cinderella or Aladdin or any of the older movies and show it to little girl and have it become her fave movie. It’s their creativity that is lacking…not the audience.

  14. Meredth

    This is very sad news, but maybe (to be a ridiculous optimist) this will leave a hole in the film industry that new artists will fill. Lovers of story need folk and fairy tales more than we need Disney.

  15. Jeff Kurtti

    Ridiculous. Walt Disney made exactly three fairy tales into feature films. The lapse between Sleeping Beauty and The Little Mermaid was THIRTY years. Why do people write articles about such stuff without one whit of foundation?

  16. K

    Gutted, absolutey gutted.

    There’s just something magical about the classic animated Disney films, they are timeless. I could watch Beauty and the Beast everyday and not get sick of it.

    I actually quited liked The Princess and the Frog and think that in a few years it could well be considered a great Disney movie, the others we’ve grown up with which is probably why they are so loved and cherished, The Princess and the Frog hasn’t had that chance.

  17. babybunny

    As terrible as this news is, I think it is best for them to leave them alone for awhile. They have been lacking their magic for sometime and are butchering “Fairy Tales”. Hopefully they can pull it together later and start putting them out.

  18. toast

    It is ok, it leaves Tim Burton some room to create more movies, actually I wouldn’t mind a box set of Grimm Fairy Tales created by him, that would be a huge hit and generate lots of money for the movie industry.

    I wish I got paid for these damn ideas

  19. stranded

    What Disney Inc. can never seem to realize is that they long ago stopped letting the artists make their films. Their movies are now created by MBA’s and focus groups, so that originality and vision are squashed. Occasionally something like The Incredibles, which is essentially the singular vision of one director, will get through, but Disney won’t allow that with their 2D animation. Those movies are secondary to the merchandising, and merchandising has to fit all the right niches.

    Rapunzel is a project that goes back at least 6 years, through numerous revisions. It was initially supposed to be a ripoff of Shrek, but somewhere along the line its director started giving it something worth watching, which was too much for Disney to allow. So they axed him and replaced him with people who’d tow the company line. So now, once again, Rapunzel is just a Shrek ripoff. The trailers look odious. When the company is announcing that they’re discontinuing fairy tales on the eve of a major fairy tale release, what does that say about their faith in the movie?

    Like all big companies that have lost their way, Disney doesn’t understand that the reason the Frog movie failed was that it was terrible because of their own systemic rot. It had absolutely nothing in it that Walt Disney would have cared about, and in fact sort of spit in the face of all that he achieved in animation standards. It was a corporate monster, not a film made by people who loved animation. For that, I anxiously await the new film by Silvain Chomet, The Illusionist. Not a fairy tale, but a film clearly made by someone who loves the art of animation.

    Even if Disney were to continue to make traditional 2D, they’re incapable of doing it right. Do we really need more like that movie about cows? Unfortunately it’s true. Animation is not dead, but Disney is.

  20. Jeff Kurtti

    @ Stranded: Your chronology of the making of the film is wrong, as are some of your basic ideas. How about some of you folks actually SEE “Tangled” and let it stand on its own merits.

  21. Mandy

    Extremely disappointing. But, I guess that’s what Disney does best. Thank God for DVD and my love of early ’90s Disney animation.

  22. aldo

    this is disappointing. i think they are being lazy and really uncreative.
    there must be a smart way to push restart in a really original way like they did back then when they needed something fresh and the little mermaid came out. and it blew everyone away, i don’t know. they even seem lazy over there in the pixar department as well making toy story 3, cars 2, monster inc 2, etc… whats going on? they need fresh, new talent.
    this coming from walt disney studios is really disapointing and sad.

  23. Socal

    Says the beast after it’s sucked the last speck of viable marrow from the bone.

  24. Rextrek

    ..I’d love to see Disney Pixar..redo – BEWITCHED, this time done in PIXAR format, using Original sound effects, great voice overs (maybe Erin Murphy/Tabitha playin Samantha’s voice?) ..and of course the PIXAR versin of the Original House….. would be a great way to relaunch the series to a whole new generation of kids.

  25. Amanda

    It is understandable that the times have changed but i do know that disney wants to make a buck, you cannot squeeze blood out of a turnip, I wish luck on Disney and evers and i belive that going to action movies, is a new trend, just very dissapointing.

  26. ken

    So this means we’re stuck with even MORE stupid action flicks, as if the industry wasn’t making enough of those? Disney just dumped the only genre that made them UNIQUE.

  27. holly

    Yes because everyone wants to see more of the other crap they’ve been spewing don’t they.

    My childhood is officially destroyed.

  28. Justin

    I wonder if they’ll change their tune after “Tangled” has gotten RAVE reviews and made more money than they expected? There were several parts that screamed “magical”, and they say it has the best Disney Villain in over a decade. Not only that, but they are saying it fits right in with The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast, only it’s cgi, which YANKED “Classic Disney” into the new foremost animation style.
    I saw it last night, and read these reviews this morning. I definately agree with them (I cant remember links, just google Tangled Reviews, and you’ll find them. They are rampant.)

  29. Aaron

    I grew up with all these fairy tales and loved them all. theres plenty fairy tales disney can do to please both boys and girls rumplestilskin, hansel and gretel, the pied piper just to name a few.

  30. cxn

    @justin i sincerely hope so because i still have the tingly magical vibes that i get from disney movies 8 days after watching tangled. i have the soundtrack, the lyrics, heck i’d even buy the rapunzel DOLL if i could…

  31. iradieuse

    It is just so very sad. Children are deprived of childhood, of dreams, influenced sexually charged and violent content on the screens. This dangerous evolution has a direct effect on their psychology. And nobody says anything, nobody questions these dangerous changes our society is undergoing?

  32. Patrick

    I know it’s sad, but disney have to think profitly, but the old movies would defently give them more money, then these new they have been making..

    I got a small hope of they will be making a fourth Lion King movie…

  33. oscar

    I’m bummed out about this. I’d like to see their versions of Dracula, Frankenstein, The Invisible Man, Peter Rabbit, Doctor Dolittle and more.

  34. Well, they’re going back on this- Frozen (giving the “Tangled” naming treatment to “The Snow Queen”) will be out this year. No fairy tales after that are in development, to my knowledge, though they ARE apparently adapting a story by… Philip K. Dick?!? Trippy.

  35. Dyako

    They should not stop.These films are the best and not boring or old.I think Disney should make more animated films like tangled and frozen.

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