It isn’t just modern kids films that conceal adult issues, but some of the most beloved movies of the past send some truly weird messages that older fans may have never even realized.
The Jungle Book
When the hero of your story is a boy raised by a completely different species, and was written by a man living through England’s colonization of India, it’s obvious that ideas and philosophies will overlap. Basically, Kipling’s Jungle Book can be seen as a massive metaphor for Britain’s view of India, with Mowgli in Britain’s role, and the animals as Indians. But the bigger message is a bit less disturbing, since the jungle boy eventually learns that human villagers are just as strange to animals as the other way around – it’s just a matter of perspective. Still, the overall message of people sticking with their own kind is always going to be a tricky one to explain to kids.
The Lion King
There was no better King than Mufasa, and his parents obviously knew it the moment he was born, naming him after an actual African King. But you have to wonder: what was his brother Scar’s name BEFORE he got the Scar? Disney’s Lion King novels revealed his name was originally “Taka,” but he took the name Scar so he’d never forget how anger and jealousy almost cost him an eye. Since that actually makes him seem decent, it’s probably his parents who are to blame for him turning out evil: in Swahili, “Taka” means dirt, or trash. Harsh.
The Secret of NIMH
This cult classic may not have come from Disney, but its tale of intelligent mice and rats earned it critical acclaim – from adults. But kids might have missed the actual disturbing story at work, thanks to the magic elements added to the book it’s based on. The flashback to the rats and other animals being tested is scary to young viewers, but older ones able to grasp that NIMH is really the National Institute of Mental Health may realize that the movie is one big warning about what medical research can create if the ones in charge go too far.
All Dogs Go To Heaven
You can’t even blame a bad dog for being that way, since, as this hugely successful movie taught us, all dogs go to heaven. Or, at least kids are led to believe that. When the star dog gives up heaven to head back to Earth, he’s warned that if he dies again, he won’t return – but he’s never told what will happen instead. But as he starts making dishonest, selfish choices, a nightmare sequence confirms what every older viewer fears: where there’s a doggie heaven, there’s a doggie hell. Kids might see it as just a bad dream, but the lava, the demonic doggie devil, and even the hellhounds tearing at Charlie’s hair are pretty grim for a movie with such a sweet message.
The Good Dinosaur
It’s the classic story of a boy and his dog – except the boy is the dog this time around, with a dinosaur named Arlo as the star. Pixar is know for jokes aimed squarely at parents, but The Good Dinosaur goes further than usual when the heroes start to bond over what else? An intense drug trip. Thanks to some fermenting fruit, the two of them get hallucinating instantly, leaving younger audiences wondering how bad fruit can swap the characters heads, and send them flying through the air. While older viewers realize what story the filmmakers are really telling.
Alice in Wonderland
Every kid learns about Alice’s journey down the rabbit hole sooner or later, and when every one of them sees it again as an adult, it’s hard to believe that it’s basically all just one big drug trip. Well, maybe not according to Disney, but watching as Alice eats magical mushrooms that make her feel giant, tiny, or floating through the air all speak for themselves. Why parents would tease their kids with the amazing adventures eating mushrooms can take them on is a mystery. That’s not even mentioning the slow, drowsy caterpillar who can’t stop smoking… something. Use your imagination.
The Little Mermaid
She wasn’t the first Disney princess to ignore her parents advice, but Ariel the mermaid went farther than most, basically making a deal with the devil, swapping her tail for legs after falling in love with a man. But the deal has a catch: if he doesn’t fall in love with her fast enough, she loses everything. It’s a chance to tell a serious cautionary tale, or at least it would be, if the movie didn’t end with the evil Witch murdered, and Ariel living happily ever after. Basically, teaching kids that selling your soul is a bad idea… If you don’t do the smart thing, and kill the one you sold it to.
Being the bad guy isn’t anyone’s first choice, so when Ralph decides he wants to be a Hero instead, he makes his dream come true. Well, not quite. You see, in the video game universe, it doesn’t really matter if you want to be a Hero or villain… Things only work if everyone plays their role. It’s a surprisingly depressing message to send to kids, revealing that bad guys don’t necessarily have to be BAD guys. They can be good at heart… But yeah. They’re still bad.
There are a few Disney morals that never change: love beats hate, good beats evil, and nothing is as important as being beautiful. That’s the message made clear by Snow White, who almost gets killed for breaking and entering, until the dwarves see her face. It’s even her beauty that sends the evil Queen after her, in fact it’s the only reason. Get the message kids, being beautiful saves lives, but can also get you killed. And after she’s eaten the poisoned apple, what is it that breaks the Curse? She’s so beautiful, Prince charming can’t help but kiss her when he lays eyes on her lifeless body. Creepy.
It isn’t hard to see how many serious messages are sent with this Disney hit, since it all begins when a strange new drug – cooked in a secret lab by a sheep version of Breaking Bad’s – starts turning everyday animals into out of control maniacs. Add the fact that it’s only minorities turning feral, with the police suggesting they’re biologically prone to violence, and whether intentional or not, Zootopia couldn’t be more relevant to the issues of racism in today’s world.