||This article's lead section may not adequately summarize key points of its contents. (December 2012)|
The Queen in an illustration by the Brothers Hildebrandt
|First appearance||Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937)|
|Created by||Walt Disney and Joe Grant (design)
Art Babbit (animation)
|Portrayed by||Jane Curtin (50th anniversary TV special)|
|Voiced by||Lucille La Verne (the original film)
Louise Chamis (House of Mouse, Disney's Villains' Revenge)
Eartha Kitt (Once Upon a Halloween)
Susan Blakeslee (Kingdom Hearts Birth by Sleep)
|Aliases||Wicked Queen, Evil Queen|
|Spouse(s)||The King (husband)|
|Relatives||Snow White (stepdaughter)|
Queen Grimhilde, also known as the Evil Queen, the Wicked Queen or just the Queen, is the main antagonist character in Walt Disney's 1937 animated film Snow White and Seven Dwarfs, based on the Queen from the original fairy tale "Snow White".
Character design 
Early concepts for the film called for a "fat, batty, cartoon type, self-satisfied" Queen. Walt Disney became concerned that such an approach would make the character seem less plausible. Sensing that more time was needed for the development of the Queen, he advised that attention be paid exclusively to "scenes in which only Snow White, the Dwarfs, and their bird and animal friends appear." Disney further developed the story himself, finding a dilemma in the characterization of the Queen, whom he envisioned as a mixture of Lady Macbeth and the Big Bad Wolf, and decided to set on a "a high collar stately beautiful type."
The Queen's appearance was inspired by the character of Queen Ayesha from the 1935 film She, played by Helen Gahagan. Grimhilde was also modeled in part on Princess Kriemhild in Fritz Lang's Die Nibelungen. Joe Grant contributed the design for her witch form. None of Art Babbit's lead animation work on the character was rotoscoped. The animators preferred to draw the Queen over Snow White "because she was more real and complex as a woman, more erotic, and driven to desperate acts by her magic mirror."
Snow White and Seven Dwarfs 
A vain and proud beauty, the Queen (voiced by Lucille La Verne) gained her royal position by marrying a widowed king, giving her power over his kingdom before he died. She was jealous of Snow White's beauty, therefore turning her into a scullery maid. The Queen had a magical mirror with which she could look upon whatever she wished. The Magic Mirror shows a haunted, smoky face which replies to the Queen's requests. She regularly asks the mirror who is the fairest in the land ("Magic mirror, on the wall, who is the fairest one of all?"), and the mirror always replies that she is.
One day, the mirror tells her that there is a new fairest woman in the land, her stepdaughter, Snow White. After observing the handsome prince singing a love song to Snow White, the Queen, in a jealous rage, orders her faithful huntsman Humbert to take the Princess deep into the forest and kill her. He is ordered to bring back her heart in a box to prove that he had done so. Humbert could not bear to kill the young princess, so he tells Snow White of the Queen's plot and tells her to run away and never to return. In order to escape the penalty, he returns with a pig's heart and gives it to the Queen. When she questions her mirror, it again replies that Snow White is the fairest in the land, and that she is living at the cottage of the Seven Dwarfs, revealing that the box contains the heart of a pig.
Furious that Humbert tricked her, the Queen goes down the dungeon to her secret witchcraft room, complete with a raven familiar spirit, and mixes a potion that turns her into a hag. Her beauty is shrouded in ugliness and age. This appearance of the Queen is commonly referred to as the Evil Witch (alternatively Old Hag or just the Witch). She then conjures a poison apple, which will cause deathlike sleep, and proceeds to leave the castle. She is sure that no one would know or perform the counter-curse to her spell, and believes the Dwarfs would bury Snow White alive, thinking her dead. The Queen comes to the cottage, followed by two vicious buzzards, and finds Snow White baking a pie for Grumpy the dwarf. Somehow Snow White's animal friends realize that the old hag is the Queen. After an unsuccessful attempt to warn Snow White by attacking the Queen, they go to warn the Dwarfs of the Queen's arrival. The Queen tricks Snow White into letting her inside the cottage and eating the poisoned apple, telling her that it is a magic wishing apple. Snow White takes a bite and falls to the floor, apparently dead.
The Queen rejoices in her victory, but is soon discovered by the Seven Dwarfs, who grab pickaxes and chase her deep into the forest as a great storm begins. She climbs up into the mountains, where she get trapped upon a precipice that overlooks a seemingly bottomless canyon, and attempts to push down a large boulder to crush the approaching Dwarfs. Just then a lightning bolt strikes between her and the boulder, destroying the precipice and sending the Queen (along with the boulder) down the cliff, screaming while she falls to the jagged rocks below. As the Dwarfs look wide-eyed over the cliff's edge, they cannot see her, but the buzzards gather to consume the Queen's corpse. Her castle is taken over by the prince and the revived Snow White.
