Evil Queen (Disney)
|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)
Olivia Wilde (Disney Dream Portraits)
|Voiced by||Lucille La Verne (the original film)
Eleanor Audley (1949 audiobook)
Louise Chamis (Fantasmic!, Disney on Ice, House of Mouse, Disney's Villains' Revenge)
Susan Blakeslee (current)
Witch (Wicked Witch)
Snow White's stepmother
|Spouse(s)||The King (husband, deceased)|
|Children||Snow White (stepdaughter)|
The Evil Queen, also known as the Wicked Queen or just the Queen, and sometimes instead identified by name as Queen Grimhilde, is the primary antagonist in Walt Disney's 1937 animated film Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. She is based on the Queen character from the original fairy tale "Snow White" and she is also Snow White's evil stepmother.
The Queen Grimhilde is cold, cruel, and extremely vain, and obsessively desires to remain the "fairest in the land". She becomes madly envious over the beauty of her stepdaughter, Princess Snow White, as well as the attentions of the Prince from another land (such love triangle element is one of Disney's changes to the story). This leads her to plot the death of Snow White and ultimately on the path to her own demise, which in the film is caused by the Seven Dwarfs.
Disney's version of the Queen Grimhilde character uses her dark magic powers to actually transform herself into an old woman instead of just taking a disguise like in the Brothers Grimm version. This appearance of hers is commonly referred to as the Wicked Witch (alternatively Old Hag or just the Witch). Part of an inspiration for the Queen's design came from the characters of Queen Hash-a-Motep from She and Princess Kriemhild from Die Nibelungen.
The character was very well received by film critics and general public, often considered one of Disney's most iconic and menacing villains. Besides in the film, she has made numerous appearances in a variety Disney productions that are not only directly related to the tale of Snow White (often appearing alongside Maleficent), and has also became an archetype that influenced the work and characters created by a number of non-Disney artists.
- 1 Appearances
- 2 Cultural impact
- 3 See also
- 4 References
- 5 External links
Snow White and the 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, princess Snow White. After observing the handsome Prince from another kingdom 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 cannot 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 comes back 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. The Dwarfs are fearful of the Queen's dark magic but decided to take in Snow White anyway.
Furious that Humbert tricked her, the Queen goes down the dungeon to her secret room where she practices witchcraft (complete with a raven pet or possibly familiar spirit) and in desperation uses her spellbook and cauldron to mix a potion that transforms her into a hag. Her beauty is shrouded in ugliness and age. (Presumably, she has an ability to change back.) She then conjures a poison apple, which will cause "the Sleeping Death", 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 angry 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 gets trapped upon a precipice that overlooks a seemingly bottomless canyon. She 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 apparently consume the Queen's corpse. (A 1936 pre-release Good Housekeeping novelization by Dorothy Ann Blank, a member of the Disney story team for the film, confirms that the Queen in fact dies in the fall and "no magic would ever bring her to life again.") Her castle is taken over by the Prince and the revived Snow White.
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 the 1924 film Die Nibelungen. It is also possible that the Queen's looks may have been inspired by the faces of Joan Crawford and Gale Sondergaard, and her costume and general silhouette may have been inspired by a column statue at the Naumburg Cathedral depicting Uta von Ballenstedt, the wife of Eckard II, Margrave of Meissen who was widely regarded as the most beautiful woman of Medieval Germany. Also noted was her resemblance to two 1930s American movie stars from Europe, Greta Garbo and Marlene Dietrich.
None of Art Babbit's lead animation work on the character was rotoscoped and the animators were noted to prefer 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." The Queen was voiced by Lucille La Verne, who achieved her voice change for the role of the Witch by removing her false teeth. Joe Grant, who contributed the design for her Witch form, noticed La Verne's changing attitude and posture when voicing the Queen and Witch, and sketched these poses down for animation reference.
