When you say “Disney princesses” you most likely mean Grimm princesses. The classic example of this is Snow White, the first in a long line of Grimm-turned-Disney tales. Through this transition however, there were a few transformations that took place in regard to the plot and characters.
The most important changes occurred in the characters. The Evil Queen is Snow White’s stepmother in the Disney film but not in the Grimm’s first edition. The third edition however, does mention her as the stepmother because of contamination on the part of the brothers. Another significant difference is seen right away. Snow White is dressed in clogs and rags, much like Cinderella, and charged with the task of cleaning the palace stairs. Then, the prince enters the scene. His appearance so early on contradicts the tale recorded by the Brothers Grimm. Another incongruity lies in the characterization of the seven dwarves. In the story, the dwarves are capable hardworking men. Their house is tidy and they allow Snow White to stay out of pity. In the film, a mockery is made of the dwarves. They are given comical personalities and their house is filthy. The princess is allowed to stay with them because she promises to keep house for them. Towards the end, the prince once again returns to play a larger role than intended. He rides up on his white horse and, through the magic powers of true love’s first kiss, saves Snow White. This is very different than the plot of Grimm’s’ version of Snow White.
In Grimm’s Snow White, the prince does not appear until after Snow White has already been poisoned. And even then, he is not the one who saves her. In the fairy tale, Snow White is saved when one of the prince’s servants shoves her and the piece of apple is dislodged from her throat. Not only has this change been made, but the process of Snow White’s death is also altered. Instead of the Queen visiting the cottage three times and attempting to kill the princess with lace and a comb first, in the movie, the Queen makes one appearance at the dwarves’ cottage and kills Snow White on her first try. Then the Queen is chased by the dwarves and ends up dying by accident when a large rock falls on her.
Despite these differences, there are still some similarities. In place of Snow White’s heart, the huntsman presents the Evil Queen with the heart of a boar. The Queen consults the mirror to know if Snow White is alive and then resorts to witchcraft to kill her. Snow White ends up staying with the dwarves after offering to accept the proper woman’s role, in accordance with zietgiest. Also, the fact that the dwarves do not bury Snow White, but instead keep her in a glass coffin like art is maintained in both versions.
Though are similarities, it is the differences that make the movie iconic and also lend to the fact that it is remembered over the story. Disney may have made these change to make the tale more child friendly, but according to Jack Zipes, these changes can be attribute to Disney’s desire to appear in his film and to be more famous. Disney made changes to utilize the cutting edge technology being developed at the time. The changes were also made to fit with Disney’s beliefs and tastes. The prince plays a more important role in the film. These various differences have made Disney’s Snow White, as well as his other princess films, memorable and has helped them gain a cult following. Despite this, I prefer the original Grimm tale because of its truth and roots.