You’d be hard pushed to find a Disney film without a spot of romance, but is the same true of their original stories?
The short answer is yes, but that doesn’t mean that they have the same outcome, or that the romance was a good idea in the first place. Or that it even existed outside someone else’s head.
Regardless, every Disney film needs a loved up couple, dammit, so here is a countdown of seven love affairs (or not) glossed over by the House of Mouse so far.
#7: Bambi and Faline
Bambi and Faline are cousins and first encounter each other as fawns. They also become playmates, at least until the manly bucks strut on to the scene, after which Bambi decides he has no time for girls and chases her away with a head butt. The reverse is true in adulthood, however, when he chases away any male opponents with his trusty antlers and even battles a pack of vicious dogs to defend his lady love. The two remain together through hell and high water (pretty much literally), and the film ends with a proud Bambi watching over his mate and their new twins.
Bambi and Faline are also cousins in this version, and they probably see more of each other than their own mothers. When mating season arrives, they enjoy a teenage-like infatuation that comes to an abrupt halt when Bambi sees his badass of a father wandering about. Becoming a noble and lonely stag is suddenly far more interesting to Bambi, and he responds to Faline’s affection with a non-plussed shrug before wandering off into the bushes and never looking back. He does briefly glimpse her later on with a couple of her fawns, but exactly which ones he fathered is anyone’s guess, and he seems about as interested in finding out as he is hanging around Faline once they have popped their respective cherries. But, to his credit, Faline’s is the only heart he breaks – we never hear about other dalliances with the does.
Romance Verdict: Forest Fling.
Interestingly, Disney glossed over the one night stand and abandoned offspring angle but kept the vaguely incestuous one. Still, the sight of all that wood seems to get people going, as we can see from the next entry:
#6: Tarzan and Jane
A pretty zoologist meeting a half-naked jungle warrior was bound to spell romance, and Tarzan and Jane see each other with equal parts fascination and longing. Both are open to new ideas, such as wearing clothes or swinging through jungle vines, and by the end of the film they realise they are both happy living semi-naked among apes and with one respective parent playing gooseberry in their relationship.
A pretty Victorian lady meeting a half-naked jungle warrior also spells romance, but only within the context of a shipwreck or a rescue. For all her swooning, Jane realises in the cold light of day that Tarzan wouldn’t make the most suitable husband in high society, and instead jumps ship with the more conventional and richer William Clayton, despite Tarzan learning English, how to behave like a gentleman, travelling thousands of miles to find her and getting a hair cut. So we have a classic Sk8er Boi situation, and Jane would no doubt kick herself if she knew that Tarzan was Clayton’s older cousin and therefore the real heir to the estate.
Romance Verdict: Fickle Flirtation
Since the Disney film is about embracing who you are, it’s no surprise that this Jane gives up everything to live with Tarzan, rather than leaving the one person she truly loves because her friends just wouldn’t “get” him. If only our next lady had had the same idea:
#5: Megara and Hercules
Thought this one would be higher, didn’t you?
Meg is likely the first woman Hercules has seen for several years, and she has a special place in his heart as his first real damsel in distress (despite being in cahoots with the Lord of the Underworld). This innocent but caring fish-out-of water is just what the jaded young Meg needs, and in the end she even defies Hades and risks losing her soul to protect him. Admirable, seeing as the last boyfriend she gave up her soul for ran off with the next bimbo, but instead our honourable and loving Hercules surrenders his hard-earned godhood so he can stay with her for the rest of his life. Ahh.
Megara was the daughter of the king of Thebes and was given to Heracles in marriage after he saved the city. We’re not sure if Megara was happy about this because she is barely touched upon in the original myths, but we do know she was distinctly unimpressed by Heracles going on a rampage and killing their two sons. In some variations she was also killed, but in the Apollodorus version she survives and Heracles later marries her off to one of his nephews, feeling he is no longer worthy of her after his little massacre. To be fair, he did it because his jealous stepmother Hera made him do it, but he is reasonable enough to know he was an idiot and perhaps not the best husband material.
Romance verdict: Domestic Derangement.
Let’s be honest – Disney wanted some authenticity in their version of Greek mythology, so out of Heracles’ mortal wives they chose the one who didn’t keep centaur jizzum in a jar. This romance is also further down the list because the Disney version stops before we get to the family, and Heracles does show some remorse for his actions. Unlike our next Lothario:
#4: Esmeralda and Phoebus
Back chat, back-handers, and an aversion to religious genocide are just some of the things that this pair have in common. After impressing each other in the street with dancing or use of an animal sidekick, Esmeralda and Phoebus are intrigued by one another, and once they realise they would risk their lives to fight for the greater good, they fall into each other’s arms with a passion as hot as the fire consuming all of Paris. Even the friend-zoned Quasimodo can’t deny that they are made for each other, and sadly accepts that the beautiful gypsy chose the guy with the ridiculous blond goatee.
After Phoebus rescues her from Quasimodo’s clutches, the teenage Esmeralda is as smitten as your average boy band fan, and the soldier treats her as such: slightly bemused by her passion but also enjoying the attention. However, he’s not above meeting her for a secret rendezvous and deftly dodging a promise of marriage after the deed’s been done. Before they get this far they are rudely interrupted by Frollo’s knife attack, after which Phoebus completely washes his hands of the gypsy and leaves her to be tried and hanged for his murder, even though he’s clearly alive. Sadly, Esmeralda still doesn’t take the hint that he’s just not that into her, and in a last ditch effort to see him again ends up being captured and executed – to Phoebus’ complete indifference while he gets married to someone else.
