Disney makes some of the most amazing animated films that we see in theaters (sorry, Dreamworks). They have created a legacy for themselves, a legacy based on quality, heart, and music. With the classics that they have under their belt, it's no wonder that they have such a large and adoring fan-base. And just so we're clear, I am a member of that fan-base. I've watched Disney movies since I was a single-digit child, and if there was karaoke that consisted of only Disney songs, I would slay everyone who went against me. Well, I would, if I could sing, but that's beside the point. Moving on.
With such an enduring fan-base, Disney has had no trouble finding an audience for their films. And their success has only made them expand. Nowadays, a Marvel super hero movie is a Disney movie, and the latest Star Wars movie, that's a part of Disney too. Disney is taking over the world. They are everywhere, it seems. Is that a bad thing? We'll find out. But for now, it is a wonderland of excellent entertainment. There is no denying that Disney has earned their spot at the top.
However, despite Disney's popularity, there are still things about their movies that you might never have heard of, even if you're as big a fan of them as I am. Here we have a list of some very surprising things about the Disney films that will knock your socks off. If you read on and find that you already knew everything, congratulations, you are a better fan than I am. If not, prepare to be amazed.
In a movie intended for children, simplicity is key, so having a nuanced villain is not always what you want. Disney lets us know who the villains are right away. They're wreathed in an evil green glow, they laugh maniacally to themselves, or they sing a song about how they are a bad guy. They have a villainous look to them as well. Apparently, a biologist researching hyenas disagreed with the villainous nature that Disney portrayed hyenas with in The Lion King. They sued Disney for the defamation of the hyena's character. While their intentions may have been to protect hyenas' image, I don't think Disney should be blamed for making hyenas villains. Besides, Shenzi, Banzai, and Ed were always kind of lovable in my opinion. The true villain of The Lion King is Scar, and if you recall, it was the hyenas who took him down.
The Little Mermaid has some of the best music of any animated Disney film. In fact, it was the first Disney movie that began the trend of containing an awesome collection of songs. Music was an integral part to the story of The Little Mermaid. Ariel has a renowned singing voice, and in the beginning of the movie a concert is held in honor of her musical debut. A bunch of the mer-people show up to see and hear her, and you would not believe who also attended the presentation. Ariel may have ditched her own concert, but Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, and Goofy manage to make an appearance (all those leagues under the sea without a breathing apparatus). When King Triton sweeps into the room on his chariot of dolphins, you can make out Mickey, Donald, and Goofy in the crowd.
We all remember Lilo from Lilo and Stitch. She was the adorable girl who just wanted to not be lonely, so she befriended an aggressive alien with a heart of gold. And we all remember Samara from The Ring. She was the creepy girl who crawled out of the well in the video that if you watched it, you would die in seven days. Would you believe that they are voiced by one and the same person? Both characters are played by Daveigh Chase, and boy, I can't watch Lilo and Stitch comfortably anymore. I'll pop in the VHS tape into my VHS player, settle in on the couch with the fluffiest blanket I can find, the movie will start, and then I'll get the eerie sensation that in seven days, Lilo is going to crawl out of my screen and kill me.
When kids have a favorite movie, they want to own every item of memorabilia that they can get their hands on. Action figures, stuffed animals, play-sets, you name it, they want to own it. This makes getting kids their Christmas gifts easier since you know what they want. It can pose a problem though, when it involves living creatures. After the release of Finding Nemo, children who adored the movie wanted their very own pet clownfish, the species of fish that both Marlin and Nemo were. Sales of clownfish went through the roof. Unfortunately, this negatively impacted populations of clownfish in the wild as the demand for clownfish as pets rose. This is saddening, as the message of Finding Nemo was mainly concerned with leaving clownfish in the wild where they belong. For more behind-the-scenes factoids on Pixar movies specifically, check out this list!
The Witch from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs looks creepy. I have no sympathy for Snow White whenever I watch the movie. She should have known better. I mean, gosh, just take one look at the Witch's face. Evil just oozes from her features. Her fingernails are two inches long, her eyes give Gollum's a run for their money, and her cackling is hair-raising. Why on Earth would you eat something she handed to you?! Even the animals were trying to warn Snow White to avoid the Witch, but did she listen? I'm not the only one terrified by the Witch. Certain movie theaters had to reupholster their seats after showing Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs because children who would come to see the movie would wet themselves whenever the Witch came on. I don't blame the kids.
