You'll Never See These The Same Way Again
I've been meaning forever to put up a post with a collection of controversial moments from Disney films. Well, here it is - but let me warn you that, once you see some of these, you'll never see them the same way again.
Most people know about "easter eggs," which are little hidden visuals in video which are only supposed to be viewable if you know the secret to finding them. In the early days of the Internet, it usually was some underpaid software guy putting in his name and those of some of his co-workers if you knew just the right combination of key strokes to hit while putting your mouse somewhere on the screen - something innocuous like that. Perhaps clicking on the cactus would start a credits roll which the designers only intended for their friends and family to see.
But that hasn't been the only use of easter eggs. In fact, sometimes they have been right out in the open for everyone to see, if only you know when and where to look.
The thing about Disney films is that they get put under a microscope by some of the more, shall we say, detail-obsessed fans (and enemies) of Disney. While it is easy to scoff at these poor souls, the only reason they keep doing it is because, well, they keep finding stuff.
I'm not talking about the supposedly gay purple teletubby, that's interpretation, not an easter egg. I'm also not talking about recent controversy over "Frozen" that it supposedly advances a gay agenda - that's politics. "Frozen," in fact, has several very plain easter eggs that aren't hidden at all and were completely intentional. The directors have even owned up to them in interviews, saying they went all the way to Disney head honcho John Lasseter to get permission to put them in, so we know they weren't accidental. The thing is, nothing at all gets into a Disney animated feature film by accident.
And there's the studio's problem: when you find something that doesn't quite fit the agenda, put there for any number of reasons, it can become a real embarrassment. Some have cost the studio millions of dollars to fix. So, it is a very real phenomenom that the studio both advances - and fears.
Before you proceed, look at the "The Lion King" poster at the top of this page. See anything off-message for a Disney movie there? No? Just a lion on an orange background, right? Well, if not, you will see something else after going through this list.
This is not for those who are easily offended, so, if you are, kindly mosey on over to one of our other great pages. There are scandalous images below. SCANDALOUS. You have been warned, and we're not out to offend anyone. Thanks for visiting!
Ok, on with the show.
Sex!The most notorious rumor about Disney films is that they contain subliminal words put there for, well, unclear purposes. Perhaps they are there because an animator or illustrator was bored, or (gasp!) they are there intentionally to bind viewers to Disney products through some nefarious psychological mind control. Egads!
Subliminal advertising has been around at least since the 1950s, when some films apparently put quick flashes in films showing viewers delicious treats at the refreshment stand. People caught on to that in a hurry and it soon stopped.
Whether it stopped in Disney films is open to interpretation. This is one of the more controversial controversies. The evidence is shaky, but it's like the "Paul is Dead" Beatles rumors: they refuse to die, and if you look at the source material, yup, you can see ... something.
Judge for yourself. I don't really see them, personally. Even when youknow where to look, it's unclear if what is supposed to be there is actually there. Now, that's subtle! I think it's more a case of all those random images occasionally, accidentally, creating forms that are close to letters that spell out ... "sex."
But you decide.
|The Lion King|
|"The Hunchback of Notre Dame"|
|This is a little clearer.|
|"The Jungle Book." Really, this one is kind of weak.|
"The Rescuers" Naked Lady?"The Rescuers" is one of Disney's rare big hits from the '70s, and it starred Bob Newhart and Phyllis Diller, for goodness sakes. It's hardly a controversial film.
However, this is one instance where the detail obsessed people scored a real blow for purity or whatever they are after. It's difficult to see except in high definition, but there apparently was a scene with a naked lady in the background. Once you know where to look, it's inescapable. Only after home video allowed viewers to scroll through frame-by-frame did anyone find it. They told Disney, Disney reviewed it - and the company would up recalling 3.4 million VHS copies and replacing them. Apparently, the picture got into the film somehow, Disney found confirmed that it was put there for some unexplained reason, and that was that. Obviously, it didn't get there by accident. Some copies survived and became collectors items, of course, that's how these things go.
