Rachel Zegler Involved in Major Battle Against Disney

in Entertainment, Movies & TV

Rachel Zegler in The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes

Credit: Lionsgate

Actress Rachel Zegler has quickly taken the world of Hollywood by storm, and she has a loyal legion of followers, as well as a large group of detractors.

Rachel Zegler’s career began to soar after her breakthrough role as Maria in Steven Spielberg’s highly anticipated remake of West Side Story (2021). This role catapulted her into the spotlight and garnered critical acclaim for her performance, showcasing her remarkable singing and acting abilities.

Rachel Zegler as Maria
Credit: 20th Century Studios

Before her big break, Rachel Zegler was a relative newcomer to the industry. She gained attention for posting covers of popular songs on her YouTube channel, where she showcased her impressive vocal range. It was her talent as a singer that initially caught the attention of casting directors– including Steven Spielberg— for West Side Story, and she was ultimately chosen from thousands of auditioners to play the iconic role of Maria.

West Side Story (2021), a modern adaptation of the classic musical, allowed Zegler to showcase her acting and singing skills on a grand scale. Her performance received praise for capturing the innocence, vulnerability, and strength of Maria, a role made famous by Natalie Wood in the 1961 original film. Zegler’s portrayal of the character eventually led to her being cast in several major roles, none of which have been any bigger than Disney’s Snow White.

Rachel Zegler is no stranger to backlash

As everyone now knows, Zegler will play the role of Snow White alongside Gal Gadot (Evil Queen) in a live-action adaptation of the film, but the movie– and the actress herself– have come under fire over the last several months due to comments and changes that Disney has reportedly made to the original animated version.

“I just mean it’s not 1937 anymore, Zegler said in a previous interview. “She’s not going to be saved by the prince and she’s not going to be dreaming about true love,” Zegler noted. “She’s dreaming about becoming the leader she knows she can be and the leader that her late father told her that she could be if she was fearless, fair, brave and true.” “It’s just a really incredible story for young people everywhere to see themselves in,” she added.

Rachel Zegler smiling with her eyes closed while wearing Minnie ears
Credit: Rachel Zegler via Twitter

As Disney’s first full-length animated feature, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937) not only revolutionized the animation industry but also paved the way for the entire genre of animated films. The movie’s breathtaking artistry, memorable characters, and enchanting storytelling captivated audiences like never before, setting a high standard for subsequent animated classics. Moreover, Snow White herself emerged as a cultural icon, symbolizing the timeless appeal of fairy tales and the power of storytelling to transport audiences into fantastical worlds.

When Zegler made these comments, it should come as no surprise that many fans took exception to them. In addition, the actress noticed that Andrew Burnap (who plays the role of Jonathan in this movie since there is no prince) could have his scenes removed entirely if the producers elected to go in that direction.

Snow White looking scared
Credit: Disney

It’s not just the comments from Zegler that it’s “no longer 1937” and that Snow White will “not be saved by a prince” in this version that has gotten the attention of fans. Zegler recently faced backlash for comments she made during the ongoing SAG-AFTRA strike about ensuring her payment for playing Snow White.

“If I’m going to stand there for 18 hours in a dress of an iconic Disney princess, I deserve to be paid for every hour that it is streamed online,” Zegler said.

Many fans viewed these comments as Zegler defending fair payment in the entertainment industry. Others did not. No matter where one falls on their opinions of Zegler, it’s clear that the actress has made a name for herself and that she is one of the major “hot-button” topics in not just the Disney community but the world of Hollywood in general.

Rachel Zegler on a still of Snow White looking shocked
Credit: Inside the Magic

Rachel Zegler will star in The Hunger Games before her Snow White release

New photos have been released for Zegler’s most forthcoming project in which she’ll join someone who has been critical of Disney, but that’s not all that’s on the docket. Zegler has been cast to play the role of Lucy Gray Baird in a prequel to The Hunger Games. Zegler’s role will be the lead in the film, which is titled The Hunger Games: Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes (2023). The new film is set to be released later this year on November 17, 2023.

For those who don’t know, here’s the official description for the movie: “With the 10th annual Hunger Games fast approaching, the young Snow is alarmed when he is assigned to mentor Lucy Gray Baird, the girls tribute from impoverished District 12. But, after Lucy Gray commands all of Panem’s attention by defiantly singing during the reaping ceremony. Snow thinks he might be able to turn the odds in their favor. Uniting their instincts for showmanship and newfound political savvy, Snow and Lucy’s race against time to survive will ultimately reveal who is a songbird, and who is a snake.”

