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The 2000s were an odd decade for Disney, following the success of the 90s, often referred to as the ‘Disney Renaissance’. Their traditionally animated films like ‘Treasure Planet’ were becoming box office failures while the CG animated films of their newly bought animation studio, Pixar, were dominating. Their live-action-adventure films like ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ were becoming box office hits while their sports flicks like ‘Glory Road’ weren’t reaching the same success as their prior hits like ‘the Mighty Ducks’.
Stranger of all, they weren’t releasing any musical fantasies, which was the reason for their success in the prior decade, until 2007’s ‘Enchanted’. ‘Enchanted’, starting out as a traditionally animated Disney fantasy, soon releases all its characters into a modern New York setting, flipping the original Disney formula on its head. With its turn to live-action and meta analyzing of the traditional Disney tropes, it is easy to see how ‘Enchanted’ helped pave the way for Disney’s latest trend of live-action remakes.
Is ‘Enchanted’ a Remake?
‘Enchanted’ is not exactly a remake, Amy Adams’ Giselle was never in another Disney film nor is really even part of the Disney princess lineup. ‘Enchanted’ is a self-parody by Disney about Disney, specifically poking fun at the tropes and style that audiences associate with Disney. The character of Giselle is based on all the Disney princesses that came before her, from her singing and cleaning with animals like Snow White to her puffy dresses matching Cinderella’s to marrying a man she just met like . . . all the princesses that came before her. Even Amy Adams performs her character like the others, having the same exaggerated hand movements as Snow White and the same toothy smile as a Disney parks’ cast member.
The same level of inspiration and parody can be seen with the other characters from the fantasy world. Giselle’s true love prince, Prince Edward (James Marsden), is an obvious parody of a Disney prince, being good-looking yet dumb as nails, a true himbo. He is a more obvious parody of Sleeping Beauty’s Prince Phillip, saving strange girls in the woods and wanting to marry them immediately. Giselle’s chipmunk sidekick, Pip (Jeff Bennett and Kevin Lima), is a parody of the two types of Disney sidekicks, the animal ones from such films as ‘Cinderella’ and the sassy comic reliefs that were usually voiced by comedians in the 90s.
Then there is Queen Narissa (Susan Sarandon), an obvious parody of every Disney villain along with her henchman, Nathaniel (Timothy Spall). Queen Narissa turns into an old hag like the Evil Queen, she turns into a dragon-like Maleficent, and she has the impeccable style of every Disney villain. Nathaniel, on the other hand, is just as fumbling and blabbering as all the other henchmen that spend their time being called “imbeciles”.
With all the fantasy characters of ‘Enchanted’ being so deeply rooted in other Disney characters and tropes, one could argue that they themselves were the first live-action reboots of Disney characters. While this can be the case, it is very clear though that the success of the film and its tone helped pave the way for the modern Disney remake.
Disney Princesses and Girlboss Feminism
At the time ‘Enchanted’ premiered, the Disney princesses were beginning to be criticized for having less than feminist ideals. People claimed Belle had Stockholm syndrome by staying with her captor, the Beast, and people claimed Ariel only became human for a man. It was argued that the Disney princesses of the past were always saved by the man, always ended up in a romantic relationship, and weren’t active in their own stories. ‘Enchanted’ tries to update the modern princess by both making Giselle more active and even tongue and cheek poking fun at the idea of ‘girl boss feminism’.
Giselle’s New York love interest, Robert (Patrick Dempsey), wants his daughter, Morgan (Rachel Covey), to grow up as a strong, independent woman. Instead of buying her the princess toy she wanted, he instead buys her a book about great women in history since they are “real role models”. This scene pokes fun at the parents of the time who saw Disney princesses as bad role models, with Robert giving his obviously disappointed child homework as a present. Even Robert’s first love interest, Nancy (a non-singing Idina Menzel), is the antithesis of a Disney princess, being a workaholic businesswoman.
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Giselle, while still keeping the Disney princess attributes, proves herself to the characters and to the audience that Disney princesses are strong. She brings joy to Morgan and Robert’s life with her positivity and singing, proving to Robert that Disney princesses have value and asserting for Morgan that fairy tale princesses are real. To prove that princesses can be strong, Giselle ends up saving the man from the dragon instead of having to be saved by the man. ‘Enchanted’, while still being a traditional Disney film where the bubbly princess ends up with the man, aims to prove that princesses can be feminist by showing the values that they have and that they are capable of being the heroes, not the damsels.
