For many decades, Hollywood has been consistently pumping out high-quality animated films that feature fantastic stories and lovable characters that appeal to children and adults. What you may not know is that most of these animated films are not strictly original works and are actually based on old classic stories.
What’s more, the original stories in which these children’s films are based upon didn’t quite have the usual ‘everyone lived happily ever after’ qualities. Since many of those classic stories tend to focus on unsavory themes such as death, rape, cannibalism, and torture, most animated adaptations had to be drastically watered-down, altered, and completely rewritten.
Here are 10 classic children’s films in which the source material had to be drastically changed in order to not traumatize any children. If you’ve seen any of these movies, you probably should stay away from the original stories if you want your childhood to remain preserved.
10. The Fox and The Hound – A Bloodthirsty Killer?
The Fox and the Hound is a classic Disney tale in which Copper the hound and Tod the fox struggle to maintain a friendship that is slowly cracking due to social class differences and the fact that relationships between dogs and foxes are akin to water and oil. The film ends on a happy note where everyone lives, friendships are maintained, all grudges are dropped, and baby foxes are on the way.
Daniel P. Mannix’s original story wasn’t quite so happy. Far from it actually.
In the novel, all thoughts of friendship were thrown out the window when Tod accidentally causes the death of another hound. Copper becomes a bloodthirsty killer hell-bent on helping his master get revenge. After systematically causing the death of Tod’s wife and fox cubs, Copper relentlessly pursues Tod until the fox dies from exhaustion. After helping his master kill Tod, Copper is then rewarded by his master with a bullet to the head.
Looking on the bright side, maybe Tod and Copper could mend their relationship in the afterlife.
9. Pocahontas – Kidnapped and Converted To Christianity
Pocahontas was quite a progressive film that used real events in order to explore racism, relations between indigenous tribes and foreigners, and how the power of love trumps all adversity. Disney’s version of these events is definitely more optimistic and hopeful than what actually happened in real life.
Whilst the film depicts Pocahontas as a graceful young woman, in reality, she was a gruff girl of only around 10-12 years of age when she met the 30-something John Smith. Contrary to their on-screen romance, Pocahontas and Smith didn’t have a relationship, although there are reports that Smith raped her and got her pregnant. Upon arriving to London, Pocahontas was kidnapped, converted to Christianity, and married some other guy before dying in her early 20’s.
It’s easy to see why Disney decided to not worry too much about historical accuracy during the film’s production.
8. The Little Mermaid – Sadistic Prince
The 1989 Disney adaptation of The Little Mermaid told the story of Ariel, a mermaid who believed that all she ever wanted in life was a man who had two legs instead of a fin. Whilst everything goes drastically wrong after Ariel first gets her legs in the film, Hans Christian Andersen’s original story detours to an insanely depressing place.
When Ariel first steps on land with her new legs, she suffers excruciating pain and begins bleeding everywhere. The Prince finds this sadistically amusing and orders Ariel to dance for him, which she does. Ariel then finds out that the Prince plans on marrying another woman, and unless she can convince the Prince to marry her instead, she’ll dissipate into foam. Unable to convince the Prince that she is the better catch, Ariel is condemned to 300 years of foamy purgatory.
One can’t help but wonder if Andersen was slighted by a woman or a mermaid during his lifetime and was taking his frustration on the page.
7. The Jungle Book – Man Village Set Ablaze?
Disney’s adaptation of The Jungle Book tells the story of Mowgli, an orphan who was raised by a group of overly-nice animals in the Indian jungles. Mowgli resists all attempts to reintegrate into the human world until he catches sight of a young girl near the aptly named Man Village. Almost immediately, Mowgli decides that maybe the Man Village isn’t so bad after all and he decides to leave the jungle forever. Roll credits.
The movie conveniently leaves out what happens after Mowgli stays at the Man Village.
Mowgli is returned to society, only to be shunned by everyone. He tries to return to the original Man Village who accepted him, only to be re-banished back into the jungle whilst the one family who was kind to him is tortured. Disillusioned, Mowgli decides to seek ‘help’ from his animal friends, which in this context means razing the entire Man Village to the ground. The ending Disney used was probably for the best, regardless of how awesome the original ending sounded.
6. Cinderella – Not As Sweet As First Imagined
Disney’s Cinderella is a rags to riches tale about horrible step families, helpful fairy godmothers, and how the love of a handsome Prince will solve anything. The version of the story told by Brothers Grimm is darker than what Disney had pulled off. Considerably darker.
When it was the ugly step sisters’ turn to try on Cinderella’s glass slipper, they both resort to chopping off parts of their feet. Unluckily for the sisters, their plan didn’t work and Cinderella ended up with the Prince. But the story doesn’t end there.
