25 Shocking Disney Movie Moments That Got a Little Too Dark

Posted by , Updated on March 25, 2024

Do you have fond memories of watching Disney movies as a child? Did your eyes glisten as you watched the magic come alive on screen? Perhaps you knew all the song lyrics to The Little Mermaid and The Lion King.

You eagerly show these movies to your children, hoping that they will have the same experience that you did once upon a time. However, you notice things as an adult that perhaps you didn’t as a child. Here are 25 Shocking Moments in Disney Movies That Got a Little Too Dark


Toy Story: Sid Torturing Toys


Toy Story tells the tale of what might happen if your childhood playthings come to life. It also reveals the darker side of children with the character of Sid, a pre-teen boy.

Sid takes pleasure in ripping toys apart and putting them together in disturbing ways. Case in point: the mechanical spider with the baby head. It’s no wonder we jump with joy when the toys get revenge on the tormentor.


Snow White: The Poison Apple

poison apple

Stepchildren and stepparents probably don’t always have the easiest relationship. But Snow White and the Evil Queen, without a doubt, have the most dysfunctional relationship.

In the movie, after being told by her magic mirror that Snow White was more beautiful than her, the queen falls into a jealous, murderous rage and tries to kill her innocent stepdaughter with a poisonous apple.


Beauty and the Beast: Monsieur D'Arque


Beauty and the Beast took the treatment of the mentally disabled and the conditions of sanitariums to another level. Not only did Monsieur D’Arque lock up people he thought was crazy for no reason, but he also got a perverted pleasure out of it.

When the main villain, Gaston, pays him to commit Belle’s father unless she marries him, D’Arque begins laughing and says, “I love it.” It makes one think twice before asking for help.


The Lion King: Scars Death


In just about every Disney movie, the main villain dies in a dramatic way. When Scar falls into a pit after he is defeated in a fight by his nephew Simba, he is then attacked and ripped apart by his cohorts, the hyenas.

Although we only see the death scene in shadows, it’s enough to implant the grizzly image in our heads.


Pinocchio: Fantasy Island


Imagine you’re a child and you hear about a place where you can do whatever you want. You can go to bed whenever you want. There are no rules.

Until you realize it’s all a ploy to turn you into a slave-driven donkey constantly being whipped and screamed at. Pinocchio was one of the first Disney cartoons to explore child trafficking.


Aladdin: Jasmine Forced into Marriage


It’s not like arranged marriages are uncommon in other parts of the world. It’s just that it’s probably not what you would expect in a Disney movie.

If you factor in the fact that Princess Jasmine is a minor, it makes it even more cringe-worthy. We also can’t forget when Jafar tries to seduce the young princess.


Up: Ellie's Miscarriage


Up was created for the dreamer in all of us. The movie focuses on the life of Carl, an elderly man who wants to see South Africa by tying a thousand balloons to his house and having it float. He also wants to keep a promise to his late wife.

The film shows the couple in the early parts of their marriage. One particularly sad scene is when Carl and his wife Ellie prepare a room for their expected child only to have Ellie suffer a miscarriage.


The Black Cauldron: The Horned King


The Black Cauldron is a lesser-known Disney film, based on a book by Lloyd Alexander, and part of a series called “The Chronicles of Prydain.” It should be noted that it has little to no musical numbers.

It centers on a young farm boy who must battle the evil Horned King. The Horned King is one of the more creepy Disney villains: a skull with glowing eyes, dressed in a long robe with antlers.

It sounds funny now, but just picture yourself as a little kid. You might have viewed it differently as a child.


Tarzan: The Death of Clayton


In the movie Tarzan, Clayton is not revealed as the villain until near the end of the film. He pretends to help Tarzan get closer to his love, Jane, by convincing him to lead him to the gorillas, who have raised him since birth.

Clayton locks up Tarzan, Jane, and Jane’s father and goes after the gorillas to poach them. Tarzan escapes and catches up to Clayton. He holds a machete to Clayton’s throat but drops it and spares Clayton’s life.

Clayton grabs the machete and starts cutting through the vines of the jungle, chasing after Tarzan. He cuts the one that’s holding him, falls, and gets hung by one the vines. We actually see his body hanging.


Return to Oz: Where to Begin?


If you’ve ever seen this movie, you know what we’re talking about. First, you have Dorothy locked up in a creepy sanatarium. Then she confronts eight-foot-tall giants who walk on wheels and wear scary masks.

Top that off with a witch who can remove her head and you have a psychologically scarred child (and we’re not talking about Dorothy).


101 Dalmatians: Cruella Flipping Out


Cruella is one of the most loathsome Disney villains. Come on, wanting to kill innocent puppies so you can wear their fur? It’s atrocious.

Near the end, when she fails to kill the puppies, she turns mental and tries to ram the car they are in and shove it off the road.


