Tag Archives: Disney

Disturbing Disney #4: Dumbo loses his mother (1941)


When I was compiling a list of ‘disturbing’ moments in Disney films, a particular scene in Dumbo (1941) immediately jumped up to almost the top of the list.

The film tells the story of a baby elephant named Dumbo who is born with overly large ears, a feature which earns mocking and scorn from the other circus elephants. Despite this, Dumbo is relatively happy because he has his mother, Mrs. Jumbo, with him.


But this happy pair isn’t going to be together for long, and that is why the following scene is on the list of ‘disturbing’ Disney moments.

Mrs. Jumbo is taken away (Dumbo, 1941)

The circus has come to a new town, and after taking part in a big parade, the circus animals are on display in a big tent for the curious public, including Mrs. Jumbo and Dumbo. Everything is fine until a goofy kid comes by and takes special interest in Dumbo’s big ears. The baby elephant doesn’t quite understand what’s going on, but his mother certainly does, so she pushes Dumbo away and turns her back to the crowd. From here things only go downhill.


Dumb kid

Against all reason, the kid goes into the enclosure and begins pulling Dumbo out by his tail, further messing with his ears in the process. Now Mrs. Jumbo is getting upset; she takes Dumbo away again, but the kid just won’t let it be (he clearly hasn’t heard the rule that says you must NEVER come between a mother animal and her young). He grabs Dumbo again and THIS time Mrs. Jumbo has had enough. He picks up the kid with her trunk and gives him a good shake and that’s when everything goes to pieces.


The crowd reacts with panic and there are cries of “mad elephant!!!” Instead of the kid getting punished for riling up Mrs. Jumbo in the first place, the circus workers move to tie up Mrs. Jumbo for doing what any mother would do: protecting her baby!! I find this scene so heartwrenching and so horrifying, I eventually found myself unable to watch, because I would get so upset. There’s so much happening at once: Mrs. Jumbo is being tied with ropes from all sides; the ringmaster is WHIPPING her, and worst of all, Dumbo is grabbed by a couple of workers and carried away from his panicked mother. She only wants her baby, but now the ropes are replaced with chains, and it will be a long time before Dumbo sees his mother again.

I find this scene disturbing because of the unfairness of it all. Mrs. Jumbo didn’t do anything wrong, she was simply defending her baby from a dumb kid who was trying to hurt him. If anything, it’s the kid who should’ve been punished, what right did he have to go in the enclosure with the elephants in the first place?? And the whole scene with Mrs. Jumbo being forcibly tied up while her baby is being taken away, it just rips my heart to pieces. It’s a messed up, disturbing moment, and one that is hard to forget.

What do you think of this scene from Dumbo? Let me know in the comments below, have a good rest of the day 🙂

For more Disturbing Disney see also:

Disturbing Disney #1: The Coachman in Pinocchio (1940)

Disturbing Disney #2: The truth of Pleasure Island in Pinocchio (1940)

Disturbing Disney #3: Escaping Monstro from Pinocchio (1940)

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Michael Giacchino talks Zootopia (2016)


Michael Giacchino talks Zootopia (2016)

While I am still profoundly irked that Zootopia beat out Kubo and the Two Strings for Best Animated Feature at the Oscars, I cannot deny that the film has a pretty good musical score. Composed by the talented Michael Giacchino, the music of Zootopia features a world-music vibe to cover the vast array of species (and ways of life) highlighted in the story.

If you haven’t seen Zootopia, the film follows bunny Judy Hopps as she becomes the first rabbit on the Zootopia police force, in a city where (in theory) any animal can become anything they want to be, regardless of whether they are considered “hunter” or “prey” species. This notion is tested when Judy is put on a (seemingly hopeless) case that she must solve in a very short time or lose her job, and to complicate matters, she must work with a fox.

In this behind the scenes clip, Giacchino takes us to the recording studio and introduces five percussionists who helped create Zootopia’s unique sound. While the main orchestra is best recognized in any film score, often the percussion is overlooked (or worse, lost in the sound mix), so it’s great to see not only how they used percussion instruments in the score, but also how the percussion ties everything together at key moments.

