As Disney Axes ‘Snow White,’ Rachel Zegler Makes Franchise History

in Entertainment, Movies & TV

Rachel Zegler as Lucy Gray Baird in 'The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes'

Credit: Lionsgate

Love her or hate her, the lead actress of Disney’s upcoming live-action Snow White (2023) reboot, Rachel Zegler, will be a part of franchise history when her next big blockbuster hits screens in November.

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

Related: Desperate Disney Brings Back Original ‘Snow White’ After “Woke” Backlash

Lately, Rachel Zegler’s name has made headlines across the globe, with the West Side Story (2021) breakout star leaving fans divided over statements she made about Disney’s animated classic, Snow White and the Seven Dwarves (1937).

The controversy kicked off last year during an interview with Variety, in which she pointed out the inherent misogyny and problematic “damsel in distress” tropes often featured in early Disney princess stories. And in her eyes, Snow White is no exception.

Rachel Zegler Snow White header

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Zegler didn’t hold back when criticizing the source material — AKA, the 19th-century German fairytale penned by the Brothers Grimm — and panned the story as outdated, saying Snow White will no longer be “dreaming about true love” but instead will be set on “becoming the leader she knows she can be:”

I just mean that it’s no longer 1937. We absolutely wrote a ‘Snow White’ that … she’s not going to be saved by the prince, and she’s not going to be dreaming about true love; she’s going to be dreaming about becoming the leader she knows she can be and that her late father told her that she could be if she was fearless, fair, brave and true.

Putting a feminist spin on classic tales is hardly a new phenomenon for Walt Disney Studios, with recent retellings such as 2017’s Beauty and the Beast and the more recent Halle Bailey-led The Little Mermaid (2023) changing certain story elements to better reflect modern audiences.

halle bailey and jonah hauer-king as ariel and eric in the little mermaid 2023
Credit: Disney

Of course, this has been met with intense backlash from many moviegoers, and it seems like the upcoming Snow White adaptation might just be the pinnacle of everything fans despise about the state of Disney movies today. Some have even speculated that Disney is scrapping the upcoming film after rumors that director Marc Webb is “furious” with Zegler for creating “production hell” made the rounds online.

But Snow White drama aside, Zegler is also set to make her grand debut in a different franchise next month: The Hunger Games. The original Jennifer Lawrence-helmed movies concluded in 2015 with The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2. Now, author Suzanne Collins’s The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes (2023), a prequel to the original story, is set to be adapted to the big screen this fall.

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

The film stars Rachel Zegler as Lucy Gray Baird, a District 12 tribute. A young Coriolanus Snow (Tom Blyth) is tasked with training her for the upcoming games but develops feelings for his mentee instead. They’ll be joined by an all-star supporting cast, including Game of Thrones’ Peter Dinklage, Asteroid City‘s (2023) Jason Schwartzman, and The Suicide Squad’s Viola Davis, with Francis Lawrence directing.

Check out the official trailer for Lionsgate’s The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes below:

And if Zegler hasn’t broken enough records already, being the first actress of Columbian decent to receive a Critics’ Choice Movie Award nomination for Best Young Performer, on top of being one of the youngest honorees to win the Golden Globe Award for Best Actress, she’s also set to make Hunger Games franchise history with her next leading role.

As reported by GamesRadar, the upcoming Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes has a lengthy runtime, clocking in at 156 minutes and 59 seconds long — just a second shy of 2 hours and 37 minutes. The prequel story will feature the longest runtime of any Hunger Games movie, making it 10 minutes longer than the previous series record-holder, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013).

Rachel Zegler as Lucy Baird bowing with her arms wide
Credit: Lionsgate

Considering Suzanne Collins’ original book of the same name weighs in at a whopping 517 pages, the longest of the series, it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes has a nearly three-hour runtime.

Since the novel provides a detailed history of Snow’s youth and how he became loyal enough to rise to power in Panem, the book justifies its length through the massive scope of its story. And based on what we’ve seen so far, the movie will be a faithful adaptation.

Rachel Zegler and Tom Blyth in 'The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes'
Credit: Lionsgate

It’ll be interesting to see if Zegler can pull her weight in the new film, considering she was bouncing back and forth between shooting her Hunger Games installment and Disney’s Snow White remake. However, skeptics should note that the actress is no stranger to starring in lengthy movies, with Steven Spielberg’s West Side Story clocking in at a near-identical 2 hours and 36 minutes.

With this career-defining role virtually guaranteed to make her one of Hollywood’s most sought-after rising stars, Zegler’s certainly got some high expectations to live up to in the upcoming Hunger Games sequel. But with an A-list cast and a seasoned director at the wheel, The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes is sure to be a memorable installment in the beloved dystopian franchise.

The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes premieres on November 17, 2023.

Are you looking forward to seeing Rachel Zegler make her Hunger Games debut? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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