Disney has been making movies for the whole family since the 1930s, and over the years it has become one of the most trusted brands in children’s entertainment. Disney is responsible for bringing fairytales to life, for turning little girls into princesses, for making magic happen for generations and generations of children. But no company can become as big as Disney without burying a few skeletons in the animation closet along the way. The trouble is, Disney left too much evidence of their dark deeds behind in all those family-friendly films they’ve made over the years.
Start examining your favourite Disney movies, and start learning about the dark truths hidden within them. You may begin to question your own childhood, your memory, even your sense of right and wrong once you discover some of the shadows hiding in that famous Disney vault of theirs. It’s time to crack open the secrets hiding in the Disney safe, and examine some of the dark truths this company has been hiding from generations of families all over the world.
You don’t really want to know these dark truths about Disney…but you know you kind of do want to know, too. Plunge into the darkness, but be warned: once you know the truth, you can never not know it again.
15. Disney’s Motherless Heroes
Lots of people have noticed a peculiar pattern in Disney films: many of the protagonists do not have mothers, or any parents at all. This is a recurring theme that’s seen in Disney films all the way back to “Bambi” and leading up to “Frozen,” but there’s actually a tragic reason at the heart of this recurring theme. Walt Disney took an enormous risk to make “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs,” his first feature-length animated film. Critics said he was crazy and that an animated movie would never work. It turned out to be a huge success that garnered Disney all sorts of acclaim, and became the success upon which Walt Disney Studios was built.
To celebrate his success, Walt purchased his parents a brand-new home in beautiful North Hollywood. They lived there less than a month when tragedy struck. A faulty furnace caused Flora Disney to die from carbon monoxide poisoning in November, 1938. Many said that Walt never got over her death, and remained wracked with guilt for the remainder of his life. Motherless heroes now pepper Disney films, though many say it’s mere coincidence because in many cases the original fairy tales and legends feature characters without mothers. But perhaps there’s a reason that Walt felt so compelled to tell these sad stories with missing mothers in the first place…
14. The Simple Biology of Finding Nemo
Disney has absolutely no problem with mis-telling history, fudging up mythology and even denying biology when it comes to making their movies. They’ll fill a film with incorrect facts and misinformation, and “Finding Nemo” is a classic example of Disney’s willingness to ignore simple truths. By the laws of the ocean, “Finding Nemo” would be a very different film if the good folks at Disney paid any attention to nature. Here’s what every marine biologist already knows: all clownfish are born male, but have both female and male reproductive organs within them. Once the alpha female of a group dies — in this case, Nemo’s mother Coral — one of the immature males would then switch sexes to become female. The remaining dominant male — that would be Marlin — would then mate with its now-female offspring…meaning Nemo.
But, you probably wouldn’t want your kids to see THAT film.
13. The Hidden Code in Every Pixar Movie
Once you start looking for it, you will find it in every single Pixar movie that has ever been made. It’s the secret code placed there by Pixar animators, and it is A113. Ask them what the heck it means, and they have a very simple answer: it’s the room at the California Institution of Arts where some of Pixar’s earliest animators were taught. However, many say there is a much darker reason for this hidden code.
Conspiracy theorists say this code is anything but an innocent nod to the origins of Pixar; it’s an Illuminati code buried within children’s movies. Some have even said it’s a code predicting the End Times.
But it’s probably really just a door number after all…right?
12. Who Framed That Crotch Shot?
Jessica Rabbit has become an iconic character since “Who Framed Roger Rabbit?” hit the theaters in 1988. It was a Disney film, actually, released under their more grown-up label, Touchstone. And it’s got Disney written all over it. The animated characters are crafted in classic Disney style and the reverence to animated characters is clearly at the core of Disney’s business model as a studio. Also present: the quick, inappropriate sexual imagery that Disney has become legendary for. The most-paused moment in animated movie history is probably the scene where Jessica Rabbit and Bob Hoskins get into a car wreck. As Jessica is thrown from the car, she spins around and dislodges her iconic red dress. What’s under the dress — or lack thereof — would make Paris Hilton proud. If you examine the evidence, you will come to same conclusion as many other fans: Jessica Rabbit doesn’t wear underwear.
11. The Hidden Nazi Symbol
Go back and re-watch the 1961 Disney classic “101 Dalmatians,” and don’t be surprised if you start to feel a little sick to your stomach. Look closely and you’ll see something you don’t want to see on Perdy, the female canine protagonist in the story. Some of her spots are arranged in a Swastika shape. You’ll see it while the Dalmatians are watching TV with their puppies.