My thanks to Michael Giacchino for giving us this inside look into part of the scoring process for Zootopia, which really is a great film despite my grumblings. I hope you enjoy the video and if you haven’t tried Zootopia before, please take a chance and check it out 🙂

Disturbing Disney will return tomorrow with a scene from Dumbo (1941) that I found deeply traumatizing as a child (not to mention profoundly cruel). Until then, enjoy the day!!

If you’d like to learn more about the film scores of Michael Giacchino, see here

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Disturbing Disney #3: Escaping Monstro from Pinocchio (1940)

This will be the final entry for Pinocchio and it involves a moment that deeply disturbed me the older I got. But before I get there, I need to tell you how Pinocchio and company get into this mess in the first place.

Searching for (and escaping from) Monstro, Pinocchio (1940)

So….while Pinocchio is off getting into all kinds of trouble (i.e. Stromboli and Pleasure Island), poor Geppetto has been waiting and waiting (along with Figaro the cat and Cleo the goldfish). Finally, he packs up and goes looking for his wayward son, eventually ending up far out at sea, where his ship is swallowed by Monstro the whale (all of this is relayed to Pinocchio by a message from the Blue Fairy).


Yup…that’s Monstro (I had to be reassured as a kid that most whales weren’t like this)

Monstro IS a pretty disturbing character if you think about it. He’s a cross between a sperm whale (hence the teeth) and a blue whale (overall size) and possesses a vile temper to boot. Even little Jiminy Cricket has heard of this monster and it’s all bad news: Monstro swallows “entire ships” and is not to be trifled with. Nevertheless, Pinocchio wants his father back, so off the pair goes to take a stroll on the ocean floor in search of Monstro (the very mention of the name sends any and all sea life fleeing for their lives). Since Pinocchio is made of wood, he doesn’t have to worry about breathing underwater (as to why Jiminy can do it, being a cricket and all, well, it IS a Disney movie, so anything is possible).


Side note: the animator who created these fish is still alive at the ripe old age of 103

After much searching, Pinocchio is reunited with Geppetto when Monstro pursues a school of tuna for a meal, bringing along Pinocchio in the process (but not Jiminy, he’s stuck outside!). It’s a happy reunion, except for the awkward moment when Geppetto finds his son has grown donkey ears and a tail, but since they’re together again, all is forgiven. Pinocchio wants to escape, but even when Geppetto patiently explains that “nothings comes out” once Monstro has eaten, that determined puppet isn’t giving up. He plans to make the whale sneeze by creating lots of smoke, and the sneeze should force out the small raft that Geppetto built a while back.

The plan works!!! Monstro lets out a mighty sneeze and the raft is sent way out into the ocean, but now the great whale is furious (and I do mean FURIOUS!!) that prey has managed to escape him, so he sets off in hot pursuit. The only hope Geppetto, Pinocchio and company have now is to reach the safety of the rocks on shore before Monstro smashes them all to pieces. They nearly make it, but Monstro smashes the raft, forcing Pinocchio to frantically swim the rest of the way, dragging Geppetto along so he doesn’t drown.


Giant whale incoming: AHHHHHHH!!!!!!

This is the first disturbing moment: in the last part of the chase, Monstro becomes truly frightening (even more so than before), and when you see this shot up above, how can anyone not be terrified, especially if you’re a little kid?

At any rate, Pinocchio makes it to the edge of the rocks mere moments before Monstro comes barrelling in like a freight train, smashing the rocks to pieces and sending everyone flying in separate directions.

Geppetto, Figaro, Cleo and even Jiminy are all shown on the beach, but where is Pinocchio? Well…the answer is what made me add this to the Disturbing list. Jiminy is searching for Pinocchio when suddenly we hear this terrible gasp and see THIS:


Now I know technically Pinocchio hasn’t drowned (he’s made of wood and all that) and it was the force of Monstro’s impact that likely killed him but COME ON DISNEY!!! This is a disturbing, horrifying image. Granted it only lasts for a moment, but this image has been permanently burned into my brain. It is messed up that they would show a kid (wooden or not) dead like this. And it’s a pretty major shift considering in the previous animated film, when Snow White falls “dead” we only see her arm as she collapses to the floor.

