The Good, The Bad, And Ten Disney Movies

Recently, a wave of nostalgia passed over me. So, I decided to rewatch some old favorites in order to relive some of those feelings we all had as kids. And what better way to go about this than with the help of Disney? It turns out that, rewatching them now, I can’t help but see some major flaws with these movies. Sure, they have some good lessons thrown in there for good measure, but boy, can some of them be bleak.

In today’s article, we are going to take a look at ten Disney classics, and see what lessons they teach us. Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of funny quotes from Disney movies, but some of the morals are just too real, sad, or simply mean-spirited.

The Emperor’s New Groove

He was born and raised to rule / No-one has ever been this cool / In a thousand years of aristocracy / An enigma and a mystery / In Mesoamerican history / The quintessence of perfection, that is he.

One of my favorite Disney movies of all time, The Emperor’s New Groove has it all. Complex characters, a compelling storyline, and humor of the highest quality are just some of the things which work in the movie’s favor.

And unlike most movies on this list, the bad moral is a bit nitpicky. So, at first glance, the main lesson of the movie seems to be that everyone can change. Kuzco was basically raised by Yzma, as she herself claims. Yet, he manages to rise above his self-centeredness thanks to spending a few days with Pacha. It’s a great sentiment and all but is it really something to teach the next generation of kids?

Sure, evil is debatable and all that, but Yzma is definitely portrayed as NOT good. While she is one of the few Disney villains of that level of malice who doesn’t die in the end, she is certainly seen as irredeemable. If Kuzco managed to change for the best in such a short amount of time, it’s just cruel to keep Yzma in her cat form forever.

Frozen

I don’t care what they’re going to say. Let the storm rage on. The cold never bothered me anyway.

Oh, boy. As much as I would have liked to talk about Tangled, Frozen is the one worthy of this spot. The moral of the story is obvious – let it go. Don’t hide yourself to please others. Simply be yourself. It’s just too bad that Elsa sings this as she’s building her ice palace to run away and hide from the rest of the world. Mixed messages much?

Moreover, it’s her parents who set her on this path – after being advised to accept her as she is and to let her be herself. As soon as they get back home, they tell their daughter to conceal, don’t feel.

They also have her hide away until her eighteenth birthday despite it almost destroying her relationship with her sister. So, while the overall message of the movie is great, Disney should really give parents a bit more credit; or at least have them read Parenting 101.

Hercules

A true hero isn’t measured by the size of his strength, but by the strength of his heart.” – Zeus

Even if the version of Hercules I grew up with was more Fabio than Greek legend, I also loved Disney’s interpretation. How can you look the other way when you’ve got Danny DeVito as a satyr, the sassiest Hades ever portrayed, and songs as inspiring as “I Can Go the Distance”?

Hercules’ message is also clear – anyone can get from Zero to Hero. All you have to do is step up when the circumstances demand it, and you’ll be recognized for your true potential.

While the rest of the movie is highly inspiring, it also suggests that if you feel like you don’t belong, you’re probably right. If you don’t like going with your father to the market, it’s probably because such menial tasks are below you. Even worse, once he finds out that he’s a demigod, Hercules decides to abandon his family and set out to prove himself greater than his current lot.

Overall, Hercules is a very motivational movie but it could work a bit on how it conveys this.

Pocahontas

But if you walk the footsteps of a stranger you’ll learn things you never knew you never knew.”

Ah, Pocahontas. I don’t know why I like this one so much. It’s pretty flawed, as a movie. It’s also very factually inaccurate. But still, every time I hear “Colors of the Wind,” I’m hooked. I have to watch it all.

Of course, the main message is commendable. “We are all connected to each other in a circle, in a hoop that never ends.” It promotes equality, acceptance, understanding, and open-mindedness. Moreover, Pocahontas is a free spirit. She is a strong, independent woman, who doesn’t want to get involved with anyone until she feels like it… unless, of course, he’s hot.

While there’s nothing wrong with not wanting to get married to Kocoum, she quickly turns against her previous motivation when she meets the tall, handsome, blonde John Smith. Of course, he might have just been reading her mind all along, saying exactly what she wanted to hear. Tisk tisk, Mel Gibson, tisk tisk.

The Princess and The Frog

I got voodoo, I got hoodoo, I got things I ain’t even tried. And I got friends on the other side.

Princess Tiana is a groundbreaker in more than one way. Aside from being one of the few Disney princesses who is also a minority, she is perhaps the most grounded of the bunch. Not many other Disney heroes say that “the only way to get what you want in this world is through hard work.”

And that’s great. Kids everywhere learned that through hard work and a bit of luck, anyone can rise above their station. However, just like The Little Mermaid, The Princess and The Frog suggests that a deal with the devil is ok as long as it all works out in the end.

Not even the prince, who tries to cheat his way back into his parents’ good graces, gets punished for it. Sure, it’s how life works, but it’s not a lesson to be taught to children of all ages.

