Disney works hard for their main audience, children, but that does not mean they do not also cater to adults. After all, it’s the adults who have the money. It’s usually the parents who control what the kid sees. The adults decide whether a Disney film is worth showing to their child. So, of course, Disney has snuck in some clever jokes just for the grown-ups.
The grown-up humor in Disney often has insinuations, jokes about history, or pop culture jokes from before the kids watching it were even born. They manage all this while keeping the interest of the children who are watching, which is a big deal. It’s a balancing act that not all movie makers respect, often making their content too childish for adults or too grown-up for children.
Also, we are going to try to keep this list classy. Don’t worry though; we are sure that these jokes also went over kid heads along with the hints Disney placed in their movies (sometimes by accident!).
So enjoy this list of Disney moments that went over kids’ heads, but made adults crack a smile.
25 Fashion Advice In Sleeping Beauty
The bumbling fairies who take care of Aurora in Sleeping Beauty are one of the main sources of comedy in the film. They never agree on anything and when it comes to a domestic life, they try but often do not succeed in cooking and cleaning.
For Aurora’s birthday, they try to clean, make a cake, and make a dress. Chaos, of course, ensues. Merryweather says “It looks awful,” to which Flora offers a deadpan remark of, “That’s because it’s on you, dear.”
24 Runaway Dad In Lilo And Stitch
Mertle Edmonds is a bully and portrayed as an overall unlikable character in Lilo and Stitch. There is a hint of her family life though that went over many kid heads. We see this when, as usual, Mertle is bullying Lilo.
She says "I bet your dog ran away from you and I also bet that he's never coming back."
What made some adults gasp or giggle was when one of her friends added, "Just like Mertle's dad!" Yikes.
23 Narcissus Mentioned In Hercules
Unless the kid watching Hercules was proficient in Greek mythology, they likely did not get this little joke. It’s at the beginning of the film at Hercules’ first birthday party.
All the Greek gods are there and Hermes says, “I've never seen this much love in a room since Narcissus discovered himself.”
To get the joke, you would have to know the story of Narcissus, a Greek myth about a god who fell in love with his own reflection.
22 The B Sitter Mention In The Incredibles
Buddy Pine, also known as Syndrome in the original Incredibles movie, gave us this gem. It’s a scene where he meets the babysitter for Jack-Jack and tricks her into thinking he’s the new babysitter. She asks him what the “S” on his shirt stands for. “Sitter,” he says.
“Originally I was going to have initials for babysitter,” Syndrome says. “But then I would have been going around wearing a big ‘BS.’ You understand why I couldn’t go with that.”
21 “Promises You Don’t Intend To Keep”
Sometimes the best way to seek a classy grown-up joke into a kid’s movie is to just say something cynical about romance. That happened in Beauty and the Beast when Beast asks Cogsworth for romance advice. “I want to do something for her,” Beast says, “But what?”
Cogsworth answers, “Well, there’s the usual things: flowers, chocolates, promises you don’t intend to keep.”
Only a kid who has already watched a ton of romance movies and shows would have understood that joke.
20 Yellow Snowcones In Monsters Inc.
Some of the grown-up kids in the audience probably had a giggle with this one, but it certainly went over some heads. It is when Sully and Mike meet the Abominable Snowman.
We are at a kind of hopeless part of the movie for the characters, but that doesn’t stop Disney for throwing a joke at us.
The Abominable Snowman offers Mike and Sully yellow snowcones and tells them, "Don't worry, they're lemon." Yes, even Disney resorts to that brand of humor once in a while.
19 Lion King References Older Movies
Taxi Driver and In the Heat of the Night were not children’s movies, so these quotes certainly went over many heads when kids watched The Lion King. Pumba says, “You talkin’ to me?” which is a reference to when the Taxi Driver character, Travis Bickle, speaks to his own reflection in a mirror.
The second part, “They call me Mister Pig!” is from In the Heat of the Night. It comes from a scene where a police chief begins to bother Virgil Tibbs, to which Tibbs eventually snaps and yells, “They call me Mister Tibbs!”
18 "Nice Ascot" In Toy Story 3
In Toy Story 3, when Barbie meets Ken, the two characters are giggling with compliments to each other. Barbie then says in a more quiet voice, “Nice ascot.”
