Magical princesses, beloved characters, catchy songs, enchanting magic, these are all of the things we think of when we think of animated Disney films. As a kid, did you ever notice anything inappropriate in these movies? Probably not. Perhaps we were just too young and naive to read between the lines. However, classic Disney films actually include a lot of aspects that would be considered totally inappropriate in today’s society and especially with today’s parents. But, we all watched them and we turned out just fine, right?
The Disney films that made our list were released from the 1930s all the way until the ’90s and so, clearly things were different in those times. These were the days before helicopter parents existed, and when kids weren’t totally shielded from everything and anything controversial. When watching Disney films today, you can’t help but think, “They would never get away with that stuff now.” Is society today just way too sensitive? Or was society back in the 20th century just super ignorant? You can be the judge of that. Some of today’s kids might have the pleasure of enjoying these listed films, but I wouldn’t be surprised if some of the more sheltered one’s have zero Disney VHSs in their movie collections.
15. Change For Your Man – The Little Mermaid (1989)
If there’s anything The Little Mermaid taught young girls it’s that you’ve got to change yourself to make someone love you. When sixteen year-old mermaid, Ariel, meets a human prince, Eric, she immediately becomes infatuated with him. She knows she could never be with Eric as a mermaid and so, she meets with Ursula, the sea witch. The two strike a deal: in exchange for human legs, she must give up her greatest attribute, her voice. Ursula convinces Ariel that not being able to talk is a good thing as she sings the words, “The men up there don’t like a lot of blabber. They think a girl who gossips is a bore. Yes, on land it’s much preferred for ladies not to say a word.”
This type of idealism would never fly with today’s band of feminists. The message today’s young ladies are hearing is to never change for anyone, be happy with who you are and anyone who matters should always accept you. Sorry Ariel — good movie, bad message.
14. Cruella De Vil’s Animal Skin Fetish – 101 Dalmatians (1961)
In a lot of classic Disney movies, we see animals as the main characters. The same goes for 101 Dalmatians, except the storyline of this movie also has a lot to do with killing and skinning said animals — eek! Villainess Cruella De Vil, an evil, wealthy, fur-loving fashionista seeks out to buy a litter of dalmatian puppies. When her request is denied, she sends out two henchmen to dog-nap the puppies instead. The puppies parents discover she’s taken their pups to kill, skin and be made into a coat. Luckily the story come with a happy ending (of course) when the pups and 84 other dalmatian puppies are rescued and live happily ever after. Although we don’t see anything too graphic in the 1961 animated film, we do see a skinned, dead tiger in the 1996 live-action film. Not very kid-friendly by today’s standards.
13. Drunk Uncle Waldo – The Aristocats (1970)
Apparently back in 1970, showing a cartoon character drunk was no big deal. However, today I just can’t see that happening. One scene in The Aristocats, we’re introduced to Uncle Waldo, a drunk goose weaving and hiccuping throughout the streets of Paris. He’d escaped from a café where the chef was preparing him to be cooked after basting him in white wine. “Dreadful! Being British, I would have preferred sherry,” Waldo slurs. His two friends, then, decide it’s time to take him home to bed. They pick him up by each arm and help him stagger home giggling away.
The Aristocats also raises some eyebrows today because of the drugging and abandonment of the mother cat. As well as the butler, Edgar’s, chase scenes involving him wielding a pitch fork at the poor kitties. Of course, most parents might not find these movie moments too offensive. However, if Disney were ever to include a drunk character in their films these days I’m sure they would feel the backlash.
12. The Hit On Snow White – Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs (1937)
Evil witches we see in modern Disney films might cast a nasty spell on their protagonist counterpart. However, in 1937, evil witches would opt for something much more sinister — murder. In Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, the Evil Queen is so jealous of Snow White’s beauty that she sends her Huntsmen to murder her and come back with her heart in a box as proof—gruesome. The Huntsmen cannot bring himself to kill Snow White and so, the Queen takes matters into her own hands. She disguises herself as an old woman and gives Snow White that infamous poisoned apple. An unsuspecting Snow White proceeds to eat the apple, inevitably falling into a sleeping death.
11. Smoking – 101 Dalmatians (1961)
In 2015, Disney made the decision to ban smoking depictions in their films rated G through PG-13. Based on this, smoking is definitely something that would never fly in today’s kid’s movies. 101 Dalmatians’ Cruella De Vil was probably Disney’s heaviest chain smoker. In the film, she’s always seen wielding a long, slender, fashionable cigarette holder and carelessly blowing smoke into people’s faces (this is also seen in the live-action version of the film).
