The Fox and the Hound 1981

10 Disney Movies That Left Us Traumatized for Life

By: Matt

When most people think of Disney, they picture family-friendly entertainment full of good laughs, positivity and plenty of heart. But the media powerhouse does more than just paint the world as a picture-perfect place. Disney has no qualms about showing audiences the darker side of life!

While most people have countless good memories of watching Disney flicks with their families during childhood, there’s no shortage of scenes that left us traumatized for life! Here are ten movies that left a darker impact on audiences.

1. “The Lion King” (1994)

The Lion King 1994

“The Lion King” is one of Disney’s most beloved films. It came out during the so-called “Disney Renaissance.” era of the 1990s. It’s full of great songs, an inspiring narrative and captivating characters. But ask any child of the 90s, and they’ll tell you that it also has one of the most traumatizing scenes in child cinema.

The scene in question is none other than Mufasa’s death. Young Sima watches in horror as his father is trampled to death by wildebeests. The symbolism of the scene is nothing short of heartbreaking, and Simba snuggling up to his father’s dead body as he realizes he’s alone in the world is gut-wrenching. However, it’s an important part of the story that makes Mufasa’s spiritual guidance much more impactful later in the movie.

2. “Bambi” (1942)

Bambi 1942

Another parent-related death came much earlier in Disney’s history with 1942’s “Bambi.” Seriously, what is with Disney depicting parental deaths?

“Bambi” was released during Disney’s Golden Age of animation and was reportedly one of Walt Disney’s favorites. The film is a coming-of-age story with plenty of fun characters and laughs. Who doesn’t remember Bambi trying to get over the frozen lake?

However, the thing that most people remember is the death of Bambi’s mother. As Bambi’s mom grazes on the grass, an unseen “Man” comes and kills her. The “Man” is a hunter, and the gunshot followed by Bambi’s cries is the epitome of traumatizing childhood cinema. At the time, the scene was shocking because no other film had introduced the concept of parental death to children in such a visceral way. Even today, over 80 years later, it remains one of cinematic history’s most memorable and devastating scenes.

3. “Hocus Pocus” (1993)

Hocus Pocus 1993

“Hocus Pocus” is a more lighthearted romp than the two previous films. It’s a cult classic that’s so popular among Gen-X and Millenials that Disney finally made a sequel nearly three decades later. There’s a lot to love about this film. You have a talking cat, tons of great humor from Bette Midler and a great cast of characters, including Katherine Najimy and Sarah Jessica Parker.

While the film is mostly a laugh riot, some traumatizing scenes are sprinkled throughout. First, there’s the entire backstory of Thackery Binx watching the three witches sucking the life of his younger sister. That reunion at the end? Instant tears!

Then, there’s the death of Thackery’s black cat form and Thora Birch’s tearful goodbye.

The movie also has a spooky scene involving the witches putting Salem’s parents under mind control. While it all happens during a fun musical number, watching those parents “dance until they die” was pretty creepy.

4. “Beauty and the Beast” (1991)

Beauty and the Beast 1991

“Beauty and the Beast” is another animated film that debuted during the “Disney Renaissance.” Like other movies of that era, the animation was breathtaking, and the songs were certified hits. Come on! Don’t tell me you don’t automatically start singing “Tale as old as time, true as it can be” once you hear the start of the theme song!

Despite all the fun of the film, many traumatic moments occur. The entire concept of Belle being held captive was enough to send shivers down the spine of many girls. What’s even scarier is the scene where Belle gets chased by wolves. Disney has a knack for creating a terrifying ambiance, and this scene is no different. As she’s running for her life, Belle encounters bats, sudden cliffs, spooky mist and more.

5. “Dumbo” (1941)

Dumbo 1941

Disney yet again pulls at the heartstrings and makes kids automatically run into their parent’s arms with “Dumbo.” This film features the titular character, an elephant, who finds his mother imprisoned. Before that, we see her getting whipped by an overzealous circus Ringmaster. The scene is super dramatic thanks to Disney animators’ uncanny ability to depict emotion in their characters.

However, it’s what comes after that traumatized us the most. After inadvertently drinking champagne, Dumbo begins to hallucinate. What follows is “Pink Elephants on Parade,” a truly strange song and scene. Dumbo hallucinates, seeing pink elephants dancing while tons of crazy stuff appears on the screen. It’s a five-minute scene that feels like it lasts forever.

Not only is it jarring, but its psychedelic nature makes it a horror for youngsters. “Dumbo” hasn’t aged well due to some of its problematic character depictions, but this is one scene that we just can’t forget.

6. “Fantasia” (1940)

Fantasia 1940

“Fantasia” came out in 1940 and was a unique departure from what the studio previously put out. Even today, it’s very different than anything Disney’s put out since. Instead of the gripping narratives Disney is known for, “Fantasia” contained a series of animated vignettes set to Western classical music. It’s an abstract project that allowed animators to flex their skills.

