Rachel Zegler’s Snow White Controversy Explained: Is Disney’s Movie in Trouble?
Disney will release a live-action remake of Snow White starring Rachel Zegler and Gal Gadot next year, but recent controversy has left some wondering whether it could be in trouble at the box office.
The words and actions of Hollywood talent have become increasingly relevant in recent years as social media rises. Actors and creatives have found themselves under more scrutiny than ever, with some even facing repercussions for things they may have done or posted years ago.
For example, decade-old tweets filled with pedophilic jokes from Guardians of the Galaxy director James Gunn were brought into the light, which led to his firing from Vol. 3 until Disney ultimately reversed the decision.
Disney’s Snow White Remake Controversy Explained
The controversy surrounding Snow White arose recently for two reasons, the first of which came due to a set photo leak revealing Rachel Zegler’s titular Disney princess alongside her seven traveling companions.
The photo – which Disney claimed to be fake – sparked uproar as it drew attention to the movie’s replacement of the seven dwarves for a group of people of mixed heights, genders, and ethnicities, something many panned as a political correctness-driven decision.
A Disney spokesperson confirmed to The Hollywood Reporter that it opted to take this “different approach” to the original seven dwarves “to avoid reinforcing stereotypes,” noting how the studio consulted with “members of the dwarfism community” in doing so:
“To avoid reinforcing stereotypes from the original animated film, we are taking a different approach with these seven characters and have been consulting with members of the dwarfism community… We look forward to sharing more as the film heads into production after a lengthy development period.”
Following the circulation of the alleged set photo, interview comments resurfaced from last September’s D23 which saw Zegler and Evil Queen actress Gal Gadot criticize the original tale and reveal major story changes for the remake.
In an interview with Variety at the event, Zegler panned the story as outdated and revealed a major change as Snow White will no longer be “dreaming about true love” but rather will be set on “becoming the leader she knows she can be:”
“I just mean that it’s no longer 1937. We absolutely wrote a ‘Snow White’ that … she’s not going to be saved by the prince, and she’s not going to be dreaming about true love; she’s going to be dreaming about becoming the leader she knows she can be and that her late father told her that she could be if she was fearless, fair, brave and true.”
Fans have also disagreed with Zegler’s description of Prince Charming as “a guy who literally stalks her” in an interview with Extra TV. The royal met Snow White in the original story as he heard as singing while riding by on his horse, leading him to enter the castle where she was working to meet her:
“The original cartoon came out in 1937, and very evidently so. There’s a big focus on her love story with a guy who literally stalks her. Weird. So we didn’t do that this time.”
The actress diminished the role of male lead Andrew Burnap, joking how “all of [his] scenes could get cut:”
“We have a different approach to what I’m sure a lot of people will assume is a love story just because we cast a guy in the movie. All of Andrew’s scenes could get cut, who knows? It’s Hollywood, baby!”
Although Burnap will play the male lead, he will not go by Prince Charming but rather play a character called Jonathan, who the actor told Man About Town will be “less of a full-on prince and more of a reluctant hero.”
Speaking with Entertainment Weekly, Zegler even opened up about how she had never been a fan of the original Snow White growing up, something which disappointed many to hear:
“I was scared of the original cartoon, I think I watched it once and then I never picked it up again. Like I’m being so serious, I watched it once and then went on the ride at Disneyworld which was called Snow White’s Scary Adventures – doesn’t sound like something a little kid would like – was terrified of it, never revisited Snow White again. So, I watched it for the first time in 16, 17 years when I was doing this film.”
David Hand, the son of the original 1937 movie’s director of the same name, hit back against Zegler and the remake in an interview with The Telegraph, sharing his belief that both his father and Walt Disney would “very much disagree with it:”
“It’s a whole different concept and I just totally disagree with it, and I know my dad and Walt would also very much disagree with it.”
Hand then called the remake a “disgrace” and even referred to the “woke” direction as “insulting” to the original classics:
“Their thoughts are just so radical now. They change the stories, they change the thought process of the characters, … they’re making up new woke things and I’m just not into any of that. I find it quite frankly a bit insulting [what] they may have done with some of these classic films. … There’s no respect for what Disney did and what my dad did. … I think Walt and he would be turning in their graves.”
The comments have many disappointed in Zegler’s casting, which was already a hot topic due to her Latin background given Snow White is described in the original tale to have “skin as white as snow” and is usually portrayed as Caucasian.
Zegler defended the many changes and modernization in an interview with Vanity Fair, expressing how she feels the overhaul was “needed” to give Snow White “a function beyond ‘Someday My Prince Will Come:’”
“People are making these jokes about ours being the PC Snow White, where it’s like, yeah, it is — because it needed that,” the actress said. “It’s an 85-year-old cartoon, and our version is a refreshing story about a young woman who has a function beyond ‘Someday My Prince Will Come.’”
Will Snow White Struggle at the Box Office?
Disney has gone all-in on its live-action remakes of animated movies ever since The Lion King and Aladdin became billion-dollar hits in 2019. But lately, the novelty appears to be wearing off with the latest remake, The Little Mermaid, only bringing in $566.6 million on a massive $250 million production budget.
While the movie still ought to turn a small profit once home release sales are factored in, it certainly won’t be the blockbuster success Disney was hoping for. Now, there are concerns Snow White may suffer a similar fate due to the negative press surrounding it and its likely expensive price tag.
The viral Snow White controversy seems unlikely to hinder the movie’s chances of box office success much, as the fan base commenting on these issues across social media typically represents a rather small portion of the general audience.
But following the difficulties suffered by The Little Mermaid – which also faced controversy for its casting of Halle Bailey – Snow White may similarly struggle to take off at the box office when it arrives next year.
The live-action remake appears bound to face backlash from moviegoers and critics alike due to the many changes it will bring to the original tale. It’s easy to see how the negative press expected to surround the release could ultimately hurt its box office, especially if the movie doesn’t end up being all that great.
Then again, perhaps curiosity about how Disney has changed Snow White may ultimately prove to be a hook to pull audiences into theaters, or, at the very least, interest them enough to give it a watch upon its home release or on Disney+.
Snow White hits theaters on March 22, 2024, although reports have claimed the Disney remake will “almost certainly move off that date.”