Rachel Zegler's Lucy in the Hunger Games prequel
Credit: Lionsgate

In this film, Zegler will play the lead, and prominent actor Peter Dinklage will play the role of Casca Highbottom, the man who invented the concept of the Hunger Games. Dinklage gained widespread recognition and a dedicated fan base for his portrayal of Tyrion Lannister in the HBO series Game of Thrones (2011-2019). He has also starred in numerous other films, including The Station Agent (2003), Elf (2003), and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (2017).

Last year, Dinklage went viral with comments about Disney’s live-action Snow White adaptation. The comments led to Disney making changes to the film, removing the words “dwarfs” and replacing them with “magical creatures.”

“Literally no offense to anything, but I was sort of taken aback,” he said last year. “They were very proud to cast a Latino actress as Snow White, but you’re still telling the story of ‘Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.’ Take a step back and look at what you’re doing there. It makes no sense to me. You’re progressive in one way, but you’re still making that f***ing backward story about seven dwarfs living in a cave together. Have I done nothing to advance the cause from my soapbox? I guess I’m not loud enough.”

peter dinklage as tyrion lannister in game of thrones
Credit: HBO

Though Dinklage was met with some support, he was also met with backlash from many members of the Little People Community (LPC), who called out his comments, especially after many shared that this would potentially cost them roles. 

“It makes me so sick to my stomach to think that there are seven roles for dwarfs that can’t get normal acting roles, or very few and far between roles, and now they are gone because of this guy,” Dylan Postl, a WWE and Muppets alum stated. “Peter Dinklage is the biggest dwarf actor probably of all time but it doesn’t make him king dwarf.”

Rachel Zegler’s battle against Disney

It is interesting to see the two stars working together in the midst of this backlash, and it will also be intriguing to see what numbers The Hunger Games prequel draws at the box office. Dinklage and Zegler’s film will be released during a popular time of the year, and it’s worth noting that the movie will battle head-to-head against two of Disney’s most hopeful films.

The film will be released just a week after Marvel Studios’ The Marvels (2023) and just a few days before Disney’s Wish (2023). Disney is hoping for a big November at the box office with these two films, but it’s clear that Zegler’s Hunger Games could potentially wage a war on that outcome.

Should Rachel Zegler’s Hunger Games prequel reign supreme in November, it likely means that both The Marvels and Wish lose out on money.

Rachel Zegler, The Hunger Games
Credit: Rachel Zegler, via Twitter

Disney has seen lackluster performances at the box office over the course of the last year, particularly in the areas of Marvel and animation. It’s not to say that everything has been, as Black Panther: Wakanda Forever (2022) and Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 3 (2023) were both huge successes, and Pixar’s Elemental (2023) ended up performing well at the box office, as well.

However, others like Ant-man and the Wasp: Quantumania (2023), Pixar’s Lightyear (2022), Disney’s Strange World (2022), and even Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny (2023) were all bombs at the box office, and the jury is still out for what we’ll see happen this time around with Brie Larson’s sequel and the newest animated films essentially going head-to-head with Rachel Zegler during the month of November.

Earlier this year, Variety Magazine took a look at the upcoming 2023 releases and shared that Wish was one of the biggest risks.

“‘Wish’ needs a “Let It Go”-esque banger, a song so undeniably catchy that it’ll be on every parent’s Spotify wrapped, to bring families back to theaters again and again,” the publication shared.

Rachel Zelger at disneyland's Snow White wishing well
Credit: Rachel Zegler via Twitter

If Disney proves victorious, it would be a major win for the company as it looks to right the ship at the box office in a big way following some significant losses. If it’s Zegler that proves to be the winner, though, it could mean bad things for Disney heading into 2024 when the company is set to release the controversial live-action film starring the actress.

Though there have been multiple reports going viral saying that Rachel Zegler had been cut from her role as Snow White, these are not true. Disney still intends to release the live-action Snow White next year with Zegler at the helm, but it will be interesting to see what the confidence level of the company looks like heading into 2024, and much of that will depend on the outcome of its November releases.

What do you think of this brewing battle for Disney? Let Inside the Magic know in the comments!

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