Theories about hidden messages within Disney films are notorious. Everyone loves a good rumor about secret innuendos in beloved animated films. One of the more well-known messages exists in The Lion King, though it has been largely misinterpreted. When Simba, confused about what to do with his future, collapses on the ground in frustration, he kicks up a cloud of dust that eventually floats its way to Rafiki, who sniffs it and realizes that the young king is alive. When the dust is initially thrown up into the air, many believed they saw certain letters formed by the specks. This has been refuted by one of Disney's former animators. The letters formed by the dust are actually "S-F-X" and are meant to be a tribute to the special effects department. That should teach people to be less dirty-minded.
Not every actor or actress can sing. With some movies, you'll see that there are two different people playing the singing and speaking roles. This was the case for two Disney ladies with excellent singing voices. Lea Salonga, who is a talented singer and actress, sings for both Mulan and Jasmine. It may be difficult for you to imagine, but all I ask you to do is play "Reflection," and then play "A Whole New World" back-to-back, and you will recognize the voice as belonging to the same person. Aladdin and Mulan are some of my favorite Disney movies when it comes to the music. (Seriously, who hasn't sung "I'll Make A Man Out Of You" at the top of their lungs?) It is a testament to Lea Salonga's abilities that she got the part of both roles.
The opening to The Lion King is iconic. The sun rises over the African plains in a burst of orange and red colors, and that voice belts out the opening notes to "The Circle of Life." It's unforgettable. Since the beginning parts of the song are sung in a different language (Zulu), any English-speaker wishing to sing this song on their own could mimic the syllables without fully comprehending the words they were singing. For those of you who want to know what you are screeching out, the first words of the song, translated, are "Here comes a lion, father, oh, yes, it's a lion." Quite literal, isn't it? Honestly, the verses sound way better in Zulu than they do in English.
When Sully first met Boo in Monsters, Inc., she scared the pants off of him (well, she would have, if Sully had been wearing pants). Children were creatures out of nightmares for the monsters of Monstropolis. So where we saw a cute toddler leaping out at the gigantic Sully and shouting, "Boo!" Sully saw terror's true form. Of course, as the story moves along, Sully comes to care for the little girl, naming her Boo and trying to get her back home. Turns out, Boo's actual name is "Mary." She has it written down on the drawings she makes. The young child actress who played her was Mary Gibbs. When Mary recorded Boo's voice, she was only two years old, so instead of keeping her in a voice recording booth for her lines, the creators of Monsters, Inc. followed her around with a microphone while she played.
Atlantis: The Lost Empire is an underrated Disney film. This animated movie has a pretty interesting story, with memorable characters and an intriguing plot. It's one of those kids' movies that you don't truly appreciate until you are an adult. The legitimacy of the work that went into making Atlantis also places it on a pedestal. In the movie, the main character, Milo, searches for the lost city of Atlantis, expecting to find ancient ruins, if he finds anything at all. Imagine his surprise when he finds that Atlantis still exists, with a thriving people and culture. To create the Atlantean language, Disney spared no expense. They hired Marc Okrand, a linguist who had famously created the Vulcan and Klingon languages for the Star Trek series.
If you haven't seen Pocahontas in a while, you might not remember who Thomas is. Thomas is a young red-headed youth. He accompanies John Smith and company to the New World. He nearly drowns, and has to be saved by John Smith. You can tell that he kind of idolizes John, but he's mostly known for being the one who shoots Kocoum. The voice of Thomas is delivered to us by Christian Bale, the same guy who plays Batman in the Christopher Nolan trilogy of Batman films. (I just want to put it out there that The Dark Knight is the best super hero movie ever made, and I have yet to be proven wrong.) Next time you watch Pocahontas, remember that the fresh-faced youth from England who can't shoot worth a penny is voiced by the same guy who introduced us to growly-Batman voice.