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' version of the tale (the Dwarfs would arrive in time to remove it). After the failure of the comb, the Queen was to have the handsome young Prince captured and taken to her dungeon, where she would have come to him and offer him an opportunity to share the throne with her through a marriage. With the Prince refusing to marry her as he loves Snow White, she would used magic to torture and taunt him, including to bring the dungeon's skeletons to life and making them dance for him, identifying one skeleton as "Prince Oswald" (it is written in story notes that the Queen has magical power only over her own domain, which is the castle), hoping that he would change his mind.
The 1987 book The Complete Story of Walt Disney's Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs reveals that the Huntsman was afraid to disobey a command to kill Snow White because the Queen's might feed him to her black panthers (guardians of the Magic Mirror room) or shrink him magically. The Huntsman would also be dragged to the dungeon when the Queen finds out that she betrayed her, and the Queen might destroy own Mirror in anger. She later informs the Prince of her plan to have the Dwarfs bury Snow White alive and leaves him to his death, chained and trapped in a subterranean chamber filling with water to slowly drown for having scorned her. She then makes her way to the Dwarfs' cottage with the poisoned apple, while the forest animals were to help the Prince escape the Queen's minions and find his horse as tries to save Snow White.
This plotline described above was not used in the final film, although many sketches of the dungeon scenes were made by Ferdinand Hovarth. It is said that Disney "knew that the Queen would have to look scary without being too scary." Similar motifs and scenes were later used in Disney's Sleeping Beauty and Aladdin. Elements of this sub-plot have also made their way into some other Disney's Snow White fiction and attractions.
Attractions and shows
As in the film, the Queen character is featured in 1979 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. The Queen practically stars in the Disneyland ride Snow White's Scary Adventures (at various parks, first opened in 1955), where she is seen more than any other character in all four versions of the ride, recreating a number of scenes from the film (sometimes including the torture chamber from the original concept).
In the interactive gallery Walt Disney: One Man's Dream, the Queen appears alongside Maleficent and Judge Frollo in the villains act of the show, where she seems to be the leader of the trio. In the The Disney Villains Mix and Mingle show during 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. Susanne Blakeslee voiced the Queen at 2001's Share A Dream Come True Parade.
In the night-time fireworks and visual hydrotechnic show Fantasmic! (first played in 1992), the Queen is the main villain and the leader of all the Disney Villains. The Queen is introduced in the second act, when her Magic Mirror (voiced by Tony Jay) tells her that there are now three princesses (Snow White, Ariel and Belle) fairer than she. Enraged, the Queen transforms herself into the Witch and uses the Mirror to summon various evil characters, including Maleficent, who transforms into a dragon. At the climax of the show, Mickey is able to defeat the villains with a magic sword, which he uses against the dragon; the Witch is the last to be destroyed, transforming back into the Queen as she dies.
In the show Villains Tonight! (first played in 2010), Hades calls forth Disney's most powerful villains for help to regain his evil. The Queen denies his invitation since Hades also invited Maleficent, her rival for Hades' affections and for the status of "The Evilest of Them All". In the end, the Queen and Maleficent put their differences aside as all villains should stick together and advise Hades to find evil within himself, and not from others.
Film and television
The Queen is featured in some Disney television specials like Our Unsung Villains (1956) and Disney's Greatest Villains (1977). Segments of the Queen's appearance are also shown in Disney's Halloween Treat (1982) and in A Disney Halloween (1983). She makes small 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 films Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988) and Runaway Brain (1995), in her witch form.
In the live-action Disney television special Snow White Golden Anniversary (1987) 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.
An almost entirely alternate take on the character of the Evil Queen is Queen Regina, also known as Mayor Regina Mills, who is the main antagonist of the 2011 Disney (ABC) live-action TV series Once Upon a Time. The show is not directly based on the Disney animated films, but is inspired by them and makes many references to them.
A new Disney Channel Original Movie titled Descendants was announced for 2015. In it, the Evil Queen is among a host of other villains who have been imprisoned on a forbidden island, and her daughter Evvie is among their offspring who are allowed to return into the kingdom to attend school alongside the offspring of iconic Disney heroes. Its title image features the iconic red apple of the Evil Queen.
