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10 Controversial and Hidden Messages in Disney Movies

Disney has made some of the highest grossing movies of all time, but they have also been the center of controversies. Some of the movies are guilty of promoting questionable ethics, but some of the controversy is in the eye of the beholder. Here are some controversial Disney movies with hidden messages.


Dumbo was released in 1941 and is one of the shortest Disney animated films with a running time of 64 minutes. The main character in the movie is an elephant with large ears that enables him to fly. The movie was a critical and financial success, more than doubling it’s production costs on the initial theatrical run. In spite of the movie’s success, there was some controversy associated with it. Some critics have claimed that the crows in the movie are racial stereotypes. The lead crow is named Jim and all the other crows were voiced by black actors. Other critics have dismissed these claims and state that they are sympathetic to Dumbo’s trouble and are characters with great intelligence.


Disney released its third animated movie in 1940 called Fantasia. The movie is unique in that it features several animated segments that have do dialogue but are set to classical music. The initial version ran over 2 hours and did not fare well at the box office. The movie was then cut down to 81 minutes in a re-release and was received more positively by audiences. Although much of the cut footage has been restored in later years, the original version has never been released since 1941. Some of the footage that was cut was a big-lipped half donkey African-American character named sunflower.  Disney has long since tried to erase this character from the memories of the public, but some critics want the scene restored as a reminder of the attitudes of that generation.

Lady & The Tramp

Lady & The Tramp was Disney’s 15th animated movie which was released in 1955. This was the first Disney animated movie filmed in Cinemascope. The 2:55 to 1 aspect ratio is the widest Disney film ever released. It was also released on DVD in this manner. The movie was s huge financial success for Disney in the 5 times that it was released to theaters. The movie was finally released to home video in 1987. The movie received criticism because two Siamese cats, Si and Am, were considered offensive Asian stereotypes. Peggy Lee supplied the voices for both of the cats.

Song Of The South

Song Of The South is a 1946 movie based on a series of stories by Joel Chandler Harris. The movie revolves around the character, Uncle Remus, telling folk tales about Brer Rabbit and his friends. Although the movie has been released on both VHS and DVD is many countries, it never been released on any home video format in the United States because of content that Disney executives believe is racist toward black people. Some critics have blasted the movie because it makes slavery seem to be a positive situation. Although Disney has stood firm against a re-release of the movie, there have been rumors that Disney is contemplating an NTSC release.

Peter Pan

Peter Pan was released in 1953. It was the highest grossing movie of 1953 and has earned over $87 million over the years since it’s initial release. The Native Americans in the movie have been the source of much criticism. The tems “injun” and “how” are only two of the questionable terms used in the movie by the native characters. Many critics have pointed out that Princess Tigerlilly is used to arouse the male characters in the film and that all of the young Native American women are portrayed as sexual stereotypes.

The Rescuers

The Rescuers was Disney’s 23 animated classic film. Although many critics claim that the 1970’s was not a good decade for Disney films, The Rescuers has grossed over $70 million on a budget of only $1.2 million. The controversy of the movie revolves around the scene where two mice were floating down a river. In two frames an image of a topless woman can be seen in the background. The image can only be seen if you freeze the movie on the exact frames. The scenes were only discovered after the movie was re-released on home video on January 5, 1999. Three days later Disney issued a recall of the 3.4 million copies that were issued. This was the only instance of Disney recalling a movie because of content.

Who Framed Roger Rabbit

Who Framed Roger Rabbit was a combination of animation and live action. The movie was set in 1947 with the cartoon characters interacting with the human performers. It was also filled with some of the most suggestive and controversial scenes ever put in a Disney movie. Baby Herman at the beginning of the movie goes underneath the dress of a woman. He extends his middle finger right before going under the dress and reappears with droll on his top lip. There is also a scene where Jessica’s dress blows up. The amazing thing is that her pubic region is colored a darker color. One of the most infamous scenes is where Bob Hoskins went into the men’s room and the words “ For a good time call Allyson Wonderland”. The home phone number of Disney chairman Michael Eisner was supposed to be written underneath the words but has since been removed.

Little Mermaid

The Little Mermaid was considered Disney’s return to prominence in the animated film industry. The movie made over $110 million at the box office and was considered a huge success. The Little Mermaid was released to video 8 months after its theatrical run which was an unusually fast turnaround for Disney. The rush to release it to home video also led to a controversy. One of the film’s characters, King Triton, lives in a castle of gold. A picture of the castle appears on the cover of the VHS box.  A symbol that resembles a penis is seen on the castle itself.  Disney said the resemblance to a penis was purely an accident, and the artwork was changed on the second video release of the movie.


Aladdin was released in 1992 and earned over $500 million worldwide. The movie was a smash hit due in part to Robin Williams’ enthusiastic portrayal of the genie. The beginning of the movie had a character describe his home as “where they cut off your ear if they don’t like your face”. The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination League tried to have the line removed. They also objected to a scene where an Arab merchant tries to cut off the hand of Jasmine. The New York Times said this bigotry “borders on barbaric”.

The Lion King

The Lion King became the pinnacle of all Disney classics as it grossed over $783 million to become the biggest 2D animated movie of all time. The controversy of the movie involves the so-called subliminal message that the animators left in the film. When Simba stirs up dust that floats away in the sky, the dust spells out the letters “SFX” to acknowledge the special effects team. Many people have claimed that the word “sex” was actually inserted in the film. Disney has denied the allegations.

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  1. Posted January 7, 2011 at 11:20 am

    Nice Share.


  2. Posted January 7, 2011 at 2:14 pm

    Nice Share.

  3. Posted January 8, 2011 at 10:38 am

    Wonderful article written

  4. Posted January 10, 2011 at 1:21 pm

    Some really interesting controversies to look into. Another great piece of writing my friend.

  5. Posted January 11, 2011 at 8:41 am

    they are so interesting indeed, Mark.

  6. Posted February 26, 2011 at 9:30 am

    Interesting, would probably have never noticed them myself!

  7. lichfield student
    Posted May 13, 2011 at 5:11 am

    This is stupid you can not criticize some good film because of them apparenty being racist. Such as the crows in dumbo if their voice was done by a white person you would say they are being racist. You people dont seem to understand a good film.
    Also who is sad enough to point all these things out that dont even have a hidden message as the little mermaid you must have a sick mind to think they meant to put it as a penis.
    Also these are childrens films not adult films.
    lichfield students

  8. nonya
    Posted May 14, 2011 at 11:17 am

    linchfeild students you clearly dont understand what the creator is trying to say dumba** um we all know these are obviously kid movies and she/he is just advising us to be carefull

    Good sharing i liked it :)

    p.s i wrote this a 13 yr old XD

  9. nathan nash
    Posted August 27, 2012 at 7:42 pm

    if it were Special Effects Team the letters are SEX duh so if Disney said it was for Special Effects Team they are admiting it says SEX

  10. Derek
    Posted December 8, 2012 at 11:00 am

    Ummm no…SFX is in fact a short used for Special Effects…Although it still may or may not say SEX

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