It may be mere coincidence, but it has given a lot of movie watchers pause since the scene is still present in the re-releases of the film. Walt Disney has been rumored for decades to have been anti-Semitic in his lifetime, an opinion that has been confirmed and contradicted over the years. It is no secret that Disney produced some anti-Nazi commercials during the days of WWII, so presumably Walt disliked Nazi Germany as much as anyone else in the U.S. at the time.
10. So, They Ripped Off The Lion King
Disney has actually created way fewer original stories than you might think. It’s well-known that many Disney movies drew on fairy tales and legends to create those iconic characters, and it’s considered common knowledge that “The Lion King,” one of Disney’s biggest hits, is loosely based on Shakespeare’s “Hamlet.” But many say that the big Disney hit is also based off something else, a something else that was never credited for inspiring those now oh-so-familiar animated elements.
The lead animator behind “The Lion King” has absolutely denied any purposeful link between this film and “Kimba, the White Lion,” but the similarities are clear to anyone who looks at the two movies. “Kimba, the White Lion” is a Japanese cartoon that aired in the 1960s. First of all, the main character’s name in “The Lion King” is Simba, which is an awful lot like Kimba. “The Lion King” features two iconic scenes that are exactly like scenes in the earlier “Kimba” film, the image of Simba standing on Pride Rock and the face of Mufasa appearing in the clouds. And there are several similar characters, including an evil lion with a bad eye (named Claw in the Kimba tale), a wise old baboon and even incompetent hyenas. Both movies feature a young lioness love interest. Oh yeah, and a dead parent is a big part of both stories.
9. Dreamworks and Disney Both Screwed Over Pixar
These days, Pixar is covered under the enormous Disney umbrella as one of the many, many acquisitions owned by the company. But back in 1998, Pixar had no such protection. Back in 1998, Pixar was a scrappy animation studio working with Disney to release “A Bug’s Life.” And at that time, Pixar was engaged in a public war with Dreamworks.
The head of Pixar, John Lasseter, had been working on “A Bug’s Life” for years when he told his best friend, Jeffrey Katzenberg, about the idea. Katzenberg was the head of Dreamworks. And after talking to Lasseter, Katzenberg decided to speed up production time for their similarly-themed movie, “Antz.” Lasseter won that battle, but only after he lost another.
Lasseter actually began his career working for none other than The Walt Disney Company, where he was an animator. He was fired from Disney for suggesting they use computer animation. Since Disney acquired Pixar, Lasseter is now working as the Principal Creative Advisor for Walt Disney Imagineering. How’s that for irony?
8. The Time a Whole Bunch of Kids Had to Be Hospitalized
This is a fun fact you won’t find on any promotional materials for Disney’s “The Princess and the Frog.” According to media reports, over 50 children had to be hospitalized after the film was released. They became ill with salmonella poisoning because they were kissing frogs.
It’s hard to verify the actual number of sick children because some conflicting media reports say this was merely a rumor. However, there is strong truth to the fact that you should NOT kiss frogs. They do carry salmonella and can make you sick, no matter what Disney or any fairy tales might tell you. So before you screen “The Princess and the Frog” with your kids, make sure to tell them that they shouldn’t try this at home…or anywhere else, either.
7. Drunken Debauchery at the Pinocchio Premiere
Walt Disney wanted to do something special for the premiere of “Pinocchio,” the studio’s second feature-length film. For the 1940 premiere party at Radio City Music Hall, Walt Disney hired 11 little people to wear costumes and entertain the crowds. The plan backfired at once.
The 11 actors were given food and beer to last them through the day, but supplies ran out quickly. Soon, the 11 actors were completely drunk and had stripped naked. They screamed obscenities at theatergoers and created such a ruckus, police officers were called in. The actors were wrapped in pillowcases and carried off. It was quite a scene, and the premiere was an unmitigated disaster.
6. Disney Lied to the University of California
Hyena researchers agreed to work with Disney animators for “The Lion King” on just one condition: that the animators would portray hyenas in a positive light. Hyena researchers know better than anyone that these animals often get a bad rap, and they didn’t want Disney to perpetuate the many myths surrounding these much-maligned creatures. Disney promised, and then promptly broke that promise in every way. The researchers were super angry, understandably so, and actually brought legal action against Disney as a result.
One of the biologists filed a “Defamation of Character” suit against Disney on behalf of all hyenas everywhere. But hyenas are not protected by any defamation laws, so the suit was thrown out of court.