A 1938 film tie-in comic strip "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" was written by Merrill De Maris (one of the writers of the film), which further explores the source of the Queen's descent into a murderous envy, as she learns that the Prince came to her castle seeking the most beautiful woman in all the world and is shocked when he says he meant Snow White. Like in the abandoned film concept, the Queen then has the Prince captured, telling him that she will win his affections while the Prince is defiant, followed by his escape from prison (in much less dramatic circumstances than the film's abandoned dungeon concept). Walt Disney himself drew the 1958 comic strip "The Seven Dwarfs and the Witch Queen", written by Floyd Gottfredson.
The Queen has made frequent appearances in many other Disney comics, where, under the alias the Witch, she comes back to antagonize Disney characters like Chip 'n Dale and Tinkerbell, occasionally cooperating with protagonistic characters. One 1989 sequel comic explains how she had survived her apparent death in the film and why she could not change back to her normal self, as her castle was burned down by the Huntsman and her book of magic is gone. Notable examples of such appearances include the 1948 Four Color comic book story "The Golden Christmas Tree" with Donald Duck, the 1949 Four Color comic book Walt Disney's Seven Dwarfs, the story "The Seven Dwarfs and the Pirate" (where the Witch transforms into a rat that is then eaten by Dopey's cat), and the 1966 Walt Disney's Comics and Stories parody of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, "The Wizard of Bahs" (where the Witch is unexpectedly turned into an old tree trunk by Daisy Duck while her castle turns to sand). Two 1940s stories featured the Queen's brother.
The novel Fairest of All: A Tale of the Wicked Queen by Serena Valentino, published by Disney Press in 2009, tells a story much more sympathic to the Queen than most other Disney media. The book shows how the Queen became the villain from 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 prior to the events of the film. After her husband's death, the Queen slowly descends into madness. By the end of novel, Snow White gets the mirror and the Queen becomes the spirit inside the mirror after her death in the film.
The Queen is one of the Overtakers, villains of The Kingdom Keepers novel series. She was introduced in 2011 in the fourth book of the saga, Power Play, alongside Cruella De Vil. Like Maleficent, she is very powerful and is able to cast almost any spell with a flick of her finger; she can also transform herself and other characters. In Power Play, when Maleficent and Chernabog are captured by the Keepers, the Queen becomes the new leader of the Overtakers.
Jim Razzi's children's 1985 gamebook Snow White in the Enchanted Forest (Choose Your Own Adventure: Walt Disney #1) features the evil Queen as she is searching for the hiding Snow White during the events of the film. She is also a subject of one the books in the Disney Princess series, titled My Side of the Story, titled Snow White/The Queen (2004), portraying her as a misunderstood positive character. One chapter in Todd Strasser's 1993 Disney's the Villian's Collection/Stories from the Films is dedicated to Snow White and the Queen. Jeff Kurtti's 2005 book Disney Villains: The Top Secret Files ranks her as "the greatest villain of them all".
In 1990's Castle of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse, an old witch named Mizrabel takes form of the Evil Queen after draining the youth from Minnie Mouse. In 2012's Epic Mickey: Power of Illusion, the previously defeated Mizrabel returns to transform into various Disney villains, before setting on Maleficent. In 2013's HD remake of Castle of Illusion, Mizrabel looks like a cross between the Queen and Maleficent in her youthful form and professes her desire to be "the fairest of them all". Four wicked witches of the East, West, North and South, all serving the evil Ogre King and resembling the Witch from Disney's Snow White, are also the villains Mickey has to kill to save Disneyland in 1988's Mickey Mouse: The Computer Game.
The Queen is also one of the four Disney Villains that appear in 1999's 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 poisoned apple, and has put Snow White to sleep and intends to do the same to the Seven Dwarfs.
In 2010's 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. She is then only briefly mentioned in Aqua's storyline, when the Magic Mirror tells Aqua that the Queen is dead and he is no longer under her control.
