Disney is one of the world’s largest companies. Owning everything from radio and TV stations, to wondrous amusement and theme parks. But what they are most known for is their classic family movies. From the beautiful servant Cinderella to Simba and his band of lions in The Lion King, Disney Studios have brought us some of the most beloved movies of all time.
However it might be surprising to learn about the dark endings to some your of favorite movies, like Hercules. Disney is known for their “happily ever after” endings but some of them were not always meant to end that way. Some movies were inspired by graphic novels like Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book. Mowgli isn’t portrayed as an innocent boy in the original version of the story.
Some movies were originally drafted with a twisted ending that was cut from final production due to their intense finale. The original concept behind the Lion King was loosely based on Hamlet, a story where nearly every character dies. Can you imagine if all your beloved Lion King characters were killed off by Disney. Oh how we would never look at Disney the same!
As you’ll read on, it’ll become abundantly clear why Disney had to alter the following classic stories’ endings for the benefit of its viewership of children. Here are 10 Dark Original Movie Endings Disney Had To Change.
10. Cinderella – Step-Sister’s Eyes Pecked Out By Doves
In the original Cinderella by the Brothers Grimm, our protagonist gets her happy ending while her step-sisters get punished. The story goes that during the prince’s and Cinderella’s wedding, doves descended from heaven and pecked the step-sisters’ eyes out. A harsh sentence for abuse they constantly dealt to Cinderella? I think it was a just ending.
What’s even more unsettling is that in this version, the two girls disfigure their own feet with the hopes of fitting into the slipper. Glad Disney omitted this version of events as it is a little too dark to be seen by children. The Disney version also kills off the dad even though in the Grimm version he is around during the prince’s search.
9. Hercules – Kills His Entire Family
In Greek mythology, Hercules was depicted as a sexual beast and somewhat of a simpleton. I don’t get how someone with such a depiction can be labelled as a “simpleton.” Myth has it that on a hot day Hercules threatened to shoot at the sun for the high temperature.
Although he was a bit hot headed, he was a very loyal person and ends up marrying Megara. The couple had several kids together and are are seemingly happy. However, Zeus’ wife Hera hated Hercules and made his life miserable. She drives him so mad that he killed his entire family. Not the heroic Hercules I remember.
8. The Jungle Book – Banished Mowgli Destroys Entire Village
The Jungle Book’s source content was written by a somewhat cynical man named Rudyard Kipling. In his version, Mowgli wasn’t accepted by society like he was in Disney’s movie. He was instead banished into the jungle upon returning and the family that raised him is murdered.
Out for revenge, Mowgli enlists the help of Hathi the Elephant and destroys the entire village. Disney obviously opted for the G-rated version, thankfully. You see, Hathi was originally an old, bitter, injured elephant seeking revenge on all humans for an injury he had gotten years ago.
7. The Lion King – Scar Was To Throw Simba Off Pride Rock
The Lion King is arguably one of Disney’s greatest movies. From Mufasa’s death to Simba reclaiming his rightful position as King, the movie will forever live in our hearts. What might surprise some people is that the original concept for the movie was loosely inspired by Hamlet, a story where everyone dies. Can you imagine all your beloved Lion King characters killed off? What a terrible idea.
The original ending for Lion King had Scar throwing Simba off Pride Rock. Scar is then shown laughing maniacally as the fire surrounding Pride Rock consumed him. The ending was dubbed too dark for Disney and was therefore cut and rewritten into the finale we all love.
6. The Fox And The Hound – The Hunted
In the Fox and the Hound, we are told the story of an unlikely friendship, a red fox and a hound dog. However the creator of the story did not have the same plot in mind when he wrote his version. In his book Copper the hound does not save Todd the fox. In fact, he hunts him down relentlessly for years.
Master and Copper dedicate all their time to hunting Todd and even resort to gassing and killing his mates and kits when they fail to capture him. It’s not until years of hunting him down that Copper finally had his shot. He chased him for an entire day and the fox eventually died of exhaustion. The Master is eventually placed in a home and kills Copper since he couldn’t come along. That’s dark.