It doesn’t change the fact that Disney animators happily lied to researchers at the University of California Field Station for Behavioral Research to get what they wanted, then filled children’s heads with misinformation about hyenas.
5. The Non-Disney Disney Film Full of Dark Horrors
Ever since creating “The Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” in 1938, Disney ruled the roost in animated movies. The company controlled the genre until the 1980s, when the genre finally became too big for even Disney to completely contain and command. But no other movie defied Disney so openly as “The Secret of NIMH,” the non-Disney Disney movie that came out in 1982 and only exists because so many people chose to defy Disney at just the right time.
Three animators left Disney in 1979 out of frustration, a lot of which stemmed from the story “Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH.” The book was published in 1971 and the rights offered to Disney in 1972, but the studio quickly turned it down. They already had a famous rat in the form of Mickey Mouse, and didn’t want to make any other mouse-centric movies at the time. Around the same time, an ex-Disney exec heard the rumors about the unhappy animators and gave them a phone call. He asked them to leave Disney and start their own production company, which they did.
They ended up creating “The Secret of NIMH,” which is a movie about rats and animal testing at the National Institutes of Mental Health. It’s a dark subject matter for kids, and you’ll notice just how dark it is if you go back and watch the film as an adult. Do so, and you’ll see why Disney rejected the film — it certainly wouldn’t have fit under their banner. Don Bluth, who directed the film and worked as a primary animator, never worked with Disney again.
4. What You Didn’t Notice The First Time…
Pixar’s hit “Monsters, Inc.” was released in 2001, but it wasn’t until 2016 that a viral video called attention to one of the most attention-grabbing moments in the whole movie. There’s a scene where Sulley appears in Boo’s bedroom that briefly shows a background image that has become highly questionable and has made parents highly furious.
It seems little Boo has seen way more horrors than mere monsters coming out of the closet. By the looks of this drawing, Boo also caught Mommy having an affair with Uncle Roger — and we hope that’s Dad’s brother and not her own.
It’s a hilarious little extra bit of animation, and it’s a well-known fact that Disney sometimes inserts hidden sexual imagery into their movies, but in this case it’s not true. This image was actually taken from an internet meme contest where participants inserted graphic adult images into children’s movies on purpose. This image isn’t part of “Monsters, Inc.” In the actual movie, the drawing on Boo’s wall is much more benign. However, the rumor and this image have become almost as big as the movie itself and is now considered to be part of Disney lore.
3. The Time Disney Killed All the Clownfish
“Finding Nemo” was a wildly successful film in 2003 and eventually spawned a much-loved sequel to go along with it, but this movie has been the bane of marine biologists everywhere. Sales of clownfish skyrocketed after the movie was released, and that was a big problem for the ecosystem because about 90 percent of all clownfish sold are taken from the wild. Clownfish have now gone locally extinct in many parts of the world. They were put on the Endangered Species List in 2012.
Two years after the movie came out, a group of researchers founded the Saving Nemo Conservation Fund in an effort to protect the world’s clownfish. That’s why researchers stepped up their breeding efforts in an attempt to prevent blue tangs from suffering a similar fate after the release of “Finding Dory.”
2. P.L. Travers Was Devastated By Disney
They can make all the family-friendly films about Walt Disney they want, but there’s a dark truth at the heart of the film “Mary Poppins.” Despite what the movies might have you believe in “Saving Mr. Banks,” the author of the story was completely devastated by the movie Disney made. P.L. Travers absolutely hated what was done to her beloved book, and watched the film’s premiere weeping.
P.L. Travers refused to ever work with Walt Disney again and stipulated in her will that no Americans should ever be allowed to be involved in any future Mary Poppins projects.
1. Disney Out-Spent Avatar, and You Won’t Believe Why
Disney is responsible for not one but two of the most expensive films ever made in history. As of 2017, Disney’s 2007 release “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End” is the most costly movie ever made — topping even James Cameron’s massive hit “Avatar.” It cost $300 million to capture a swashbuckling, drunken Johnny Depp in Disney’s third “Pirates” installment. FYI, Disney’s 2012 flop “John Carter” is the second most expensive film ever made. “Tangled,” released by Disney in 2010, is the third most expensive. And since Disney holds spots number 5, 15, 18, 20 and 21 on the most expensive list, we could go on.
But since Disney makes about $100 billion a year in profits, they can probably afford it, and still have plenty of money to buy everyone else’s companies out, too.
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