Interestingly enough, 101 Dalmatians is not the only Disney film where smoking is present. Other Disney smokers include Captain Hook, Goofy, Pinocchio, the caterpillar from Alice in Wonderland and many more. Kids watching their favourite Disney characters lighting up cigarettes probably doesn’t set the best example. They will always be classics and smoking was a part of the times back then. However, in today’s kids’ films, cigarettes have gone up in smoke. Is anyone else surprised that this ban didn’t happen sooner?
10. Snow White Shacking Up With Seven Strange Men – Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs (1937)
Snow White pretty much broke every rule we learned as children. Firstly, when she stumbles upon a random cottage in the deep, dark forest, she takes it upon herself to just let herself in. Breaking and entering, that’s a big no-no. She proceeds to clean this strange cottage and then falls asleep in a stranger’s bed. When Snow White awakens, she is greeted by the cottage residents, seven adult men — creepy. Any normal woman would presumably run at this point, but not Snow White. She shows off her amazing cooking and cleaning skills (as any 1930s woman would have), which persuades the men to have her live with them.
So there you have it, a home-invading young lady shacking up with seven strange men. The worst role model ever! Of course it’s only a fairytale, but kids are impressionable! Did Disney care what kind of role models their characters were back then? Probably not. But today? That’s a totally different story.
9. Satan – Fantasia (1940)
Fantasia has to be one of Disney’s greatest films. It’s 126 minutes of visually stunning animated scenes set to pieces of classical music. The film features eight segments, most of them highlighting dancing fairies, flowers, enchanting magic, cupids, unicorns, you know, all of the neat things kids love. However, come the final segment, Night On Bald Mountain, things take a satanic turn.
The Devil rises to empower restless souls and summon them from their graves . The frightening act plays out as ghosts raise from graveyards, witches soar across the sky, demons and beasts dance around a fiery hell, and evil creatures lurk about. Luckily this only lasts for about 12 minutes until church bells are heard and the evil souls return to their graves. Since religion can be a touchy subject in children’s films these days, it’s probably safe to say that featuring a scary Satan is too.
8. Scar Kills Mufasa – The Lion King (1994)
Including a death in a children’s movie is can be a sensitive matter. Although it’s an inevitable part of life that we all have to deal with, who wants their heart broken when they’re simply trying to watch a film? Nevertheless, death is one thing, and murder is quite another.
Who could forget the tragic moment when The Lion King’s, Scar, killed his own brother, Mufasa, by throwing him off of a cliff and into a stampede of wildebeest? This is followed by the scene in which a young Simba finds his lifeless father on the ground. The moment is absolutely heartbreaking and enough to make an adult cry, let alone a child. Emotions are always evoked in any movie, but we don’t see something this upsetting in today’s kids’ movies.
We’ve seen similar scenarios in other classic Disney films as well. If you recall, Tarzan’s parents were killed by a leopard, and Nemo’s mom was killed by a barracuda. And finally, you’re not a true Disney fan if you aren’t scarred by the scene where Bambi’s mom is shot by a hunter. Waah!
7. Quasimodo’s Back Story – The Hunchback Of Notre Dame (1996)
The Hunchback of Notre Dame has an unsettling intro. Antagonist, Judge Frollo, chases an illegally immigrated gypsy woman cradling a bundle through the streets of Paris. When he catches up to her, he kills her and takes the bundle. He uncovers it to find a deformed infant. He’s disgusted by the “monster,” as he calls it, and attempts to throw the baby down a well before he is stopped by an archdeacon who convinces him to spare the child. Frollo agrees and uses the opportunity to raise the child as (basically) his own personal slave. The child, Quasimodo, grows up isolated in a bell tower. Frollo has convinced him never to go into the outside world because he is too deformed to fit in and could be shunned if he is ever seen.
Firstly, we have another case of murder in a children’s film. Secondly, we see that the movie’s main character is “too ugly” to go out in public. Not the best messages to be portraying in a film for kids. But hey, in the end when Quasimodo prevails against Frollo, he is accepted by everyone and hailed as a hero! So maybe a young Disney does have some sense of morality in the end, it’s just a little less rainbows and butterflies like we see today.
