Celebrate International Children’s Book Day with these Hans Christian Andersen movies (and stories!)

The event is held yearly on or near the iconic author’s birthday.

The Little Mermaid Sing-Along, Disney
The Little Mermaid Sing-Along, Disney /
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Today, April 2, is International Children’s Book Day. Why today? Well, that’s because, in 1805, Hans Christian Anderson was born on this day. Since 1967, the International Board on Books for Young People has celebrated the event with a look at the genre as a whole. So, why not kick the party off right with your kids by watching a few movies based on Hans Christian Andersen’s books? Oh, and you should probably read the books, too.

Nathan Fielder voice: Okay, here’s the plan. What we’re going to suggest is that you trick your media-obsessed kids into reading a few books, since Andersen’s stories tend to be pretty short, and compare them to the movies based on them. Or if you have avid readers, trick them into feeling pretty smart when they can boast that “the book is always better.”

What’s perhaps most interesting about this experiment is that Andersen’s oeuvre has rarely been adapted faithfully in the modern era. Try watching either version of The Little Mermaid and relating that in any way to the dark fairytale Andersen wrote. You can’t! And frankly, it could be a great learning experience for the kids.

With that in mind, here’s a partial list of movies inspired by his works, which ranged from The Little Match Girl in 1928, all the way through to The Little Mermaid live-action remake in 2023. We’re only including those you can stream right now. As for the books, you’ll be able to find most of them in your local library, or free to read online with a simple Google search.

The Ugly Duckling

You know this one. Heck, you know all of them! But the story of an ugly duckling who turns out to be a swan was adapted by Disney back in 1939 as a short that runs only 8 minutes long.

Where to Stream: Disney+

The Red Shoes

A little more of a commitment time-wise at 2+ hours, the multiple Oscar-winning 1948 film focuses on a young prima ballerina who falls in love. [Note: do not stream The Red Shoe Diaries, that is an entirely different thing.]

Where to Stream: Prime Video

Hans Christen Andersen

Not to destroy the premise of this piece immediately, but we’d be remiss not to mention the 1953 Danny Kaye classic, an extremely fictionalized version of the writer’s life, which is a do-not-miss. There’s no accompanying book, but it does riff off a number of Andersen’s creations.

Where to Stream: Prime Video

The Snow Queen

One of the most faithful renditions of Andersen’s work, this 1957 animated Russian movie follows a boy kidnapped by the titular Queen, and the girl who tries to rescue him.

Where to Stream: Tubi

The Little Mermaid (1989)

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The Little Mermaid - Courtesy of Disney via Image.net /

You already know this 1989 classic Disney movie, and have probably worn out your VHS, your DVD, and your Disney+ account watching it. The story of a mermaid who falls in love with a man and then trades her voice for her legs, the songs are iconic, the movie more than holds up, and oh, okay you’re already watching it, sounds good.

Where to Stream: Disney+

Frozen

Wait, what??? If you didn’t figure it out from the description of The Snow Queen, above, Frozen is also loosely based on Andersen’s story. Disney just can’t let it go, am I right? Regardless, this is definitely a great way to compare and contrast an adaptation to the story. Ask your kids what parts of The Snow Queen made their way into Frozen, and how, and you’ve got an interesting afternoon discussion on your hands.

Where to Stream: Disney+

The Little Mermaid (2023)

The main draw here in this live-action remake of the 1989 movie is Halle Bailey, who soars (swims?) as Ariel. Jonah Hauer-King is also pretty great as Eric, the prince, who gets a lot more to do this time around. But some dicey choices make this not quite as good as the original, and even farther from Andersen’s story. Also: rapping Scuttle? No thanks.

Where to Stream: Disney+

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