Hans Christian Andersen’s dark fairytales have provided the inspiration to a multitude of wonderful films hailing from a huge variety of languages and countries. We have compiled our favourite five adaptations, ranging across different animation styles, studios and cultures.
Rusalochka (1968), Ivan Aksenchuk
Our current pick of the week, combining a mixture of cel (short for celluloid) animation with an older form of cut out animation, is how famed Russian animator Ivan Aksenchuk and Soyuzmultfilm took on The Little Mermaid. The mixed animation techniques are beautiful, as you drift from the humdrum black and white human world into what feels like an old illustrated fairytale. Staying true to the original ending, this ephemeral and delicate piece becomes a philosophical glance at love and sacrifice. A children’s favourite in Russia, and totally profound to watch as an adult, it is absolutely unmissable.
The Little Mermaid (1989), Ron Clements and John Musker
Most likely, you have seen the Disney adaptation of The Little Mermaid. Boasting a hugely popular soundtrack that propelled it to blockbuster status, most adults can still recall the ‘Part of Your World’ and ‘Under the Sea’ in near-perfect detail. What it perhaps lacks in subtlety, it makes up for with a feel-good array of loveable side characters and quotable moments!
The Snow Queen (1957), Lev Atamanov
This adaptation of the fairytale of the same name became an instant classic. Using a hand-drawn and painstakingly executed rotoscope technique, the characters loom larger than life in this dark and twisted foray into the frozen wastelands of a terrifying empire run by the heartless Snow Queen. A gorgeous take on the influential tale; it is available to watch in our permanent collection!
Frozen (2013), Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee
Who doesn’t know a six-year-old who can sing ‘Let it Go’? Much in the same vein as Disney’s The Little Mermaid, this adaptation of Hans Christian Andersen’s The Snow Queen diverges freely from the original text. Changing the tale of familial discord to female empowerment and sisterly love certainly was a winning touch and a comic one at that. Perhaps the most influential Disney film of recent years, it has seeped deeply into the cultural mainstream.
Thumbelina (1994), Don Bluth and Gary Goldman
A production by Don Bluth Ireland LTD, and distributed by Warner Bros, this strikes a balance between the sinister and the sweet so inherent in all of Hans Christian’s Andersen’s fairytale writings. Featuring music by Barry Manilow and a thoroughly sweet animation style, it is well worth a watch, or a rewatch if it has been a few years.