Disney is a film production company known the world over for its wonderful films for children and young adults. Their productions speak of morality, ethics and other such lofty values. They have delighted generation upon generation of viewers, who reveled in watching their beautifully cinematic stories, where evil was vanquished and the forces of good always prevailed. However, some of you might be shocked to learn (while others will have forever suspected this) that Disney movies are not as ‘clean’, pure and innocent as the film industry moguls would like us to believe. Quite the contrary, actually—many Disney films (and we’re talking classics here, not some obscure short length features that no one’s ever heard of) contain subliminal messages.
First off, the notion of ‘subliminal’ must be defined. Etymologically, subliminal comes from the Latin language and means ‘beyond the threshold’. That is to say, subliminal messages are those which fall right below our threshold or limit of perception. Our conscious mind makes no note of them. Our subconscious, however, is quick to pick up even such subtle signs and record them for future reference. Since this is a subconscious process, it is difficult to become aware of it and control it appropriately. The biggest danger in this situation, of course, is mass manipulation by the media. Proponents of censorship in the United States have been long protesting subliminal messages in a variety of media, from Led Zeppelin and Beatles songs to various video games and film. What about Disney films, though? How many of them contain ‘naughty’, potentially sexual or otherwise disturbing imagery? Find out below…
The Little Mermaid
When you’ve got a children’s flick whose poster features a main character clad in nothing save for a shell-shaped bustier and a… fish tail (!), chances are there are going to be lots of sexual innuendos afoot, be they intentional or otherwise. To begin with, many have argued that one tower of the underwater castle featured on the poster is rather phallic in shape. Legend has it the graphic artist commissioned to draw the poster learned he was about to be fired. Disgruntled, he decided to boycott the flick with his best weapons and added a spire that looked just like a penis. Apparently, the truth is the artist was simply in a hurry to finish his work before the very tight deadline imposed by the studio. He drew the controversial tower without realizing the similarity and remained oblivious to it until he was contacted by an angry member of a youth church group. Needless to say, subsequent releases of the film had the ‘innocent’ mistake amended. Another ‘iffy’ scene is the one in which Ariel’s nemesis Ursula is about to marry Prince Eric. Allegedly, the priest is having an erection in the scene, although it is equally plausible that the featured protuberance is his knee knob.
What could be cuter and more harmless than a tale of two mice, Bernard and Bianca, and their exploits in a menacing city? Well, lots of things, apparently. Freeze the frame in the scene in which the two heroes are flying about through the city and you will notice… two topless models in the background. This glitch was actually confirmed by Disney officials in 1999, twenty-two years after the initial release of the film. The company went on to recall no fewer than 3.4 million copies of the film which had been sold up to the date when the controversy ignited. The Disney spokesperson in charge with the case at the time contended to say that the scene had been altered “more than twenty years ago,” as if such a crime against morality could have become null and void.
Who Framed Roger Rabbit?
Jessica Rabbit, the sexy and sultry love interest in the Roger Rabbit series has been regarded as a true cartoon sexpot in her own right. However, not many of you may know that the theatrical release of the story features downright pornographic imagery. The scene in which Jessica and Bob Hoskins are riding in a taxi cab that goes on to crash into a lamppost apparently features a split-second shot of Jessica’s vulva! Freeze the frame at the exact instant where Jessica is thrown out of the car, with her legs spread and her dress splitting.
The Lion King
One of the most beloved children’s movies of all time, Lion King, features a possibly accidental, yet racy hidden message. In the scene in which Simba goes to the top of a cliff and reminisces about his father, there is dust flying all around him. For an instant there, the dust rather clearly spells the word “sex,” yet it is unclear whether the goof was intentional or not.
Disney’s Aladdin is a wonderfully exotic tale of bravery and love, inspired by the classic Arabian Nights. However, less of a classic is Aladdin’s whispered line, in the balcony scene in which he is trying to reach his belle Jasmin, while also engaged in full-contact combat with Rajah the tiger. Listen in very closely and you will hear the olive-skinned hero whispering, “Good teenagers, take off your clothes.” According, to the script, the actual line is “Good kitty, take off and go.” The scene sparked quite a major controversy for Disney—the voice which utters the line is not the same one that recurs throughout the film. The American Life League actually used this line as an argument to convince audiences that the studio is trying to sneak sexual messages to the children.
While many may be unintentional, over the years Disney has owned up to some of its mistakes or double entendres snuck into the flicks by its scriptwriters, voice talent, animators or designers. Many have been let ‘slide by’ in the theatrical releases but removed from VHS and DVD versions. Whatever the truth, it’s rather unlikely that the media franchise is trying to brainwash either us or our children, but, like any major company, simply has certain employees who like their fun a bit on the tongue-in-cheek side.