As I've said before elsewhere, from an artistic standpoint, I'm not at all bothered by the animated designs of the characters in Disney and Dreamworks films. They weren't documentaries after all so in most cases they didn't need to be accurate, and in animation in particular, it is more important to convey character and style in the designs. I am not trying to "fix" anything because I don't think there is anything to fix! That being said, it can still be fun to learn how your favorite characters might have looked if they had existed in real life.
For my series, I am trying to be as accurate as I possibly can. I'm taking the country of origin, the social class, the culture, and the specific decade into mind (instead of just a general sweep of multiple decades), and also adapting the colors and styles to fit what was available and worn everyday. I will try to keep the characters recognizable where I can, but I want to make my pictures realistic and so some elements of the original designs might be altered in the process.
I hadn’t originally intended to draw Megara in this series, because first of all I don’t plan on drawing ALL the Disney women, and anyway, I knew it would probably turn out a lot like Shoomlah’s awesome version of a Classical Greek Megara, which would be pretty redundant. But when I started looking at Disney’s Hercules, I realized something – it is actually supposed to be taking place during the Mycenaean period of Greek culture, not the classic period, like the art would suggest. Now of course the Disney version does not equal the mythological version in the majority of ways, so I would have been fine assuming this was just a Classic Era re-telling, but even the Disney movie is placing the action, by its own account, in the “Age of Heroes,” which roughly corresponds to the historic Bronze Age. It is apparently supposed to be occurring in a timeline soon after the Trojan War, since the Disney version of Philoctetes (who is mortal) trained heroes like Achilles and Odysseus (in the TV series Hercules also went to school with Helen of Troy and Cassandra). This actually fits in fairly nicely with the “historical” periods when some scholars suggest Hercules/Herakles would have lived, in the 13th century BC. So like a lot of Hollywood “Greek” movies, there is a completely Classical-style art design, with a Bronze Age story – the historic equivalent of dressing the Egyptians in medieval fashion. So for this one (similar to my picture of Jasmine), I would just have to ignore the clothing and general art style to create something that Megara would actually wear if the timeline in the movie were historically accurate. After all, it had lots of 1990s fashion too, but that didn’t mean it was taking place in the 90s.
Finding accurate clothing was hard, though, because the only evidence we have about the way Mycenaean women would dress comes from very fancy religious figures and frescoes – there’s not much information on how a middle class common woman, like Disney’s Meg, would dress. I usually like to use primary sources for my historic Disney pics, but this time I had to start with some artistic interpretations of middle class or working women, like this, this and this. In addition to a few Mycenaean images that showed short-sleeved tunics, I think that these artists also based their works on the clothing worn by the earlier Assyrians, the Phonecian women and later Etruscan women, because these cultures either influenced or shared traits with Mycenaean Greeks.
You don’t really see any pink or lavender clothing in Mycenaean artwork – they probably could have worn it, since they had access to madder dyes, but for a more authentic look I decided to take some artistic license and give Meg a blue dress with black stripes, since blue shows up all the time in Mycenaean art. Black is the color that represented Hades in real-life Greek mythology, and obviously Hades’ realm was blue in the movie, so I thought it was an appropriate combo considering she “serves” him. I left in the orange stripes to add a little warmth and show Meg is not part of the underworld yet! (It is mostly based off this image: s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/7…)
In imitation of her trademark ponytail, I did a slightly simplified version of the cascading hairstyles shown in the frescoes, a “poor man’s” version if you will. There is evidence that the Mycenaens also used makeup similar to the Egyptians – kohl and galena for the eyes, red ochre for the lips and cheeks, and lead powder for white foundation. It is unknown whether common women would wear these cosmetics, but the Greeks were highly influenced by the Egyptians during this time period, and Egyptians of all classes wore kohl, at least. The attendants in the frescos also had very stylized eyes, so I decided to compromise a bit and give Meg smoky kohl eyes and slightly more natural makeup elsewhere. Lastly, I added some pieces of jewelry based on surviving Bronze Age examples. She is wearing plain bronze bangles, like the bracelets worn in the Myceanaen art, and spiral earrings to imitate the clasps on her gown in the movie.
Anyway, this was one of the tougher drawings to research so far, and it will probably be controversial or something, but it was kind of fun to have a different take on Megara’s “look,” so I hope you all like it anyway. ^_^
Have you heard of Jackie French's book Oracle? It's about two children in a mountain village who become dancers for the king in the Mycenaean court. It gives a lot of insight into what life might have been like for the middle-upper class citizens, and I recognise some of the details (like the makeup), since they show up a bit in the book.
Anyway, I'm off to look at the rest of this series, it's absolutely fascinating.
And thanks, I'll have to look that book up.
But I'm not complaining at all. It's great to see much older Greek stuff, especially stuff as beautiful as this.
My only question: would she be that white?
As far as Megara's skintone, I basically just tried to stick to the skintone she had in the movie. I think it is still accurate since almost all the depictions of Mycenaean women (and women in Greek art in general) showed them as very fair. This could have possibly been makeup, but in my research it said that Greek women were also probably fairer because they didn't go outside very much due to cultural norms. There were depictions of more "African" people too though, as at this point Greece was a very multicultural region, so the idea that ALL Grecians were lily-white is not correct either.
In fact, if I were to draw Hera, or the Muses, I would likely draw them in the kind of clothing Helen wears.