The original outline of the story featured the Queen's attempt to kill Snow White with a poisoned comb, an element taken from the Grimms' original story. After persuading Snow White to use the comb, the disguised Queen would have escaped alive, but the Dwarfs would have arrived in time to remove it. After the failure of the comb, the Queen was to have the Prince captured and taken to her dungeon, where she would have come to him and used magic to bring the dungeon's skeletons to life, making them dance for him and identifying one skeleton as "Prince Oswald". It is written in story notes that the Queen has such magical power only in her own domain, the castle. With the Prince refusing to marry her, the Queen leaves him to his death (one sketch shows the Prince trapped in a subterranean chamber filling with water) as she makes her way to the Dwarfs' cottage with the poisoned apple. The forest animals were to help the Prince escape the Queen's minions and find his horse. This plot was not used in the final film, though many sketches of the scene in the dungeon were made by Ferdinand Hovarth.
Other appearances 
In the 50th anniversary live-action Snow White Disney special hosted by Dick Van Dyke, the Queen (played by Jane Curtin) casts a spell on Grumpy in an attempt to get him to persuade the other Dwarfs to retire.
She is featured in television specials like Our Unsung Villains and Disney's Greatest Villains. Segments of the Queen's appearance are also shown in Disney's Halloween Treat and in A Disney Halloween. The Queen makes cameo appearances in the animated series Disney's House of Mouse, voiced by Louise Chamis (where she is seen sitting with Lady Tremaine in her queen form, and with Madam Mim and Witch Hazel in her witch form) and in the film Who Framed Roger Rabbit (in her witch form).
The novel Fairest of All: A Tale of the Wicked Queen by Serena Valentino, published by Disney Press, shows how the Queen became the villain in the film, much in the style of Wicked, with the Magic Mirror, here possessed by the spirit of her abusive father, having been a corrupting influence. According to the book, her mother was a witch and the King died in a war against another kingdom.
The Queen is one of the newest Overtakers in The Kingdom Keepers novel series. She first appeared in the fourth book of the saga, Power Play, alongside Cruella De Vil. Like Maleficent, she is very powerful and can cast almost any spell with a flick of her finger. In Power Play, while Maleficent and Chernabog are captured by the Keepers, the Queen becomes the new leader of the Overtakers.
She is also a subject of one the books in the Disney Princess series My Side of the Story, titled Snow White/The Queen. The book Disney Villains: The Top Secret Files ranks her as "the greatest villain of them all".
The Queen went on to make frequent appearances in Disney comics, where, under the alias the Witch, she regularly antagonized Disney characters like Chip 'n Dale and Tinkerbell. One Italian comic explains how she had survived her apparent death in the film and why she could not change back to her normal self. In the 1949 Four Color comic book Walt Disney's Seven Dwarfs, the Witch is destroyed by Dopey, who ambushes her with a cat after she took a form of rat. In the 1966 Walt Disney's Comics and Stories parody of Wizard of Oz, "The Wizard Of Bahs", the Witch is turned into a gnarled old tree trunk by Daisy Duck.
Stage shows 
As in the film, the Queen character in 1987 Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs musical version (played by Anne Francine), the Disney on Ice reenactment of the movie (in 1987, and then in 1994–1997 and again in 2000-2001), as well as in Disneyland's Snow White - An Enchanting Musical in 2004 and 2006.
In the night-time fireworks and visual hydrotechnic show Fantasmic!, the Queen is the main villain and the leader of the Disney Villains that are destroyed the climax of the show. In the "The Disney Villains Mix and Mingle" show in Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party, the Queen is one of the villains led by Maleficent that appear during the Cinderella Castle Forecourt Stage.
Video games 
The Queen is also one of the four Disney Villains that appear in Disney's Villains' Revenge, voiced by Louise Chamis. Jiminy Cricket and the player venture into the worlds of the stories to correct the happy endings, which have been altered by the villains themselves. In the altered story, the Queen has built a giant house resembling her infamous poisoned apple and has put Snow White to sleep and intends to do the same to the Seven Dwarfs.
In Kingdom Hearts Birth by Sleep, the Queen plays out the same role as in the movie, only this time recruiting Terra to kill Snow White and bring back her heart in return for allowing him to use the Magic Mirror to locate Master Xehanort. Terra, like the huntsman, ultimately does not go through with this, and the Queen, learning of his betrayal, orders him executed by the mirror, but Terra manages to fight the mirror off.
In Castle of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse, the old witch Mizrabel takes form of the Evil Queen after draining the youth from Minnie Mouse. In Epic Mickey: Power of Illusion, she transform into various Disney villains, before setting on Maleficent; in the HD remake of Castle of Illusion, Mizrabel looks like a cross between the Queen and Maleficent.