The new trend of live-action Disney remakes, similarly to what ‘Enchanted’ did for princesses, attempts to contextualize their Disney princesses to fit the modern mold of what makes a feminist role model. 2017’s ‘Beauty and the Beast’ remake portrays Belle (Emma Watson) as not only a bookworm, but as an inventor, even inventing the first washing machine. In 2019’s ‘Aladdin’, Jasmine (Naomi Scott) not only doesn’t want to get married but also dreams of being a Sultan, even singing her own ballad about how she wants to be in charge. Arguably the first official live-action remake, Tim Burton’s ‘Alice in Wonderland’, made Alice (Mia Wasikowska) not a damsel in distress but a warrior who is the chosen one to kill the dragon.
While these films update the characters in an attempt to fix their past criticism, not everything is perfect such as Jasmine still needing to be saved in ‘Aladdin’ and each princess still being conventionally attractive. The modern Disney remake attempts to keep all the attributes of these princesses, like their kindness, beauty, and positivity, but makes slight changes to them so that Disney can fit them into the modern feminist ideals similarly to what ‘Enchanted’ did almost fifteen years ago.
Disney and Meta Humor
‘Enchanted’ is often remembered for its meta-humor, being a Disney film that makes fun of Disney films. Having the film set in New York leads to a lot of the comedy being fairy tale characters in a gritty city setting, from Giselle cleaning the apartment with sewer rats and pigeons to Prince Edwards thinking a bus is a dragon that needs to be slain. This humor is especially used in the dynamic between Giselle and Robert, with Robert always making sarcastic comments about Giselle’s princess-ery either saying “please not another song” or rolling his eyes at her whimsy. This self-referential meta-humor appealed to audiences, almost like an inside joke that the audience understood, and it can now be seen in modern Disney movies.
The modern Disney movie is full of meta-commentary now, from everyone criticizing Anna (Kristen Bell) for wanting to marry a man she just met in ‘Frozen’ to Maui (Dwayne Johnson) in ‘Moana’ not liking singing despite singing his own theme song. This can also be seen in Disney live-action remakes, where many of these jokes are even meant to correct aspects of the original that can now be seen as cliche or even problematic. In 2019’s ‘Dumbo’, instead of giving Dumbo alcohol so that he can hallucinate the pink elephants, Medici (Danny DeVito) hides the alcohol while shouting “no whine for the baby”, being a winky joke to audiences who remember the original and a funny “grown-up” joke to the kids.
This joke is also meant to correct the underage animal drinking that was seen in the original. In 2019’s The Lion King, Timon (Billy Eichner) attempts to sing “Be Our Guest” to hungry hyenas, a joke aiming to make both kids and adults laugh since they are all familiar with the Disney song. This meta-humor is meant to both show that Disney is modern enough to poke fun at themselves while giving audiences a good laugh over a joke they will immediately recognize. While ‘Enchanted’ is not the first Disney film to use meta-humor, that title arguably going to the original ‘Aladdin’ thanks to Robin Williams’ improv, ‘Enchanted’ popularized the more self-aware tone that can be seen in many Disney films today.
‘Enchanted’ may not be directly based on a specific Disney classic but is instead a parody of the Disney musical fantasies of the past, from poking fun at the Disney fantasy tropes to throwing its characters into a modern more cynical setting. More than this, ‘Enchanted’ sets out to prove that the often criticized Disney princess is valuable for their positivity and is more than capable of saving themselves.
The modern Disney live-action remake follows in Enchanted’s footsteps for its usage of meta-humor and attempts to update its princesses into strong role models by facing the criticism they once received. While Disney doesn’t handle all the criticisms perfectly, with each princess still being a conventionally attractive straight woman and with some still needing to be saved, their attempts can be easily identified. While Giselle may not be on the official princess lineup, she and her film have truly paved the way for the modern Disney remake.
‘Enchanted’ is available to watch on Amazon Prime.
Cast: Amy Adams, Patrick Dempsey, James Marsden, Timothy Spall, Idina Menzel, Susan Sarandon
Director: Kevin Lima | Screenwriter: Bill Kelly
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Brianna Benozich is a writer for The Hollywood Insider and a stand up comedian. With a background in screenwriting, she believes that every good story relies on character, story, and themes. Brianna believes that these components, especially with comedies, can start necessary conversations and even open the minds of the audience. She strives to bring attention to underrepresented and overshadowed films and television series which align with the core values of Hollywood Insider’s mission to provide meaningful and compelling stories.