What’s your favorite Disney movie? Aladdin? The Little Mermaid? Mulan? Do you know the stories these movies are based off of?
Disney is well-known for producing entertaining and family-friendly films that can be enjoyed by people of all ages. After all, these movies are G-rated for a reason.
But some Disney movies have some R-rated origins. You may not know it but some Disney films were heavily modified from the source material, in some cases so much that the movie adaption and the source material it was “based off of” don’t look the same at all. They’re only the same in name alone (much like the comic-book version of Catwoman and the 2004 movie adaption).
If you’re curious about the less-known origins of the tales Disney based their films off, then look no further. But I should probably tell you: some of the stories are very warped and may cause you to look at your favorite movies differently. You have been warned.
If you’re ready to take the risk, then here is the list of 15 Disney films with horrifying origins that will ruin your childhood. Possibly.
Disney left out a key detail about the legend in the movie, but considering what it is, we don’t blame them. The night before she sneaks off to take her father’s place in the army, Mulan looks at her feet and realizes that she needs to unbind them so that they’ll look large and sturdy. What’s unbinding, you ask? Well, it’s a highly disturbing process which started during ancient China that most upper-class women had done to them. Girls between the ages of four to seven had their toes (except their big toes) curled beneath their feet and broken, to make their feet look smaller. Small feet were an attractive trait, and it made young women look more desirable for marriage. I won’t get into the details about foot binding here because they’re really gross. Mulan painfully uncurls her toes from her feet, undoing years of horrific foot binding, so she can blend in among the male soldiers.
In the original tale of Pinocchio, Pinocchio badmouths Gepetto constantly and eventually runs away from home. Gepetto chases after him, but is arrested by a police officer who believes he’s abusing Pinocchio. Pinocchio returns home sometime later to meet a cricket who informs him that naughty boys turn into donkeys. Pinocchio gets mad and throws a hammer at the cricket, killing him. Pinocchio bites off an evil cat’s paw, meets a walking, talking corpse fairy, and is hung on a tree by the evil cat who watches as Pinocchio suffocates to death. The editors weren’t too happy about the tale’s ending, so the author added a part two in which Pinocchio is rescued from death by the fairy and later reunited with Gepetto inside a giant shark. He takes care of Gepetto, and after they escape Pinocchio is rewarded and turned into a real boy.
13. The Little Mermaid
You may know that The Little Mermaid is based off of a tale by Hans Christian Anderson, but you may not know that Anderson drew inspiration from a lesser-known tale named Undine, by Friedrich de la Motte Fouqué. A water spirit named Undine marries a knight and gains a human soul as a result. But unfortunately for Undine, her half-sister Bertilda, who is also her husband’s ex-girlfriend, comes to live with them in the castle and her husband falls in love with his ex again. Undine’s husband and Bertilda begin treating Undine badly and her uncle becomes very angry. To save them from his wrath, Undine commits suicide by throwing herself into a raging river, turning into a water spirit again. The knight believes she is dead and proceeds to marry Bertilda, but this isn’t allowed if one has been previously married to a water spirit, and Undine is forced to return in her water nixie form and kill her former husband.
12. Beauty and the Beast
In the original tale, the Beast proposes to Beauty every day for three months before he allows her to go back home for a one-week visit. However, Beauty’s scheming sisters (yes, in the original tale she had two sisters) keep Beauty home for more than a week in the hopes that when she returns back to the Beast, he’ll eat her out of anger. When Beauty finally returns back to the Beast, she finds him near death, having apparently starved himself each day she failed to come back. Upon realizing the Beast isn’t as bad as he seems and that he obviously loves her so much that he would die if she left, she finally agrees to marry him.
Think Cinderella was always pure and innocent? Well think again. Disney based their 1950 classic off of a story written by Charles Perrault, which has similarities to The Cat Cinderella by Giambattista Basile. In Basile’s tale, Cinderella is still regularly abused by her wicked stepmother but she confesses her troubles to the Governess, who tells Cinderella to kill her stepmother as a solution to her problems. Cinderella goes through with the plan and then convinces her father to marry the Governess. However, the Governess was tricking Cinderella, and reveals her seven beautiful daughters Cinderella had no idea existed. Cinderella’s father loses attention in his own daughter and everyone begins mistreating Cinderella, turning her back into a servant. The story has a happy ending, though.
You’ll be hard-pressed to find a Greek myth that isn’t twisted in some kind of way. The myth of Hercules is no different. Zeus tricks Hercules’ mother (no, it’s not Hera) into having sex with him and impregnates her. As a child, Hercules murders his music tutor with a lyre. He then grows up to become a great warrior who marries a gorgeous princess named Megara. They have two children, but Hercules ends up killing them after he goes temporarily insane. Some tales claim he also killed Megara. He weds multiple times after that and entertains numerous relationships with male lovers. There’s more to the story, which consists of Hercules burning himself alive, but that’s all I want to get into right now.
9. The Fox and the Hound
This one is pretty rough. Read at your own risk. The novel by Daniel P. Mannix is a lot darker than the Disney adaption. Tod leads Chief onto a set of train tracks and Chief gets hit by a train and killed; Tod finds a mate and has a litter with her before she is killed; Tod finds another mate and has more babies, but they’re all slain by the Master. And if you thought Tod and Copper were best friends forever, you are wrong. Copper hunts Tod down ruthlessly until Tod literally dies of exhaustion. Copper is near dead himself, but the Master locates him and nurses him back to health. Eventually, the Master goes back to his bad drinking habits and ends up having to go to a nursing home. Before doing so, he shoots Copper dead with a shotgun, weeping while doing so. And that’s how the novel ends. Yes, that’s really how it ends.
