(Portrait) The Evil Queen: a most venomous villain

Most of the time she keeps a low profile behind the curtain of the window above the Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs attraction. But the Disney Halloween Festival is a chance for her to find her voice and step into the limelight, finally, for the big day!


The grace and grandeur of her outfit in Disney Villains Lair are striking.  Her wide-sleeved dress overlaid with a black cape chills the bones. It gives her a regal stature, as elegant as it is impressive. As highlighted by historian Robin Allan, the inspiration for the Queen’s costume comes from a real princess, Ute de Ballenstedt, whose statue is in Naumburg Cathedral in Germany. This thirteenth-century figure is depicted wearing a headscarf, topped by her crown, so that only one side of her face is visible. Her dress is covered by a thick coat with an imposing golden brooch affixed to its chest. Does that remind you of anything?


The opulence of her clothing is set against her cold, clasped face and glacial expression. Walt Disney wanted the villain of his first Classic animated film (1937) to be a femme fatale – something between Lady Macbeth and the Big Bad Wolf! In imagining this venomous beauty he pointed his artists towards various American actresses of the day. He also looked to the work of Polish artist W.T. Benda, who was known at the time for his female theatrical masks with their mysterious, unsettling allure. For the makeup and dark eyelids he used techniques taken from silent cinema to make her gaze even more expressive and her presence even more intimidating – all without uttering a single word!


Whether it’s in Disney Villains Lair or A night fall with Disney Villains, the Queen is never without her celebrated magic mirror – the eminence grise who oversees her shifting appearance with composure and distance, but never gets involved.

The Queen’s transformation as witnessed in A night fall with Disney Villains is a pure Halloween moment. To design it, the Disney artists immersed themselves in the great horror movies of the day, beginning with the famous Dr Jekyll & Mr. Hyde (1931), as well as The Cabinet of Doctor Caligari (1920), Murnau’s Nosferatu (1922), Frankenstein (1931) or even The Devil-Doll (1936). A captivating metamorphosis, hypnotising staging, stunning special effects – the elements are all in place to plunge us into a world of wickedness, black magic and evil beings!

Just take care not to faint!

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