Unhappily ever after, fairy tales don’t have a happy ending in the real world

Artist Jeff Hong imagined how Disney fairy tales’ characters would live in the real world: the result – or better the ending – is everything but happy.

“I had an idea to take Disney princesses out of their fairy tale land and into something more urban and rough using cityscapes. I like playing with concepts that deal with juxtaposition and taking something out of their element into something completely opposite of what they’re used to in order to give them a new meaning”. This is how animation storyboard artist Jeff Hong describes the genesis of the Unhappily ever after project.

Unhappily ever after, reimagining Disney fairy tales

Hong tried to imagine how well-loved Disney characters’ lives would be in the real world, then he made digital collages using still frame images from Disney movies and photographs he found principally online, although some he took himself. The result is stunning and the images’ painful frankness go straight to the heart.

The little mermaid is covered in oil, Mulan wears an anti-smog mask to protect herself from Chinese cities’ pollution; Simba is trapped in a zoo and Frozen’s Elsa is adrift on an iceberg in the melting Arctic. “One of my favorite images from the series is Lilo and Stitch living on the street. Disney movies end with happy endings, but this was seemingly a very possible outcome for Lilo and her sister to lose everything and end up homeless”, says Hong.

Jeff Hong’s message

“The hope of these works is to make people think about how their small decisions in everyday life can have a profound effect on our planet and what we can do to help reverse these problems. Using Disney characters puts a new perspective on problems we may not normally feel connected to because it’s happening elsewhere. But once I put these cartoon characters that we all grew up with and love, these issues become a little bit more personal to us,” the artist explains. If his collages break your hearth, try to put all the pieces back together. If the happy ending is taken for granted in fairy tales, you must fight to conquer it in the real world.

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