8. Peter Pan
We all know Peter Pan hates adults and hates growing up even more. That’s why he spends his never-ending childhood in Neverland and never wants to leave, even to be with Wendy. And that’s also why he resorts to cold-blooded murder in order to keep the status quo. Whenever a Lost Boy gets too old, Peter kills them off. Growing up is against the rules, so he just “thins them out.” He also kills some of the Lost Boys off if there’s too many of them. But Peter Pan didn’t just murder his supposed friends to maintain his lifestyle. He also killed pirates for the heck of it, and sometimes switched sides during battles and killed Lost Boys for, you know, fun. Peter Pan was a lot more psychotic than you would believe.
7. The Princess and the Frog
In The Frog King by the Brothers Grimm, the Princess meets the frog after her ball falls down a well. The frog offers to fetch the ball if the Princess will become his companion. The Princess agrees to the terms, but backs out of the deal after getting what she wants and leaves the frog in the forest, thinking he won’t be able to follow her. But the frog does follow the Princess back to her castle, where her father forces her to keep her promise. The Princess tries her best not to throw up as the frog eats off her plate during dinner. After dinner, she retreats upstairs to her bedroom and keeps the frog in a corner of her bedroom. He requests that she bring him into her bed, which she agreed to previously. The Princess freaks out and chucks the frog at the wall in an attempt to kill him. The frog turns back into a human and joyfully declares that he and the Princess can get married now.
Pocahontas was only ten years old when John Smith first encountered the Powhatan Indians. At the age of 17, she was kidnapped by the English and ransomed. Her husband Kokoum, was killed and she was repeatedly r*ped and subsequently impregnated. She was forced to convert to Christianity and baptized, had her name changed to Rebecca, and quickly wed to an English tobacco farmer named John Rolfe to make the pregnancy look legitimate. The Rolfes later traveled to England where Pocahontas was forced into a corset and publicly displayed as a “symbol of the tamed Virginia savage.” After they spent two years in England, the Rolfes began making their way back home to Virginia, but one day during the trip, Pocahontas started vomiting and convulsing. She died a horrible and painful death, and she was only 22 at the time.
5. The Hunchback of Notre Dame
Disney’s version was already dark enough, but the original tale was even darker. In the original tale, Frollo doesn’t try to kill Quasimodo but instead takes him in and raises him. Eventually, Frollo goes mad with lust towards a gypsy teenager named Esmeralda and tries to have Quasimodo kidnap her. Quasimodo is caught and arrested by a soldier named Phoebus, who Esmeralda falls in love with. Phoebus and Esmeralda have a rendezvous and Frollo, who was watching, stabs Phoebus in the back out of jealousy and scurries away. Esmeralda is falsely accused of the attempted murder, tortured into giving a false confession, and sentenced to hang. Quasimodo rescues her, but is thwarted by Frollo. Frollo tells her he’ll let her go if she promises herself to him, but she refuses and is consequently hung. Quasimodo pushes Frollo off the top of Notre Dame to his death, and then later embraces Esmeralda’s decaying body until his last breath.
4. Snow White
In The Young Slave by Giambattista Basile, a baby girl is cursed to die at the age of seven. One day her mother is combing her hair when the comb gets stuck in her skull, seemingly killing her. The mother locks her daughter away in a castle chamber. She eventually dies of grief, but before doing so she entrusts the key to the chamber to her brother. The brother’s wife finds the key and opens the chamber, finding a young woman inside (the girl grew as she slept). The wife erroneously believes that her husband is keeping the woman away to have sex with her and drags her out by her hair, freeing the comb and subsequently breaking the spell. The wife makes the girl her slave and abuses her frequently. The girl is ready to kill herself one day and says her story aloud to a doll while sharpening her blade. Her uncle hears this, sends his wife away, obtains medical attention for his niece, and then marries her off to a rich man.
To its credit, this movie’s origins aren’t as bizarre as some others on this list. Just like in the movie, Bambi is also shot in the book. However, in the book, he is taught to walk around in circles so the blood will spread and throw off the hunters and the dogs tracking him. But since Walt Disney never showed any blood in his movies, he left this part out of the film. The hunter is shot and killed by another man and Bambi’s father, the Great Prince of the Forest, forces his son to watch the hunter’s body to teach him a lesson that man isn’t as mighty as he may seem. The book also talks about how stags abandon their young after the does give birth, and it appears that Bambi and his father don’t exactly have a close, fostering father-son relationship where Bambi sees him often.
The direct-to-video Aladdin sequel Aladdin and the King of Thieves drew inspiration from the tale Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves. Cassim is Aladdin’s long-lost father who appears in the original tale. In the story, Ali Baba discovers the secret words to enter and exit the treasure trove of the forty thieves. He informs his brother, Cassim, who hurriedly gathers as much gold from the cave as he can. He forgets the words to exit the cave however, and he is killed when the thieves return to their den. They dismember his body and hang the parts up outside the cave as a warning to potential robbers. Ali Baba discovers his brother’s body and takes the body parts back home. He then has a slave girl find a tailor who can stitch his brother’s body back together so it will look like Cassim died of natural causes.
1. Sleeping Beauty
Just like in the Disney version, in Sun, Moon and Talia by Giambattista Basile, the princess falls into a deep sleep after having her finger pricked by a spindle on her 15th birthday. One key difference between the two is what happens to Sleeping Beauty while she’s sleeping. In the source material a king happens by Princess Talia while she’s dozing and r*pes her. She is impregnated and gives birth to twins while still sleeping. One of the twins sucks the charmed splinter from beneath her fingernail which rouses her. The queen tries to have the twins murdered and fed to their father, and tries to do away with Talia too. But the king saves the day, the queen is burned to death, and they all live happily ever after.
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