Disney Moments That Changed Your Childhood Forever

Entertainment | By Harriet King | November 10, 2019

Whether they made us laugh or cry as a child, or disturbed us on a second viewing as an adult, Disney's creations are full of tiny moments that either changed our childhood at the time or changed the way we feel about our childhood now. Here are some big moments in Disney movies that changes our lives forever, and many of them are quite disturbing!

Almost all of us were Disney fans when we were children. The movies the company makes are tailor made for kids and transport us into a carefree, innocent world where everything is happy and friendly, and nothing could ever possibly harm us. At least, that's what we used to think.

Sometimes when we go back and watch our favorite childhood movies after we've grown up, we see them a little differently than how we did when we were young. We notice things that we didn't pick up on before. When we do, they can change our feelings about the films.

Sleeping Beauty's Spindle

On reflection, everything about this is disturbing. Aurora - better known as 'Sleeping Beauty,' is condemned to die before she turns sixteen because she touched a cursed spinning wheel, and the only way to stop it is to put her into a coma. Who thought that was suitable for children?

The moment where it happens is horrifying as Maleficent, surrounded by an eerie green glow, lures Aurora to her fate. The music spikes and jumps like something out of a horror film, and when it's all over, Aurora is slumped lifelessly on the floor.

Scar's Hyena Mauling

We're not going to sit here and pretend that Scar didn't have this coming. He was the chief antagonist in 'The Lion King.' We were supposed to hate him, and we did. That doesn't make his eventual fate any less grisly, though.

Having rejected Simba's offer of mercy, Scar launches one final failed attack before being sent to his death at the bottom of a fiery pit full of furious hyenas, who tear him limb from limb with relish.

The Seance from 'Watcher In The Woods'

Disney is currently in the middle of a run of live-action movies, but it isn't their first foray away from animation. They've done it before, and one of the products of that era was 'Watcher in the Woods,' which may as well be a horror movie.

During a seance, we see a terrified, blindfolded girl who goes missing as a chapel is struck by lightning and then burns down in the middle of a storm. Hardly the stuff childhood dreams are made of.

The Hag Is Born In 'Snow White'

If you have a fear of growing older, you might want to blame it on seeing 'Snow White' when you were a child. Specifically, we're talking about the Evil Queen's gruesome transformation from beautiful witch into hideous crone.

The Queen was forced to take on a disguise in order to fool Snow White, but did she really have to drink a potion that had such a shocking transformative effect? What's wrong with a wig and a pair of sunglasses?

A Barracuda Eats Children

'Finding Nemo' is, on the surface, a story about a brave little fish being reunited with his father. Looking at it that way is glossing over the real story, though - which is one about the murder of almost an entire family.

Right at the start of the film, Marlin and Coral are celebrating the arrival of over four hundred eggs. They're going to have a huge family! Then, everything is ruined as an evil Barracuda comes along and eats 399 of them. This is infanticide in a Disney movie!

Beast vs. Wolves

'Beauty and the Beast' is a love story, but the story it tells is that love hurts - and it means that quite literally. Consider the scene in which Belle is set upon by wolves in the snow as an example.

The snarling wolves are bad enough, but when the Beast turns up to save her, things get even worse! The Beast's flesh is torn as he's bitten, and the wolves are hurled at trees with terminal velocity. It's a bloody, gruesome battle.

Ariel's Tail Is Split In Half

What is it with Disney and horrific body transformation scenes? Here they are doing it again with Ariel in 'The Little Mermaid.' Just giving up her voice in order to become human is bad enough, but the way it plays out on screen is just awful.

After demonic green hands reach into her throat and take her voice away, she's grabbed by the tail and held in place as it's torn in two to make legs. After that, she's left to drown below the waves and barely escapes with her life.

Frollo's Hellfire

Most of us have been rejected by a potential partner before. It's painful, but we learn to deal with it with good grace. Frollo didn't do that in 'The Hunchback of Notre Dame.' He simply set about burning Paris to the floor to get what he wants.

This scene is particularly pertinent today, as it portrays Esmeralda as being at the mercy of a cruel tyrant who'll use terror and violence to have his own way with her. Not exactly a great message.


'Fantasia' is a strange movie in a number of ways - it's very dark by the standards of a Disney animation, and Chernabog is perhaps the most evil and terrifying Disney creation of all time.

