Disturbing Portraits Of Disney Characters Living “Unhappily Ever After”

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As children, Disney movies provide us with an idealized portrait of adulthood, full of adventure and happy endings. The artist Jeff Hong provides an alternate narrative in “Unhappily Ever After;” here, our beloved Disney princesses and animals are subjected to the realities of a cruel, dark world. Set against moody, disturbing backdrops, the animated characters appear entirely out of place, stunned by the state of the human condition.

Unlike the work of Dina Goldstein, a photographer who imagined the heartbreaking fates of Disney princesses, Hong’s images preserve the two-dimensional form of the famed Disney characters, a choice which heightens the drama of each piece. As if hurled from an easily understood storybook fairytale, the princesses suffer within a more realistic (and three-dimensional) photographic space.

Throughout “Unhappily Ever After,” the artist pointedly draws attention to current social injustices. These characters, with whom we associate our own wide-eyed innocence, are placed within a a racially-segregated America (Tiana) or a casino that now occupies a Native American reservation (Pocahontas). Animal cruelty and environmental negligence are laid bare as Dumbo suffers the life of a circus animal, Bambi is hunted and stuffed, and Ariel’s lungs fill with polluted water. Simbo is held captive in a zoo. Alice forsakes Wonderland to maintain her drug habit in the streets, and Cinderella is left in a dark alleyway, her clothes ripped from her body. It is profoundly unsettling to witness these childhood symbols in such a difficult world; more distressing still is the fact these injustices and hardships happen every day. Take a look. (via Design Boom)
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  • Kristen Ehrenberger

    Pssst…it’s Simba, not Simbo.

  • rlc37

    When I look back at some of the cartoons I watched as a kid,
    I tend to see hidden messages that I never did as a child. I don’t think I ever
    saw any of these in that light though. I like the fact that the artist, I believe,
    is trying to show where our world has been, is, and the direction we are
    heading. He takes beloved childhood images, shows us what the harsh reality
    would be, and that we need to stop deluding ourselves about happy endings. If
    we start fixing some of the things his pictures bring to our attention maybe we
    can one day have the happy endings that Disney wants us to believe are
    possible. I believe the picture of Ariel covered in sludge would be a very fair
    representation of what our oceans are starting to become, I regularly see on
    the news animals having to be cleaned off, because of one spill or another. While
    I’ve never been a big fan of Winnie the Pooh, the picture of him sitting in the
    destruction of a forest definitely left an impression. I’m originally from Minnesota,
    and while it is most known for its lakes, it is also heavily forested, I would
    probably have much the same look as Pooh did if I went home and one of the
    forests I played in as a kid was destroyed. I really think that picture will speak
    to anyone that has ever lived near any wooded area. As an animal lover the
    picture of Dumbo being whipped at the circus was another picture that really
    sent a message, right now a good real life parallel to that image, is the
    debate as to whether aquariums should be allowed to keep whales and other sea
    mammals as performers.