Even some adults did not get this joke. What’s an ascot? Google says it is a broad silk necktie for men. However, fans have agreed that what Ken is wearing is not an ascot, but more of a scarf or neckerchief. So it’s highly more likely that Barbie’s compliment was more about Ken’s body than this choice in clothes.
17 Saturday Night Fever In The Goofy Movie
In The Goofy Movie, we get a scene where Bigfoot Dances to “Stayin’ Alive” from Saturday Night Fever. Even Disney could not withstand jumping onto the same wagon as so much other media. Most kids did not know Saturday Night Fever, but they still probably found the scene funny.
Other movies that used “Stayin’ Alive” include Glee, the Simpsons, Sherlock, The Bounty Hunter, Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel, Meet Dave, CSI: NY, Arthur and the Invisibles, Chicken Little, Madagascar, Baby Geniuses, A Night at the Roxbury, Full Tilt Boogie, Swingers, Grumpier Old Men, and Virtuosity. Talk about overused!
16 Body Language In The Little Mermaid
Grown-ups tend to understand villains a little more than kid audiences do. Ursula was no exception. She was an experienced old witch and said some true and astute lines about gender expectations.
When she asks Ariel for her voice to get human legs, Ariel immediately gets worried about how she can communicate with her prince.
Ursula answers, “You’ll have your looks, your pretty face… and don’t underestimate the importance of body language.” She points out that in her experience; most people don’t even like listening, it's all about looks.
15 Revealing Yzma
In The Emperor’s New Groove, there is a big scuffle against Yzma. There is already a lot of slapstick humor going on and there are the characters transforming into a bunch of animals due to the various shapeshifting potions around.
There is a part of the scuffle where Yzuma grabs her dress and says, “I bet you weren’t expecting this!” She begins to pull up the dress to which Kuzco and Pacha start screaming like they are about to perish. She reveals a knife and then they calm down.
14 Two Words: I Am Retired
This was more of a joke aimed at Greek language enthusiasts than adults. Phil had a habit of saying how many words he was about to say, but when he said, “Two words: I am retired,” something did not add up.
Even Hercules was confused and used his fingers to count.
Well, it is two words because “I am retired” is two words in the Greek language. Phil was the subject of a lot of Greek jokes, such as saying “Holy Hera” instead of “Holy cow.”
13 Piston Cups In Cars
Piston Cups in Cars are awards for an American auto racing series championship. They started with dirt track circuits in the 1940s but got more popularized in 2016 for their high-tech stock racing cars. It’s fictional but based on the real world Winston Cup.
McQueen once tells Mater that someone won three Piston Cups, to which Mater says, “He did WHAT in his cups?!”
It counts as gross-out humor, but it was subtle enough that it went over most kids’ heads.
12 Genie Dancing Like Cab Calloway
Genie’s character in Aladdin did not have any rules. He could reference anything and everything that the world has ever known. Genie was a main character and central to the plot, but he was also a comedian. So, of course, he pulled some pop culture references for adult viewers.
In one scene, Genie dances like Cab Calloway, a famous American singer and bandleader.
Cab Calloway’s dance movies and songs inspired a lot in Betty Boop in the past. So Disney was probably like, “Why not?”
11 Mixing Up Facts And Opinions
In Inside Out, the movie gets real when the facts and opinions get mixed up, and we mean literally mixed up.
The incident happens when Joy, Bing Bong, and Sadness ride the Train of Thoughts. Joy accidentally knocks over crates of facts and opinions. She panics that she can’t differentiate the two and can’t put them back in order. Bing Bong says, “Don’t worry, happens all the time,” and put’s them all into a box marked FACTS. Well, Riley is in for a lot of mistakes!
10 “Sign Me Up For The Next War!”
Grandmother Fa, like a lot of the characters in Mulan, is traditional. At the end of the movie, she says “Great. She brings home a sword. If you ask me, she should've brought home a man.” However, that’s when Shang appears and asks if Mulan is around.
Grandmother Fa looks astonished and points to where Mulan is.
Once he leaves she says, “Whoo! Sign me up for the next war!” While it went over kids’ heads, grown-ups likely had a giggle.
