We’ve previously shared with you a list of not widely known Disney short films and animations that are unlike what you would expect or at least… well, weird. But the weirdness stems from originating somewhere into the past while the things they addressed have considerably changed in the meantime.
What we want to talk about today is a different trend in Disney movies that seems to be ongoing and growing: Disney is getting darker, it seems. Some see this as something to be concerned about, since the movies are meant for children, while others are enthusiastically embracing the change, arguing that the Disney movies haven’t been solely for children for a long time now.
Disney’s Dark Side
First of all, let us all take a moment to remember Bambi (1941). After witnessing his mother killed by the hunter, Bambi cries and just wanders through the forest, in the snow, calling for his mother, until he runs into his dad. The dad then says: “Your mother can’t be with you anymore”. The end. Bambi is literally the go-to nickname nowadays when one wishes to call someone a sad, sad, sad face. The countless pop culture references to the heart-breaking deer all speak of how kind of horrible the movie was. And that was only the beginning. Disney didn’t stop there, oh no it didn’t.
How about The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996)? Sure, it’s based on one hell of a book that included many cruel and sad scenes in the first place, but Disney managed to not tone it down as much as one would expect from a company producing children’s movies. The beginning of the movie features Frollo killing Quasimodo’s mother in a pool of blood and attempting to drown him in a well like “the demon” that he is. How lovely, right?
But nothing is quite as depressing as Up (2009): in the 4 minutes opening the film, a couple falls in love, marries, dreams of children and adventures and travelling together, only to have their hopes crushed by miscarriage and heartbreak, followed by the wife’s illness and dying. If that’s not enough to plant the seeds of commitment issues in the new generation, I don’t know what is.
Maleficent: A Masterpiece of Darker Disney
Maleficent seems to be a masterpiece to crown Disney’s dark side developed so far. Watch the trailer and it’s almost guaranteed to make you look forward to it if you haven’t seen it already. Even if you’re not usually into Disney movies so much, there are still two compelling reasons to watch it: Angelina Jolie and Lana del Rey. One cannot think of a voice more suitable to accompany Jolie’s face and the eerie beauty of Maleficent’s background story.
The original song of Disney’s original Maleficent version is actually a cover of Tchaikovsky’s main theme of the Sleeping Beauty ballet. Probably all former kids that were Disney fans knew it, but the words and the tune seemed a bit silly ever since we grew up. Well, thanks to the gorgeously darkened Lana del Rey intense cover, not any more. I’ve known this song to melt even people who weren’t Lana del Rey fans, previously. Now that’s a really cool way to show off Disney’s dark side; listen to it a couple of times and you’ll probably find it strangely intense and haunting and addictive.
Exploring slightly darker themes like a villain’s background story or making said villain more complex by showing what drove them to become who they are isn’t the onset of an ambiguous moral compass for Disney, as critics claim, but merely a more realistic approach to the complexity of human character. Since simple black-and-white stories were kind of boring, we should hope to see more of Disney’s dark side, especially if it comes with lovely goth aesthetics and more Lana del Rey.