You only have to look at Chernabog once to suffer from nightmares as a child. The demonic beast is almost the manifestation of Satan himself, and he brings a whole dark army with him in his wake. When he appears in the film, it's like the gates of Hell have opened.

Dumbo's Psychedelic Trip

As cute as 'Dumbo' is, there's something unsettling about the scene where he hallucinates a parade of vaguely sinister pink elephants. Perhaps it's because it all started by someone spiking his drink.

Anyone who's had a bad fever dream knows how terrifying it is to see things that aren't really there, and poor Dumbo is traumatized by his experience, which is brought on by a tiny sip of champagne. He probably never drank again, and we can't say we blame him.

Bambi Loses His Mother

When you're a very small child, losing a parent is likely to be your single biggest fear. Disney made that fear ten times worse when they gave us 'Bambi,' in which the title character has that exact experience.

While on an innocuous stroll through the forest, Bambi's mother is taken from him suddenly and brutally by a bullet from a hunter's gun. We cried as children. We cried as adults. We're crying now while we're thinking about it. Why would they make kids watch this?

The Horned King Meets His Fate

Not everyone reading this will have seen 'The Black Cauldron.' Disney doesn't really acknowledge the fact that it exists these days, and we think that it's because they know they went too far. Armies of murderous undead skeletons aren't exactly prime Disney fodder.

Even though the Horned King, who is himself a terrifying creation, deserves his fate, we still probably didn't need to see him savagely torn apart by his own evil creations in a vortex of black magic gone wrong.

Pinocchio Gets Donkey Ears

We're back to Disney's grim fascination with body horror again, as Pinocchio is forced to grow donkey ears ahead of being sold as a slave on the dubiously-named 'Pleasure Island.'

Pinocchio suffers, but not as badly as his friend Lampwick, who is completely transformed into a donkey while crying and begging for his mother. Oh, and everyone responsible for doing this to them gets away with it, and nobody ever comes to rescue the transformed donkeys. So much for happy endings.

Wendy's Mermaid Assault

Peter Pan is famously the boy who never grows up. If he did, he might have a more proactive attitude toward helping his female friends when they're obviously in distress. We don't know why Wendy tolerates him.

When Peter Pan takes Wendy to meet his mermaid 'friends' at the lagoon, the mermaids immediately attack her and try to drag her into the water. She looks to him for help, but he just laughs it off and says they were only playing. Thanks, friend!

Genie's Blue Joke

Only the biggest Disney fans out there will have seen 'Aladdin: King of Thieves,' which is the third of the Aladdin movies and never got a cinematic release. Given the content, that's probably for the best.

During a wedding scene during the film, there's a small earthquake. Quick as a flash, the Genie exclaims, 'I thought the earth didn't move until the honeymoon!' We get the joke now, but we wouldn't enjoy having to explain it to children - and you just know children would definitely ask about it.

Mushu's Lust

In 'Mulan,' Mushu is very keen for Mulan to understand the extent of his powers. Of all the demonstrations he could have chosen, he decides to tell her that he has X-ray vision and can see through her armor - and then stares straight at her chest.

Understandably, Mulan's response is to slap him in the face hard, which is exactly what he deserved. That doesn't change the fact that sexual harassment isn't what we're looking for when we're watching Disney films, though.

The Questionable Castle

All we're saying about this one is that it was probably the work of a disgruntled animator. You won't find it in any version of 'The Little Mermaid' released nowadays, but if you have a vintage VHS copy at home, you'll see it in all its glory.

For reasons of taste and decency, we can't really describe this in any detail, but suffice to say there's something on the castle that resembles a piece of male anatomy, and it shouldn't be there. There's an arrow pointing to it in this picture.

Smoking And Drinking Are Cool?

There's a reason we don't allow our children to smoke and drink. Both habits are bad for us, and we should only indulge in them as adults, when we're aware of the harmful effect. That hasn't stopped Disney representing them as fun activities in the past, though.

Here's Pinocchio enjoying a few beers and a cigar in the comfort of a rocking chair, seemingly without a care in the world. It looks like he might even have been playing cards for money, too. Maybe he deserved turning into a donkey after all.

Pinocchio's Watery Ending

We have no idea how this scene isn't as notorious as the death of Bambi's mother. Let's all remind ourselves how the story of Pinocchio initially appears to end. The film's main character is drowned trying to save his friends, and it happens right in front of our eyes.