5. The Hunchback Of Notre Dame – Everyone Was Supposed To Die
The original Hunchback of Notre Dame is another story where everyone dies. In this story, Esmeralda is sentenced to death by hanging after she is framed by Frollo for attempted murder on Phoebus, the King of Archers. Phoebus, the man that we see in the cartoon as a hero is actually the man that wanted Esmeralda dead in the novel.
She is saved once by Quasimodo, but then is betrayed once again by Frollo when she rejects his advances for a second time. Quasimodo kills Frollo after he notices him laughing upon seeing Esmeralda dead. Quasi then runs away to Paris, where Esmeralda was buried and mourns her until he dies of starvation.
4. Tarzan – He Leaves Jane Alone In The City
In Disney’s animated version of Tarzan, the titular character, despite being raised in the jungle by gorillas, manages to get the girl. The movie was inspired by the novel, Tarzan of the Apes. His real name was John Clayton. In the book series, his father was killed by Kershak, the ape who raised him; his ape-mother was killed by a local tribe. Tarzan later avenges her death by terrorizing the village.
Tarzan also kills Kershak and becomes King of the Apes. Tarzan does follow Jane into the city like in the cartoon, but when he gets there he is met with the news that Jane is engaged to his cousin William Clayton, and he recently was given John’s inheritance since he was presumed dead. Instead of claiming what is his, he decides to go back and live in the jungle in order for Jane to be happy. In case you are wondering, William Clayton is supposed to be the same villainous Clayton from the movie.
3. Pinocchio – Juvenile Delinquent
In the original 1881 version of Pinocchio by Carlo Collodi, Pinocchio was a troublesome little puppet. The writer’s intention with the story was to teach young children that behaving badly will lead to bad consequences. In his story, Pinocchio kills Jiminy the Cricket by throwing a hammer at him after the cricket was telling him to go back home after he famously ran away. He then goes on to tell Gepetto that he was not sorry and the cricket deserved it.
Later on in the story, Pinocchio has his feet burned off before Gepetto reluctantly makes him new ones. However the little puppet continues to be a troublemaker and makes others believe that Gepetto has been abusing him, landing the old man in jail. In the climax of the story, Pinocchio was hung from a tree and left for dead. This is where the writer originally intended to end his story but was implored by the paper to continue it. This is when the blue fairy comes in and saves his life. The talking cricket reappears and lectures the young boy about kindness and courtesy. A lesson he finally learned after facing near death.
2. The Little Mermaid
In The Little Mermaid, both Ariel and Prince Eric fall in love with each other and get married. Except in the original version, the mermaid is not so lucky. The deal was that the little mermaid would be allowed to walk on land in exchange for her voice just like the Disney classic. Every step she would take in this version would feel like she was walking on glass shards. She also needed to get the prince to fall in love with her or else she would die.
The movie also leaves out that the prince found the mermaid’s pain amusing and forces her to dance for him. He also ends up with another woman, as he is under the impression that it was she who saved him. Ariel is then faced with the ultimatum of killing her true love or dying herself. The mermaid ultimately died, plopping into the sea as she was washed away forever.
The original story of Pocahontas is probably the most frightening one due to the fact that it was inspired by a true story. Everything from the love story to the protagonist’s name was fabricated by Disney. For starters Pocahontas means the naughty one or spoiled child but her real name was Matoaka. Unlike the movie, Matoaka never saved John Smith from her father and if she did she would have only been 10-years-old. In fact John Smith detailed in his journal that his stay with the Powhatan people was quite enjoyable and he was actually never saved from death by Mataoka because he never needed to be saved.
Smith only wrote about Mataoka after she had gained fame for being a “good Indian.” She was taken from her home at the age of 17 and was held as prisoner for a year in Jamestown. It wasn’t until a year later that a European by the name of John Rolfe was captivated by her beauty and decided to make her his wife. She was forced to change her name to Rebecca Rolfe. The couple had a child together. Two years later “Rebecca” was taken to England and was being used for propaganda as a civilized Indian and was being used as an example of what domesticated Indians looks like. Mataoka was only 21 when she died from unknown causes. The movie Pocahontas might depict a happy native American women in love with a European settler but the reality of it is that Mataoka was just a girl whose life was cut short.