I’ll admit it: I love Disney movies. I was, like many kids, raised on them, and still watch many of them to this day not only for fond memories but because I truly believe they are well made movies. This generally doesn’t include anything the company has pumped out since and including Treasure Planet because that is the movie I remember most vividly seeing in the theatre and thinking “what is this shit Disney Corporation?” Also, anything by Pixar is still great but that goes without saying (in my mind).
Recently I began re watching many cartoons/movies from my childhood, including many Don Bluth films as well as the classic Disney movies. It was around the time I saw the ocean waves transform into demons of the sea in An American Tail that I realized just how twisted and messed up the majority of children’s movies were during the 80s and 90s. That of course got me thinking about Disney movies themselves, as they are generally regarded as the ‘best’ kids movies, and yet I’m sure they have some of the most twisted and creepy moments ever put to film while still being intended for children.
So here is a personal selection of some of the creepiest Disney moments ever put to film. Also just assume the entirety of Meet the Robinsons is creepy as fuck.
Cruella De Vil
I think the cartoon version was the scariest because fuck a Glenn Close. I didn’t like the live action movies anyway, so there. But really, this is an evil woman who wants to MURDER PUPPIES. Who does that? Evil people. Evil people that terrify children when they watch a movie about puppies. Also the very end scene where she is crazy and driving her car all evil like is pretty freaky. If I remember correctly her eyes go all insane and then she crashes and I thought she was dead until it shows her angry in the ditch. If she doesn’t scare you, no evil thing will indeed! (quote from the movie)
The Headless Horseman
Mostly due to his laugh, which is freaking TERRIFYING. I remember watching this short often when I was younger, and I can picture the whole chase in the forest scene pretty vividly, and it’s pretty creepy. I mean, even his HORSE is evil! He has RED EYES! Also once Ichabod crosses the bridge which is supposed to be like a ‘safe zone’ the horseman throws his flaming pumpkin head at him and that is where the scene ends. So I learned two things from this: a) Even across the bridge you aren’t safe, and b) I’m pretty sure Ichabod is hinted at being killed. It’s left pretty open, but I know he was ‘never heard from again’ so I don’t know why Disney would do that unless it was because he died. And I think that was one of my first recollections of a character dying in a cartoon.
Ursula is unquestionably evil, and it’s pretty easy to tell early on in the movie. But that point is really driven home when Ariel goes to see her and there are millions of little plant creatures looking up at her sadly in the lair, and some try to grab her and it is probably one of the most terrifying things in the world. I remember being scared by the shark earlier in the movie, but this made that shark look pretty damn tame. Also, in the end when she steals Triton’s power and grows enormous it’s pretty damn scary. She also has an honorable mention as a ‘Disturbing Death’ as when she is stabbed with a ship mast and then electrocuted it’s one of the first Disney deaths that didn’t involve the enemy falling to his/her doom.
While the other characters in this category are indeed evil and scary no matter how many times you watch it, these guys are more scary the first time you see the movie. There is just something about a baby doll head without an eye and on spider legs turning to look at you that is definitely a source of nightmare fuel. Of course, it turns out they are simply misunderstood Mutant Toys, but it still is a pretty creepy sequence.
Night on Bald Mountain
If this was numbered, I’m pretty sure this would be on the top of the list. And this was in the 40s! The film itself is amazing, and really well done. But this end (or near the end, I don’t recall) sequence is probably the most disturbing and creepy thing I had ever seen when I was a kid. As far as I know, this was depicting Hell, and Chernabog (the creature you see smiling up there) was a sort of Satan character. He summoned all these spirits to his lair, and then proceeded to toy with them. One sequence I remember most vividly is when he picks up a bunch of people, turns them into dancing ladies, then into hideous demons, and then THROWS THEM INTO LAVA. It’s pretty fucking scary and I was pretty young when I first saw it. Then again, I remember rewinding it often and watching it again, so maybe I’m crazy.
Lampwick turns into a Donkey
Pinocchio is a pretty scary movie in general, but I remember this part being super creepy and weird. The boys (Pinocchio and Lampwick) go to Pleasure Island and soon find out that the drinking, smoking, and gambling magically turns them into Donkeys (something sub textually was about them making ‘asses’ out of themselves I think, but whatever). It’s pretty freaky to watch Lampwick turn into a donkey on it’s own, but accompanied with him screaming for his mama and Pinocchio watching in horror is really scary and come to think of it maybe it subconsciously is the reason I don’t smoke or drink(often). I just don’t want to turn into a donkey!
