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The Evil Queen

Disneyland: The Happiest Place on Earth. It’s the home to the ever growing lineup of beloved characters that graced our TV screens through our lives.  Visited by millions of people every year, Disneyland is not just a theme park tourist trap, but a special place for everyone who enters the gates.  An escape from our normal lives, Disneyland presents you with another world full of Pirates, Princesses, Mice, and much more.  From Mickey Mouse to the Mad Hatter, Princess Aurora to Cruella Deville; Disneyland and all the other Disney parks in the world are the keepers of magical characters that come to life before our very eyes.  This series on Disney will focus on photography at the Disneyland Resort in Southern California.

A popular pastime that started out small and has grown in popularity at the Disneyland Park is photography.  Amateurs and professionals alike come to Disneyland everyday to take photos at the park of all sorts of different subjects.  Disneyland presents a wonderful venue of photo opportunities for any photographer who wants to take photos for fun and is a great way to practice your photo taking skills.  You don’t need a super expensive satellite reprogramming SLR Digital Camera to get great photos at the park (though it helps in some situations), in fact even the cheapest point and shoot camera can take fantastic photos of the Magical Kingdom. Popular local newspapers such as the OC Register even have contests where you can submit your favorite Disney photos for publication on their website and possibly in the paper itself.  While Disney discourages commercial photography without prior arrangements, if you want to go into the park and take pictures for your own personal use for fun Disney doesn’t mind in the least.

Disneyland Park, California

Disneyland Park, California

I’ve been photographing at Disneyland for over 5 years* snapping shots of everything from parades, characters, shows, and beyond.  I can honestly say that within those 5 years I’ve definitely honed in on my photography skills, and I’m a better photographer than I ever was because of it.  Because of all the various types of photo subjects, it really pushes your knowledge of the cameras to get those perfect shots. My main subject of photography over the last 5 years has been the characters, parades, and shows at Disneyland.  It’s been a blast, and I wouldn’t trade the memories I’ve had for anything! Where else can you avoid red apples from the Evil Queen have some crazy fun with the Mad Hatter, and gracing the presence of the beautiful Princess Belle? I’m going to showcase photographing characters, parades, and shows in Disneyland through a year long series on Disneyland Photography.  First up is my favorite subject of them all (not to mention the Fairest), VILLAINS.

Villains are the most under appreciated characters in the Disney universe, at least I believe.  Without an antagonist, you wouldn’t have a story.  Without the Evil Queen how would Snow White have been awakened by her True Love?  Without Maleficent, Princess Aurora’s life would certainly be less adventurous and Prince Phillip wouldn’t be known as a hero.  Without Cruella Deville, the Dalmatians would have just lived their lives out (all 101 of them!).  Case and point, without Villains the classic stories would never have been! It takes a conflict to have a story that ends with a climax and resolution.  How can you have a happy ending if there wasn’t an epic struggle or battle to make it in contrast a happy resolution? Not to mention, while they are evil, the Villains always have the coolest costume! So where do you find villains in Disneyland, and what’s the best way to take photos of them?

I’m going to break it down by characters since, sadly, there are not too many Villains you can go see at Disneyland.  I’ll be doing a few posts in this series, focusing on a single show or a single character at a time.  One thing to note: Due to the nature of Disney and the every changing shows, weather, schedules, etc… note that you may not find certain characters in every location I’ve mentioned.


The Evil Queen - Villains Lair

The Evil Queen is by far my favorite Disney character. What’s not to like as far as Villains go? She’s ruthless and willing to change her whole appearance just to quell her jealousy! She’s beyond beautiful, which that alone is a plus. She’s mysterious, her back story (up until the recent Evil Queen backstory released two years ago) is a mystery to many people.  Her costume is pretty awesome, with a long black flowing cape and sinister gold crown.  She talks to a Magic Mirror on the Wall (commands it in fact!), and if you don’t think she’s evil enough… think about it.  She wanted her step daughter’s heart in a BOX.  Yes, her heart in a box ripped out by a hired huntsman.  The Evil Queen - DisneylandWhat can be more evil than that?  Let’s face it, Maleficent is just upset she wasn’t invited to the party.  She might be more powerful than the Evil Queen, but I’d say the Queen could put up a good fight with her spells and potions! At any rate, the Evil Queen roams Disneyland many times of the year (when she’s not busy doing her Evil Queen duties and talking to her Magic Mirror).  Typically during summer you can find her roaming around tempting people with the tease of fresh red apples and asking about the location of Snow White.