The happy ending that follows takes some of the impact away, but just for a moment, you're left to believe you've just seen the bleakest Disney movie of all time. Amazingly, this was originally supposed to be how the film finished!

Gaston Sees Death

The villains almost always get their comeuppance in Disney movies. Debates rage on the internet about whether or not Gaston should really be considered the villain in 'Beauty and the Beast,' but we can all at least agree he wasn't the good guy.

When the character meets his untimely end, he seems to experience a premonition of it approaching when tiny skulls appear in his eyes, as if he's had a vision of the grim reaper. That must have been fun for children to think about.

All Of '101 Dalmatians'

We're not saying that every second of a Disney movie has to be a fun, happy experience, but we generally expect there to be more sweetness and light than there is unyielding horror. We didn't get that from '101 Dalmatians.'

This movie is about an evil woman who wants to steal dogs, kill them, rip off their skin, and use it to make clothes. That's not a creepy side detail; it's the whole plot. How is that the story of a children's movie?

The Hungry Walrus

We don't know who Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee were trying to please when they told their story about the oysters in 'Alice in Wonderland,' but it didn't please us. It gave us an image that stayed with us at the time, and still occasionally still resurfaces now.

All the happy little oysters wanted to do was spend their days singing, but then the walrus came along, scooped them all up, and ate them. Just to make matters worse, they were alive when he did it.

Penny's Gruesome Quandary

Every Disney villain has a 'peak moment' of being unpleasant, but Madame Medusa went a little further than most in 'The Rescuers.' Poor Penny, clutching her teddy bear defensively, was given quite the strange ultimatum.

Like a game of 'would you rather' gone wrong, Penny was presented with two options by Medusa. She could either pluck a diamond from inside the skull of a corpse, or she'd be drowned. That probably qualifies as torture, and it came across as more than a little extreme.

Ursula's Questionable Advice

We've already established that Ariel had to sacrifice her voice in order to become a human in 'The Little Mermaid.' We don't know if Ursula was trying to soften that blow with some of her advice, but it wasn't helpful.

If Ursula is to be believed, human men will like the fact that Ariel can't talk, because they 'don't like a lot of blabber' from their women. That'll be Disney telling a generation of young girls to keep their mouths shut if they want to find a man, then.

Jim Crow's Name

This would have gone straight over the head of all the children watching 'Dumbo' when it was first released, but it would have landed with the adults, and that makes is a strange thing to do. Jim Crow's name is a reference to some laws from an era America would rather forget.

The so-called 'Jim Crow laws' were used to enact racial segregation in education, transport, and various other public places. Quite why Disney thought that would make a suitable basis for a character is unclear.

Dr. Facilier Departs

Here's yet another example of Disney going to down on its antagonists. We'd have thought that it would be considered off-limits to include Satanic imagery in movies created for kids, but time and again Disney has proved us wrong with that.

There's no subtlety about what happens when Dr. Facilier reaps the consequences of his foul deeds in 'The Princess and the Frog.' He's literally set upon by a gang of demons and dragged down into the darkest pits of Hell.

A Strange Disclaimer

These days, it's becoming increasingly common for movie theater audiences to stay in their seats until the end of the credits in case there's an extra scene right at the end. Anyone who did that for 'Frozen' saw a very strange disclaimer.

Disney was very keen to point out that when Kristoff claimed during the film that all men eat their own boogers, he was doing so on his own behalf, and not Disney's. We guess you can't be too careful about lawsuits.

Alice's Chemical Wonderland

There have always been rumors that Lewis Carroll was 'under the influence' when he wrote 'Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.' The rumors have always been denied, but Disney didn't do much to stop the speculation when they released their animated version of the tale.

Most of the more bizarre things Alice experiences in the movie happen after she's eaten or drunk something questionable - mushrooms, in particular, were playing a big part. Also, the caterpillar is smoking a hookah. There's no misinterpreting that.

All of 'Song of the South'

Disney's brand-new streaming service will offer fans almost everything the company has ever made. We say 'almost' because you won't find 'Song of the South' on there, and Disney would really prefer it if you never mentioned it at all.

When the reviews came out, 'a vicious piece of propaganda for white supremacy' was one of the kinder things said about it. The movie appeared to paint the 'master and slave' relationship as a happy one (whether by accident or by design), and was hideously ill-judged as a whole.

