As a child born in the 80s, I grew up watching classic Disney movies. As children our innocence stops us from picking up on some of the more controversial aspects of these films. Over the last half-century, Disney has definitely pushed the envelope on what is acceptable a number of times. Several times they went so far out of bounds (not considered so at the time) that if they tried it today they would be quickly at the mercy of public opinion.
Here are 10 instances where Disney definitely crossed a line, at least by today's standards.
1. Pinocchio smoking a cigar.
Rules about promoting tobacco to children are so tight these days that there is no way any editor would allow this scene to make it through the editing process. The movie was made in the 1940s when there were no real health concerns towards smoking in general.
2. Asian stereotypes in The Aristocats
Yup, you couldn't get more stereotypical if you tried really hard. Shun Gon the cat is given slanted eyes, buck teeth, and a bad accent. For some reason they even decided to include chopsticks in a scene involving a piano.
3. “Song of the Roustabouts” – Dumbo
I'll call this one like it is, down right racist. The scene where African-American circus workers are singing while they work through the night is enough to make you cringe as a human being. “We work all day, we work all night / We never learned to read or write / We’re happy-hearted roustabouts”. “When other folks have gone to bed / We slave until we’re almost dead”...
4. Pocahontas - Historically inaccurate
Pocahontas came out during the re-emergence of Disney animated films, but it did not do nearly as well as some of its counterparts did (ie. Hercules etc). Some believe this to be because of how historically inaccurate the film actually is. The Washington Post said that this movie attempted to revive the stereotype of the "noble savage." When a film is inspired by actual events, you have to be careful with the liberties you try and take.
5. The Three Caballeros - Donald Duck the sexual predator.
During the time when Disney was making mashed up movies containing live action and animation, things got a little crazy. In The Three Caballeros, Donald Duck is clearly seen grabbing a woman's boob without permission, and without any sort of repercussion. This is something that we shouldn't be teaching children at any time.
But that's not the only scene that definitely wouldn't fly today...
6. Native Americans - Peter Pan
Where do I start with this one? The character design and appearance? The way their entire culture is mocked throughout the scene? How about the song "What Made the Red Man Red" and its oh so gentile lyrics, “Let’s go back a million years/ To the very first Injun prince/ He kissed a maid and start to blush/ And we’ve all been blushin’ since.” This doesn't border on racism, it is racism.
7. Unconscious kissing - Snow White
In the world we live in now, consent for any form of sexual or intimate touching is concrete. In Snow White, Prince Charming wakes her from a death-like coma with a kiss. While this does bring her back to the world of the living, it is somewhat creepy, and it might send the wrong message to kids. Though being kids, they likely wont see this as anything other than gross "couties", I know I did.
8. A Bug's Life - Sexual Harassment/Cat calling
Yes, this is a Pixar film, their second one to be exact. At one point Francis the Ladybug is being heckled by a couple of flies from the circus's audience. See, they mistook her for a woman because he is a ladybug. One of the flies eventually asks him "Hey cutie, wanna pollinate with a real bug?" It might be innuendo, but we all know what they are talking about.
9. Cars - Getting flashed.
Another Pixar flick makes this list. To be honest, I love this movie. I have seen it a half-dozen times with my kids, and until I was researching for this piece, this particular scene had gone right over my head without a second thought. Lightening McQueen is celebrating yet another victory when two of his fans "flash their headlights" at him. I seriously didn't put two and two together until now. It's pretty harmless, but we all know (at least now) what they were implying.
10. Up Jessica Rabbit's skirt
When Who Framed Roger Rabbit came out in the late 80s, Jessica Rabbit, even though she was an animated character, became a sex symbol. She was tall and beautiful with a voluptuous figure, and people went nuts. During a scene where Jessica Rabbit is in a car that crashes into a light post, and she ends up tumbling down a small hill. If you slow the scene down during this fall, you can see more than you would think. Long story short, Disney forgot to give Jessica any underwear, and the drawings were pretty anatomically correct.
Did you ever notice any of these scenes?