The Evil Queen is by far my favorite character to photograph as well, the shots you can get range from epic to devious!  With a raised eyebrow and blackhearted smile and the elegance of royalty, the Queen strolls along entertaining the ‘peasants’ by signing some autographs through her own ‘good’ will.  If you catch her in a good mood (well, a better than usual evil mood) she might even let you take a photograph with her.  I’ve gotten some of my best shots of any villain from the Evil Queen, and sometimes they’re just candid photos. There’s a few locations you can see her throughout the day, though some of them you have to go hunting her out.

In the Park – The only real way you can go up to the Queen (if she allows) is to find her in the Disneyland Park.  Typically she graces Disneyland park during the summer strolling around the park.  She often moves quickly, so you’ll have to have a quick eye out for her or else she may not be where you last saw her.  Not to mention she is The Evil Queen starequite often dashing off to go speak with her mirror and confirm who is the fairest of them all.  There are quite a few places you can find her, such as near Snow White’s Wishing Well, behind Sleeping Beauty’s Castle, roaming the area near the Matterhorn ride, or perhaps even being a reluctant judge for the Musical Chair games hosted by the Alice and the Mad Hatter at the end of Main Street.  She likes to stick around Fantasyland, however, since she’s always looking for Snow White.  During the wonderful 50th Anniversary of Disneyland in 2005 to around 2007/2008, the Queen could be often seen at the Villain’s Lair location behind the Castle.  She would often trade with other villains making appearances to the delight of waiting guests.  That of course all depending on her Magic Mirror telling her she’s the Fairest in the land.

Evil Queen in Fantasmic!In Fantasmic! – Currently the other way to see the Evil Queen normally, though not be able to actually speak to her or take a photo with her, is when she invades Mickey Mouse’s mind in the night-show Fantasmic!  There she conjures up a spell of no good to turn herself into the Old Hag in order to call upon all the forces of Evil to take over Mickey Mouses imagination.  She speaks to her Magic Mirror, which appears larger than life, and recites her famous movie spell turning her hair to white and emerging as the menacing Old Hag off to do no good in Mickey’s Mind!  While she’s far away, she takes center stage, and if you ever wanted to see the Queen actually making a spell, this is the place to be! She’s only out briefly for her spell, but you can’t miss her!

Halloween Time – During the month of October, Disneyland often has a lot of Halloween festivities in both the Disneyland and Disney California Adventure park.  Depending on where the Queen feels like being, you may find her in either a special Halloween location with other villains in Disneyland near Small World or in Disney’s California Adventure in the Hollywood Backlot.  Evil Queen - Ready for her Close Up

There are many different ways to capture the Queen, but you always want to make her look her best! I’ve always tried to capture the angles that make her look the most epic and royal, while also embodying the villain she tries to often hide as just misunderstood intentions.  You have to be quick with her, as her patience is pretty thin.  Having a quick finger to snap a shot when she side glances at you, or capturing that moment when she flips out her cape, to get the best out of the Queen you need to be ready! It’s in those brief moments that you can capture the most epic and fantastic photos of her, but they are only caught after carefully watching her movements.  I often like to get nice and close with the shoots, doing a more portrait style. Afterall, she is a Queen and more epic portrait shots suit her rather well.  Having a lens on that zooms (or if it’s built in) you can get some great shots of Her Majesty as she watches the guests come up.  I find this is where she has the most facial expressions.  It can also bring out more of a sinister look for the Queen, perfectly framing her apathy for the world and having to mingle with mere peasants. Just don’t get too close or else you might yourself the victim of an apple-induced coma!

