Walt had a knack for one-upping his critics by blowing the general public away, but it was still a meticulous process on his end. When trying out new things, it is often best to utilize elements that the public already loves and slip in the new elements you have created. You also don't want to convolute things too much - keep your key elements simple and easy enough to understand, without dumbing down your product to your audience.
Much like Snow White, the Evil Queen could be criticized for falling into a rather extreme stereotype. But besides recognizing and adapting to social attitudes and circumstances of the times (the film debuted in 1937), Walt had to ensure that his brand new film stuck to a rather basic story with fairly clear character types in order to connect better to audiences.
The Queen's motives for killing Snow White can at first glance seem rather bizarre. Her trusty mirror tells her that her beauty is second to that of the princess she has dressed in rags and doing work. Sure, many women turn life into a competition regarding "who is hotter," and we all know that the claws can come out if a female feels vulnerable in regards to how her beauty is perceived by others. But to kill a girl just because she is considered more beautiful than you? Is this Queen just crazed with ego and power?
But...what if I were to tell you all that in the original story concept for Walt Disney's Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, the Evil Queen actually had a thing for the Prince? As part of the original storyline, she actually proposed to him, he refused, and then took him to her dungeon where she tortured him to try to get him to say yes to her. He would eventually be rescued by Snow White's bird friends. If you would like to hear more about this and the history of the Snow White dark rides in the parks, you should check out this awesome tribute site.
But with that nugget of information, things seem to piece together more easily, don't they? Not only is the Queen insecure about her looks, but there is a younger and more beautiful female that has the affections of the man she wants and thinks she should have. I mean sure, she has some crazy evil tendencies with torture. The moment where she sweeps through her dungeon and says to the sad remains of a skeleton that is reaching for a pitcher of water, "Thirsty? Have a drink!" as she shatters the pitcher makes it pretty clear that this woman is disturbed and crazy. But she does not focus on torturing Snow White - she just wants her out of the way. With her gone, she can be fairest in the land and maybe, just maybe, the Prince will get over Snow White and marry her instead.
So why didn't this story concept make it into the final version of the film? Apparently the animators were having trouble animating the Prince (something that the studio struggled with for decades, and didn't seem to truly tackle until the Disney Renaissance). It is also suggested that, due to the cruel and unusual torturing that would have been depicted, as well as a more extensive look at the Evil Queen's dungeon in general, it would have made the film too dark for audiences. I believe that all of these are strong contributing factors, but I also believe that Walt also felt that while this story concept would have been understood by the audience, it would have diverted the film for too long away from Snow White herself, instead of keeping the film tight and simple. Let's not forget what happened to the extensive footage of the dwarfs (finished in animation in pencil but not color) that was cut from the film. Animation is very time-consuming and expensive, and still Walt cut the footage to tighten up the film as much as he could.
In the end, the Evil Queen does exactly what she needs to do in order to make Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs a clear and concise story. She paved the way for the future of the Disney company, animation, and began a tradition of classic Disney Villains, and because of all these things she is a successful character.
The Disney Store has a few really nice Evil Queen items (some of which are on sale, along with other Villains items!) - my favorite is the pillow.
There is a lot of new Disney news that I'd like to cover. Before the next villains post, I'll be writing about that, so keep an eye open for the next update. See ya real soon!