6. Peter Pan Abducts Wendy – Peter Pan (1953)
What is the number one rule we learned as kids? Don’t go anywhere with a stranger? Yes, that sounds familiar. Did someone forget to tell Wendy Darling this rule? Because as we all know, one night, she decides to just up and leave with some strange boy who flies into her room, and go off to “Neverland” with him. Wendy might think she knows Peter Pan because she’s heard stories of him, but that certainly is not enough. Not only does she go off with him, but she takes her two little brothers along!
Of course, this is all just a magical storyline, but really? A strange guy comes into your room, teaches you to fly and says he’s going to whisk you off to a place where you’ll never grow up — sounds incredibly creepy. Just not to Wendy, apparently.
5. Child Trafficking – Pinocchio (1940)
The adorable little puppet-boy, Pinocchio, finds himself in quite the predicament in the 1940 Disney film. In one of the scenes, he is approached by two sly scammers who tell him of this wonderful place called “Pleasure Island”, a place for little boys where there are no rules. These con artists whisk Pinocchio, along with other little delinquent fellas, off to Pleasure Island where they enjoy being bad — smoking, drinking, gambling, and vandalizing. Little do they know that the island hides a terrible curse: the boys who go there are all turned into donkeys and sold for slave labour.
This is a cryptic plot, indeed. Of course, Pinocchio manages to escape, all of his wishes come true, and he lives happily ever after. However, the fate of the other boys who found themselves on Pleasure Island doesn’t seem to be as promising. This is a dark, dark side of Disney we definitely aren’t used to seeing today.
4. Stockholm Syndrome – Beauty And The Beast (1991)
Beauty and the Beast doesn’t start off as the beautiful love story we remember it being. In the beginning, the Beast who is the angry victim of a spell, takes Belle and detains her in his castle. It just so happens that, over a period of time, Belle begins to develop feelings for the Beast. This all occurs despite his horrible anger issues. In the film, we see the Beast abusing Belle, yelling at her, isolating her from her family and the outside world, threatening her, and even starving her. Belle falling in love with the Beast is a classic case of Stockholm Syndrome (feelings of affection felt in hostage-taking by a victim toward a captor).
Belle doesn’t acknowledge the Beast’s abusive ways and run for the hills, instead, the two fall in love with one another. Yes, the Beast changes and becomes a good guy, but do we want our kids sympathizing with would-be captors? This is the type of message that would never fly in today’s kids’ movies.
3. Gun Violence – The Fox And The Hound (1981)
With the way things have been going in the world, gun violence is nothing to mess with. However, back in 1981, representing guns in children’s movies didn’t seem to be an issue. In The Fox and the Hound, we see numerous scenes where guns are present. Predominantly when hunter, Amos Slade, continuously tries to gun down Tod, the fox, for trespassing on his farm. Tod’s owner, Widow Tweed, and Slade eventually get into a violent confrontation where she takes Slade’s gun and holds it against him, warning him not to come after her beloved fox again.
With Slade’s character being a hunter, it would be appropriate for him to have a gun in the film. However, today’s movie producers might come up with something a little less violent– like a net perhaps?
2. Sex Slavery – Aladdin (1992)
At one point in 1992’s Aladdin, Princess Jasmine is taken captive by the antagonist, Jafar. He chains her up, has her dress in a very seductive outfit, and makes her feed and wait on him. He wishes for her to be his wife although she despises him. Jasmine tries to distract Jafar so she could get away. She pretends to fall in love with him, teases him sexually, and eventually kisses him. Though children watching this film may not understand the full sense of the situation, any adult can see this is basically sex slavery and promoting promiscuity.
Aladdin is not even the only Disney film to portray sexual innuendoes. Disney’s pretty famous for it: male genital shapes in The Little Mermaid posters, sexual words written in the stars in The Lion King, and the list goes on.
1. Racism – Peter Pan (1953)
Another thing Disney is famous for in their older classics is racism. A prime example of this is a scene in Peter Pan where the characters meet up with a tribe of Native Americans. What was meant to be a light-hearted song ends up being extremely offensive, especially by today’s standards. The song is titled “What Made The Red Man Red” and is about Peter Pan and the Lost Boys learning about Native American culture. The song and the entire scene for that matter portrays offensive Native American stereotypes including “war whoop” noises.
As usual, Peter Pan is not the only racist Disney movie. We also see racism in Pocahontas’ depiction of Native Americans, Dumbo’s depiction of African Americans, Aladdin’s depiction of Arabs, and The Lady and the Tramp’s depiction of the Siamese. There is zero tolerance for racism today, and so, children seeing it displayed in G-rated movies would definitely not fly today.