Of course I should mention that we do get our happy ending shortly thereafter. The Blue Fairy determines that Pinocchio has done very well and brings him back to life, but this time as a real flesh and blood human boy, to the overwhelming joy of Geppetto, Jiminy and everyone else.

Despite the happy ending, the entire encounter with Monstro is very disturbing and rightly deserves to be included on this list. Let me know what you think about this scene in the comments below, did you find it disturbing as well?

For more Disturbing Disney, see also:

Disturbing Disney #1: The Coachman in Pinocchio (1940)

Disturbing Disney #2: The truth of Pleasure Island in Pinocchio (1940)

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Patrick Doyle Talks Cinderella (2015)


Patrick Doyle talks Cinderella (2015)

In 2015 Cinderella became the latest Disney animated film to undergo the live-action remake treatment and the results were….okay (depending on who you ask). The biggest change between the 1950 original and this version is that the latter is not a musical (which I think is a real shame).

Unlike Maleficent, which told the Sleeping Beauty story from the perspective of the titular character, Cinderella basically retold the story straight (with various changes here and there, but nothing too extreme). And as beautiful as it looked in the previews, I couldn’t bring myself to watch it, as I grew up watching the animated film. Also, no offense, but Cate Blanchett has NOTHING on Eleanor Audley when it comes to playing Lady Tremaine (I watched a few clips to get an idea of the film).

One bright spot is Patrick Doyle’s score, created with an emphasis on romance. Doyle frequently collaborates with director Kenneth Branagh (including Hamlet and Thor) and the resulting music was well-received by critics. Doyle briefly mentions the score in a red carpet interview I was able to find for the film’s premiere (available in the link above). Doyle enjoyed creating the music for this film and described it as being “very eclectic.”

Unfortunately it is a very short interview, but I hope you enjoy it (if anyone can point me to a longer interview regarding this film, I will happily add it) 🙂

I’m glad everyone is enjoying Disturbing Disney so far; I just wanted to let you know that the next installment will come next week. Right now the university is on spring break and I’m working extra hours so I don’t have a lot of time to work on that series right now (that’s why I’ve been doing smaller posts thus far).

If you’d like to learn more about the film scores of Patrick Doyle, see here

Don’t forget to like Film Music Central on Facebook 🙂

Disturbing Disney #2: The truth of Pleasure Island in Pinocchio (1940)

Before we get to what makes this scene so disturbing, we need a little context first:

So as you might expect, Pinocchio is talked into taking a little trip to Pleasure Island (despite Jiminy’s best efforts to stop him). They join a carriage full to the brim of rowdy boys pulled by eight donkeys (remember that detail). It’s so crowded in fact, that Pinocchio is sitting up front by the Coachman with an older boy named Lampwick. They bond as kids tend to do when they’re traveling together and after a long ferry ride to Pleasure Island, the pair stick together once they get inside.


Pleasure Island looks like the world’s biggest amusement park. There’s the typical rides, a Ferris Wheel, and lots of deliciouis food to eat (pies, ice cream, popcorn, etc.) along with other attractions you wouldn’t normally find: a tent devoted to fistfighting, a model house that the boys are free to rip apart, even “Tobacco Row” where the boys can have all the cigars they want (remember, this is 1940). And above all the clamor is the repeated sound of voices saying “Help yourselves boys, it’s all FREE, everything is FREE!” Jiminy Cricket smells a rat from the start though, but he’s lost Pinocchio in the crowd, so there’s really nothing he can do at the moment. In all the chaos, nobody notices when the Coachman orders the gates to be shut, remarking ominously “give a boy enough rope, and he’ll make a jackass of himself before long.” It’s an odd comment, but it’s meaning becomes too clear in a few minutes

Pinocchio “Pleasure Island part 1” (1940)

After a short scene break, we see that Pleasure Island is now deserted. All the rides are dark, the place is a mess, but there’s no boys, anywhere! We know they haven’t gone home because even Jiminy is wondering where the boys are. Actually, the place isn’t entirely empty, Pinocchio and Lampwick are busy playing pool while drinking and smoking cigars, but we’ll get back to them in a moment. After Jiminy gets into an argument with the pair, finally telling them to go ahead and “make jackasses” of themselves, he heads to the gate to leave, but on the other side, he hears the sound of donkeys….a LOT of donkeys.