The Incredibles

See? Now you respect me, because I’m a threat. That’s the way it works.” – Syndrome

The Incredibles is yet another one of my favorite movies of all time. I love everything about it except one thing, about which I’ll talk later. And the sequel is set to come out next year! Exciting, right?

One of the best superhero movies ever made, The Incredibles promotes family values, friendship, honesty, and being nice. It also has a terrific sense of humor and a stellar cast. It’s too bad that it also promotes one of the most controversial philosophical currents of all time – Ayn Rand’s objectivism.

Yep, The Incredibles has pretty much the same message as Atlas Shrugged. Those in power are in power because they are strong and deserve it. Those below them should learn their place and not strive to raise above their ranks. Think about it.

The Incredibles are the heroes because they were born with powers. All that Syndrome, the bad guy, wanted was to make everyone special. And he worked hard for it. He strived for most of his life and, through his inventions, gave himself the same powers owned by those who shunned him for not having them.

Sure, he killed a few supers along the way, but he was, by far, the most deserving of those powers. And what does he get for it? One of the most gruesome deaths in Disney history. That’s what you get for wearing a cape, I guess.

The Beauty and The Beast

Fine! Then go ahead and *starve!* If she doesn’t eat with me, then she doesn’t eat at all!” – Beast

Gaston is made to be the villain in Beauty and the Beast. He’s cocky, rude, misogynistic, and nobody can expectorate just like him. He also dies a fairly unwarranted death at the hands of one of our main characters. But how is he any different than the same character who ends up killing him?

Throughout most of the movie, Beast is aggressive, controlling, and downright abusive. He threatens to break down the door of the room where Belle locks herself, and then he says he’d rather let her starve than eat without him. Sure, he learns how to be a better a person, but only thanks to his staff. Oh, and by the way. His lesson was to stop treating people based on their looks. And what does he call his servants, whom he’d known for years? Names based on the way they look after the transformation.

Meanwhile, all Gaston does is try to save Belle and put an end to what he perceives as a threat to his village. He is quite rough around the edges, but who says that he couldn’t be taught better if he just hung out with Cogsworth, Lumiere, and Mrs. Potts for a while? So, instead of promoting the message of ‘treat others like you want to be treated’, The Beauty and the Beast suggests that underneath his abusive exterior, your man secretly loves you. How’s that for a lesson for the younglings?

The Lion King

Oh yes, the past can hurt. But from the way I see it, you can either run from it, or… learn from it.” – Rafiki

A true Disney classic, The Lion King teaches us that sometimes we have no choice but to face our responsibilities. Also, it teaches us to Hakuna Matata for a while. We all need that from time to time. However, the underlying moral is much, much darker than that.

Like the Circle of Life says, it’s ok for others to die as long as they serve a purpose. And, once you rewatch it, you can see that it’s underlying philosophy of the movie. Mufasa dies because Scar honestly believes he is a better king and Scar dies so that Simba can take his rightful throne. Meanwhile, the rest of the animals will keep dying to prevent the ruling class from starving to death. How grim of you, Disney!

The Hunchback of Notre Dame

All my life, you have told me that the world is a dark, cruel place. But now I see that the only thing dark and cruel about it is people like you…!” – Quasimodo

In The Hunchback of Notre Dame, a brave, deformed hunchback saves an innocent gypsy’s life from an obsessed, corrupt leader of the church. The movie promotes self-control, and it’s quite ahead of its time in the idea that a woman is not to blame for being found attractive. Good on you, movie!

However, despite the fact that it seems like Quasimodo and Esmeralda are destined for each other, with him saving her life, being madly in love with her, and the two of them having so much in common, she ends up with the first handsome guy she meets. Sorry, ugly dudes, but the only way for you to get a happy ending is to already be married when the movie starts… and not be a parent of the main character.

The Fox and The Hound

Darlin’, forever is a long, long time, and time has a way of changing things.” – Big Mama

Why? Why do I do this to myself? I was feeling nostalgic, not looking for a stepping stone into depression. Yeah, so if you know this one, you probably know what I’m talking about. The Fox and The Hound is a “cute”, “harmless” Disney movie in which a fox is brought to a hunter’s home after his mother is shot.

Tod, the fox, quickly becomes friends with the hunter’s puppy, Copper. Despite their differences, the two become inseparable. Their friendship runs so deep that they end up living happily ever after. Or, at least, that’s what everyone who watched the movie wanted to see.

But no. One winter, Copper leaves on a hunting trip with his master. And when he comes back, he’s changed. He is no longer a pup. He is now a fox-hunting dog. After an accident involving his mentor, the dog swears to kill his once-best friend.

On the run for his life, Tod can’t help but feel betrayed by his adoptive brother. However, when Copper and his master get attacked by a bear, the fox risks his life to save his best friend. Because of this, Copper begrudgingly lets Tod live, both returning to their old lives, never to meet each other again.

What the Hades, Disney? Instead of a message about everlasting love and friendship, you decide to go with this? Time changes things, your friends will end up hating you, and you’ll be as alone as the day your mother was shot? Fine. As you wish. At least you don’t own all of the most marketable franchises. Oh, wait.

Image sources: 1