According to Maria Tatar, "the Disney film also turns the evil queen into a figure of gripping narrative energy and makes Snow White so dull that she requires a supporting cast of seven to enliven her scenes. Ultimately it is the stepmother's disruptive, disturbing, and divisive presence that invests the film with a degree of fascination that has facilitated its widespread circulation and that has allowed it to take such powerful hold in our own culture." Jack Zipes commented that "it is somewhat strange that the queen believes the mirror, for the picture of Snow White reveals that she is a pretty pubescent red-cheeked ordinary girl while the queen is a stunning beautiful mature woman who might easily win a beauty contest." The young Camille Paglia was transfixed by this "temperamental diva bitch", due to the contrast with the ideal of womanhood that she had been presented to as a child: "Mary, this silent mother; and here was the witch queen who has this weird dialogue in the mirror and it didn't have to be charitable and it didn't have to be nice. I thought she was fabulous."
In 1982, Terry Gilliam listed the film's Queen among his eight favourite villains, commenting how "truly strange" is that "vanity and beauty are what she's all about, yet the identity she assumes when she becomes the old beggar woman is practically the ugliest in all the kingdom." The Queen ranked as tenth in the American Film Institute's 2003 list of the 50 Best Movie Villains of All Time, the highest-ranked animated villain. In 2013, Digital Spy included her among the 20 terrifying kids' movie characters, commenting that "Julia Roberts and Charlize Theron may have taken a stab at this role in two competing 2012 blockbusters, but they didn't get anywhere near the kind of creepiness of Disney's evil Queen."
Influence and homages 
Alan Charles Kors and Edward Peter credited the Queen's character's influence in changing the popular visual image of witches in film and other fiction as specifically female, more often young and attractive then old and ugly, and dressed in a characteristically defining costume. The Queen's character design from the film was used in some other Snow White adaptations, such as the Turkish film Pamuk Prenses ve Yedi Cüceler (1970), as well as for the inspired characters in the otherwise unrelated titles, such as the Spanish film Caperucita y Pulgarcito Contra los Monstruos (1962) and the American film The Hugga Bunch (1985). Notably, part of an inspiration for the character of Vampira came from Maila Nurmi being fascinated by Grimhilde after watching Disney's Snow White at the age of 14. Susan Sarandon's character of Queen Narissa in Disney's own Enchanted (2007), had later her characteristics, powers, and physical features were inspired by the Queen from the film and by Maleficent from Sleeping Beauty.
The character also makes several cameo appearances in non-Disney media. In Woody Allen's Annie Hall (1977), Alvy mentions that when he saw Disney's Snow White, he was attracted to the Queen while all the other children had a crush on Snow White; this is followed by an animated sequence of the Wicked Queen, resembling Annie, talking to the cartoon version of Alvy. He then daydreams an animated scene where even the Queen (voiced by Diane Keaton) scolds him. In the Family Guy 2009 episode "Road to the Multiverse", Herbert appears as the disguised Queen. In the film's parody in The Simpsons 2009 episode "Four Great Women and a Manicure" the Queen escapes the dwarves, only to be lynched by angry woodland creatures.
See also 
- Paul Muljadi, Disney Theatrical Animated Features, page 14
- John Hanson Saunders, The Evolution of Snow White: A Close Textual Analysis of Three Versions of the Snow White Fairy Tale, page 117
- Michael Barrier, Hollywood Cartoons: American Animation in Its Golden Age, page 128
- "Disney Villains: Queen" Retrieved 1-25-2011
- D23′s Dateline Disney: 1935 (Evil Queen) « Disney D23
- Golden Anniversary: Walt Disney's Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Gladstone 1987
- John Canemaker, Before the Animation Begins: The Life and Times of Disney inspirational Sketch Artists (Hyperion, New York, 1999) ISBN 0-7868-6152-5
- Bruno Girveau (editor), Once Upon a Time — Walt Disney: The Sources of inspiration for the Disney Studios (Prestel, London, 2006) ISBN 978-3-7913-3770-8
- Jack Zipes, The Enchanted Screen: The Unknown History of Fairy-Tale Films, pages 115, 122
- Fairest of All: A Tale of the Wicked Queen
- Disney Princess: My Side of the Story - Snow White/The Queen - Book #2: Daphne Skinner, Atelier Philippe Harchy, John Kurtz: 0725961034641: Amazon.com: Books
- Maria Tatar, The Hard Facts of the Grimms' Fairy Tales, page 234
- Mark Nation and Samuel Wells, Faithfulness and Fortitude: Conversations with the Theological Ethics of Stanley Hauerwas, page 280
- An interview in February 1982 issue of Heavy Metal
- AFI's 100 Years...100 Heroes & Villains
- Queen Grimhilde - 20 terrifying kids' movie characters - Digital Spy
- Alan Charles Kors and Edward Peter, Witchcraft in Europe: 1100-1700 : a Documentary History, University of Pennsylvania Press 2001, page 30
- (Turkish) Sinemanın gerçek cadısı - Radikal Radikal İki
- (Spanish) Caperucita y Pulgarcito contra los monstruos (1962) | Cinecutre.com
- The Hugga Bunch Movie
- David J. Skal, The Monster Show: A Cultural History of Horror, page 240
- Wloszczyna, Susan (November 14, 2007). "Enchanted princess steps out of cartoon, into Manhattan". USA Today. Retrieved January 4, 2008.
- Annie Hall script by Woody Allen