In 2013's free mobile game Snow White: Queen's Return, an uncanonical continuation of the film, the Queen has returned in her youthful form (after falling into a lake at the bottom of the abbyss in the film) and casts a curse on Snow White and the dwarfs and their entire forest.
According to Maria Tatar, an academic specializing in children's literature, the film turned "the evil queen into a figure of gripping narrative energy and makes Snow White [the character] 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."
Camille Paglia said that she used to be 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." Likewise, Lana Parrilla, who later herself played the Evil Queen in Once Upon A Time, said that whenever she watched Disney's Snow White as a young girl she rooted for and "loved the evil queen—every time the evil queen came on, I was like 'OK!' She was just so fascinating to me." John Waters said he too rooted for the evil queen to win, and Chay Yew said that if he were a Disney character, he would be the evil queen from Snow White. Deborah Lipp wrote: "As I've said before and will doubtless say again, given a choice of being Snow White (helpless, sweet, voiceless) and the Wicked Queen, with the cool castle and the magic and the minions, give me my Magic Mirror now!"
The Queen ranked as tenth in the American Film Institute's 2003 list of the 50 Best Movie Villains of All Time, being the highest-ranked animated villain. 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." Jack Zipes similarly noted 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." 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," and WatchMojo.com ranked her as the ninth top Disney animated villain.
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 than old and ugly, and dressed in a characteristically defining costume. A part of Maila Nurmi's inspiration for her character of Vampira came from Nurmi being fascinated by Grimhilde after watching Disney's Snow White at the age of 14. Brigitte Nielsen said she has also based her role as the Black Witch (who also kidnaps a prince character out of jealously for a princess) in the 1992 Italian film Fantaghirò 2 on that version of the Queen. When she was cast for the 1939's The Wizard of Oz as the Wicked Witch of the West, Mervyn LeRoy insisted on a glamorous vision of the character, similar to the Disney's interpretation of the Queen from "Snow White"; when her idea was rejected, LeRoy withdrew from the project and Margaret Hamilton was cast instead. Lady Macbeth in Orson Welles' 1948 Macbeth resembles the Queen in her costume, make-up, and especially the manner of her death. Robin Wood has also drawn a connection between the looks of the Witch and of the Emperor in the Star Wars franchise.
The Queen's character design from the film was also used in some other Snow White adaptations, such as the Turkish film Pamuk Prenses ve Yedi Cüceler (1970), as well as for the inspired main antagonist characters in the otherwise unrelated titles, such as the Witch Queen in the Spanish film Caperucita y Pulgarcito Contra los Monstruos (1962), Queen Admira in the American film The Hugga Bunch (1985), and the queen of the witches in the video game Curse of Enchantia (1992). 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. Early on into the project, Enchanted was actually supposed to be a direct-to-video animated sequel to Disney's Snow White (with a working title of "Snow White 2") in which Narissa (back then often misspelled as "Noriss") was the evil Queen's sister who would kidnap six of the dwarfs to lure Snow White, the Prince, and their 13-year old daughter Rose aided by Dopey, into a trap. When Filmation announced their own animated sequel, featuring the Queen's brother in a vendetta to avenge her death, the studio was sued by Disney until Filmation promised their characters would not resemble the ones from the Disney film (the title was also changed, from Snow White in the Land of Doom to Happily Ever After).
The character has also made 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 and voiced by Diane Keaton, talking to the cartoon version of the daydreaming Alvy, but turns out that even the Queen scolds him; Alvy attributes it to her having her period mood, to which the Queen reminds him she is just a cartoon character. In the film's parody in The Simpsons 2009 episode "Four Great Women and a Manicure", the Queen escapes the dwarves after poisoning Snow White, only to be lynched by a mob of angry woodland creatures. In the U.S. Acres two-part cartoon "Snow Wade and the 77 Dwarves", Lanolin appears as the wicked queen whose queen outfit is based off the Disney version. In the Family Guy 2009 episode "Road to the Multiverse", Herbert appears as the disguised Queen. The Muppet Show character Miss Piggy is the Queen in the parody comic book miniseries Muppet Snow White.
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