It’s horrifying to hear this little donkey cry “I want to go home to my mama!” When you know that’s NEVER going to happen!

Through a crack, Jiminy emerges to find the Coachman and his minions loading crate after crate of donkeys back onto the ferry used to take the boys to the island. What happens next is the first disturbing part of this scene:

Pinocchio “The Donkeys/Lampwick’s Fate” (1940)

As you see, the Coachman is screening the donkeys to see if they’re still capable of speech. If they bray in response, they’re stripped of their clothing and sent into an available crate (labeled for the salt mines and the circus, among other places). But in the case of others, like Alexander, who CAN still talk, they’re sent back to a waiting area, until presumably they lose their ability to speak. This is the moment that disturbs me and breaks my heart: when Alexander is thrown back, you can hear him and the others begging to go home, they don’t WANT to be donkeys, and then the Coachman snaps “QUIET!! You boys have had your fun, now PAY for it!” Remember earlier when the carnival promised the boys that “everything is free?” Of course it wasn’t free, that’s one of the first lessons we learn in life, but now these boys have to learn it the hard way.

Now back to Pinocchio and Lampwick (this is the REALLY disturbing part): Lampwick is still making fun of Jiminy, when suddenly his ears turn into donkey ears (to Pinocchio’s surprise).


The oblivious Lampwick continues to mock, and then a donkey tail sprouts out!


“What does he think I look like, a jackass?” Lampwick doesn’t realize it, but his face IS that of a donkey’s now.


Based on Lampwick’s reaction, I think he’d heard stories about Pleasure Island, but had never believed them (hence his cry “I’ve been double crossed (betrayed)”, I bet the Coachman assured him those stories were lies.)

Pinocchio laughingly tells him he does until his laugh changes into a donkey bray. Lampwick finds that funny until HE brays too. Then, Lampwick realizes that something is wrong with HIM! “What…what’s going on?” he asks desperately as he feels his changed face and discovers he has long donkey ears. And then…he sees his face in the mirror and screams “I’ve been double crossed!! Help! Help!! Somebody help!!” Lampwick is running through the pool hall desperately but there’s nothing anyone can do. Pinocchio can only watch in horror as the rest of Lampwick’s body begins to change (an especially horrifying part is when Lampwick’s hands, clawing at Pinocchio for ANY kind of help, turn into hooves before the puppet’s terrified eyes).

Screenshot 2014-01-08 14.22.32

Lampwick’s final change is a disturbing moment, especially since you can hear him fighting against losing the power to speak as a human

And then, like a scene straight out of a horror movie, we see Lampwick’s final change in silhouette. With a final cry of “Mama, MAMA!!!” Lampwick is forced down to all fours and begins frantically braying, kicking and smashing everything in sight. It’s a horrifying fate for anyone to experience, but these are all young kids that are now condemned to a lifetime of cruel torture and servitude. There’s no happy ending for these boys, not even a glimmer of hope. And the same fate nearly comes to Pinocchio as well as HE begins to change also (though noticeably he’s changing into a GRAY donkey, everyone else turned brown.) Fortunately, Jiminy finds Pinocchio in time and the pair flee the cursed island quickly enough that Pinocchio only has donkey ears and a tail.

What a horrifying, disturbing fate for all those little boys. And just imagine all the families who are waiting for children that will never come home? The more you think about the situation, the more disturbing it becomes. And remember at the beginning when I pointed out the coach was drawn by donkeys? I have no doubt that the Coachman uses boys-turned-int0-donkeys to help carry more boys to Pleasure Island for the same fate. Oh the disturbing irony of it all. Without a doubt, THIS is one of the most disturbing moments in all of Disney animation, not just because of Lampwick’s terrified reaction to his transformation, but also because these hundreds of boys are left to their fate, with no hope of rescue.

