Disney movies are most people's first encounter with the fantasy film genre. While the fantasy worlds of Disney are based on old fairy tales, they often introduce lots of weird twists of their own. Including a healthy serving of WTF.
Here are 10 questions that Disney movies leave us confused about.
Confused Tinkerbell image via True Enchantment.
10. How do a star and a firefly fall in love in The Princess and the Frog?
Ray, the firefly in The Princess and the Frog, is either lovable or annoying, depending on your point of view. Either way, he's definitely stupid. He looks up at the stars every night, calls one of them Evangeline, and falls in love with 'her.' When he's gotten squished — which is tragic or satisfying again depending on your point of view — it seems as though his dream is over. But in the end of the film, a new star in the sky appears beside Evangeline, signalling that Ray's wish has come true. It's a beautiful symbolic moment, but — what then? Does Ray discover that he's a sentient being, trapped light years away from a burning ball of gas that could never talk to him? And what if Evangeline really is sentient in some way? Doesn't she deserve better than being stuck next to a bug who she never met? Since stars 'live' for billions of years, that's near to a pure definition of hell either way.
9. What happened to Prince Ali's people in Aladdin?
"Genii, I wish for you to make me a prince!" These are the words of Aladdin, when he wants to win the hand of the lovely Princess Jasmine. The Genii agrees, and makes Aladdin a menagerie, fills up his pockets with money, and gives him tons of servants. We don't see any of them again after his introductory parade. Later in the movie, the evil Jafar gets powers, reveals Aladdin to be poor, and that's that. What happened to all those people? And a prince can't just have a large staff. He has to rule some land with people on it. Was a country divided in half, just so that Aladdin could make a good impression? Or was an entirely new piece of land, complete with people, created by the Genii? No matter what happened, it couldn't have been good when Jafar de-princed the guy. Maybe the people disappeared, or the nation fell into Mad Max-type anarchy, or was over-run by other nations. We'll never know.
8. Was that prince employing the dwarfs in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs as forced labor or what?
Ever notice that, even though the dwarfs in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs are pulling fist-sized diamonds out of the ground, they don't seem to have a lot of money? Don't get me wrong, they have enough money for food and a house — but the house is in the middle of nowhere, they make their own furniture, and they obviously don't employ someone to keep it clean. And then notice their attitude towards the Prince and the Wicked Queen. Since those are the only two royals around, the dwarf cottage has to be somewhere between the two kingdoms. When the Queen comes around, they decide first to chase her and then to kill her. Clearly, they have no particular loyalty to her. Then the Prince comes by and decides to make out with Snow White's corpse, and they stand aside. Then he carries her off to a fabulously bejeweled kingdom while they stay, sleeping seven to a room, in their shack in the woods. Seems fishy. What is the Prince holding over their heads?
7. Why didn't Sleeping Beauty's parents just invite Maleficent to their party?
The whole story of Sleeping Beauty happens for one reason and one reason alone; the Evil Fairy didn't get invited to a celebration of the baby's birth. That's it. If they had invited the woman, she wouldn't have done anything bad — or at least nothing as bad as condemning the baby to die on her 16th birthday. The movie points out that everyone, literally everone, else in the kingdom was invited, so it's easy to see why Maleficent is in a bad mood about being snubbed. And in a way, she has a right to be. Yes, no one wants her there, but it's a family event. Everyone has to put up with at least one person that they don't like when it comes to family events. (For the member of my own family reading this right now — yes, you're the one I don't like. Stew on that.) Just suck it up, offer her a lot of wine, and hope she passes out in the corner for most of the party.
6. What did Cinderella eventually do to her stepsisters?
I'm not saying it's likely she did something bad to them. She was kind of a goody-goody. I'm just saying it would be hilarious if they were the wedding feast.
5. Does Scar control the weather in The Lion King? Does Simba?
Yes. Okay. Scar committed regicide. That's bad. He then 'let the hyenas into the Pride Lands.' I guess, according to the Lion Code, which apparently says that everything is part of the Great Circle of Life — except the hyenas, which can just stay all the way over there in that barren rocky section thank you very much — that that is also bad. But when Simba comes back to reclaim the throne, the whole savanna is a wasteland, with rivers dried up, dust covering the land, and animals bones strewn about. We're supposed to understand that the hyenas and the lions overfed on the animals, but I'm really not sure how Scar's reign somehow managed to dry up the rivers. It seems like if he had that kind of power he could have been king a long time ago. And if he didn't have that power, and Simba was the one who could control the rivers and bring the rain that comes at the end, there's no way anyone would consider someone else as king, whether Simba killed his father or not. It's just all so confusing.
