Disney Villains is a separate Walt Disney Co. franchise which brings to life over 120 villains from Disney films, television shows, video games, books and resorts. In this five-part series, we take a look at our top 5 Disney villains! This week, the spotlight is on….
The Evil Queen
Also known as The Evil Queen, Grimhilde is the iconic and narcissistic antagonist in the 1937 film Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. While the Walt Disney Co. does not acknowledge her name in the canon anymore, old publicity material and comics often included her name ‘Grimhilde’.
Determined to maintain the title of ‘fairest’ throughout her kingdom, she is whisked into a jealous rage when her magic mirror reveals that Snow White’s beauty surpasses her own. After she enlists her huntsman to murder Snow White and he disobeys her, she manifests her dark magic in order to transform herself into an old witch to do away with Snow White once and for all.
This iconic queen is one of the most disturbing and dangerous characters in Disney history. The first Disney villain to appear in the first Disney full length animated film; she was a trendsetter for all other villains, blazing a trail of scheming, manipulation and downright villainous acts. What makes the Evil Queen so horrifying is the frivolity of her motives. Her actions towards Snow White include forcing her to take on slavehood at home, hiring a hitman to have her taken care of and inducing a coma which was intended to be fatal - all because a mirror tells her that Snow White is more attractive than her.
Almost as frightening as her horrific motives, is her appearance. While her Evil Queen façade was originally depicted as fat and unkempt, her appearance eventually evolved into one of intimidating, sinister beauty. The Queen’s appearance is ice cold and hard. Her skin is pale and her vivid, severe makeup is akin to that of old Hollywood icon Joan Crawford. Designers creating the Evil Queen acknowledge that in creating the regal, sinister femme fatale they were creating a much more frightening character than had been attempted in animation before.
Her Evil Queen attire is dark and chic with her pencilled on eyebrows completing the sleek villain’s chilling look, but it’s her ‘hag’ disguise that would even give grown men nightmares. Out of determination and desperation Grimhilde drinks a potion which will accelerate ageing so she can trick Snow White into eating her poisonous apple.
In her witch disguise, the Queen temporarily sacrifices her youth for unkempt white hair, bushy eyebrows and a crooked nose with a wart. Walt Disney described the witch as “a mixture of Lady Macbeth and the Big Bad Wolf.” Her appearance is also inspired by literature illustrations such as Hansel and Gretel, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and Dante’s Inferno.
It’s ironic that she thinks drinking a potion to thrust her into a state of hideousness, is the answer to her problems of being less attractive than Snow White. Apparently her extreme vanity also affects her ability to make sound judgements.
Originally a character in the Brothers Grimm fairy tale published in 1812, The Evil Queen, believe it or not, was toned down for the Disney film.
In the German fairy tale, Snow White’s mother dies causing the king to remarry The Evil Queen who is beautiful but wicked and vain. When the magic mirror informs her of her physical standing within the kingdom, she orders the huntsman to harvest Snow White’s lungs and liver. Instead of returning to the kingdom with a pig’s heart, as in the Disney movie, the huntsman returns with a pig’s liver and lungs which is then prepared and eaten by the Queen.
When she learns of the truth, she disguises herself as an old peddler and goes to the dwarves’ cottage where she convinces Snow White to try on a silky laced bodice which she laces so tight that she faints, and leaves hoping that Snow White will die. When the dwarves find and save her, the Queen dresses as a saleswoman and brushes Snow White’s hair with a poisoned comb. Failing once again, she manifests dark magic to get rid of Snow White once and for all. Disguised as a farmer’s wife, the Queen convinces Snow White to eat a poisoned apple.
After Snow White is saved by the prince, the Queen is invited to the wedding and is given her punishment – a pair of red hot iron shoes. The Queen puts them on and dances till she dies. Yes…seriously.
Who Framed Roger Rabbit
The Evil Queen makes an appearance in the film Who Framed Roger Rabbit where she is seen crossing the street in Toontown in her witch costume
In the upcoming Disney Channel original film The Evil Queen is portrayed by Kathy Najimy and is called “Evie” and is Maleficent’s neighbour.
Fairest of All: A Tale of the Wicked Queen
In the novel penned by Serena Valentino, the story depicts the events which led to The Evil Queen being evil beginning with her father, who made mirrors for a living, belittling her beauty and causing her insecurity. When she grows up, her cousins give her the Magic Mirror which contains the spirit of her dead father which serves as a corrupting influence throughout the novel. After the events of Snow White play out, the Queen descends into insanity and ends up becoming the spirit inside the mirror upon her death.
The witch makes an appearance in the game during Sora’s Dive to the Heart.
The Evil Queen can be seen throughout the Disney parks making appearances as both herself and as the witch. She poses for photos and stars in her own ride Snow White’s Scary Adventures. She also appears in the second act of Fantasmic! where she transforms into her witch alter ego, and aboard the Disney cruise ships.
Once Upon a Time
A prominent character, and the main antagonist in the show, Lana Parilla plays the role of The Evil Queen in Once Upon a Time.
- The Queen is often compared to Lady Tremaine because they are both driven by the jealousy of their stepdaughter’s beauty
- Grimhilde is the first Disney movie villain and the first villain in a Disney princess film
- She assisted Queen Narissa from Enchanted and also served as inspiration for the Narissa’s design
- Once Upon a Time character “Regina” is named after the Latin word for ‘queen’.
- She is the first green eyed villain
- The Evil Queen never interacts directly with Snow White in the Disney film– only in her witch disguise
- The scream heard when she falls to her death is the same scream used when Maleficent meets her demise in Sleeping Beauty
- Grimhilde is the first Disney villain to change her appearance in order to manipulate the lead character. Following in her footsteps was Madam Mim, Ursula and Jafar
- One of the few Disney villains to speak directly to, and look directly at, the audience
- Her famous peacock throne symbolizes her excessive vanity
- The Evil Queen was the first Disney character to ever speak in a feature length animated film
- Lucille LaVerne provided the voice of the Queen and witch. To achieve a difference in sound for the witch she voiced the character without her false teeth in
- The Evil Queen was considered too intense and scary for children, so much so, that the transformation scene was cut from the British release.
To take a look at the glamorous Evil Queen in figurine form, go here
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