The Fox and the Hound: Fight between Best Friends


The Fox and the Hound Disney cartoon explores the relationship between two animals that are supposed to be bitter rivals. A young fox, named Tod, quickly becomes best friends with Copper, a hound dog. As youngsters, these two are inseparable, ignoring the fact that they are supposed to be enemies.

When they get older, they forget their bond for one another. When they meet face to face in a vicious fight, they try to rip each other apart. The scene is intense, to say the least (and it’s no surprise there is no “Fox and the Hound on Ice”).


The Little Mermaid: Ursula's Lost Souls


Ursula is without a doubt one of the scariest Disney villains. Those octopus legs really enhance the whole hybrid witch thing.

To sum up the story, Ursula is a sea-witch who grants wishes with a catch: that catch is usually something that can’t be undone or returned, so Ursula basically owns you.

When we are introduced to Ursula, we can see miserable-looking squid people floating around her: lost souls who have succumbed to her power.


Bambi: The Death of Bambi's Mother


(Warning: sarcasm ahead.)

Here’s a perfect family movie recipe. Take a sweet, innocent, adorable, baby deer. Introduce his caring mother, who loves and protects him. Have the audience grow to love the mother as well.

Then have her get killed by a hunter. Yes, this scene did traumatize a lot of kids back in the day, and some likely remember the strong impact it had.


Dumbo: Dumbo Gets Drunk


What happens when a baby elephant “accidentally” imbibes alcohol and begins to have visuals of pink elephants dancing in his head?

Well, as adults, we might get some interesting visuals if we’ve had too much to drink. However, children may not be able to quite grasp this yet … nor should they.


Toy Story 3: Incinerator Scene


Every movie, Disney or not, has a moment where the hero of the story gets in some situation where their life is on the line and you don’t know if they’re going to make it. In children’s movies, they keep fighting and eventually make it through.

In Toy Story 3, when Woody and his friends are going to be burned alive in a giant incinerator, rather than fight, they hold hands and accept their fate.


Alice in Wonderland: Many Things


There are all the drug references from eating magic mushrooms and taking pills that change your size. You also have a hookah-smoking caterpillar.

And don’t forget the power-hungry dictator who will cut your head off if you even breathe near her. (There’s also that chilling smile the Chesire cat manifests on a regular basis.)


The Hunchback of Notre Dame: The Cruelty toward Quasi


One reoccurring theme in Disney movies is the blatant cruelty toward those born differently. In The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Quasi Modo is a physically deformed yet very gentle person, who is raised by a priest who beats him regularly.

He also is tormented by the townspeople. When he meets a beautiful gypsy named Esmerelda, who is kind to him, he thinks he may have found love. But, alas there is a handsome guy who catches her heart and Quasi watches the two kiss as we watch his heart break.


Mulan: Destroyed Village


Mulan is a story about a girl who longs to be a samurai but can’t because she’s a girl. So, she disguises herself as a boy in order to fight.

There is a particular scene in which she and her fellow warriors come back to their village only to find that it’s been destroyed and everybody killed. What makes it more unsettling is there was a big musical number right before the scene.


The Princess and the Frog: Dragged to Hell


It’s not just the visuals that make this scene bizarre; it’s the musical accompaniment.

When the villain Dr. Facilier (a.k.a. the Shadow Man) is dragged to Hell for eternity, the demons (or whatever you want to call them) take him out with a catchy musical number that only Disney can do.


Snow White: The Huntsman Scene


We stated earlier that Snow White and her stepmother don’t have the best relationship. But before the queen tried to poison her stepdaughter with an apple, she enlisted a huntsman to take Snow into the woods, cut out her heart and bring it to her.

We’re guessing that a family therapist probably wouldn’t help this dynamic. Thank goodness the huntsman had a heart.


Finding Nemo: The Barracuda


When Nemo’s mother tries to protect her eggs from a barracuda, she is killed. This is why her husband cares for Nemo as a single father.

Sensitive young viewers might find this troubling. The death of the parent is a theme we definitely see a lot of in Disney movies.


Beauty and the Beast: Mob Attack


After Belle rejects Gaston’s proposal, he convinces the townsfolk that the beast whom Belle has grown to love will attack them and come for their children.

He forms a mob with the paranoid people and they chant, “Kill the beast!” as they make their way to his castle. It’s a little terrifying.


The Hunchback of Notre Dame: Frollo's Obsession


Judge Frollo (the movie’s antagonist) has a hatred for gypsies but a lust for Esmerelda, who happens to be a gypsy. Torn between his lust and his warped moral code, he decides that he would rather see her burn if he can’t have her.

There are many religious overtones in this movie. Keep in mind that, like many Disney films, it is based on a book. (The book doesn’t end so well.)


The Lion King: Mufasa's Death


One can’t help remember young Simba finding his father lying on the ground. For many of us, the waterworks in our eyes started when Simba tried to wake his dad up to no avail.

His evil uncle, who actually murdered Simba’s father, then convinces the young cub that Simba is to blame for Mufasa’s death. (It sounds like the type of drama found in a Shakespeare play.)

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