Some of the most well-known portions of “Fantasia” include “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice,” which featured Mickey and eventually became a full-fledged live-action film. That’s not the traumatizing part. The most horrifying part of “Fantasia” is “Night on Bald Mountain.”

This horrifying scene is still creepy today. It features a myriad of creatures summoned from their deep slumbers. Ghouls, skeletons, poltergeists and more dance to Modest Mussorgsky’s piece while drenched in moonlight. The main focus is Chernabog, a demon-like creature that sits on a mountain. 

It’s nightmare-inducing. If it gave you the creeps in the past, you may have another source of trauma in the future. Disney is reportedly developing a live-action movie based on the sequence, Chernabog and all!

7. “The Fox and the Hound” (1981)

The Fox and the Hound 1981

“The Fox and the Hound” is a lesser-known Disney movie. It came out during the 1980s during a transitional period for the studio. Disney didn’t have many hits during this time, before the “Disney Renaissance.” But those of us who were lucky to watch it enjoyed plenty of heartbreaking trauma!

The story of this animated film centers around an unlikely friendship between a fox, Tod, and a hound dog, Cooper. Typically, hound dogs hunt foxes, so the film showed youngsters the power of friendship, no matter how “strange” they might seem.

The devastating part of this film occurs when the two animals’ owner realizes that a grown fox can’t function around humans in the same way a dog can. So, she drives Tod the fox to the middle of the forest, emotionally removes his collar and drives away. The look on the faces of the fox and the hound is so heartbreaking; It still draws tears just thinking about it!

8. “Toy Story 3” (2010)

Toy Story 3 - 2010

The “Toy Story” films have always been classics. The first two films in the series were initially made by Pixar for Disney. However, the animation studio became a wholly-owned subsidiary of Disney in 2006. “Toy Story 3” was released in 2010, continuing a story that began back in 1995!

It resonated with audiences that grew up with the series, and Disney did a fantastic job connecting that to the story. Andy was all grown up, and the gang mistakenly ended up on the curb as trash. What follows is one of the most gut-wrenching scenes of the franchise, and it’s one that got adults screaming at their screens!

The film’s villain, Lotso, traps Buzz, Woody and the toy gang in a trash incinerator. We watch the toys struggle, getting tossed around among other trash, failing to escape a fiery fate. As they are about to fall into the incinerator, it’s like watching a childhood friend make peace with their impending doom! Fortunately, the quirky aliens come to the rescue at the last second, letting us breathe a huge sigh of relief. How dare you play with our emotions like that, Disney!

9. “The Black Cauldron” (1985)

The Black Cauldron - 1985

Here’s another 1980s animated Disney film you might not have heard of. Consider yourself lucky! While the film is great, it has a reputation for nearly killing the entire Disney animation studio. It’s the first animated Disney film to get a PG rating. Why? It’s downright terrifying!

Think of “Night on Bald Mountain.” But instead of a small sequence in a longer film about music and beautiful imagery, it’s an entire film of Chernabog-level horror. It’s a dreary film based on “Chronicles of Prydain.” While most Disney animated films are bright and colorful, this is dark, haunting and scary.

The villain is one of Disney’s most terrifying. Dubbed “The Horned King,” the character is like a souped-up skeletal monster with glowing red eyes, talons and a mysterious good. The antagonist summons murderous skeleton warriors, too. As if that weren’t enough, there’s a scene where one character sacrifices himself to let the others live. 

Don’t expect to see any of that in modern Disney films!

10. “Don’t Look Under the Bed” (1999)

Don’t Look Under the Bed - 1999

We’ll end this list with “Don’t Look Under the Bed.” Unlike the other films widely viewed in theaters or home media, this one didn’t get much attention. You can still watch it today on streaming. However, for a while, Disney refused to air it due to complaints from parents!

“Don’t Look Under the Bed” is a Disney Channel Original Movie (DCOM). It aired during the Halloween season in 1999 and earned a TV-PG rating. The film features a teenage character getting haunted by the literal Boogeyman! The makeup and practical effects were what made this movie so terrifying. 

The Boogeyman’s look is truly unsettling, and the same goes for one of the other characters who slowly transforms into another Boogeyman! Pair all that with the amazing setpiece of the Boogeyman dimension under the protagonist’s bed, and you have a traumatizing project for kids expecting the same old lighthearted DCOM!

What Disney Trauma Do You Remember?

Those are just ten movies that left us traumatized as kids, but there are plenty more. Disney has released many films throughout its long history. Most people remember the major hits, but the studio has its fair share of scary missteps. Whether you remember these films fondly or not, there’s no denying they left an impression on multiple generations!