The movie is over, the credits are playing, and there’s happiness in the air (unless you’re watching something created by the Tear Farmers of Pixar), but you’re just sitting there, your mind fixated on a single detail in an otherwise heartwarming animated treasure. For example, listening to the song “Cruella de Vil” from 101 Dalmatians, I was suddenly slammed with the realization that she stole puppies to make coats out of them, but … it never said whether she owned any factories or anything. Was she literally going to kill them, tan the puppy hides, and stitch the coat together, all alone, by hand?
This incident gave way to a lot more time spent thinking about Disney movies than is probably the norm—even for me, and that’s really saying something—with more than a few other moments sticking out in my mind. So, here are my top eight Disney Moments of Pause, in no particular order.
(Note: This article is about things that made me think, overthink, or were subtly scary/interesting/previously unnoticed. Some of the movies listed had some other serious issues like racism and sexism, but that’s another article entirely!)
1. Cruella de Vil – 101 Dalmations
Okay, I led with this one, and it was the thought that birthed the article, so let’s think way too much about Ms. de Vil. She and Anita supposedly went to school together, but time has not been kind to Cruella. Maybe some of that has to do with the fact that her parents named her Cruella with a last name that was literally a spelling of Devil. What kind of people would do that? Probably a family of supervillains who wear only the finest shoes and coats made of the rarest beasts.
Her dad and mom probably stomped around wearing shoes made of pure Thylacine leather. Maybe that creepy hunter in the Rescuers movie that didn’t have songs was her long-lost cousin? He sure wanted that eagle. When I put my questions about Cruella’s puppy-based couture skills out onto Twitter, someone replied simply, “She probably had a puppy guy.” Still horrifying, and also, what a creeptastic job.
2. The Donkey Children – Pinocchio
Pinocchio barely avoids being turned into a donkey child, survives Monstro the Whale, has the nicest old dad ever, and a cricket whispering morality into his little wooden head. He also happily turns into a real boy and goes home with sweet old Geppetto. Happy ever after, right? No! What ever happened to the other donkey-fied kiddos? I don’t know if Geppetto’s going to be able to build enough clocks to keep up with this kid’s therapy bills.
Someone else on the Internet seems to have overthought this as much as me—there’s a fan theory out there involving Donkey from the Shrek movies. Everyone else in Shrek’s neighborhood is from a nursery rhyme or fairy tale, but what about Donkey? This fan theory suggests that he’s one of the escaped donkey children from Pinocchio, which is why he’s retained his power of speech. Just a fan theory, but … wow.
3. Forest “Scat” Battle – The Jungle Book
An overly profound thought I had while listening to “I Wan’na Be Like You”: most forest “scat” battles don’t involve vocal improv. They’re mostly about the flinging of actual scat. Is this scene an intentional Disney joke that took me my whole life to get? This one isn’t horrifying, mainly just very entertaining. I hope it was intentional.
4. Baby Mine – Dumbo
Remember that Disney movie where a baby is rocked by his wrongfully imprisoned mother through the bars of her cell? And then the baby gets drunk and hallucinates? Right, you’re thinking of Dumbo. There’s a lot going on in this movie. Not only is “Baby Mine” the saddest song in the history of sad songs, it’s also rather unfortunately representative of the historically terrible treatment of circus elephants. I’m still stuck on the drunk baby.
5. The “Oh, it’s sad, Aladdin’s hit the bottom! He’s become a one-man rise in crime!” ladies – Aladdin
While Aladdin is on the run from the guards through the streets of Agrabah, he ducks into a room full of ladies in very fancy attire. It took me a few years (like, a decade), for me to realize that the ladies were kind of mean to him because he was definitely poor, and they were probably selling something he could not afford. Pretty sure it was a brothel. I Googled it. The Internet agrees.
6. Les Poissons – The Little Mermaid
If sea creatures are sentient beings with musical repertoires and feelings and stuff, then Sebastian witnessing the French chef giggling merrily while slicing, dicing, pulling out what’s inside and serving it up fried must have been like witnessing a serial killer in action. Add to that the scene where the chef chases him with a cleaver to add him into the collection, and then factor in that Ariel is so teenage-starstruck with Prince Eric that she’s willing to just set aside the casual murder and bat her eyelashes at him. Once she got her voice back, did the castle go on a vegetarian diet? Did she even tell him? Did the mer-kingdom eat nothing but kelp? So many questions!
7. The Hanging Death – Tarzan
Usually, Disney villains just fall from a great height (no one plummets to his grisly death like Gaston!), get stabbed, or both. When I first saw Tarzan, I thought Clayton was just another falling villain. Years later, I saw someone post about the infamous Disney hanging death in Tarzan, and I honestly could not remember that happening. So, I re-watched it, and this time I paid attention. Clayton falls, yes, but he stops rather short of the ground. He is hanged by vines. That’s hardcore, Disney. Also, if you get a little bit over-analytical about it, it’s like the jungle itself rejected his presence and did him in. The vines were not having it. Not putting an image up for this one, because it’s a bit disturbing. You can definitely find it if you search online though.
8. The Mermaids and Wendy – Peter Pan
As a kid I was all like, “Oooh! Mermaids!” and didn’t think too hard about the scene where they try to drown Wendy because they’re jealous of the attention Peter Pan pays to her. As an adult re-watching … they literally admitted to trying to drown her and didn’t think it was any kind of big deal. Just some casual attempted mer-der. You’re welcome. :-)
As evidenced above, I like to overthink my entertainment a little bit, but Disney movies are full of moments like this. Please, share your own Disney Moments of Pause in the comments! I’d love to know what other people think of that I did not!
Sara Goodwin has a B.A. in Classical Civilization and an M.A. in Library Science from Indiana University. Once she went on an archaeological dig and found awesome ancient stuff. Sara enjoys a smorgasbord of pan-nerd entertainment such as Renaissance faires, anime conventions, steampunk, and science fiction and fantasy conventions. In her free time, she writes things like fairy tale haiku, fantasy novels, and terrible poetry about being stalked by one-eyed opossums. In her other spare time, she sells nerdware as With a Grain of Salt Designs, Tweets, and Tumbls.
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