Next time will be one more example from Pinocchio; see, even though he’s escaped Pleasure Island, Pinocchio isn’t out of danger yet. That’s because his father Geppetto has been swallowed by a whale…

See also:

Disturbing Disney #1: The Coachman in Pinocchio (1940)

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Disturbing Disney #1: The Coachman in Pinocchio (1940)

A quick note: I’m actually going to see Logan tonight (!!!) so my review should be up tomorrow or Wednesday at the latest!!

I think it should go without saying that Pinocchio is one of the most disturbing Disney movies ever created. It will certainly occupy quite a few places in this series (which is why I’m starting out with it), and one of the most disturbing parts of this film is the character of the Coachman (voiced by Charles Judels, who coincidentally also voices Stromboli in the same film).


The Coachman is introduced about halfway through the film. At a sleepy tavern one night, the tricksters “Honest” John (a fox) and Gideon (a cat) are regaling the Coachman with how they tricked Pinocchio into going with Stromboli, the latter paying them a (tiny) modest fee in return. The Coachman appears bemused by all of this, and finally asks the two if they’d like to make some REAL money, thumping down an enormous bag of money on the table. To get paid, all Honest John and Gideon have to do is find as many naughty boys as they can and direct them to a coach that he has leaving at midnight. A few of the details are obscured in whispers, but the conclusion is that by the end of it all, the Coachman will be taking all the boys off to Pleasure Island.

Pinocchio “The Coachman’s Proposition” (1940)

“PLEASURE ISLAND?!!?” Honest John appears petrified for once and questions what will happen if the law finds out?? (Note how the music rises in “panic” along with Honest John’s words). Given the disregard for the law Honest John has shown before, it speaks volumes that he’s worried about it now. But the Coachman isn’t worried as there’s no risk: “You see…” he says “they never come back…as BOYS!!!”


THIS is what makes this a “Disturbing Disney” scene, not just the Coachman’s threat about the boys never returning (as humans) but also his unexpected transformation into this monstrous/demonic figure. When I re-watched the film for the first time in many years, I literally leaped back in my seat as I hadn’t remembered this part at all!! It’s a truly disturbing moment that makes the skin crawl. Clearly, the Coachman isn’t an ordinary human, in fact, I don’t think he’s human at all! Based on what we’ll see in the second installment, I think it likely that the Coachman is a literal “devil in disguise” (he is wearing red after all) or at the very least he’s a dark spirit working in league with the devil.

One last note, I just wanted to mention my thoughts on something I read while researching for this post: for those who say that this scene is a metaphor for pedophilia (i.e. they never come back as “boys” because he’s going to use them in THAT way, etc.), I would say consider WHEN this film was made. I’m not saying that issue didn’t exist in 1940, but films were still highly censored when it came to taboo subjects and if the review board had the slightest inkling that’s what this moment referred to, the scene would have been cut for sure (or the line would have been altered). That’s all I wanted to say about that; I believe the Coachman’s words can be interpreted literally, they’re not coming back as “boys” because they’re not going to be human when they return.

And to think this is found in a movie watched by children…*shudders* and if you think THIS is bad, just wait until #2, that’s when I’ll tell you the secret of Pleasure Island (and what happens to Pinocchio’s friend Lampwick…I nearly started with this scene instead but I thought it would be better to build up to it.)

What do you think of the first installment of “Disturbing Disney” ? I promise I’ve got plenty more to share with you. I can’t wait to see Logan tonight and share my thoughts on it with you 🙂

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Pocahontas “Savages, Part II” (1995)

At the conclusion of “Savages, Part I”, the English settlers and the warriors led by Powhatan were preparing for battle (with the latter planning to execute John Smith first thing in the morning). Meanwhile, Pocahontas has fled to Grandmother Willow, upset and depressed that everything is falling apart and the man she’s so recently fallen in love with is going to be executed and there’s nothing she can do to stop it.

Pocahontas “Savages, Part II” (1995)

Grandmother Willow tries to give some advice, reminding Pocahontas of her dream, but she isn’t in the mood to hear it. Meeko, however, is inspired to dig inside his hole in the tree for something. This “something” turns out to be John Smith’s compass, which contains a large arrow shaped needle inside (Meeko had swiped it during an earlier meeting and Smith had let the raccoon keep it). Pocahontas watches the compass and realizes that as she turns it in her hands, the arrow/needle spins, just like the arrow in her dream!!


