Like almost everywhere else in the world, Disney is big in Scandinavia. In Sweden, for instance, roughly 40 percent of residents tune into a Disney special on Christmas Eve. But Disney’s Scandinavian connection was not built in modern times — it goes back to fairy tales and folklore. In fact, several of the most famous Disney shorts, films, and characters are Scandinavian in origin. Read more about Disney characters with Scandinavian connections.
Ariel, The Little Mermaid
The original Little Mermaid fairy tale was written by Danish author Hans Christian Andersen. It was published in 1837 and concerns a mermaid (unnamed) who sells her beautiful voice to a Sea Witch in exchange for legs. Disney had considered adapting this story since the 1930s. In 1989, a feature length Little Mermaid was finally released by the company, which gave the title character a proper name. While Ariel is not Scandinavian in the story, her creator, born in Odense, Denmark, is as Scandinavian as it gets.
Elsa, Frozen and Frozen II
Both of the Frozen films are based on a different Hans Christian Andersen tale, The Snow Queen. In the Disney adaptations, the “Snow Queen” is named Elsa and is much more benevolent than her literary counterpart. While Frozen was first conceived as a pretty faithful rendition of the 1844 tale (again, Disney had been trying to adapt this Hans Christian Andersen work since the 30s), the final product diverged sharply from its source material.
However, Frozen and Frozen II may surpass The Snow Queen in Scandinavian authenticity. According to Frozen’s writers, Norway was their biggest influence on the look of the films. Prominent Nordic landmarks, such as Akershus Fortress, were planted in Frozen. The characters’ clothing was even inspired by 19th century Nordic folk costumes.
The year after Frozen’s release, US tourism to Norway increased by 31 percent. By 2018, Frozen-attributed US tourism to Norway had risen to 170 percent. Today, a wide array of products featuring all kinds of Elsa and Frozen paraphernalia can be shipped throughout the world, many of which are available in popular subscription boxes for kids.
Disney Characters with Scandinavian Connections – Bonus: Donald Duck
While not Scandinavian in the way that Ariel and Elsa are, Donald Duck is actually more popular in Scandinavia than both. As mentioned before, nearly half of Sweden watches a televised Disney special on Christmas Eve. What wasn’t mentioned is that this special revolves around Donald Duck. The special is called Kalle Anka, or “Donald Duck and His Friends Wish You a Merry Christmas”. Watching it is a Swedish tradition dating back 60 years.
Donald Duck’s name is Donald Duck in Norway, Kalle Anka in Sweden and Anders And in Denmark. (Editor’s comments).
Several Disney characters originated in Scandinavian fairy tales, of which Ariel and Elsa are most known. Donald Duck, though not Scandinavian in origin, deserves a mention for being the most popular Disney character in Sweden. While his appeal is likely obvious to Swedes, it leaves the rest of us in Scandinavia scratching our heads.
Disney Characters with Scandinavian Connections, written by Karoline Gore. Karoline is a freelance writer from Stoke on Trent in the UK who left the corporate grind when she started a family and has never looked back. She enjoys contributing to a range of online publications on the topics that are important to her.
Feature image (on top): From Disney Frozen 2 Copyright: Visit Norway