The Most Controversial Films Ever Released By The Walt Disney Company

sorcerer mickey
Credit: Walt Disney Animation

The name Disney is synonymous with magic, dreams coming true, wishes upon a star, and family entertainment. But sometimes that family entertainment has crossed the line, at least in the minds of some fans. Some of Disney’s films have even stirred up debate and fanned the flames of conflict among Disney fans.

snow white

Credit: Walt Disney Animation

From cultural insensitivity to mature themes, these movies have left lasting impressions, for better or worse. Here are a few of them in no particular order.

Song of the South (1946)

This film is perhaps one of the most infamous entries in Disney’s catalog–though it never made it to the Disney+ catalog of content.

Disney's song of the south

Credit: Walt Disney Animation/Walt Disney Pictures

Set in the Reconstruction-era South, it has been criticized for its portrayal of African American characters and its romanticized depiction of plantation life. Due to its racially insensitive content, Disney has kept Song of the South out of circulation for many years.

Fantasia (1940)

While considered a masterpiece of animation, Fantasia has faced criticism for its inclusion of racially insensitive stereotypes in the “Pastoral Symphony” segment. Characters like Sunflower, a racially caricatured centaurette, have sparked outrage and led Disney to edit the film for subsequent releases.

walt disney and mickey mouse

Credit: Disney/Canva

The Little Mermaid (1989)

Despite being a beloved classic, The Little Mermaid has faced backlash for its portrayal of gender roles and its depiction of Ariel as a character willing to give up her voice for the love of a prince. Some critics argue that the film promotes unhealthy notions of romance and self-worth.

disney animated little mermaid ariel ursula 1989

Credit: Disney

Additionally, some parents have taken issue with the film, as it seems to glorify Ariel’s disobedience toward her father.

Pocahontas (1995)

While praised for its stunning animation and powerful soundtrack, Pocahontas has been criticized for its historical inaccuracies and romanticization of colonialism. The portrayal of Pocahontas and her relationship with John Smith has been deemed problematic and culturally insensitive by many.

Lessons from Disney Princesses

Credit: Disney

The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996)

This dark and mature film tackles themes of prejudice, lust, and religious hypocrisy. Some parents and religious groups have taken issue with its dark tone and mature subject matter, arguing that it may not be suitable for young audiences.

Related: When It Comes to Disney Films,  “Inclusion” Isn’t For Everyone

randy fullmer walt disney animation studios producers dies at age 73 hunchback of notre dame

Credit: Disney

Dumbo (1941)

Dumbo has faced criticism for its depiction of racist stereotypes, particularly in the scene featuring the crows. To some fans, these characters embody offensive African American stereotypes, reflecting the racial attitudes prevalent at the time of the film’s release in 1941.

Related: Drunk Couple Dangle Their Baby Over the Side of the Ride Vehicle at Dumbo Attraction

Dumbo crows

Credit: Disney

Aladdin (1992)

While praised for its vibrant animation and catchy music, Aladdin has faced criticism for its portrayal of Middle Eastern culture and its reinforcement of Orientalist stereotypes. The character of Jafar, in particular, has been accused of perpetuating negative stereotypes about Arabs and Muslims.

aladdin "one jump ahead"

Credit: Disney

Disney’s most controversial films have sparked important discussions about representation, cultural sensitivity, and the messages we convey to young audiences. While some of these films have faced backlash for their outdated or offensive content, others have been criticized for their handling of mature themes or historical events.

As Disney continues to evolve and adapt to the changing cultural landscape, it’s essential to reflect on the impact of these controversial movies and strive for greater inclusivity and sensitivity in storytelling.

About Becky Burkett

Becky's from the Lone Star State and has been writing since she was 10 and encountered her first Disney Park when she was 11. It was love at first Main Street Electrical Parade. Joy is blank lined journals, 0.7 mm pens, and all things Walt, Woody and Buzz, PIXAR, Imagineering, Sleeping Beauty (make it blue!), Disney Parks history and EPCOT. At Disney World, you'll find her croonin' with the birdies at the Enchanted Tiki Room or hangin' with Woody and the gang at Toy Story Land. If you can dream, you really can do it!


  1. Go Woke Disney Go Broke!

  2. Your gonna tell me that some women wouldn’t do what they could for true love the same way that some men wouldn’t?
    People and characters were portrayed as the world knew them when these films ere made. If you erase history it will just repeat itself anyhow. Make everything sanitized and the children will grow up unable to be able to handle common situations if they don’t go their way.

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