From the moment Pocahontas picked the compass up, the music has begun to pick up in intensity (clearly signalling that something big is about to happen). When she makes the connection between the compass needle and her dream, it picks up a little more. At the peak, there is a short, instrumental refrain of “Listen With Your Heart” as several things happen at once: the sun rises (it’s time for the execution) and the compass needle comes to a stop pointing directly east. The meaning is clear: Pocahontas needs to stop the execution.


With this decision made, the song resumes with an abrupt cut to Ratcliffe literally walking out of the sunrise, cutting a villainous figure in his black armor. At the same time, Powhatan and his warriors begin the march to the execution site (with Smith in tow) while, in a THIRD musical thread, Pocahontas begins her run to stop an all-out war!


And, according to the song, Pocahontas truthfully doesn’t know if she can stop this war from happening, but with the power of the spirits (which she invokes along the way), she’s certainly going to try. This semi-hopeful verse is sharply contrasted with the two warring sides who are basically singing the same words (so I’m copying the verse in full):

(Them:)This will be the day/This will be the morning/We will see them dying in the dust

(Pocahontas): I don’t know what I can do/still I know I have to try

(Them):Now we make them pay!

(Pocahontas): Eagle help my feet fly!/(Them): Now without a warning

(Pocahontas): Mountain help my heart be great/(Them): Now we leave ’em blood and bone and dust

(Pocahontas):Spirits of the Earth and Sky/(Them): It’s them, or us

(Pocahontas): Please don’t let it be too late!!/Them: They’re just a bunch of filthy, stinking…

(Them): Savages, savages/demons, devils (kill them!)/savages, savages, what are we waiting for? Destroy their evil race, until there’s no a trace left!

(Pocahontas): How loud are the drums of war!!/Them: Now we see what comes, of trying to be chums/ Pocahontas: Is this the death of all I love, carried in the drumming of…

(All): WAR!!!

Towards the end, all three groups converge at a cliff where the tribe has assembled to execute Smith as revenge for Kocuom’s death. While the approaching settlers watch in horror, Powhatan prepares to crush Smith’s skull with a war hammer (a club with a large stone set in it). At the last moment, Pocahontas darts forward and throws herself over Smith before the hammer can fall.

Saved!!! For now anyway. Pocahontas has an ultimatum: if Powhatan wants to kill John Smith, he has to kill her too, and also she loves him (to the surprise of her father). All of this, Pocahontas says, is the result of walking a path of anger. She, meanwhile, will choose love.

Moved by what his daughter has said, and seeing the slaughter that will come if they continue, Powhatan swears that if there will be any more killing “it will not start with me” and he orders Smith to be released. Everyone begins to lower their weapons, and war seems to have been averted…which is great…right?

Ratcliffe doesn’t think so. This was his big chance to take the Indians out and now the battle isn’t happening at all!. He tries to take advantage by shouting for his men to fire, but the settlers aren’t having it. The whole point of attacking was to rescue Smith, but the tribe has let him go so clearly they don’t want to fight (and therefore neither should they). Seeing his control slip away, Ratcliffe decides to force the issue, grabbing a musket and taking aim at Powhatan. Smith sees this and shoves the chief out of the way just as Ratcliffe fires, taking the bullet instead. Instead of sparking a new conflict, this backfires horribly and Ratcliffe finds him at the receiving end of the settlers’ wrath (a great comeuppance for Ratcliffe by the way, since he ends up being hog-tied by the end).

So on the one hand, the day is saved, but on the other, John is badly injured. This is one Disney film that won’t have the typical ending. How do I mean? Well, you’ll have to check out the finale to find out 🙂

It nearly goes without saying that “Savages, Parts I and II” are one of my favorite Disney songs and I hope you enjoyed reading about it and listening to it. Have a great day! -Becky

For more Pocahontas, see also:

Pocahontas “The Virginia Company” (1995)

Pocahontas “Steady as the Beating Drum” (1995)

Pocahontas “Listen With Your Heart” (1995)

Pocahontas “Mine, Mine, Mine!” (1995)

Pocahontas “Savages, Part I” (1995)

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