Most of the humor written with children in mind is pretty on the nose. And while a lot of it is definitely funny, sometimes the adults in the room get a little bored. Parents almost never get the luxury of watching a movie once, especially if it’s their kid’s favorite. So, working with their audience in mind, writers and animators will occasionally embed tiny pieces of mature content into their work. When done correctly the jokes catch the attention of the right people, but fly under the radar of any youngsters who might be watching too.
Toy Story 3
There are certain situations where, if they’re not careful, even adults are likely to miss a dirty quip here and there. The Toy Story franchise is full of funny characters, and some of them are fast-talkers. So there’s actually an abundance of sly nods to the parents in the crowd, but some of them are disguised as throwaway lines. For example, one scene in Toy Story 3 shows the evil bear Lotso remove Mrs. Potato Head’s mouth from her face. And in his protest, her husband shouts some choice words at the burly villain. It happens so quickly that even some grown-ups might miss it. But is very obvious in retrospect.
A few years ago, you’d be hard pressed to find a parent who hadn’t seen all the Shrek movies at least a dozen times over. The big green ogre muscled his way into living rooms across the globe. Multiple sequels followed which led to a holiday special, and even a spinoff film for the character of Puss in Boots. Mercifully, the team behind the scenes included a few doses of adult humor in the kid-friendly franchise. And parents were thankful. First, the bad guy’s name is clearly an allusion to the word “fuckwad.” Plus, when Shrek and Donkey arrive at Farquaad’s castle, they joke that maybe the royal uses his home to distract from his small… family jewels.
Things change when you become a parent. Sleepless nights, hunger, and the sudden responsibility of watching your mouth in front of an impressionable, young brain. But at the end of the day, we’re all subject to our instincts, and sometimes we just have to swear. Thankfully, there’s a way to be sneaky about it. And in the 2005 movie Madagascar, Marty the zebra shows us how. After he and a few buddies escape from the zoo, they find themselves on the island of Madagascar. After too long without a meal, his friend Alex the lion gets so crazed with hunger that he can’t control the instinct to hunt his striped friend. When Marty realizes what’s about to happen, he yells “sugar honey iced tea”. And you don’t need a degree in cryptology to solve that anagram. (S.H.I.T.)
Inside Out follows the story of a young girl named Riley, who’s family moves across country and leaves everything she knows behind. Told through the lens of psychology, the storytellers turn emotions into characters. And use the girl’s mind as a landscape to show how the change is affecting her personality. Led by Joy, other emotions Sadness, Fear, Anger, and Disgust also play a big part in the film. Shortly after Riley sees their new house in San Francisco, Fear wonders aloud about the city’s bear situation. And Anger’s response made more than a few people chuckle. Bear is a slang word used in the LGBT community that describes a particular body type. Big and hairy. And given how central the city has been in the gay rights movement, the line was definitely a shout out.
Since it’s release of March this year, Zootopia has grossed over one billion dollars worldwide. Judy Hopps is a rabbit who’s always dreamed of becoming a police officer. Her city, Zootopia, is home to all different animal species, but there has never been a rabbit cop. After making her way through training, Judy faces many obstacles. Audiences have spoken out about how the movie is a mirror for issues society is facing today. One character describes another as “articulate”; a callback to the word being used as a racist backhanded compliment. And feminist scholars point to a scene where everyone can reach their chair except Judy, arguing the sequence is a metaphor for female struggle in the workplace.