Elders complain about how "kids these days" are always up to shenanigans (whatever shenanigans are). They seem to forget how they were like when they were young. Current role models, they say, are ruining the mindset of younger generations. Well, I think we all need to take a look at one of Disney's earliest role models for girls. Snow White, when she appeared in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, was only fourteen years old. Fourteen. If you look at the movie in that context, it shows the whole story from a different perspective. She was fourteen when she ran away from home. She was a fourteen-year-old girl living with complete strangers. And the Prince kissed a random fourteen-year old that he saw in a coffin just because he liked her singing voice that one time. Fourteen.
There's nothing like a good cameo to make a movie even better than it already was, and Frozen was already a great movie. Rapunzel and Eugene (the protagonists of Disney's Tangled) make an appearance near the beginning of the movie, when Anna and Elsa are preparing for the coronation. Anna, excited for the opening of the palace gates, eagerly rushes out into the crowd, viewing each face she sees with delight. (Apparently, she couldn't leave the castle for all those years either. Makes no sense if you think about it. Elsa was the only one with ice powers. Anna could have hung out with the citizens if she wanted to, right?) Two faces (well, backs of heads) that we recognize in the group of people entering the castle are Eugene and Rapunzel's.
My father's only regretted taking me to three Disney movies. The first was The Lion King; the fact that they showed Mufasa's dead body to us and had Simba cry over it made my father worry. The second was The Hunchback of Notre Dame; Frollo's lascivious behavior was, in my father's opinion, too much. The third was Toy Story. After taking me to see Toy Story in theaters, my father fretted that he had just introduced me to sadism in the form of Sid Phillips. 'Oh no,' he thought, 'I've just shown my daughter a burgeoning psychopath.' Rest assured, Sid grew up to be less of a threat than you anticipated. If theories regarding Toy Story 3 are correct, the garbage man seen rocking out to music is Sid. And while he has a sucky job, he doesn't seem to be too bad.
If you saw Fantasia, you had either one of two reactions. You were either swept away by the swelling music and dazzling images, or you were bored, wondering why no one was talking in the movie. Odds are you do remember the one sketch involving Mickey Mouse, a magic hat, and a bunch of living brooms. The one where Mickey nicks a conical hat of power that allows him to give life to brooms so that the brooms could do his chores for him. But then the brooms nearly end up killing Mickey, so Mickey learns the lesson of doing his chores himself. The Sorcerer whose hat Mickey steals and who saves Mickey actually has a name. His name is Yen Sid. What's so special about his name? Nothing, really, except for the fact that it is "Disney" spelled backwards and split in half. I find that pretty cool.
Originally, Walt Disney had decided to call his famous little mouse, Mortimer. Do you like the sound of Mortimer Mouse? I don't. Walt's wife, Lillian, had more sense, and persuaded Walt to call his mouse Mickey, Mickey Mouse. Ah, there, that rolls off the tongue more easily than Mortimer Mouse. There's a character with that name created in the 1930s. Mortimer is Mickey's rival for Minnie's affections, and he's a clever flirt where Mickey is a good-natured sweetheart. We're glad that Mickey's name is Mickey, but we're also glad that the name of Mortimer was put to good use after all. No offense to Mortimers (if there are any Mortimers reading this).
The name of the movie is Sleeping Beauty, so you expect your beautiful heroine to do some sleeping in the movie. What you don't expect is for your supposed heroine to only have about eighteen minutes of screen time in a movie that is an hour and sixteen minutes long. The sleeping beauty is not the main character of Sleeping Beauty. She barely speaks for most of the movie! She is, in fact, next to Dumbo who doesn't speak at all, one of Disney's characters that has the fewest lines even though she is the titular character. The real protagonists of Sleeping Beauty are the three fairies, Flora, Fauna, and Merryweather. They're the ones who do all the work.
As befits a movie about two sisters winning the day instead of having a man win it for them, Frozen is the first animated feature from Disney directed by a woman. It's a co-directorship, but better a co-directorship than a no-directorship. With phenomenal music and a touching story, Frozen blazed its way to the top. Jennifer Lee not only directed Frozen, but she also worked on Zootopia and Wreck-It Ralph, both very good movies. I own all three of the movies she has worked on, and my record for re-watching Wreck-It Ralph is nearing the double digits. Hopefully we'll see more female directors!