4. How did Chip, in Beauty and the Beast, get to be born?
In this story, once again, a member of the royal family pissed off a fairy — but at least this fairy was in disguise, so his attitude makes sense. Unlike the dummies in Sleeping Beauty, he tries to make it up to her. Alas, he tries in vain. She curses him and his castle, gives him a magic rose, and tells him that if he hasn't found love before the rose has completely withered, he will remain a beast forever. In comes the narration, saying, "As the years passed, he fell into despair and lost all hope. For who could ever learn to love a Beast?" I'm pretty sure a lot of people would be happy to love a beast with a giant magic castle who could eviscerate them if they didn't love him enough. That's not the question here. My question is — how many years pass, exactly? The Beast is clearly aging, so the rest of the castle was, too. The only child we see is Chip, the little tea cup son of Mrs Potts. He looks about . . . four? We see that the rest of the servants behave they would in their human forms. Lumiere, the horny candlestick, is always after Babette, the feather duster. (I don't know why the Beast allows that. It's a fire hazard.) Was Chip the son of an - I don't even know what. Even if he wasn't - what was he as a baby? A lump of clay? A doll cup? And, more sinisterly, how did he get that chip in his head? This whole question is very worrying.
3. Isn't Ariel going to change from The Little Mermaid to The Blood Countess?
The bloodiest scene in all of Disney is shown as comedy. In The Little Mermaid, Sebastian the crab gets lost in the Prince's castle and ends up in the kitchen. There we are treated to a scene of dismembered body parts, skeletons on plates, and bubbling stews filled with hacked up limbs. It's funny, because all the dead bodies are fish. Of course this would horrify Sebastian, but not us — except when we think about the fact that we've seen that all these animals have personalities just like people. Then again, we're coming at it from a human perspective. Ariel, the mermaid, isn't. These are people she's grown up with. She was meant to rule them and see to their well-being. But when she sees them stuffed with breading and put out on a dinner plate — well, she saves Sebastian, but otherwise seems content to watch people kill, cook, and eat her former subjects. When she finally becomes human, ruling a land of people who live on the coast and like fish, there are only two things she can do. She can either get Prince Eric to prosecute everyone who eats a steamed clam for torture and murder, probably ending in the execution of thousands of her current people, or she can allow them to continue fishing, ending in the execution of millions of her former 'people.' Either way, she's going to be the most despised royal of all time.
2. How does the magical child slavery ring in Pinocchio stay open?
Pinocchio was a surprisingly dark film, with the darkest sequence being when a bunch of 'bad' boys are turned into donkeys by a sinister magical amusement park. The boys are lured away from school and onto a boat by a carnival barker. The boat takes them to Pleasure Island, an incredible amusement park where they are given pie and ice cream and roast chicken and told to go on rides and start fights. They're given tobacco to smoke and encouraged to ruin works of art like stained glass windows. Eventually, they start turning into . . . something else. The barker says, "Give a bad boy enough rope and he'll soon make a jackass of himself." The boys grow ears, tails, and finally turn into donkeys. They're crated up, sometimes screaming for their mothers, and put on another boat bound for 'salt mines.' My main question isn't about the moral implications of this. No — my problem is economic. Is there some kind of massive donkey shortage? How is selling mules to salt mines going to generate enough revenue to support two boats, a massive amusement park stocked with alcohol, tobacco, and an endless supply of stained glass windows? I know that there is symbolism going on here, but it seems like even the beautiful symbolism can't overcome the relative ease of just buying a herd of donkeys who are already conveniently located near a salt mine.
1. Is Hercules just a dark comedy examining futility of fighting death?
Hercules was not a big hit for Disney, nor did it particularly deserve to be. Young Herc, the son of Zeus, has his divinity taken away from him. In the myths, the thief is Zeus's jealous wife, Hera. Not a good enemy to make. In the movie, it's Hades, the god of the dead, who does the honors. He is a much, much worse enemy to make. Although Herc spends the movie fighting to return to mount Olympus as a god, the love of a mortal woman truly inspires him, and he gives up immortality to be with her. Which means that Hades will, inevitably, win. You can't fight death — and I can't believe that there is any child so dim as to not see the major problem with the end of that movie. Sure, Hades gets temporarily inconvenienced by being drawn into a river of death filled with floating dead souls (which, by the way, lets kids get a look at exactly what awaits their heroes when they do grow old and die), but he's immortal, so it can't hurt him or stop him forever.
Because of this, Hercules is by far Disney's darkest movie. Even the original Greek myths turn out happier than the movie, since Hercules becomes a god and goes to Olympus when he dies. Also, in Greek myth, death isn't an eternal misery in a whirlpool of green slime. There are various levels of death, and some of them are quite nice. In Hercules' world, the characters will inevitably spend an eternity in hell, being cackled over by the guy they spent their whole lives fighting against. The only thing keeping them company will be the wretched souls of all their loved ones, and eventually any children they might have. They will spend forever in abject defeat from which there is no escape. Damn, Disney. That's cold.