The Dark Side of Disney

I’m just going to go ahead and admit it: I freakin’ love Disney movies. As embarrassing as it may be for a horror blogger to admit, I have no shame in proudly declaring my love for The Emperor’s New Groove (the funniest movie, like, EVER), or admitting that Beauty and the Beast was on my Christmas list alongside Hammer Horror classics.

Disney has always been controversial. First of all, parents drop like flies and ‘good’ characters are sent to their graves. Then there’s a whole issue of allegations of creepy hidden meanings, racist content and scenes that are deemed too disturbing for kiddies. Disney has always had a dark side.

One of the earliest Disneys, 1929’s The Skeleton Dance, is a creepy short film featuring eerie ghosts and cawing crows, while Gothic imagery is rife in Disney classics like Beauty and the Beast and Snow White. I decided to take a look at some of the scariest Disney scenes and delve into the horror that lurks behind the magic.

Click on the title links to see the horror for yourselves!

Trippy Terror
Two of the scariest scenes in Disney look as though they were dreamt up by some dope-fueled ’60s hippy.

Dude… can you see those pink elephants too!?

Pink Elephants on Parade
Dumbo (1941) is a pretty scary movie straight from the start, channelling the whole ‘creepy carnival’ vibe. But the freakiest moment comes when Dumbo and his mouse pal Timothy drink too much booze unknowingly (who would have thought it, drink spiking in Disney), and end up hallucinating about petrifying pink elephants.
Heffalumps and Woozles
For those of you unfamiliar with Heffalumps and Woozles, they are the Winnie the Pooh version of elephants and weasels. The song of the same name appeared in the Disney musical film featurette, Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day (1968). Poor Pooh bear has a nightmare vision of creepy elephants and weasels who morph into different shapes and colours and are hell-bent on stealing Pooh’s precious honey. At least there’s sort of an explanation behind this one, it was the ‘60s after all.

Totally Traumatizing
Everyone remembers the Disney films that traumatized their kiddie souls for life. Surprise surprise, they always involve the death of a parent.

I. WILL. NOT. CRY.

The Massacre of Mufasa
Even those with hearts of stone would find it hard not to blub uncontrollably when the ultimate ‘good’ Disney character meets his end in The Lion King (1994). He’s bold, brave, full of good advice and not to mention fuzzy and freakin’ adorable. I can still remember watching it at a friend’s birthday party back in the early ‘90s, and Mufasa’s death resulted in a roomful of traumatized toddlers.
Mummy Bambi Bites the Dust
The word ‘meadow’ will forever have terrifying connotations for anyone who witnessed the trauma that was Bambi (1942). I can’t decide which is worse, Bambi’s mum getting slaughtered by hunters or the blazing forest fire scene. Either way, it’s quite possibly the most disturbing of all Disneys.

Truly Terrifying
Then there are the scenes that are, well, just plain scary.

Can’t we just watch Aladdin!?

Fantasia: Night on Bald Mountain
Let’s face it, Fantasia (1940) is just freaky all over. But wizards, sorcery and broomsticks gone mad can’t compare to the terror of Night on Bald Mountain. The demon Chernabog summons restless souls from their graves in a horrific Gothic vision that would terrify any tot.
Pinocchio: Stay off the Booze kids
You can’t deny that Pinocchio (1940) has underlying morals: Don’t fall in with the wrong crowd or you’ll turn into a jackass. Literally. Pinocchio hits the booze, starts gambling and puffing on cigars with his naughty pal Lampwick on Pleasure Island. He and his delinquent friends are then transformed into donkeys to be sold into donkey slavery . If this terrifying scene doesn’t stop kids from smokin’ and drinkin’, then I don’t know what the hell will.

What Disney films do you think are the most horrific?

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3 Responses to “The Dark Side of Disney”

  1. lurk Says:

    Poor Mufasa, he shoulda seen it coming though, come on, once their mom named one cub mufasa and the other scar, it wasn’t gonna end well. but god freaky shit in pinochio/dumbo i never knew they got cartoons pissed, especially child cartoons (i know he’s not a real boy whatever he says but still) better yet when did they stop?? eh eh eh!

  2. Spanish Tummy Says:

    Many Disney toons came to rely on the kill-’em-resurrect-’em routine; while it was an essential part of Snow White, and MAYBE Pinocchio, playing “Oh my God, this minor character is DEAD!! Sad!! No, wait, he’s really alive! Happy!!” with Lady and the Tramp and The Black Cauldron just shows how badly the writing had declined, and it’s horrifying to see how such “whoops, back to life with you, just because!” nonsense crept into other filmmakers’ repertoire (The Dark Crystal, Nausicaa in the Valley of Wind, Wall-E) .

    That’s one of the things I like about Lion King and Bambi; they don’t mess with the circle of life (and death). Death is a reality to be coped with, not something that can be booped away with a shiny if you’re the hero or the hero’s girl. Also Hanna-Barbera’s Charlotte’s Web–even though it left me in sniveling tears long after it ended and I can’t watch it again even today.

  3. Niche Blog Assessment: The Awesome Art of Horror « Module Blog Says:

    […] • The second most popular post on Awesome Art: The Dark side of Disney. […]

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