Romance verdict: Virginal Victim.
The only way for this romance to work was to show the version Esmeralda saw in her own head. Phoebus backing slowly away was understandable after being stabbed, but by refusing to give evidence that he was, you know, alive, firmly stamped the word “GIT” on to his forehead. Fortunately, our next couple are evenly matched in this department:
#3: Zeus and Hera
Zeus, a man with impossibly large nipples, and Hera, a woman who would vanish if she stood sideways, are Greek gods who live on Mount Olympus and enjoy throwing lavish parties. The epitome of loving parents, they spend the majority of the film pining for their beloved son Hercules who was stolen and turned mortal by evil forces. Both watch over him from above, with Zeus imparting some much needed advice, and Hera embracing him and spelling out the film’s moral for the audience in case they didn’t get it.
Zeus and Hera’s relationship is equal parts amusing and disturbing, and therefore ripe for its own reality show (no takers as yet). The reason? They are siblings as well as spouses, and so their arguments are twice as vindictive and calculating as those of other car-crash couples. To give an example, Zeus spends most of his time fathering illegitimate children, and so Hera spends her time tormenting said children or sending them on murderous rampages for her own amusement, Heracles in particular. Like any sensible father, Zeus retaliates by suspending his wife from Mount Olympus with anvils hanging from her feet. So not the world’s most exemplary couple, even for Ancient Greece.
Romance Verdict: Incensed Incest
(Try saying that five times quickly, and without attracting strange looks.)
Cousins getting it on is apparently fine, but Disney draws the line at brother and sister action as well as infanticide and spousal abuse. Our next couple get on a lot better, but their relationship started off more one-sided than most. And by more, I mean completely:
#2: Prince Phillip and Princess Aurora
From: Sleeping Beauty
Despite being betrothed as children, Phillip and Aurora don’t meet until years later when they stumble across each other in the forest (and as we’ve seen, it’s clearly the place for singles to hook up). After a bout of synchronised singing they know it’s meant to be, so who cares about small details like the other person’s name? In any case, Phillip is prepared to battle an evil sorceress and her dragon incarnation to save his love, and fortunately for him, Aurora seems fairly content that he was the one to kiss her and break the evil spell. They presumably marry soon afterwards, because kissing more than one person makes you a total harlot.
I’m sure Talia would have also appreciated a kiss from a handsome prince, had she been awake for this and its subsequent follow up. The young girl (age unknown) is found in her unconscious state by a wandering king, and since she is beautiful and offers no resistance, he decides to take the initiative. By the time Talia wakes up, she has somehow given birth to and nursed two twins whose father already has a wife in tow and leaves them in the tower for long stretches of time. When the king finally shows up, the pair conveniently realise they love each other, brushing any shady implications under the carpet, and later marry once the former queen has been dispatched for her evil deeds.
Romance verdict: Retrospective Rape
As loved up as this couple was, this was only the case after the king had deposited his royal seed. Not only that, but there is a rather unpleasant question mark over Talia’s age, as well as that of the king.
With this in mind, you are probably wondering what number 1 is going to be. Before you scroll down the page (or glance downward if you’re on a desktop), consider that up until this point there has been at least some degree of mutual attraction between the couples, so it wasn’t completely off the wall for Disney to forge a romance out of it. For the next entry, it kind of was:
#1: Eric and Ariel
From: The Little Mermaid
Ariel the mermaid has always had a fascination with humans, and Prince Eric is both dashingly handsome and the first man she sees up close. The rather cynical sea witch spell dictates that for Ariel to remain human and stay near the man she loves, she must make him fall in love with her in three days. No easy task, considering he is equally fascinated by the strange woman who saved him from drowning and doesn’t put two and two together when Ariel lands on his doorstep (although her lack of voice doesn’t help matters). Happily, the two do fall in love, and despite another woman and a few octopus-related setbacks, they are reunited and later married once Ariel’s human status and voice box have been reconfirmed.
The set up in the original story is the same, but it goes horribly wrong in practically every way possible. The sea witch not only permanently removes her tongue, but her spell makes the mermaid’s legs sheer agony to walk on. The prince wrongly connects his rescuer with a girl from a nearby temple, and when he meets the mermaid, he treats her as an entertaining oddity and makes her sleep on a cushion outside his room like a small dog. For all her charm and beauty, she is always considered second best, and when it looks like the prince will grudgingly cut his losses and go with her anyway, he arranges to marry the girl from the temple after all. Although this would end in death for the mermaid, she refuses her only way out – killing him – and so turns into sea foam the morning after the wedding. She becomes some sort of angel afterwards, but the prince is even more oblivious to her than he was at the beginning of the story, and despite watching the person she loves marry someone else and giving her life for him, the mermaid finds out this counts for precisely bugger all when it comes to karma.
Romance verdict: Hopeless Heartbreak
This is the loudest example of Disney clapping their hands over their ears and singing over the original romance outcome. Given the target audience this is the only possible ending they could have conjured up, but this begs the question as to why they would choose this story anyway.
To avoid ending on a downer (or cynical cackle if that’s what floats your boat), here are two couples that were just as happy in the original as in the Disney films:
Belle and the prince/Belle and the prince
From: Beauty and the Beast
Both beasts would give up their lives or their human forms for Belle, and both Belles realise there is a decent person underneath all the hair and claws.
Aladdin and Jasmine/Aladdin and Badr al Budur
Both Aladdins use the genie to impress the princess and rescue her; both princesses love Aladdin for his streetwise nature or singular bling.
Now, doesn’t that make you feel all warm and fuzzy on the inside?
If you’re not sure, just ask Belle.