Pocahontas is pissed
What are princesses made of? Bloody ripped clothes, ragged hair and demented grins, at least according to Disney designer and illustrator Jeffrey Thomas, who has developed a series of images and stories that make up the series, “Twisted Disney Princesses.”
Q: What exactly are the twisted princesses?
A: The Twisted Princesses are a series of drawings based on what would happen if a small detail in one of Disney’s classic stories was changed, preventing the lead female character (princess) from having her “Happily Ever After.” In life, everything doesn’t always have a happy ending and I thought it would be fun to put that twist on these classic characters.
Q: When did you create them?
A: I created the Twisted Princesses in the fall of 2008. They’ve been an ongoing project since then. I go back to them whenever I have some free time.
Q: What inspired these, and what is the appeal of depraved princesses?
Belle having a bad day
A: The creation of my Twisted Princesses is actually pretty funny. I worked at Disney Interactive Studios on the Brand/Legal certification team and my boss was actually showing me a bunch of Disney fan art that she had accumulated. It made me think “I love Disney. Why don’t I draw some of their characters?” So that night I actually went home, and decided I’d try to draw my own version of Belle. I sketched many versions of her but I didn’t like a single one. By this point I was tired and annoyed that I wasn’t getting the results I wanted, so out of frustration I drew a disfigured Belle. I liked it so I took it to work the next day to show my boss. Her reaction to it inspired me to do another, which happened to be my Ariel. Everyone at work loved it, and that motivated me to tackle more princesses. For my first 6 princesses I had an idea of how they became the way they are but for the most part it was based off a “this would look cool” mentality. I never fully wrote out an original story until I drew Pocahontas. She was the first princess I wrote a story for because I thought she would need explanation as to why I gave her armor. And ever since Pocahontas, each of my princesses has been accompanied with an original story…
Q: You also wrote the stories?
A: I wrote the background stories for each of the princesses. I had a wealth of knowledge of the Disney properties (which is why I was hired to be part of the DIS Brand/legal team) which allowed me to create believable spin off stories for each princess. I wouldn’t go through with drawing a princess if her story didn’t make sense or feel like it could actually happen. Granted, they were much darker than the originals but I always thought it was ironic given my job at the time.
Q: Were you surprised by fan response?
A: I was curious though as to why so many people liked my princesses… I think what got people to notice them was the story that each picture told. Anybody can draw Ariel as an evil sea creature, but it doesn’t mean anything if it doesn’t capture the feel of the character. I think that the appeal of my princesses is that fact that it takes these lovable characters and exposes them to a darker world but at the same time, they still retain the traits that make them who they are. One of my favorite Twisted Princess stories is Jane’s. She’s not a monster or zombie or vampire…she’s a survivor. And that speaks true to her character in the movie. I liked the idea that changing a simple story element (Tarzan doesn’t catch her) can cause a completely different character outcome and I think most people do too.
Q: How will you use the stories and images?
The girlfriend from hell, literally
A: I’m not really sure yet. It would be nice to publish a book about each princess someday, but that would be tough to get approved by Disney.
Q: Doesn’t Disney mind you ‘warping’ their characters, especially since you work for them?
A: Disney doesn’t mind. My princesses are considered a parody or fan art so it doesn’t pose a problem. If I was trying to make money off of them, they would have a problem