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Authors: Aaron Goldberg

Tags: #Taled of Real Life Disney Scandals, #Accidents and Deaths, #Sex

Disney Declassified: Tales of Real Life Disney Scandals, Sex, Accidents and Deaths (26 page)

BOOK: Disney Declassified: Tales of Real Life Disney Scandals, Sex, Accidents and Deaths
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Well, back in September of 1995, the Associated Press picked up a story from a newspaper in Newport News, Virginia, the
Daily Press
. The
Daily Press
reported on a story from a bi-weekly newsletter published by the American Life League (ALL), the largest Catholic grassroots pro-life group in the country.

ALL was warning parents about a scandalous scene in
The Lion King
. Allegedly, the ALL claimed there is a scene where Simba kicks up a cloud of dust, as the clouds float off the screen, the word SEX can be seen, only if you pause the video at the appropriate time and are paying careful attention.

When the AP reporter reached out to the ALL, he was informed that
The Lion King
wasn’t the only movie to feature lewdness. The group went on to explain that a Christian entertainment review magazine,
Movie Guide,
in March of 1995 ran a story titled,
Aladdin Exposed.
The story
detailed a scene where Princess Jasmine, a tiger, and Aladdin are on a balcony and Aladdin mutters the words “all good teenagers take off your clothes.”

The objectionable things didn’t stop with those two movies. They get a bit more graphic in
The Little Mermaid.
In this movie, the group claimed a bishop performing a wedding ceremony was aroused and displayed an erection. Religious boners aside, there were also stories of a salacious movie poster and VHS box cover; both featured an erect penis on one of the spires of a castle featured in the background of the scene.

When reporters followed up with Disney about these claims, they were adamant that they were false. In the case of
The Lion King,
Disney spokesperson, Rick Rhoades said, “The American Life League is imagining things in all three movies. They {Disney} are not going to recall VHS tapes of the movies. Seeing anything in
The Lion King
other than a good wholesome family film is purely perception. There is nothing there. It’s just ridiculous to think that we’d put that in a movie.”

As for
Aladdin,
Rhoades says the line is actually, “ Scat, good tiger, take off and go.” Which is something that actually may be accurate. The original publisher of the story,
Movie Guide,
sent the film to a professional sound studio and had them decipher the line, syllable by syllable. What they found was the line was hard to understand. The words didn’t sound like what Disney claimed, and it didn’t sound like what they published in their story; thus, a retraction was printed in July of 1995.

As for the “excited” bishop in
The Little Mermaid,
this time, the animator for the scene, Tom Sito, sounded off in denial,  “If I wanted to put satanic messages in a movie, you would see it. That is silly.”

Ok, fair enough, but we are talking about sex and lewdness in cartoons aimed at children. We aren’t talking about Satanic messages like people claimed to hear in music by playing the record backwards; something called back masking and everyone from the Beatles to Led Zepplin are purported to have done it. The satanic urban legends involving back masking was brought about by fundamentalist Christian groups including preacher, Gary Greenwald, and Minister Jacob Aranza, who wrote an entire book about the subject in 1982 called
Backward Masking Unmasked.
Both claimed evil, satanic messages were recorded backwards in rock music.

The preacher and the minister claimed the messages from Satan worked on the unconscious or subconscious level, and were meant to corrupt and brainwash teenagers. Basically, what Tom Sito was referencing in his quote. Well, today we know hidden satanic messages in popular songs and Disney’s covert sexual innuendo more than likely aren’t working on a subliminal level.

 In reality, something may or may not be there but chances are it really doesn’t matter. In 1985, researchers Vokey and Read looked into the whole subliminal message notion. The two concluded in their article
Between the Devil and the Media
in the journal of the
American Psychologist
, that messages or potential messages are “…a function more of active construction on the part of the perceiver than of the existence of the messages themselves."