It appears the animators inserted a Playboy Playmate or something like that as an in-joke, not knowing that people would be examining this at home only a few years later. You can only see her if you freeze-frame the film, which only became common a few years after the film's 1977 release when VCR's became something ordinary people could buy. In other words, it was there all along in the theaters - but not a single person complained after watching this successful film. And you bet someone would have complained if it was visible.
That little joke cost the company millions of dollars. So, these easter eggs are serious business. The offending area is clearly visible below.
|These are the two frames where the image appears in "The Rescuers." You can tell from the second placement that the animator was probably laughing like crazy at this.|
Jessica Rabbit Up-Skirt
"Who Framed Roger Rabbit?" came out at a time when Disney was at the tail end of a long creative dry stretch. The Disney Renaissance was about to start with "The Little Mermaid," but that epic was still a year away. Trying to stir up some enthusiasm for the fading flagship, one apparently bored animator came up with his own creative method.
Jessica is involved in a car crash and is ejected from a taxi. While flying through the air, her skirt flies up exposing ... everything. Or, that is what is argued. Disney looked at it, decided something was there, but it wasn't a big deal. The story was that the brief shot was a "gimmick" put in by "the animators." There are no reports of any big investigation or of anyone being fired over it.
It is true that the shot eventually was edited out - so it was a big enough deal to remove. But unless you put this under a magnifying glass, it's hard to see anything at all.
|It's very dark, it's hard to tell what you see anyway. I mean, it's just an animation!|
|Note that the edited frame on the left has a red part of Jessica's dress covering her|
Phallic Images?If you look hard enough, you can see phallic imagery in a lot of things: skyscrapers, jet airplanes, what have you. You don't expect to see them in Disney products. However, some claim they are there and staring you in the face.
Now, these may be completely unintentional and innocent. However, once you see them, they are impossible to "un-see."
The first one, Minnie Mouse's body supposedly closely resembling something else, needs no explanation. You either see it, or you don't.
|This is hiding in plain site, and almost certainly unintentional|
The second one is a bit more tricky. In "The Little Mermaid," King Triton is certain quite the individual, with all of his peculiar mannerisms, the trident, the beard, all that. His underseas palace is stunning, but may contain something a little peculiar as well.
The artist who did the castle later claimed he was working under a tight deadline and simply had no idea what he was doing. In fact, to me, almost all of the palace spires have "that look." Some lady in Arizona, though, spotted it right off and called Disney, and the video was pulled from stores temporarily. The controversy soon, um, blew over, and sales resumed. Nobody to our knowledge has complained since.
The Case of the Naughty Bishop"The Little Mermaid" had another problem arise when someone looked a little too closely at the priest who married Prince Eric and Ursulla (in disguise). Something is there, but it likely was completely accidental, a matter of the old man's knees bending in an odd way.
This, too, was later edited out. Better safe than sorry!
|Notice that they edited it out in the frame on the right.|
|This shows the good padre's knees are the cause of the provocative bulge.|
Donald Duck Says Something Naughty?Back in 1937, before Walt Disney had even released his seminal animated feature film "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs," Donald Duck was the star of shorts. In one of them, "The Clock Cleaners," Donald winds up fighting a clock's spring while trying to clean it, gets frustrated, and, well, lets loose as any of us would do. In fact, he gets so upset that he says... well, listen for yourself.
This one has the added merit of being perfectly in keeping with the character and is, in fact, exactly what Donald should have said. Does he drop the F-bomb? Sounds pretty close to it. Only Clarence Nash, who did Donald's voice, would have known for sure, but he passed away in 1985 before anyone thought to ask him. It would have been a much better story if Mickey Mouse, the other star of the short, had said it - because he was voiced by Walt Disney himself.
"The Three Caballeros" Gets Hot in the SunSince we're on the subject of Donald Duck, let's observe that he was Disney's top star during the 1940s, even eclipsing Mickey Mouse, whose heyday was the 1930s. Donald featured in several of Disney's films of the "Package Era," a time during the 1940s when Disney stitched together different segments to make a whole film. Sometimes the segments were related by some theme, sometimes not. They were usually combinations of live action and animation.