Odds are you have seen a movie that is based off of a book. I'm sure you've heard the phrase, "the book was better," many times. If you were an author and you had created a character you were very fond of, it would give you no pleasure to see it butchered on a theater screen. The author of the book, P. L. Travers, wasn't happy with the Disney adaptation. In fact, her animosity towards the making of the film was so renowned, they made a movie about it called Saving Mr. Banks. In it, the corporation that is Disney finally convinces Travers to allow them to use her character as the basis for their new film, but they have to contend with her icy calm and dignified rejection for most, if not all, of their ideas.
Disney was not always the giant corporation that it is today. These days, they can spend millions of dollars animating Merida's hair in the movie Brave, but back then, in order to keep afloat, Disney had a few tricks up their sleeves to save themselves some bucks. Animating, as you may or may not know, involves a person drawing a character on a sheet of paper, then drawing the exact same character with the slightest change of position on another paper, so that when each page is flipped through, it looks as if the character is in motion. In order to save time and money, Disney reused animations that they had from previous animated films and placed them in Robin Hood. There are videos that exist that show clips from Robin Hood and The Jungle Book side-by-side, and the similarities (more like extreme exactness) are undeniable.
Like Atlantis: The Lost Empire, The Black Cauldron is one of those Disney movies that no one really appreciates. The Black Cauldron is actually an adaptation of a book by Lloyd Alexander with the same title. It's the first of their movies to have a PG rating. It is awesome. I don't want to spoil it for you, but it has a magic sword, a pig that can see into the future, an undead king who wants to summon an army of undead warriors, and a bard named Fflewddur Flam (I did not misspell his name). Doesn't that sound awesome? It's not your typical Disney fare, so it definitely stands out amongst all of Disney's animated films. If you haven't seen it, you should definitely try to.
Disney's Beauty and the Beast pushed past a lot of boundaries when it came to making leaps in music and animation, and this made it a better film overall. It has one of the most solid musical scores of any Disney animated film and the animation of that ballroom dancing scene still looks superb to this day. Beauty and the Beast was also the first Disney princess movie to feature a male villain. All others had an evil woman fighting against the princess. The Evil Stepmother in Cinderella, Maleficent in Sleeping Beauty, and Ursula in The Little Mermaid are all women (obviously). I don't know why having princesses contend with evil female opponents was a trend, but Beauty and the Beast broke that tradition.
Many do not know this, and I was among that number before today, but Jackie Chan did the voice for Beast in the Cantonese-dubbed version of Beauty and the Beast. I know (and love) Jackie Chan from his fighting movies, the ones where he energetically battles twenty guys at once by punching, falling, leaping, and kicking all over the place. I barely found out that he also voices the Beast. So now one of my favorite martial artists in film is also one of my favorite princes in Disney movies. It's a dream come true! Prior to today, I had no idea, and get this: he also sings. He sings the song "Beauty and the Beast," and it is the most awesome thing I've heard all year.
You shouldn't take tongue-in-cheek humor seriously; it's a form of sarcasm. Disney participated in some tongue-in-cheek humor during the end credits of Frozen. If you remember, when Kristoff finds out that Anna is engaged to a man she met the same day, he warns her that maybe Hans has habits she's unaware of that might disgust her. Eating boogers, for example. Anna told him that was gross, to which he responded that all men do it. In the end credits, Disney included a disclaimer, saying that Kristoff's views on men eating boogers were solely his own and did not represent the views of the Walt Disney Company. They were either making a tongue-in-cheek joke or they were going overboard on covering their bases.
Prepare to have your mind blown. Ready? The voice of Eeyore, the depressed donkey from The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, is the voice of Optimus Prime from Transformers. Mind blown yet? Man, I could not get over the amazing-ness of that fact. Eeyore is this morose soul who constantly bemoans his existence and takes no pleasure in anything. Optimus Prime is the charismatic leader of the Autobots who fights for peace (contradictory, I know) and has a better moral character than some existing people in power right now. They're all voiced by the same guy! His name is Peter Cullen, and finding out that he voiced Optimus and Eeyore just sky-rocketed him to the top of my list of all-time favorite voice actors.