Disney films have become almost synonymous with childhood memories. Thanks to their storytelling genius, they’re movies people love to rewatch – even after outgrowing them. However, the more you re-watch them, the more you start noticing certain weird aspects of these beloved Disney classics.
Sometimes you’ll even pause and rewind to see whatever the hell that was again, just to make sure you’re not imagining things. And boom – there it is – something that reminds you of World War II or a visual image that is unabashedly racist. Your favorite classics are peppered with dark Disney imagery that was passed unnoticed by you in childhood, but have since come back to haunt your dreams.
At any rate, those loaded details were the sign of the times. There’s a lot that ranges from creepy to sexual to straight-up mind-boggling by today’s standards. Ranker took the time to compile these, and they’re kinkier than you would have expected from a family-friendly animated classic. Other times these disturbing Disney images may evoke some connotations of dictatorships or religious hellscapes. Take a look at the images below and see just how creepy they can get – and how much, or little – we’ve changed.
1. Pinocchio’s scary donkey transformation is a reference to child trafficking
It all starts when our puppet protagonist and some other young boys get lured to “Pleasure Island,” where they’re free to drink, smoke cigars, and play pool. But things get dark really quickly. Each of these badly behaving boys suddenly sprouts donkey ears and endures a horrifying, Cronenberg-esque donkey-transformation. Then – they’re sold off as slaves to go work in the salt mines.
Remember when I mentioned Disney’s storytelling genius above? This is a perfect example. Pinocchio manages to fit the topics of child abduction, slave trafficking, and even creepy loss-of-childhood-innocence metaphors all into one horrifying sequence… That surely left a lot of kids traumatized.
Initial Release: 1940
Directed by: Wilfred Jackson, T. Hee, Bill Roberts, Hamilton Luske, Ben Sharpsteen, + more
Genres (Film): Fantasy, Animation, Music, Musical Drama, Musical, + more
2. Donald Duck reads “Mein Kampf”
But Disney didn’t just make movies for entertainment – his talents were sought and needed elsewhere. Like the government. For example, this particular image comes from a 1943 anti-Nazi propaganda film called Der Fuehrer’s Face. It depicted Donald Duck in the midst of a nightmare where he slaves away in a factory in Nazi Germany. Of course, it’s all a dream and Donald wakes up back in the United States, thankful to be in good old America.
Initial Release: 1943