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Clockwise from top left. The Lion KingWalt Disney (Photo: Screen Archives/Getty Images), Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, 101 Dalmatians, Dumbo (all screenshots courtesy of Walt Disney Studios/YouTube)
Graphical: AV club

As Disney celebrates its 100th anniversary this year, AV club marks the occasion with a series of lists, essays, etc.


Like many children growing up in the early 1900s, Walt Disney grew up in a world where corporal punishment was an accepted form of parental discipline. Both he and his brother Roy suffered at the hands of their distant and taciturn father, Elias, whose favorite tool to wield was the “switch,” a thin, green, tree branch, damp enough to be pliable and whip-like, used by Elias to punish the Disney boys for real and imagined transgressions.

Walt Disney later admitted that he became a bed-wetter under stress, and according to one biographer, Disney often wondered aloud how this cruel old man could be his father, or why his mother did not intervene to stop the cruelty. It’s no wonder that when Disney became the make-believe crown prince of Hollywood, he fantasized so often about killing and imprisoning his parents.

Because don’t kid yourself about those darlings Disney animated classics like Snow White, Pinocchio and: Dumbo. Of course, they’re filled with heartwarming lessons about true love and how to learn to love yourself even if you’re different, and jazz with such healthy messages. But all this is window dressing on the color surface of cheerful technique. Inside, Disney’s seminal properties contain joy in their hearts.

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937)

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937)
Screenshot:: Walt Disney Productions

Take Snow White herself. He’s an orphan, oppressed by a maniacal stepmother who wants him dead. No mother, no father, no one to care for him or tuck him in at night. There is even one fan theory that the Evil Queen is a serial killer, and that Snow White’s dead people act as skeletons that appear in the background as Queenie proceeds to hit Snow White with a poisoned apple.

Pinocchio‘s Geppetto is a single father who gets away relatively easily. He is imprisoned in the whale’s belly. Then there is Bambi, a delightful and nature-loving idyll about an innocent cub growing up in a lush forest until its mother is gunned down by a group of poachers. Imagine, if you will, a bright-eyed and anthropomorphic Bambi foraging in the earliest spring. “New spring grass”. Mom says happily as mother and child break their winter fast and start eating. Suddenly, Mom’s head jerks upright. He hears something. “Bambi! Quick! the thicket.” Fire breaks out as they race to the tree line, only one of them will make it.

That’s it murder scene Hitchcock worthy. In a children’s movie.

Dumbo delivers the horror

The damage meter is even higher Dumbo, where the whimsy of a parent imprisoned in a whale’s belly is replaced by putting Dumbo’s mom in leg irons. A mother sings a lullaby to a crying baby elephant through the barred window of a barred car with “Crazy Elephant” emblazoned on it. In a previous scene, he beat up a kid for pulling Dumbo’s ears and tried to kill some circus thugs when they tried to stop him.

If you sense a pattern, it’s because there is one. These are central plot devices in the first four Disney animated features, if you don’t count Fantasy, which basically has no story. It’s hard to say exactly why Walt Disney was so obsessed with the turmoil surrounding the parent-child relationship. Maybe it was just a shortcut to making its childlike characters the centers of their worlds. Maybe Walt was a time traveler who could read Atonement with the Father Head of Joseph Campbell The hero with a thousand faces 10 years before publication.

Or maybe Disney realized early on that it could keep kids and parents glued to their seats by presenting their most primal fear in cartoon form; that their bond could be broken at any moment by violent means.

Walt Disney

Walt Disney
Photo:: Hulton-Deutsch collection/CORBIS (Getty Images:)

It worked, so Walt kept doing it. Cinderella is another unloved orphan tormented by an alien monster. Sleeping Beauty is banished to avoid the curse. Mowgli’s The Jungle Book he is another orphan. his parents were eaten by a tiger. And 99 of them 101 Dalmatians They are violently separated from their parents by a madman who wants to slaughter them for his fur coat.

Then Walt Disney died, and the company he gave his name to took the opportunity to create a kinder, gentler brand identity, an empathetic narrative where the common problems of everyday life were addressed with nuance and warmth. Nah. Just kidding. Disney’s successors at Disney Animation doubled down on the child carnage and even created new terrain.

And that’s why it’s called Black pot

The case is mentioned. Black potwas released in 1985. After some lost post-Walt years, Cauldron It was the Disney organization’s first attempt to recapture the old magic. It was beautifully animated, and it was “holy” with a more contemporary tone to the misguided experience.

The unwritten rule of Walt’s years was that cute characters can’t die. You can shoot Bambi’s mother, but you can’t shoot Bambi. So imagine the total surprise when CauldronGurgi didn’t just die,he committed suicide on screen. In the way of these things, it was the only available method to stop Absolute Evil from taking over the entire world. Weeping Gurgi is thrown from a great height into the titular cauldron, and that, as they say, is that.

B:day, time exhibition in Worcester, MassachusettsThere was a poor girl of about 6 who watched Gurgi go from fuzzball to fireball in a nanosecond, and just to twist the knife, his last words before he hurt her: “Gurgi has no friends.” His parents could not stop this child as he screamed and screamed and shouted as if to say, good luck with all my therapy bills later in life.

Even as Gurgi revived to perform Disney resurrection trope, that little girl could not stop crying. Instead, she laughed and cried at the same time, the very soundtrack to a psychotic break.

The Lion King (1994)

The Lion King (1994)
Screenshot:: Walt Disney Productions

The Massacre comes to us now as the Great Old Story Tradition. Mustafa the Lion is trampled and killed by wild beasts The Lion King without even Bambi, leaving little cub Simba to blame himself for his father’s death. Death is in parentheses TarzanTarzan’s biological parents are killed by a panther in the opening montage. his surrogate father, the Great Ape, dies of a gunshot wound after he accepts Tarzan as his son. Come in Brother Bear kills his best friend’s mother. And of course Anna and Elsa’s doting parents Frozen drown before 20 minutes.

So as we raise our glass to this centennial year of Disney Animation and salute all those great innovations in art, storytelling, crossover marketing and theme parks, let’s not forget what is Disney Animation’s most modern cultural contribution. Uncle Walt and the studio that bears his name have given more children nightmares than any other storyteller in history. If Walt Disney is to be remembered as a pioneer of animation, let him also be lionized for his less heralded but equally long-lasting addition to genre filmmaking;

He invented a horror movie for children.

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