Disney does Mary: The Truth About Mother Goose (1957)

In this week’s vlog, Steven Reid looks at Mary’s brief stint as a Disney princess in a short cartoon from 1957, which was nominated for an Oscar.

In the course of researching Mary’s cultural afterlife for both this project and my own teaching on Mary, I’ve come across some weird things. These range from actual alleged relics of Mary, like a lock of hair in a box, through to wonderful and enthusiastic – if slightly surreal – spectacles of community commemoration like those marking the 450th anniversary of the Battle of Langside in 2018.

Mary in captivity in The Truth About Mother Goose (1957)

However, The Truth About Mother Goose, an animated short produced by Walt Disney and released in 1957, is probably my favourite example of a modern retelling of Mary’s story. The cartoon is made up of three short vignettes exploring the alleged truth behind famous nursery rhymes, with the second vignette confidently announcing that ‘Mary, Mary Quite Contrary’ is based on Mary’s life, on what basis I’m not sure. The plot takes considerable licence with Mary’s story, but is surprisingly on point with its visual gag relating to the fate that awaits any man who becomes involved with her, romantically or otherwise. The presentation of Mary, Darnley, and Elizabeth in the cartoon is fascinating, with the brief shot of Elizabeth channelling Bette Davis’ portrayal of the English queen in The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex (1939), while Mary’s silhouette and styling directly anticipates that of her more famous Disney princess counterpart, Aurora, in Sleeping Beauty, which was released in 1959. The cartoon, directed by Wolfgang Reitherman and Bill Justice, was nominated for the Oscar for Best Animated Short Film, and also features a delightfully funky trio of jazz-scatting jesters. The video below starts at Mary’s story.

Posted on YouTube by Lukas Dziatkowski

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