How Walt Disney Invented Horror for Kids
As Disney celebrates its centenary this year, av club Mark the occasion with a series of lists, articles, and more.
Like a lot of kids growing up in the early 20th century, Walt Disney grew up in a world where corporal punishment was an accepted form of parental discipline. He and his brother Roy have suffered at the hands of their distant and frail father Elias, whose favorite law enforcement tool is the “Switch”: a thin, green tree branch, damp enough to be pliable and tenacious, that Elias uses to punish the Disney boys for transgressions real and imagined.
Walt Disney reported later in life that he became a bedwetter under stress, and according to one biographer, Disney often wondered aloud how such a cruel old man could have been his father, or why his mother hadn’t stepped in to stop the abuse. No wonder when Disney became the crown prince of Hollywood, he often fantasized about killing and imprisoning the parents.
Because don’t fool yourself about these sweethearts Disney animated classics like snow WhiteAnd Pinocchio And Dumbo. Sure, it’s full of heartwarming lessons about true love, how you should learn to love yourself even if you’re different, and wholesome jazz messaging like that. But that’s all from decorating windows to a fun techno surface. Inside, Disney staples have parricide in their hearts.
Take Snow White herself. She’s an orphan, being oppressed by a maniacal stepmom who wants her dead. No mother, no father—no one to care for her or tuck her in at night. There’s even a fan theory that the Evil Queen is a serial killer, and that these deceased Snow Whites appear as skeletons who appear in the background when Queenie proceeds to hit Snow White with a poisoned apple.
PinocchioGeppetto is a single father who gets off relatively easily. He ends up imprisoned inside the belly of a whale. Then there Bambi, a delightful, nature-loving novel about an innocent fawn coming of age in a lush forest–until his mother is shot dead by a group of hunters. Imagine if a bright-eyed, anthropomorphic Bambi were on the hunt for food early in the spring. “New Spring Grass!” mum says joyfully, as mum and baby break their winter break and start eating. Suddenly, my mother’s head is shaking. You hear something. “Bambi! fast! the forest! Gunfire breaks out as they race towards a tree line that only one of them will reach.
it’s a murder scene Worthy of Hitchcock. In a children’s movie.
Dumbo Delivers horror
The shock meter height is even higher Dumbo, in which the whim of a parent imprisoned in the belly of a whale is replaced by the placement of Dumbo’s mother in an iron leg. Mom sings a crying baby elephant a lullaby – through the barred window of the cage car with the words “Mad Elephant” spread across it. In an earlier scene, she beats up a kid for pulling on Dumbo’s ears, and tries to kill some circus performers when they try to stop her.
If you sense a pattern, it’s because there is a pattern. These are the central plot devices in Disney’s first four animated features if you don’t count fantasy, which is often without a story. It’s hard to say why Walt Disney was so drawn to the mess around the parent-child relationship. Perhaps it was just a shortcut to making his child-like heroes the centers of their worlds. Perhaps Walt was a time traveler who managed to read a Atonement with the Father Chapter Joseph Campbell The hero in a thousand faces 10 years before it was published.
Or perhaps Disney discovered early on that it could lure children and parents into their seats by activating their primal fear in animated form: their bond could be severed at any moment by violent means.
It worked, so Walt kept doing it. Cinderella is another unloved orphan tortured by the monster’s wife. Sleeping Beauty is exiled to escape the curse. Mowgli Jungle Book Still another orphan – his parents were eaten by a tiger. and 99 out 101 Dalmations They are violently separated from their parents by a crazy lady who wants to slaughter them for a fur coat.
Then Walt Disney died, and the company that gave him his name seized the opportunity to create a kinder, gentler brand identity, out of empathy-based storytelling, in which common problems of everyday life would be solved with nuance and warmth. Nah. I’m just kidding. Disney’s successors in Disney Animation doubled down on the massacre of children and even created new terrain.
This is the reason for its name The black cauldron
for example: The black cauldronreleased in 1985. Some years after Walt, boiler It was the first attempt by the Disney organization to restore the old magic. It was wonderfully animated, and was “edgy” in a misguided attempt at a more modern tone.
The unwritten rule for Walt’s years has been that cute characters can’t die. You can shoot Bambi’s mom, but you can’t shoot Bambi. So imagine the general surprise when boilerFuzzball Georgie Plush isn’t just dead—committed suicide on screen. In the way of these things, it was the only way available to prevent Absolute Evil from taking over the entire world. Georgy tearfully hurls himself from a great height into the titular cauldron, and that, they say, it is.
Back on the day, on checked in Worcester, MassachusettsThere was a poor little girl of about 6 who watched Georgie go from fluff ball to fireball in a nanosecond – and to roll a knife, his last words before getting down on himself were “Georgie has no friends”. Her parents couldn’t stop this kid because she was screaming and screaming and screaming, as if to say good luck with all my therapy bills later in life.
Even when Georgie is resurrected in fulfillment of Disney resurrection tropeThat little girl couldn’t stop crying. Instead, I laughed and cried at the same time — the soundtrack to Breaking Myself.
The massacre now comes to us as an ancient ancient storytelling tradition. Mustafa the lion trampled to death by wild animals in the king lion without even BambiThey cut the secret, leaving young cub Simba to blame himself for his father’s death. Death comes in parentheses TarzanTarzan’s biological parents are killed by a tiger in the opening montage; His surrogate father, the Great Ape, dies of his injuries after admitting Tarzan as his son. Kenai V Bear Brother He kills his best friend’s mother. And of course, Anna and Elsa’s parents are good at frozen They sank before the 20th minute.
So as we raise our glass on this centennial year of Disney Animation and salute all those great innovations in art, storytelling, cross-marketing, and theme parks, let’s not forget what may be Disney Animation’s most lasting cultural contribution. Uncle Walt, and the studio named after him, have given more children nightmares than any storytellers in history. If Walt Disney is to be called a pioneer of animation, let him also celebrate his lesser-known but equally enduring addition to the movie industry:
Invented horror movie for children.