Another thing to watch out for are the quick candid moments with guests and other characters.  Though with other characters, aside from the occasional crossing paths of the Queen and the Alice in Wonderland characters, it is often rare to catch those moments at the current time.  The Evil Queen and Cruella DevilleBack during the 50th Anniversary at Disneyland when the Princesses roamed around the front of the castle, you’d often find the Queen harassing Snow White and whomever Princess was near the wishing well on her way to cause trouble.  Now, those moments are few and far between, but you can still find her shooing away and belittling Peter Pan as he passes by.  Ever so often you’ll see the Queen and Cruella walking around having a moment to talk about their daily evil doings, which is a moment to capture for sure!  Along with other characters, capturing fun moments with guests can be just as rewarding!  The best usually occurs when either a little child visits the Queen wearing a Snow White outfit, often the most priceless moments will follow.  But also you’ll have the jokers who have to come up and attempt to mess with Her Majesty to get her to smile or laugh… not a good idea. Have a camera ready for those moments, as the Queen makes sure to keep the spotlight on herself and teach the jokers what royalty means!  Many of these moments you might find yourself watching the events unfolding and laughing at the outcome, completely forgetting that you’re holding a camera! In this case, using the ‘video’ mode on the camera can capture these moments without you missing what’s going on.  But it all comes down to being ready at a moments notice for the unexpected, and it’s those photos that come from those moments that are classic keepers that you’ll cherish for a long time.

Often times I try to look not only at the Queen, but her surroundings.  The Evil Queen in Disney's California AdventureSometimes just a background can tell a story complimenting more than just a shot of the Queen in front of a tree or castle wall.  Though it’s harder to find various different backdrops, they do present themselves at times.  Take, for instance, the photo to the left.  Here the Evil Queen was in the Disney California Adventure Hollywood Backlot walking around.  She happened to stop in front of one of the shop windows, which also happened to have a near full size Magic Mirror promoting the release of the Snow White DVD and Blu-Ray release.  Knowing this would be a millisecond shot to get, I was fortunate enough that a guest was yelling her name, causing her to slightly pause and turn in which I was able to capture this shot perfectly with the mirror in the window.  It’s shots like these that I really love, because it’s not just the Evil Queen but now a capture of a moment with a story.  Not to mention it looks like it’s right out of the Snow White movie!  I had been hoping since I realized the Mirror was there.  This wasn’t the only time where I’d seen a Magic Mirror in the Disneyland parks and attempted to get photos of the Queen near them!  There’s actually 3 Magic Mirrors currently in Disneyland Resort… two are located in Disney’s California Adventure (one of which is the store window one in Hollywood Backlot) and there’s one in Disneyland park. Do you know where they all are? Post a comment here if you think you know! But going back to the main topic, sometimes waiting for these instant moments can be worth the patience to get the perfect shot!

The Queen can be tough to keep up with, and sometimes you’ll have to travel far with her in order just to get a single shot, but I promise it’ll be worth it!  Just don’t accept any apples from her, and watch out for anyone who looks like a huntsman!

The photos throughout this post and the ones below are some of my favorite Evil Queen captures over the years in both the park and Fantasmic!  Keep checking back for the occasional post about catching and photographing different Disney characters!

All photos are © Britt Dietz, if you want to use them for something, just please ask.  You’ll find i don’t bite and often am glad to help out with photos.  But ask first!

(*) As of July 2010

2 Responses to “Photographing Disneyland: The Evil Queen”

A Fan on: 16 July 2010 at 12:11 PM

Britt as usual… FABULOUS job! I look forward to learning from the master how to take photos with a passion like yours have! Thank you so much for taking the time to create this blog!!

Britt Dietz on: 16 July 2010 at 12:52 PM

Thank you for the wonderful comment! I hope you enjoy the coming series on various photography types!