So what does this mean? Well, Disney was partially correct when they said people might be imagining things. If you want to see something or be influenced by something what may or may not be there, then perhaps it is possible. Whatever your views may be this reasoning doesn’t stop people from suing or make the topic go away. The subliminal situation has now evolved past Disney’s denial stage in the controversy, and progressed to the “no-comment” stage, which is when lawyers step in. So back to those lawsuits filed against the mouse…

A judge in Arkansas agreed with Ms. Gilmer’s contentions that Disney did indeed have some morally unfit and offensive images. The judge would allow for a trial to proceed. This could have been devastating for Disney, not just in the media but the fact that it would be for a class action suit that would spread throughout the country. In September of 1997, Disney settled out of court. Gilmer’s case went away without any further legal action. No numerical figures were released in regards to the settlement, other than a person close to her attorney stating a “small” settlement was received.

In the end, there is no such thing as bad publicity. Clearly this scandal didn’t really damage Disney’s reputation. Don’t sex and scandals sell? Here we are decades later and people are still discussing it. The subject is still very much a relevant topic. A Google search today reveals numerous websites and articles on the subject, many of which have been posted within the past few months. A conspiracy theorist may say Disney inserted these things on purpose to generate “buzz” about the movies. These news stories became free noteworthy publicity that will live on as long as each movie survives. Another theory is: who knows and who cares! Disney denied it and moved on, at least temporarily.

In January of 1999, Disney announced a recall of the home video version of
The Rescuers.
This time, Disney’s reaction was quite the opposite of what transpired with
The Lion King, Aladdin
and
The Little Mermaid.
Disney offered a recall and exchange of 3.4 million copies of the video due to a photograph of a topless woman that appears in two frames of the film.

At the start of the film, characters Bianca and Bernard are in front of a building. In these frames, the building's window has an image of a topless woman. The frames are on the screen for less than one second but if paused at the appropriate time, a topless woman can be seen. Disney acknowledged the issue and stated that they knew about the image. They claimed it was inserted in a post-production process when the film was originally released to theaters in 1977. Disney initiated the recall to keep their promise to families that trust and rely on the Disney brand to provide the finest in family entertainment; however, when it comes to recalls of their entertainment that may not be as family-centric, that’s a different story.

In 1988, Disney released the film
Who Framed Roger Rabbit
. The movie breathed new life into Disney’s theatrical releases, was well received and very profitable. The film won multiple Academy Awards by tapping into Disney’s roots of incorporating live-action with animated characters. One of these animated characters was a little vixen by the name of Jessica Rabbit. She was like no other Disney animated character in the company’s history.

Less than a year before the situations played out in the media with
The Lion King, Aladdin,
and
The Little Mermaid
, in March of 1994
Variety
, the entertainment trade paper, ran a story about scenes where the animated Jessica Rabbit was sans underwear.

In a scene where Jessica is riding along in a taxi, the cab crashes into a light post. The panty-less wonder goes flying through the air with her skirt up and reveals to all, her lack of undergarments. Again, this is only possible for those looking frame by frame and through the power of DVD or in those days, laser disc. The laser disc allowed for scene by scene and even frame by frame viewing, which allowed for this discovery; seriously, who has the time to make these “discoveries.”

 At the time Disney dismissed the subject claiming the movie wasn’t for children anyway and they would not delete the scenes from future releases. Interestingly, Disney built a popular attraction at Disneyland called Roger Rabbit’s Car Toon Spin, as we read about in Lights, Camera, Accident!

Jessica Rabbit’s panty-less shot is probably more socially acceptable today than it was in 1988 or 1994. Consider how many celebrity, politicians or public figures, let alone average people, “accidentally” tweet or release some sort of compromising photo of himself or herself via social media, text or the internet. Jessica’s brief flash is no big deal now, right?

What could be a bigger deal is how Disney created her body image. Despite the film not being directly marketed to children, it is still animated and could be misconstrued and alluring for them. Back in 1988, when Jessica debuted in the movie, there was little talk, if any, about Disney’s princesses and their body images impacting young girls. This was primarily because there were only three princesses around: Snow White, Cinderella, and Aurora.