Heffalumps and Woozles
This one is also a lot less creepy watching it now, but at the time it was pretty scary. Also they made a Heffalump movie now or some shit so that negates the whole scariness of this sequence (cause the Heffalump is so nice!). But I definitely recall being scared along with good ol’ Winnie the Pooh when watching this and I remember the song pretty well still. I’ve realized I have a lot of talents that really get me nowhere in life.
Judge Frollo wants to Rape Esmeralda
Definitely something that wasn’t apparent to me until I was older, but basically during Frollo’s song (Hellfire) he sings about his lustful feelings for Esmeralda and how he doesn’t want to act on them due to his faith. It’s a pretty mature song when you think about it, and now whenever I hear it I think it’s pretty damn disturbing. I still like it though because it is voiced by the fantastic Tony Jay who is one of my heroes (and unfortunately passed a few years ago).
The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come
This part of A Christmas Carol is meant to be dark, and meant to frighten you. But it’s still hard to watch in a Disney movie! I think the same sequence in A Muppet Christmas Carol is even freakier, but that is for another list. But the Disney one (Mickey’s Christmas Carol) was equally scary, even if it was just Pete from Goof Troop under that cloak. Something about a spirit showing you your own grave from the future, and then showing how no one cared you were dead and in fact were GLAD you were is pretty damn scary.
Genie Doesn’t Like Bringing People Back from the Dead
This one wasn’t something that scared me as much, but I know there are many people that were legitimately scared by the Genie doing a Peter Lorre impression and turning all dead and gooey when he is announcing his rules for wishes. It is a pretty creepy sequence, but again, this is less of something I was scared of and more something I know of that scares people. Why do I list it here then? Because Aladdin is awesome and I like to mention it as much as possible.
Scar Devoured Alive
Scar is a pretty badass villain, and I guess he deserves a pretty badass death. I mentioned earlier, but Disney villains have a tendency to be killed by falling from a high up place. There are a few exceptions, obviously, but I think three of them stand out in my mind as being some of the most disturbing deaths ever, cartoon or otherwise. The first is indeed Scar, who during his fight with Simba reveals some bad thoughts about his hyena minions and then of course loses to Simba. When the hyenas start circling him, he proclaims how they’re his friends and they obviously don’t agree, then move in for the kill. In the context of the world of the Lion King it’s not as bad, since animals eat other animals, but it’s still a disturbing thing to witness as he is devoured alive by hyenas.
Hopper Devoured Alive
A similar one occurs in A Bug’s Life, when Hopper the evil Kevin Spacey grasshopper, corners the heroes and is about to move in for ‘the kill’ as it were. Suddenly a giant bird (well giant to bugs I guess) appears and looks inquisitively at Hopper. He thinks it’s a fake bird again but soon finds out it’s not and it’s been well established that Hopper has a large fear of birds and is one of the few things he’s actually terrified of. He tries to escape to little avail, and then is plucked up simply by the bird and fed to a trio of happy, chirping little baby birds. It’s a really dark thing, to see such cute little babies about to literally rip apart this grasshopper which you have come to associate as a sentient being.
Clayton Hangs Himself
Finally, we have one of the darker Disney deaths in existence. During an intense treetop battle between Tarzan and Clayton, Tarzan obviously has the upper hand as he is like an ape. But Clayton has his machete, and starts flailing wildly with it, then proceeds to get tangled in a bunch of vines. Tarzan tries to warn him, but it’s too late. Clayton unwittingly hangs himself from a bundle of wines, and as he falls down and Tarzan tries to save him, we are shown the above scene of just Tarzan and Clayton’s machete landing below. Then as lightning flashes it shows Clayton’s hanging corpse. It’s a pretty gruesome death by Disney standards, especially for a human character. I also never noticed the shadow thing until recently, which makes it even creepier.
I am sure there are many other examples of why Disney is twisted, but these were the ones that stuck out in my mind. If you have any other examples to add, you should let me know, I would love to hear about them.