Uncle Waldo's Drinking Problem

We can't imagine that Disney would happily feature a drunken character (and present them as a figure of fun) today, but they did exactly that back in 1970 when they released 'The Aristocats.' Uncle Waldo slurs his words as he staggers through the Parisian streets, crying out for sherry.

There's another scene in this film that raises eyebrows - the part where the mother cat is drugged and then abandoned. We think the comedy drunk is problematic enough on its own, though.

Belle's Stockholm Syndrome

When we stand back and take a cold, hard look at 'Beauty and the Beast,' should we really class it as a love story at all? At what point in the movie do we think Belle finally fell in love with the Beast?

Here are some possibilities. It might have been when he starved her. It could be when he imprisoned her and cut her off from the outside world, too. Maybe it was all the shouting. Love? It sounds more like Stockholm Syndrome to us.

Everything Jafar Does To Jasmine

We understand that bad guys have to be bad in order to make the audience hate them. In children's movies, though, we expect the level of 'bad' to be scaled back a little. We expect cartoonish horror, not real-life villainy.

That leads us to the way Jafar torments Jasmine in 'Aladdin.' He kidnaps her, chains her up, and forces her to walk around in very revealing outfits for his own gratification. To put it another way, she's been trafficked.

Non-Consensual Kissing

Thankfully, we live in an age where people are starting to get the message about not kissing or touching people without their consent. 'Snow White' was written and produced in a very different age, and as a result, the plot is a little uncomfortable now.

The 'magic moment' in the film, where the Prince comes to save Snow White, is actually a man kissing a woman who he's never spoken to before, can't consent, and as far as he knows might be dead. That's more than a little weird.

Peter Pan's Native Americans

If you saw 'Peter Pan' for the first time at some point during the past ten years, you might not have seen this scene at all. Disney tends to insist that it's cut out whenever it's aired on television, and they're doing the same with their streaming service.

At one point during the film, the Native Americans sing a song called 'What Makes the Red Man Red,' complete with every manner of stereotypical whooping and gibberish you can imagine. It's right on the borderline between 'racially insensitive' and 'racist.'

Shun Gon, The Walking Stereotype

Historically, Disney has never done well with racial stereotypes. What may have seemed like light-hearted fun at the time becomes unacceptable when viewed in a modern context, and the character of Shun Gon in 'The Aristocats' is one of the worst examples.

In his biggest scene, Shun Gon plays the piano with chopsticks and sings in a faux-Asian accent about fortune cookies. Throw in his prominent buck teeth, and you've got an extremely crude Oriental caricature. A gong is struck when he's singing, just in case you didn't get the message.

Boo's Revealing Drawing

Once we found out about this, we weren't really surprised that Boo was so ready to fall in love with Sully in 'Monsters, Inc.' It was probably a welcome distraction from what appeared to be a complicated situation in her home life.

It's only visible on screen for a moment, but look at the picture that Boo has drawn of her mom and 'Uncle Roger.' You don't win any prizes for guessing what they've been up to, but there's no way it should be in a kids' film.

Suspicious Sand Dunes

At this point, we're going to have to conclude that there was something going on with the animators in 'The Lion King.' We've already seen the suggestive message written in the dust, and now we have these sand dunes.

There are a number of ways you could draw a sand dune, but they should never look like this. There's simply no good reason for those little dark points to be on top of the dunes, and you don't need us to tell you what they look like.

Aladdin's Parlor Visit

During the scene in 'Aladdin,' when our hero is trying to escape with his stolen loaf of bread, he stumbles into a 'massage parlor.' Once he's inside, he starts getting a lot of attention from the women, who are euphemistically referred to as a 'harem.'

Just in case nobody picked up on the subtle message about what might really be happening inside that massage parlor, Aladdin finds himself kicked out by the manager because he can't afford to pay for their services.

Cooking In Zootopia

We suspect there's very little overlap between the target audience of Disney films and the target audience of 'Breaking Bad.' When Disney made 'Zootopia,' they must have put this scene in as a way of entertaining the adults, because the children shouldn't have picked up on the reference.

Here, we find two sheep named 'Jesse and Woolter' dressed in yellow jumpsuits, cooking up a mysterious blue substance. It's a meth lab in a Disney movie. What a time to be alive!

A Dinosaur Trip

For a company that's ostensibly there to please a young audience, Disney appears to make a lot of references to illicit activities. This scene from 'The Good Dinosaur' comes from the same school of thought as Alice's questionable visions in Wonderland.