In "Saludos Amigos," Donald makes some friends in Latin America. This was a government-sponsored film at the height of World War II, and it was considered good for inter-American relations. It was an inoffensive film in which Walt Disney himself briefly appears. A follow-up film, though, was perhaps not quite as innocent. "The Three Caballeros" expands upon Donald's new familiarity with Latin America, and there are several shots that show the animators were having a bit of adult fun with their sketches while ostensibly keeping everything on the up-and-up.
|A climactic scene in the "Donald's Surreal Reverie" segment of "The Three Caballeros"|
Getting stuff past the censors is an art form. Words have multiple meanings, for instance, one completely innocent, another not so much. Used in a certain context, they could mean one... or the other. Images are the same way. You know it, I know it... the Disney animators knew it. Above, for instance, we have a pretty señorita dancing gaily between rows of gyrating, pulsing, thrusting, pumping cacti. It's all completely innocent: she's obviously from the land of the cactus, right? No child would have any inkling that there is anything other than innocent plants dancing around.
And perhaps neither do you. It all depends upon how you look at it.
All right, some things are only questionable in the proper context. Here's another shot from the same film. While riding with his friends on a magic carpet (serape), Donald gets out a spyglass and looks down. What does he see? Why, a beach full of young lovelies!
|Donald sees... a beach full of beach bunnies!|
Now, that's all well and good, nothing hidden or subliminal about that. Donald spots some healthy young ladies relaxing in daring (for the day) bikinis. Fine, that's what people do at the beach. Here's Donald's reaction.
|Donald gets excited|
Donald gets so overcome with emotion that he drops his spyglass and it falls, quivering and vibrating before him. Again, nothing at all naughty about this, unless you see this innocent scene as something else.
|It wasn't just the animators, either|
This fine fellow looks as though he got the memo on what was really going on.
"Make Mine Music" ... and SexySkipping on to another Package Era film, "Make Mine Music" was a sequel to "Fantasia," though it wasn't marketed as such because at that point "Fantasia" was still considered a huge flop. Again, "Make Mine Music" was composed of segments oriented around musical themes, though this time the music was contemporary/traditional, not classical.
There was nothing particularly sexy about any of the segments - in fact, it all was rather high-brow, with renditions of "Casey at the Bat" and so forth. While the animation was in the form of cartoons which inherently appeal to children (the common notion at the time), the segments featured ballet and songs about love which actually appealed more to adults. In those days, kids could not decide what to see or go to the theater by themselves and there was no home video, an adult had to decide to pay and take them (still largely the case, of course, with adults deciding what videos to buy). Disney animators knew a lot of adults would be sitting there, bored out of their minds, dreading their next Disney kids cartoon film like a trip to the dentist. Why not give the adults some little incentive to attend and watch, too? And there is where the animators just couldn't help themselves from having a little fun.
|"Casey at the Bat" - looks mighty interesting for the "Police Gazette"!|
All right, that's just the animators having a little up-front fun. Here's something a bit further along those lines from the "All the Cats Join In" segment.
Well, hootchie kootchie! You can see that a still image of that scene just doesn't do it justice.
All right, one final scene from "Make Mine Music" and then we'll let it go. This segment depicts the famous "Peter and the Wolf" from Prokofiev. It is one of the most beloved musical pieces for children and adults alike, performed during every holiday season with celebrity narrators. Nothing sexy about this tale of a Russian boy heading into the woods to hunt down a wolf at all - right?
|"Peter and the Wolf" - well, smack my butt and call me Judy! That wolf is loving it! And notice how the hunter is holding that gun and pulsing it in the foreground|
The hunter has a dream, a fantasy.... Once again, as in all clever animation, it all depends upon what you want to see. That pushes it about as far as you could go in the 1940s. And not a single kid would have any problem with it whatsoever. Maybe you don't see anything subliminal about that scene, either. True genius.
The shame of it all is that Disney soon after veered way off this interesting path in 1950 with the classic fairytale "Cinderella" and never looked back.
Aladdin Gives Kids Some Naughty Advice"Aladdin" was the peak of the Disney Renaissance, along with "The Lion King." So, there can't be anything unseemly about it - right?
Aladdin disguises himself as the prince and sneaks into the palace. He is after Princess Jasmine, and you know that in these types of films, boys are always after the girls.
