How Walt Disney invented horror for kids

Clockwise from top left: The Lion King, Walt Disney (Photo: Screen Archives/Getty Images), Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, 101 Dalmatians, Dumbo (All screenshots: Walt Disney Studios/YouTube)

Clockwise from top left: The king of lionsWalt Disney (Image: Screen Archives/Getty Images), Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, 101 Dalmatian, dumbo (All screenshots: Walt Disney Studios/YouTube)
graphic: AV Club

As Disney celebrates its 100th anniversary this year, AV Club Mark the occasion with a series of lists, articles, and more.


Like many children in the early 1900s, Walt Disney grew up in a world where corporal punishment was an accepted form of parental discipline. Both he and his brother Roy suffered at the hands of their estranged father, Elias, whose favorite implement of execution was the “switch”: a thick, green, tree branch, flexible and moist as a stick, and used by Elias. Punish the Disney boys for real and imagined mistakes.

Walt Disney admitted in his later life that he became a bedwetter under pressure, and according to one biographer, Disney often wondered aloud how the cruel old man could be his father, or his abusive mother. Why not take steps to stop it? No wonder when Disney became the crown prince of Hollywood makeup, he often fantasized about killing and imprisoning his parents.

Why don’t you forget about your loved ones? Disney animated classics similar to white snow, Pinocchio And dumbo. Of course, they’re full of heartwarming lessons about true love, and how you should learn to love yourself, even when you’re different, and healthy messaging like jazz. But all that window-dressing is a pleasant Technicolor surface. Inside, the seminal Disney properties are parkrides at their heart.

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937)

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937)
screenshot: Walt Disney Products

Take the snow white yourself. She is an orphan, being oppressed by a dwarf grandmother who wants her dead. No mother, no father—no one to take care of her or tuck her in at night. There is also one Fan theory that the Evil Queen is a serial killer, and it’s Snow White’s cameos as skeletons of the dead that appear in the background when Queenie is out to kill Snow White with a poisoned apple.

PinocchioGippetto is a single father who gets by relatively easily. He was imprisoned in the belly of a whale. So there it is Bambi, an indulgent and nature-loving idol, about an innocent child coming of age in a lush forest—until a pack of poachers shoot and kill her mother. Picture the bright-eyed and anthropomorphic Bambi foraging in early spring. “New spring grass!” Mother says happily, as mother and child break their winter fast and begin to eat. Suddenly, the mother bowed her head. She hears something. “Bambi!” Quick! Cow!” Gunfire rings out as they run toward a tree line only one of them can reach.

it’s a The scene of the murder Worthy of Hitchcock. In a children’s film.

dumbo Prevents terrorism

Accelerating the trauma meter is even more dumbo, where the wrath of a parent trapped in a whale’s belly leads to Dumbo’s mother being put in irons. A mother sings a lullaby to a crying baby elephant – through the closed window of a caged car with the words “Mad Elephant” posted on it. In a later scene, she kills a child for scratching Dumbo’s ears, and tries to kill some circus performers when they try to stop her.

If you’re noticing a pattern, that’s because there is one. These are central plot devices in the first four Disney animated features if you’re not counting concept, which is often less of a story. It’s hard to say why Walt Disney was drawn to the destruction surrounding the parent/child relationship. Maybe it was just a shortcut to make his child-like protagonists the center of his world. Maybe Walt was a time traveler who managed to read Atonement with the father Chapter of Joseph Campbell The hero with a thousand faces Published 10 years ago.

Or maybe Disney found that it could make kids and parents squirm in their seats by making their worst fears into cartoon form: that their relationship could end at any moment through violence.

Walt Disney

Walt Disney
photograph: Hulton-Deutsch Collection/CORBIS (Getty Images)

It worked, so Walt kept doing it. Cinderella is another unhappy orphan who is tormented by a stepfather. Sleeping Beauty is banished to escape the curse. Mowgli’s The Jungle Book There is one more orphan – his parents were eaten by a tiger. And 99 of them 101 Dalmation They are violently separated from their parents by a mad woman who wants to butcher them for fur coats.

Then Walt Disney died, and the company he gave his name to took the opportunity to create a kinder, gentler brand identity, based on compassionate storytelling, where the ordinary problems of everyday life were dealt with gently and warmly. will be resolved. No. just kidding. Disney’s successor at Disney animation doubled down on the massacre of children, and even broke new ground.

And that is why it is called black total

Case in point: black totalReleased in 1985. After something goes wrong with the wallet, lentils Disney was the first attempt by the organization to recapture the old magic. It was beautifully animated, and it “arrived” in a misguided attempt at a more contemporary tone.

An unwritten rule of the Walt years was that beloved characters couldn’t die. You can shoot Bambi’s mother, but you can’t shoot Bambi. So imagine the general surprise when lentilsThe iconic sport of football, the wolf, didn’t just die—He committed suicide on screen. In the way of these things, it was the only way to stop absolute evil from taking over the entire world. A crying owl throws itself from a great height into the titular counter, and that, as they say, is it.

bIn the day, at A screening in Worcester, Massachusetts, there was a poor little girl of about 6 who saw Gergi go from fizzball to fireball in a nanosecond – and just twist the knife, her last words before letting herself go are “Griggi’s a friend.” don’t have”. Her parents couldn’t stop the child as she screamed and screamed and screamed, as if to say: Good luck with my medical bills in the next life.

Even when Gargi is fully recovered Disney resurrects the tropeThe little girl couldn’t stop crying. Instead, she laughs and cries at the same time – the very sound of a psychological breakdown.

The Lion King (1994)

The Lion King (1994)
screenshot: Walt Disney Products

The massacre comes down to us now as a great old story-telling tradition. Mustafa Sher has been kicked by a wild man The king of lions without BambiIn a clever cut-away, the little boy leaves Simba to blame himself for his father’s death. Death comes in tarzan: Tarzan’s biological parents are killed by Cheetah in the opening montage. After admitting his son to Tarzan, his surrogate father, the Great Ape, dies from a bullet wound. in cane brothers Beats his best friend’s mother. And of course, Anna and Elsa’s parents frozen Drowned before 20 minutes.

So as we raise our glasses to this centennial year of Disney animation and salute all of the great innovations in art, storytelling, cross-marketing and the theme park arena, we mustn’t forget that Disney animation’s most What could be more sustainable cultural cooperation? Uncle Walt, and his eponymous studio, inspired more children to dream than any storyteller in history. If Walt Disney is remembered as an animation pioneer, he should also be lionized for his less heralded but equal additions to the filmmaking genre:

He invented the horror movie for children.

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