9 “Someone Call IXII”
Even some adults are not good with Roman numerals. However Disney’s Hercules counted on some Roman numeral knowledge for this joke to get a laugh.
This occurs when Hades tricks Hercules into fighting the Hydra. Pain and Panic turn into children and team up with Meg as bait to lure the hero into the trap. When Hercules shows up to save the “children,” one of them shouts “Someone call IXII.”
The joke is that if those Roman numerals are translated, they are actually saying “Someone call 911.”
8 “Living Proof That Dinosaurs Once Roamed The Earth”
Yzma is the subject of many jokes in the Emperor’s New Groove. The movie makes fun of her plot, her looks, her moody personality, and her age. Overall, the film is a comedy.
A joke that really tacked Yzma’s age and looks was when Kuzco narrates her introduction with, “This is Yzma, the emperor's advisor, and living proof that dinosaurs once roamed the earth.”
A lot of kids may take that literally and just think Yzma is ancient. Kuzco meant it more offensively though.
7 “There Are Preschool Toys Present”
In the first Toy Story movie, Woody fights a lot with Buzz Lightyear. Buzz did not realize he was a toy and was constantly driving Woody up the wall with his beliefs and heroics. In an argument, Woody sarcastically is looking for a good word to call Buzz. Buzz says the words Woody is looking for is “Space Ranger.” Woody responds, “The word I'm searching for I can't say because there's preschool toys present."
Woody certainly had a sarcastic mean streak in the first movie, but audiences loved it.
6 Ralph Smack-Talks Pac-Man
At the beginning of Wreck-It Ralph, all the characters in the Wreck-It Ralph game have a 30th-anniversary party without Ralph. He, of course, spies on the party to see Pac-Man hilariously eating a whole row of drinks.
Ralph then says, “Pac-Man?! They invited Pac-Man?! That cherry-chasing dot muncher isn't even part of this game!”
Some unlucky kids probably did not even know who Pac-Man even was when watching Wreck-It Ralph. The real adult joke in all this is that Ralph just made up kid-friendly profanity.
5 A Goofy Movie: Star Trek Reference
Now some kids know Star Trek, but let’s be honest, it’s not as common as kids who know Star Wars. Sorry Star Trek fans, but it’s true in the world of internet fandom.
A Goofy Movie had a lot of references, from The Little Mermaid to Mary Poppins to Grease. Star Trek was among them and occurred when the student body president, Stacy, speaks on stage. The Trekkies were not played out in a positive light, as they were bothering her by shouting, “Talk to me,” to Stacey. They wore Star Trek shirts.
4 Marilyn Monroe In Hercules
Hercules takes place how many years before Marilyn Monroe is even born? Disney does not care, as is evident in the fact that this movie has made this list multiple times. Besides the odd fact that Monroe appears in the movie, what kid would recognize her and know of her work?
She appears as a constellation during the “Zero to Hero” musical number.
She is doing her famous pose. However, there are no subway vents in space like in the famous photo.
3 An Elephant Never Forgets In The Lion King
For a kid to get this joke, they would have had to have seen the Jungle Book or at least know the saying, “An elephant never forgets.” In The Lion King, Zazu delivers a line that depends on knowledge of the saying.
He says, “The Tick birds are pecking on the elephants. I told the elephants to forget it, but they can't."
For those that don’t know, tick birds are a real kind of bird that feed off of the bugs that ride on African mammals.
2 Meg Talks About Men
While Hercules is one of Disney’s underrated films, Meg gets a lot of love. She was clever, complicated, and had a good heart. When it came to her lines, some of them were targeted more towards grown-ups than children. For example, when she explains her stealing escapade to Hercules, she says, “You know how men are. They think ‘No’ means ‘Yes’ and ‘Get lost’ means ‘Take me, I’m yours.’”
Definitely, a cynical joke more aimed at the older and jaded audiences.
1 Mr. Potato Head Versus Slinky Dog
Mr. Potato Head is one of the more hilarious toys in Toy Story, at least for the grown-ups. He’s like a grumpy middle-aged man, and so some rude humor can come out of his character once in a while.
Once such time is when Slinky Dog is agreeing with Woody on everything.
Mr. Potato Head is off to the side and makes a secret joke with the other toys. He points to Slinky, takes his own mouth out, and taps it against his backside.