The concept of empowering women through magic in film reaches far beyond that of the horror, fantasy and modern film and into the world of the fantastic, that is, the world of Disney. The witches of Disney do not contain prototypical behaviors, but instead are defined as either "good" or “bad" witches with fine lines in between.
Disney's Animated Witches
The Little Mermaid
To begin the discussion will focus on the more infamous, and common depiction of witches in Disney. That is the "evil" or "bad “witch. In ‘The Little Mermaid’ we meet Ursula, the sea witch. An obese being that contains the lower body of an octopus, purple skin, and constantly sports a sinister grin. In Charlotte Hornby's discussion on women in Disney she says that Ursula acts in “‘The Little Mermaid’ as a symbol of the ideal woman and to teach Ariel the importance of gendered behavior to trap the opposite sex."Along with Ursula's demonic like appearance, her behavior seems to be portrayed as negative due to her "trapping" the opposite sex. Furthermore, she later makes a deal with Ariel, and later uses this deal to obtain power over the entire sea. Later, she is defeated by a human heroic male figure despite her incredible power and enormous size. Therefore it can be said here that the title of “witch,” brings certain connotations of negativity.
In Disney’s 1959 animated feature Sleeping Beauty, the central villain is known as Maleficent. She is the most powerful woman in the film but remains evil. She casts a spell which will kill the princess, Aurora, before her sixteenth birthday. While the 'good' fairies try to reverse her spell, they are not strong enough and can only alter the effects of Maleficent's spell by putting Aurora to sleep. The only way to overcome Maleficent’s spell is if Aurora’s true love (a male prince) kisses her. Therefore, the only way to overcome the incredible power of Maleficent is through a male figure. Furthermore, a reoccurring theme occurs that when women are granted great power in Disney films they are depicted as evil, where the only way to overcome this evil is through a male. And despite the great powers of the witch figure in Disney films it seems as if a masculine male figure is often the only way to overcome these female terrors. In the climax of the film Maleficent tells the prince that he will need to overcome "all the powers of hell," to defeat her, and morphs into a dragon, yet is overcome eventually by the prince. The power difference between the two is quite significant, but of course the viewer is not shocked when the male overcomes her, as this is visited time and time again in Disney. In her discussion of witches in Disney Films Best says that “The horns are suggestive that Maleficent is a symbolic figure of Satan, which in turn advocates the implication that the witch automatically equals Satan.” If Maleficent is said to be Satan, then her character can be seen as anti-Christian.
Disney's Live Action Witches
Hocus Pocus currently remains to be Disney's most centrally focused witch film to date. The film focuses on the Sanderson sisters, whose power is made known quickly within the film, as they steal the souls of children to make themselves younger. They exercise witchcraft by killing children in order to alter themselves younger in appearance and body. Their power is used for superficial means, making the witches come across as quite shallow and self centered.
Despite being full grown powerful witches they are overpowered and outmatched frequently by an unintelligent, fragile male, rendering them as an inferior gender, despite the male hero being quite thick. For example, Max tricks the witches into thinking they are being covered in acid rain when he turns on the sprinklers, and again when he manages to trap them in a furnace at a high school, burning the sisters to death. When women are empowered as witches in film they are commonly portrayed as evil, and in the case of Disney are always overcome by a male.
Within the film the witches uses several spells which are all negative in practice. Some of these spells involve bringing back the dead, trapping the soul of a boy into a cat's body and luring children to their home in order to steal all their souls.
Also, the witch’s existence seems to focus and surround on a book filled with evil spells. One may see this as an anti-bible as it represented as a type of bible from the witches. The book listens to their commands and has a life of its own (it has an eye as well).
Lastly, in the film on Halloween the witch sisters see a child dressed as angel who blesses them, they scream in oppositional horror as if they were cursed. Furthermore, the witches see a man dressed as Satan and rush to meet him. They call him master and tell him that they are "at his service." Obviously, the link between the witches and their anti-Christian values are quite evident. They continue to call the man master (who they believe is really Satan) and go as far as to bow to him. One witch brings asks "Satan" "what about the book?" allowing the viewer to believe again that the book they seek to possess in a satanic text or bible for performing evil.
The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
Despite The Chronicles Of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe being written by C.S Lewis I will here classify it as a Disney film, as they are the company responsible for making the film.
The White Witch, (named due to her association with winter, oppositional to the traditional notions of white: purity and positive) the leader of the dark forces in Narnia is depicted as a ruthless human being who only uses her power to commit horrible atrocities including stabbing beings causing them to turn to stone, and therefore waging a war on the "good" side of Narnia. Furthermore, she uses her power as the all powerful female witch to bring winter to Narnia (typically season associated with death and darkness more so than any other). In the film she is also responsible for the sacrificial killing of Aslan, the central powerful masculine character in the film. This to the viewers is depicted as the greatest evil one could commit in a Roman Catholic spectrum, as Aslan as seen as the direct representation of Jesus Christ. To kill Christ would be to exist as the anti-Christ.
"...the cold hearted White Witch...She is a pristine picture of evil," (Wikipedia).