Disney movies have been a beloved part of popular culture for nearly a century, enchanting audiences of all ages with their captivating storytelling, memorable characters, and stunning animation.
The Walt Disney Company, founded by Walt Disney and Roy O. Disney, released its first full-length animated feature film, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, in 1937, forever changing the landscape of animated cinema. Since then, Disney has continued to produce a vast and diverse array of films that have left an indelible mark on the entertainment world.
Disney has also been the lead in the field of animation, pushing the boundaries of what is possible in the medium. Films like Fantasia (1940) showcased the potential for combining classical music with animation, creating a visually and musically stunning experience. In recent years, Disney has continued to evolve, adapting its classic animated films into live-action remakes, such as The Jungle Book (2016) and Beauty and the Beast (2017). These remakes pay homage to the original while introducing these stories to a new generation of viewers.
While Disney movies are generally known for their widespread appeal and positive impact on audiences, there have been instances where certain Disney films faced bans or controversies. These situations often arise due to cultural sensitivities, perceived offensive content, or political concerns.
Disney’s commitment to diversity and inclusion is also reflected in its more recent films, such as Moana (2016) and Frozen (2013), which have featured strong and independent female protagonists, as well as culturally diverse settings and characters.
One Disney film that Disney has banned is Song of the South (1946). This live-action/animated musical film has been widely criticized for its alleged racial stereotypes and problematic portrayal of African Americans in the post-Civil War South. Due to concerns about its racially insensitive content, Disney has chosen not to release the film on home video in the United States for many years.
Another Disney film that is not banned, but has dealt with backlash is Beauty and the Beast (2017), the live-action version. This remake of Beauty and the Beast faced backlash in certain countries due to the inclusion of a minor LGBTQ+ character. Some groups and governments banned or restricted the film’s release, citing concerns about the character’s sexual orientation, but these have not been confirmed by Disney.
Of course, along the way, there have been some major films banned by Disney. As we are well within the Spooky Season, there is one banned film that comes to mind. ScreenRant reported that Disney once had a film banned due to being “too dark.”
The Skeleton Dance was the beginning installment in Walt Disney’s renowned Silly Symphonies series of animated shorts. This five-minute masterpiece was both produced and directed by Walt Disney. The Skeleton Dance portrays four skeletons emerging from their graves, engaging in a macabre dance, playing eerie music, and causing mischief in the dead of night. While the cartoon ultimately achieved success, it was evident that its dark narrative and eerie animation did not resonate with everyone upon its initial release.
“The New York Times reported in the 1930s that Denmark had banned The Skeleton Dance entirely for being “too macabre” for audiences,” the report from ScreeRant shared. There was concern that the black-and-white animation combined with the intense music was too graphic and frightening for its target audience at the time. Since the cartoon’s release, the ban in Denmark has been lifted and Disney has continued to expand their work in the horror genre following the short’s initial release.”
Several other publications jumped in, urging audiences not to watch the film, including Variety Magazine.
“In July 1929, Variety magazine posted a review warning parents not to bring their children to watch The Skeleton Dance. They deemed that some scenes, such as where the four skeletons use their bones as instruments and scare owls and cats, were too dark for young audiences. Critics also pointed out that the musical accompaniment and the graveyard setting of the cartoon proved too gruesome for children to watch.”
In the end, as we shared above, the ban was lifted but it certainly is an interesting story of how things have come to be over the last century for The Walt Disney Company, especially with work that included Walt Disney himself at the helm.