Arlo and Spot find some berries on the floor, eat them, and suddenly begin to hallucinate. Their eyes go wide, they experience a body swap, and the world around them takes on a sparkly glaze. Kids, don't eat strange fruit you find lying around.

Mufasa's Death

We're going from the morally dubious back to the downright heartbreaking. We didn't think Disney could make us cry more than they did in 'Bambi,' but they pulled off the same trick again in 'The Lion King.'

When Mufasa dies, it's a gut-wrenching tragedy. The effect is made even worse by the fact that Simba feels responsible. For many of us, this was the first time we ever cried in a movie theater. In modern parlance, it hit us right in the feels.

Clayton Hangs Around

While there's nothing necessarily wrong with depicting death in a children's film, it generally makes sense to err on the side of caution in terms of how that death occurs. That makes the fate of Clayton in 'Tarzan' unusual.

Clayton was an unpleasant character, and he deserved some retribution. That didn't make it any less shocking when he fell into a ravine and ended up being hanged by the vines. That's a particularly nasty execution-style death, and it's not child-friendly.

A Dark Turn

We don't think 'Something Wicked This Way Comes' was actually supposed to be the title of this 1980s live-action Disney film. We think it was supposed to be a warning to the audience. If only we'd heeded it.

Had we been prepared for the wicked sights we were about to see, we might not still be having nightmares about the gruesome way Mr. Dark dies. He's literally aged to death right in front of our eyes, and he goes out screaming.

Rat And The Tramp

Rats, somewhat unfairly, have a reputation for being dirty creatures who carry plague. They're almost always villains when they turn up in animation, and they don't come much more villainous than the one that tried to attack John Dear's baby in 'Lady and the Tramp.'

That scene alone was quite distressing, but it's followed up by Tramp being blamed for the incident, and then send to a dog pound to be disposed of. This film isn't as bright and breezy as we all remember.

Woody Gets Warm

You could choose either Woody or Buzz Lightyear as the principal hero in the original 'Toy Story' movie, but we can all agree that Sid was definitely the monster of the tale. What kind of boy knows that toys are alive, but tortures them anyway?

Of all the things that Woody is subjected to during the original film, coming within a whisker of being incinerated was the worst. This scene, where he clings to safety above a boiling inferno, certainly shreds our nerves.

The Many-Headed Hydra

You can't be a proper Disney hero until you've endured a certain degree of horror. Hercules definitely earned his 'hero' ranking in the movie that bears his name, and he suffered to get there.

His experience with the hydra was the worst of his challenges. It eats him, but he's able to behead it from within. In response, the creature just grows one hundred more heads, much to the terror of viewers. It's still scary to watch this scene now!

The Pheasant That Didn't Make It

Because the death of Bambi's mother is such a memorable and childhood-scarring scene, it tends to blot out some of the film's more subtle horrors. Allow us to remind you of this one - and apologies in advance.

As three terrified pheasants try to hide from the hunter, one of them panics and attempts to escape and fly off. The hunter sees it and shoots it stone dead. It's a quick, clean, remorseless kill, and a reminder to all of us about the fleeting nature of mortality.

The Lion King's Sexy Dust

This one is pretty well known. During 'The Lion King,' there's a scene where Simba crawls up a mountain to take some well-deserved rest. As he does so, some dust blows up into the air, and briefly appears to form the word 'sex.'

When this was pointed out to Disney, they tried to insist that it actually says 'SFX,' and it's a note of thanks to their animation team. That doesn't seem likely to us; however, you can take a look at this picture and judge for yourself.

The Stripper Mouse

'The Great Mouse Detective' isn't often heralded as one of Disney's greatest works, and that doesn't surprise us one bit. We suspect that the company probably had to field a lot of complaints from angry parents who'd taken their children to see it.

We've already established that horror is used a lot in Disney films, but they usually stay away from sex. That wasn't the case here; there's a mouse doing a musical striptease. That's definitely a questionable call!

The Topless Harpies

When you release a movie that contains nudity - even animated nudity - you can usually rest assured that you're going to get a restricted certificate, and children won't be allowed to see it. Apparently, though, the rules don't apply to Disney.

For reasons that nobody has ever got to the bottom of, the harpies in 'Fantasia' are topless. There's no attempt to hide that fact - their breasts are completely exposed. Like we said before, 'Fantasia' is a very strange film.



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