10 | The Priest’s Erection in The Little Mermaid (1989)
How would you feel if the priest was on a full mongrel during your wedding ceremony? This little animation oversight went so far as instigating a lawsuit sometime after The Little Mermaid was released, although there’s little evidence to prove it was a deliberate prank on the animators’ part. In truth, the happy chappy just has knobbly knees and every now and then the wind blows his cloak back and we get to see them. OR… he has a massive erection.
9 | Home on the Range (2004)
I’m including Home on the Range on this list because it was the absolute worst possible way to sign out of Disney’s Golden Years. Little Mermaid, Aladdin, Beauty and the Beast, The Lion King……it was a grand time for animation; great songs, unforgettable characters, epic stories and it ended with a bunch of stupid, fat cows on a farm. You could argue those Golden Years started limping around the time Hercules (still not a bad flick) came out, but Home on the Range was just salt in the wound that Disney’s 2D animation had as much of a future as Walt Disney’s frozen corpse.
8 | Saludos Amigos (1942)
This and the other Latin American Disney film The Three Caballeros (1944) are on this list because it’s just weird they exist. This is what Wikipedia has to say about Saludos Amigos –
‘In early 1941, before U.S. entry into World War II, the United States Department of State commissioned a Disney goodwill tour of South America, intended to lead to a movie to be shown in the US, Central and South America as part of the Good Neighbor Policy. Disney was chosen for this because several Latin American governments had close ties with Nazi Germany, and the US Government wanted to counteract those ties.’
I think it’s safe to say the US Government could have chosen a better ambassador to counteract Nazi ties, but anyway that’s how Saludos Amigos popped out. The film is in four parts and is pretty much all about Donald Duck and Goofy getting into adventures in Latin America. In one scene Goofy smokes a cigarette. To be honest, The Three Caballeros is probably the stranger of the two, with its frenetic, psychedelic vibe, but they both deserve to be mentioned on this list.
7 | The Crows in Dumbo/The Native Americans in Peter Pan/The Apes in The Jungle Book/Si and Am in The Lady & The Tramp
Lump em all into one, that’s what me and Walt always say. There’s too many examples of racism in Disney films over the years to fit into a top ten list that we’re just gonna put them into one big black sheep. For specifics, watch the flicks or check out these clips but it’s safe to say that Walt has left no ethnic minority unturned.
6 | The Merchant in Aladdin (1991)
“Where they cut off your ear if they don’t like your face/It’s barbaric, but hey/it’s home!” What’s so offensive about hearing that about yourself? Aladdin must have done wonders for America’s relationship with the Middle East back in 1991. The line was changed in the DVD release to something about the ground being flat and some comment on the weather but claiming one of the Middle East’s defining characteristics was human rights abuse was probably unwise on Disney’s behalf. While we’re on the topic, have you ever compared the hero Aladdin’s skin colour to the villain Jafar’s? (On a completely off topic note, Aladdin’s appearance was apparently based on Tom Cruise in the late 1980s, which will probably ruin the film for a lot of you.)
5 | Fantasia (1940)
There wouldn’t be many children who grew up in the 1990s who hadn’t watched and loved Fantasia. Well it turns out that’s because our parents loved taken hallucinogenic drugs. Did you know that Fantasia, originally intended to be the first of a series released once a year, completely flopped on its initial release in 1940? Then the 1960s roll along and Disney decided to give it another theatrical release (sans Sunflower). Well what do you know; people began to show up in droves. It’s probably not the first time LSD has helped Disney out, but it’s almost certainly the only time it’s turned a flop into a classic.
4 | The Black Cauldron (1985)
Never make a serious fantasy epic in which the hero is constantly referred to as ‘Pig Boy.’ The Black Cauldron was meant to herald in a brave new era for Disney, a chance for the company to catch up to the sort of modern, edgy animation that Ralph Bakshi was putting out. Unfortunately, it’s extremely scary and would give even Damien from The Omen nightmares. The Black Cauldron has loads of awesome ideas (some blatantly stolen), but the plot is fairly incomprehensible and none of the characters’ actions really make any sense. The film ended up being a massive flop and the author of the original novels said he couldn’t see any resemblance between his work and the film. Also, the character of Gurgi sounds and acts almost identical to Andy Serkis’ interpretation of Gollum in Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy. That’s not a problem, it’s just a very odd coincidence.
3 | The Story of Menstruation (1946)
Menstruation and Disney, together at last. After deciding that the equally odd Victory through Air Power (1943) was successful at educating the military and politicians on warfare, Uncle Walt thought why not bring those education skills to schools. And boom, The Story of Menstruation was born. It’s notable for being one of the first Hollywood films to use the word ‘vagina’. It was also a reasonable success, even winning the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval, whatever that is. Unfortunately for us, a few years later Disney feature films started bringing in some solid revenue again and Walt got out of the education game, so it’s unlikely we’ll see any follow ups.
2 | Sunflower in Fantasia (1940)
Sunflower was removed from Fantasia before its re-release during the 1960s, and with extremely good cause. Ever heard about that banned Tintin book Tintin in the Congo? The African American caricature of Sunflower in Fantasia isn’t far off Herge’s similarly bad taste depictions of the Congalese (in one part Tintin skins a monkey and uses its skin to disguise himself as a native). Unfortunately for Disney, they’re sort of damned if they do damned if they don’t on this one, with many people considering the removal of Sunflower in later editions refusal to concede the character even existed in the first place. You would have thought Disney would have learnt from this mistake.
1 | Song of the South (1946)
Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah, how great was slavery? Well if Song of the South is anything to go by, slaves actually loved submitting to white supremacy. Take a look at how happy Uncle Remus is. Song of the South was meant to be Walt Disney’s big comeback after Pinocchio and Fantasia flopped. The unfortunate thing was it didn’t do too badly. Although you’re gonna have a hard time finding it nowadays, Disney is doing their darndest to make us forget it even exists. You know your film is in trouble when before the film is released your publicist is writing letters with concerns like this –
“…the negro situation is a dangerous one. Between the negro haters and the negro lovers there are many chances to run afoul of situations that could run the gamut all the way from nasty to the controversial.”
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