Rajah the Tiger, however, notices Aladdin and comes over to protect the princess. Aladdin says something, and the is appeased.
The way some people hear it, Aladdin inexplicably says "Good teenagers take off their clothes." Disney, reviewing it, has claimed he says something completely different. The original subtitles, however, back up the people hearing the "teenager" line - though the subtitle stops before the "take off your clothes" part.
Again, this is a "decide for yourself" one. It doesn't sound very clear in any event, whatever it is. But some people think it is scandalous.
Esmeralda a Bit Too Provocative?We already mentioned the "sex" thing above. However, let's take this a step further. Esmeralda was middle-ages jail-bait, and the animators didn't try to hide that at all.
You have to feel for Esmeralda in "The Hunchback of Notre Dame." She is the main female character, she comes as close to being portrayed in a mature, perfectly normal sexual fashion as anyone in a Disney animated feature film - but she isn't a princess, doesn't get to join the other girls in the official Princess lineup, and doesn't wear those elegant gowns that the royals prance about in.
And that last point, about the gowns, is wherein our controversy lies.
Frollo, the bad guy who runs the church of Notre Dame, is a frustrated old man who secretly lusts after sexy Esmeralda. Well, what frustrated man wouldn't? He fantasizes about her and watches her a bit too closely.
First, he admires her as a flame. The flame is unabashedly sexual. There's no question at all about this. Surprisingly, nobody ever got too upset about this, because it is exactly what we know the character should be thinking, and this is based on a classic French novel - you know that going in. However, just look at the flame, and you can see the head swept back, the hair flowing up, the huge breasts sticking out... wait, what? Breasts in a Disney film? Naked breasts? Well, sort of. Her hips are rather well defined as well. And everything else for that matter. Kind of a weird thing to put in so blatantly, but Disney was taking chances during the Disney Renaissance, and they got away with this one.
|Esmeralda dancing, head back, hair flowing, arms held high and back toward her head.... You just need a little imagination to see it. If you can't, relax your eyes a bit.|
However, they went one step further. When Esmeralda for real - not a fantasized flame - is dancing in her clothes, they change in Frollo's mind from long long, flowing garments to practically see-through. You can really see the complete outline of Esmeralda's form. It's not that clear in pictures, but when you run through the video, you'll notice it.
Once again, Disney got away with this, but it is an oddly blatant sexualized image to put in one of their animated films. The moral of the story may be that if you don't try to hide it - nobody really cares.
|It's kind of difficult to see outside a theater, but Esmeralda's form is quite visible through her skirt|
Baby Herman in "Who Framed Roger Rabbit?As mentioned above, at the time of "Who Framed Roger Rabbit?" Disney was at a low point. They decided to sex things up a bit, obviously, and it worked - the film was a great success. However, foul-mouthed baby Herman went a little too far.
The little tyke invades his nanny's skirt and emerges with a finger upraised, smiling broadly. That's a bit out-there, and Disney edited out the finger. So, it wasn't just anyone's imagination that implying that a baby, no matter how foul-mouthed, um, did something with his finger was crossing a line.
The Lion King BikiniHermann Rorschach in 1921 came up with a test designed to reveal insight into a person's mental state by showing them an inkblot. What the person saw in the inkblot could be one of many different images related to the real world. For instance, an image could be a wild animal, or a naked lady - it all depended on the viewer's mindset and interpretation.
Well, Disney has its own inkblot that is so in-your-face that it in fact is extremely subtle. It's one of those "hide in plain sight" deals that is so contrary to what you "should" see that, well, you never see it - unless someone points it out. Then, unfortunately, you never can "un-see" it, because it is patently obvious.
"The Lion King" was the height of heights for Disney Animation. Even today, it has earned more money than any other Disney animated feature film - that's right, even more than "Frozen" (so far). Everybody is familiar with "The Lion King" logo of the big lion staring out at you.
Well, the curves of a lion's face - that of Simba - actually resemble something else. That you never saw this one on your own probably speaks well of you under the teachings of Hermann Rorschach.
See what I mean? You'll never see it the same way again now.