You know those art pieces you see online about how some Disney characters would look if they were real people, or space aliens, or part of the cast of Friends? Disney is trying this exercise themselves in the form of “City Of Villains,” a young adult novel from author Estelle Laure. What would Disney characters be like if they were the kind of punk emo brooders that populate these rags? Like this.
Disney has published YA novel reinterpretations of its worlds before. The most unusual thing about THIS one is how the characters are so far removed from their inspirations that it’s hard to tell who each one is intended to represent if you haven’t been told beforehand. So I’m going to describe them first, without any hints. See if you can guess who they are.
The central character, Mary Elizabeth Heart, lives with her Aunt Gia ever since her parents were murdered. She is slightly edgy in that way YA heroines tend to be, and gets involved in petty crime with her boyfriend James Bartholomew. Her best friend Ursula (okay, that one’s easy) is a party girl who lets Mary in on the city’s secrets, and her enemy at school is Mally Saint, who according to the author has “been known to bleach a lawn here and there [and] leave roadkill on a doorstep or two.”
Here are your answers: James has the nickname “Captain Crook,” so he’s probably meant to be this world’s Captain Hook. Ursula is the Sea Witch Octopus. Mary Heart is obviously meant to be the original host of Entertainment Tonight. No one has any idea who Gia is. “Mally Saint”…that’s a tough one. Let’s see if we can crack it…
Wow, that one’s a stretch.
In fact, if Laure hadn’t been officially hired by Disney to come up with this, she probably could have published it on her own with no trademark issues. Even characters who share the same names as their inspirations, like Ursula, have wildly different personalities. Oddly, even though this is a City of Villains, Belle is one of the gang, and her name is just “Belle.”
There are other elements of this that are kind of too ridiculous to mention. If you need to know more, a full interview with Laure has been published on Polygon.