The Little Match Girl (2006)

This Disney short was originally supposed to be part of a 2006 version of Fantasia that Disney abandoned. This segment was produced anyway, and we saw it as part of the Disney Short Film Collection.

It's a surpisingly faithful adaptation of Hans Christian Anderson's short story of the same name, even incorporating the original visions of the Match Girl as she freezes to death in the cold. Good times, all around.

The original story makes it clear that the events transpire on New Year's Eve, though the girl hallucinates a Christmas tree. This short seems to have shifted the story to Christmas itself, as evidenced by her watching a family climb into a sleigh with a handful of wrapped gifts.

The story is relatively bare bones: a poor girl fails to sell matches. Ignored by the world around her, she retreats into an alley, where she lights her matches and sees beautiful visions in the fire. The last light to go out is her own, when her grandmother's spirit whisks her away to Heaven, leaving her frozen corpse behind.

To their credit, Disney animated all of that, right down to her icy body slouched in the ice. The animation and music were beautiful. Other than the music, it's a silent short, which is quite effective.

The underlying story, of course, is more than a little cheesy, though Anderson's politics were in the right place. Disney's animators were able to justify the cheap sentimentality and moralizing, but they couldn't erase it. Even so, it's kind of awesome that Disney produced a short when a kid gets high off of fumes and dies in the cold.

It's about seven minutes long and worth seeing for the visuals alone. Then again, what Disney short isn't?


  1. At the time "Little Match Girl" was written, New Year's gifts were as common as Christmas gifts, and up until about 1900 people still gave New Year's gifts. Kids got gifts on St. Nicholas Day in some places, on Epiphany in others, and adults gifted each other at the new year. Also, the 12 days of Christmas started on Christmas day and ended January 6, so Christmas trees would still be up in many households.


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