The Disney princess boom didn’t start for years after Jessica Rabbit. The princess franchise came together officially as a cohesive brand unto itself in the year 2000. Had the topic of Disney female characters and body image been a hot topic in the late '80s like it is today, Jessica Rabbit would have been at the epicenter of the debate. Today, over twenty years removed from her debut, Jessica is still making headlines. Her full lips and curvaceous features haven’t been able to escape the clutches of those that deconstruct Disney. Disney critics argue the women featured in Disney animated films portray unrealistic body images and types for females. Each princess is a picture beyond aesthetic perfection. This may lead girls to have problems with their self-image and possibly lay the foundation for body dysmorphia, and Jessica Rabbit isn’t helping the situation.

 Jessica’s measurements, if she were real, were estimated at: bust size: 38, waist: 17, hips: 34, and a shoe size of 1, on the basis of her standing 6’ tall and weighing 109 pounds. There hasn’t been an official estimate on the size of her lips, but in 2012, a young woman from St. Petersburg, Russia wanted to emulate Jessica Rabbit so much, she had over 100 silicone injections into her lips to look like the Disney vixen.

Jessica’s aesthetics, as well as the princesses in the franchise; Snow White, Cinderella, Aurora, Ariel, Belle, Jasmine, Pocahontas, Mulan, Tiana, Rapunzel, Merida, and now
Frozen’s
Elsa and Anna may give the impression that all women should be a certain size and possess certain features physically in order to be happy or socially accepted, most notably: tiny waists and an ample bosom.

These portrayals may put unneeded and unhealthy pressures on young girls to conform to their princess idols, setting the stage for body image problems as they grow up. Critics beg the question, how can little girls relate to all of this? People come in all shapes, sizes and races and Disney doesn’t do a great job of portraying them accordingly.

 The criticism is loud and widespread and moves beyond waist and breast size. The critics of the Disney franchise examine every angle, even down to the mega blockbuster hit,
Frozen
. One recent gripe is that Anna’s eyeball is much larger than her wrist. The Disney princess criticism doesn’t stop with body image; it extends further into gender stereotypes and female roles in the films.

Now, some of this must be put into context with a few of the early films, just like drinking and smoking, the times were different.
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Cinderella
and
Sleeping Beauty
were not yet a Disney princess franchise. These movies were released with almost ten years between each other and in a much different society. The culture of the day in 1937, 1950 and 1959, the years they were released, was drastically different from today.

In those days (and with much less media attention and scrutiny) what was presented, certainly was largely fantasy but not totally radical in a social context. Women were primarily in the home and running the house. Unfortunately, they weren’t on a level playing field with men in a large part of society. It didn’t mean all women were damsels in distress from the 1930s through the end of the 1950s, nor did it mean their only value was in their looks.

Women don’t have to wait for a man to come and rescue them. They aren’t too naive or unable to fend for themselves, which is how many Disney films portrayed female characters. Typically, female Disney characters were working in the home, an evil tyrant, or a subservient, insecure beauty. These are hardly things most parents want their daughter to grow up to be. 

Herein lie the gripes of parents around the country in regards to the Disney princess franchise. All of this furthers the debate of Disney’s role in moral and social responsibility with their entertainment. Is Disney doing children a disservice with all of their storytelling, or is it merely
just
entertainment? Did Walt really know how impactful he would be with the early movies that featured princesses and the after-effect decades later?

The answer is probably no to both questions. Millions upon millions of little girls watched these movies and grew up to be physicians, lawyers, politicians and, oh yeah, plenty of real life princesses today, like the ones throughout Europe grew up to be educated independent women.

When Walt set out on his theme park endeavor, he wanted it to be a place both children and parents could enjoy together, something that would appeal and hold the interest of two vastly different audiences. As history reveals, he accomplished it. Perhaps his animated features started out the same way, but didn’t evolve with society. They are frozen glimpses in time, a fantasyland of yesterday to escape to and take at face value.

BOOK: Disney Declassified: Tales of Real Life Disney Scandals, Sex, Accidents and Deaths
5.54Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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