Rather than a meek girl, this version of Cinderella is a bird-controlling bad-ass who doesn’t like to be pushed around. So when the step sisters accompanied Cinderella up the aisle on her wedding day, Cinderella decides to extract some revenge by having some birds horrifically blind them. The creepiest part is that the step sisters wanted to be part of the wedding so much that they just let the birds peck away at their eyeballs without a care in the world.
5. Pinocchio – The Juvenile
Pinocchio is a story about a naive and innocent wooden toy’s journey of bravery, selflessness, and self-sacrifice in order to become a real boy. In Carlo Collodi’s original story, Pinocchio is actually quite a bit of a jerk and his journey is considerably more dangerous and painful.
When Geppetto finishes building him, Pinocchio immediately runs away. Pinocchio then gets Geppetto arrested by the police after misleading people into believing that Geppetto was abusive to him. When Pinocchio returns and Geppetto is released, he proceeds up his jerk factor and ‘accidentally’ kills Jiminy Cricket in the story because he was getting annoying. As the story progresses, Pinocchio learns a few life lessons the hard way and finds himself turned into donkey before nearly drowning in a river. Luckily for him, Pinocchio is ‘saved’ by a school of fish who proceed to devour his flesh and leaving only his wooden bones behind. Just to cap it all off, after Geppetto was swallowed by a whale, Pinocchio procrastinates for two years before deciding to embark a rescue mission.
In Tangled, the royal Rapunzel is kidnapped because her long hair has mysterious magical qualities, and her future husband is nothing more than a thief.
In the original story, Rapunzel’s hair is nothing special other than being extremely long; her poor farmer father was caught by a witch for stealing, and Rapunzel was handed over to the witch to be locked up in a tower as compensation. When a Prince finds Rapunzel in her tower, the two start a secret affair, which is discovered by the witch when Rapunzel gets pregnant. The witch cuts off Rapunzel’s hair and uses it to trick the Prince into thinking that Rapunzel is dead. In despair over the end of their conjugal visits, the Prince leaps from the tower and lands in some spiky bushes which gouge his eyes out.
Don’t worry though, the original story ends on a happy note for once. Months after being blinded, the Prince manages to blindly wander back into Rapunzel’s arms and his eye-sight is magically restored by her tears (somehow).
3. Mulan – Not A Happy Ending
When Mulan’s elderly father is called to fight in a war, she does the only logical thing and dresses up as a man in order to fight in his place. During her tenure as a soldier, she learns to fight, saves China, earns her family’s respect, and wins the affections of her hunky superior.
If only the original story had a fraction of the film’s happy ending.
In the original story, Mulan returns from the war only to find that everything has gone from bad to worse. Her father had died, her mother had remarried, and the throne had been taken over by a Khan. Upon discovering her true identity, the Khan rewards Mulan’s military service with a spot in his palace as a concubine. Rather than subject herself to a perverted emperor, Mulan commits suicide instead. It’s probably a good thing that Disney changed the story as no animated character voiced by Eddie Murphy can distract audiences from a sad ending like that.
2. Frozen – The Power Of Kisses
Aside from having a character who happens to be a queen and can use ice magic, Frozen and its source material, The Snow Queen, are two completely different stories.
Rather than focusing on two sisters, The Snow Queen tells the story of childhood best friends, Gerda (a girl) and Kai (a boy). Kai manages to somehow get shards of Dorian Gray’s mirror in his eye, causing him to see the beauty and ugliness in people. One day, the Snow Queen appears to Kai and through the power of her kisses, she immobilizes Kai before erasing his memory of Gerda and his family. With the help of a psychotic robber girl, who tortures her own reindeer for fun, Gerda sets out on an epic journey to rescue Kai using the power of her own kiss.
It’s a bit of a shame that the original story of The Snow Queen wasn’t adapted faithfully as it would’ve been a hell of thrilling movie.
1. The Hunchback of Notre Dame – The Love Triangle
Despite the G-rating, Disney’s adaptation of The Hunchback of Notre Dame is amongst the studio’s darkest films, tonally and visually. As with most of the source material for Disney’s films, Victor Hugo’s original story was incredibly bleak and depressing.
The novel features a convoluted love quadrangle involving Esmeralda, Frollo, Phoebus, and Quasimodo, who falls in love with Esmeralda after she shows him some kindness. After Esmeralda rejects Frollo in favour of Phoebus, Frollo stabs Phoebus in a fit of jealousy and pins the blame on Esmeralda. After his advances are declined again, Frollo sentences Esmeralda to be hung. After watching Esmeralda die, Quasimodo throws Frollo off the top of the cathedral. Quasimodo then makes his way down to the crypts just so he can curl up next to Esmeralda’s dead body.
When their bodies are discovered much later, an attempt is made to separate the bodies, only for Quasimodo’s bones turn to dust.
After reading all these horribly bleak stories, those crumbing bones is probably the perfect symbol for the current state of your childhood.