Gooble Gobble



I’m sure others have pointed this congruence out before, but, well, here it is again.

Conscious influence seems possible, though one can’t imagine the puritanical Disney being a fan of Tod Browning’s FREAKS. I recall in the end of the Grimms fairytale, the wicked queen is made to put on red-hot iron shoes and dance herself to death, which is a little more in line with MGM’s disreputable horror. Throw in some feathers and you’ve got a deal!


Disney keeps the thunderstorm (which may, we are told, be responsible for Cleopatra’s transformation to chicken lady. Ponder than one!) but sensibly reduces the cruelty. We are left to wonder what exactly the seven little miners would have done to that old woman if they’d caught her, and what The Sun headline would have been (does Doc’s name imply he has the surgical skills to forge some kind of woman-fowl graft, like Johnny Eck and Prince Randian and Schlitzie apparently did in FREAKS? What exactly ARE Koo Koo’s medical qualifications?) — instead, Disney has the witch-queen attempt to topple a boulder on her miniature lynch mob, and, in a bit of physics that’s unusually reasonable for a cartoon, she instead pries the cliff ledge loose beneath her feet, and plummets to her doom upon the jagged rocks below. Vultures swoop down, but for once are able to resist forming a barbershop quartet.


It’s a good action sequence, not just because it has spectacle, but because it solves tricky plot problems (killing the villain without making the goodies murderers) in a credible and exciting way. I suspect a lot of people don’t realize that action sequences are written, and though often fight arrangers and second-unit directors play a major role, if the sequence doesn’t affect the direction of the story, it’s a narrative failure.

13 Responses to “Gooble Gobble”

  1. This is very interesting. I can imagine Walt being fan of – or at least taking an interest in – Brown’s Dracula. The strong Gothic tone in Disney’s features is so obvious as to have completely eluded me until I read this post.

  2. Disney was a fan of Leni Riefenstahl. He was the only major Hollywood filmmaker to greet her on her visit to Tinseltown. Your last Disney image-grab is pure Leni.

  3. Disney’s German extraction certainly seems more significant than his English or Irish-Canadian roots. It would be unfair to connect it too strongly with his notorious antisemitism, which can be blamed on his individual character flaws.

    The other striking thing about the film is how much Dopey drools. He really isn’t far removed from the “pinheads” in Freaks, though I don’t think he has any specific condition. Maybe cretinism? It’s quite uncomfortable to see now, though in this day and age we ought to be able to embrace a positive role model for people with learning difficulties. But I doubt such a role model would be named Dopey.

  4. He zips round for another kiss though. Dopey like a fox.

  5. Randy Cook Says:

    The Wicked Queen’s subjective-camera transformation indicates that FREAKS played Los Angeles on a double bill with Mamoulien’s DR. JEKYLL & MR. HYDE.

  6. The Devil-Doll also provides little people helping the heroine…

  7. I’m waiting for a solid King Kong connection, since both films were released by RKO…

  8. Hi, Fiona here, masquerading as David. Here’s an interesting little tidbit that suggests that Dopey may have had Angleman syndrome.

  9. Sorry, ‘Angelman’.

  10. This is fascinating stuff, because it really does seem to suggest someone may have observed these behaviours and incorporated them into the creation of Dopey.

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