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Disney Classics in the Digital Collections


Long before they became iconic Disney films, Disney classics like Beauty and the Beast, Cinderella, and The Little Mermaid were children's stories, myths, and fables shared over centuries. (And yes, some of them had wildly different and terrible endings.) In celebration of the release of the live-action Beauty and the Beast this weekend, we delved into the Digital Collections to check out a few 19th and early 20th century illustrations of these tales as old as time. While the illustrators each gave the stories their own artistic spin, we spotted some traces of the Disney characters we know and love in the past.

Can you spot any more Disney classics among the children's books illustrations in our Digital Collections? Do any of their portrayals surprise you? Tell us in the comments!

Beauty and the Beast (1991)

The Beast is a bit more of a giant boar in an 1896 illustration from Walter Crane.



In Walter Crane's version the Beast's servants are turned into monkeys instead of houseware and furniture, and we can see a predecessor of Belle's famous yellow dress.

Images via IMDB
Images via IMDB 1, 2


Cinderella (1950)

We're not sure she's singing "Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo" here, but the fairy godmother does turn a pumpkin into a carriage for Cinderella in this illustration from the early 1900s.



Do you prefer the art deco dress of 1916 or the sparkly blue of Disney in 1950?



The evil step-sisters rock feathers in their hair while looking unpleasant over 100 years before the Disney version.


The Little Mermaid (1989)

Prince Eric has a lot more pomp about him in this early 1900s illustration of the Hans Christian Andersen story.



Peter Pan (1953)

This 1906 illustration from Peter Pan by J. M. Barrie seems to be a slightly more even match than the 1953 Disney version.

IMAGE ID 1704198
IMAGE ID1704198


The children from Peter Pan in Hilda T. Miller's prints from the early 1900s aren't too far off from the Disney characters.

Sleeping Beauty (1959)

Prince Phillip still rides on his white horse to save Princess Aurora in this 1911 illustration from Sleeping Beauty by artist Walter Crane, but we're glad he dropped the mustache for the 1959 Disney version.



In the 1890 illustrations of Sleeping Beauty by artist Paul Friedrich Meyerheim, Aurora is a side-sleeper, unlike her 1959 counterpart.


Robin Hood (1973)

In 1550, Robin Hood and Little John were not a fox and a bear, respectively. This title page comes from a print of one of the oldest surviving tales of Robin Hood, and over 400 years later the story became a Disney classic.


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