Disney is where dreams are made. Right? Well, when it comes to everything branded Disney, from their princess merch and TV shows to the parks they operate, plenty of problems have slid under the radar.
Most fans tend to ignore the issues, though. After all, part of the appeal of the characters, films, toys and stories is that they're all fantasy. People are passionate about their princesses, the "magic" and, of course, the theme park rides. It's so ingrained in modern culture that full-grown adults live for cosplay and canons about characters' backgrounds... as if they have any.
After all, what is Disney without its pixie dust and behind-the-scenes secrets?
But it's time to shed some light on the realities of Disney, regardless of how rosy it made our childhoods. As adults looking back, or maybe truly looking for the first time, here are 20 glaring problems with Disney that people just seem to ignore.
20 Nothing’s Ever Realistic
Yes, that’s part of what’s amazing about Disney. But things like Tarzan and Jane getting cozy even though Tarzan has literally never brushed his teeth? We can’t just ignore that as adults who still love us some Disney, even if the newest jungle hunk is Alexander Skarsgard.
19 They Take Liberties When It Suits Them
As a millennial who grew up watching Disney, and now as a mom, I appreciate the reinvention of some classics. Namely, Disney Descendants. What kid never imagined what life would be like for the princes and princesses post-happily-ever-after? But the three-part series missed some pivotal characters (Hook and Peter Pan!). And Hades and Maleficent having a daughter? Really?
18 Damsels In Distress Are A Recurring Theme
Attention, Disney: girl power is in these days. Apart from Brave, when has a Disney movie ever not ended with the leading lady (or one of them—we’re looking at you, Frozen) falling in love? We’re kind of over it, TBH. So far, Merida's been the only exception, and most fans argue she's not truly a "princess" anyway.
17 Decidedly Mature Messages Hide In Some Films
There’s a whole Wikipedia entry dedicated to awkward animation on the part of Disney’s creative department. Whether intentional or not, these issues have caused plenty of problems for Disney. The thing is, most people didn’t notice the images or even care—they’re widely accepted as “grown-up” jokes hidden in the kids’ movies.
16 Underlying Themes Aren’t So Romantic
Plenty of Disney’s movies are romantic—like Beauty and the Beast and Snow White—right? Well, not exactly… When you think about how Belle only fell in love with Beast after being stuck with him (sound like Stockholm syndrome?), or how Snow White was unconscious when the Prince smooched her, the “love stories” don’t seem so sweet.
15 Most Villains Make Grandma Look Bad
Daily Mail reported that a study back in 2007 found that Disney’s portrayal of older adults as villains was, essentially, giving little kids nightmares. Most “disagreeable” characters are older, the article quotes a study as concluding, and although some senior characters are positive, it’s not enough to convince kids that grannies aren’t evil.
14 Culture? What Culture?
Even in epic movies like Aladdin, there’s not a whole lot of cultural significance… Even though the lead characters are clearly not meant to be English-speaking. Of course, the newer iterations of many films have improved on those types of issues, thankfully. But there's still more work to be done here, Disney!
13 In What Disney Realm Do Men Talk More?
This one’s surprising, to say the least. In the majority of Disney movies, researchers found that male characters spoke more than female ones, Parents reported. Movies like The Little Mermaid gave guys more speaking time—68 percent of the lines belonged to [male] characters like Sebastian, King Triton, and Prince Eric.
12 Commercials Aren’t Always Kid-Friendly
Unfortunately, Disney’s problems extend beyond its classic films. Did you know Disney owns Hulu? Which means they’ve had to deal with non-kid-friendly commercials airing during their shows on the platform… A writer over at Inc. reported that the company didn’t seem to care, either—a clear departure from the saccharine “you’re watching Disney channel” ads on cable.
11 The Parents On Screen Are A Joke
As one disgruntled dad over at LA Weekly wrote, Disney doesn’t do much for showing parents as authority figures. He cites numerous shows where the parents are mostly buffoons—that is, when there are even parents on the show at all. The dads are lazy and inept, the moms care too much about appearances... Yeah, not real life at all.
10 Every Tween Character Has A Bad Attitude
Things got intense for Disney when Hannah Montana star Miley Cyrus finally… well, grew up. But let’s be honest—the issue with tween characters started before “Wrecking Ball.” Most of the teens on Disney’s shows (and movies) have bad attitudes and don’t exactly have good values—another complaint from the dad at LA Weekly.
9 Being A Princess Is Goals
With Disney’s history of painting princesses as helpless and hapless characters, plenty of parents avoid the label “princess” for their little girls. But the messages are still pervasive across all Disney products that being a princess—and looking pretty—is total goals. Plus, boy moms kind of wonder, where’s the love for our littles?
8 Princesses Are Mature Before Their Time
Did you know that Snow White is supposed to be 14 years old in her movie? Ariel was 16—and so was Merida—but Jasmine was only 15. In all honesty, it’s a bit weird that Disney states that their princesses are mostly underage when falling in love with princes and ruling kingdoms… Right?
7 Walt Disney’s Rep Isn’t Spotless
Though the father of Disney, Walt Disney himself, passed away many years ago, Biography notes that he wasn’t perfect, according to rumors. The publication reports that Walt was fine with perpetuating stereotypes in his films, and he maintained ties to people from questionable groups, too.
6 Not Everyone Has Always Been Welcome At Disney
Back in Disneyland’s early days, Walt ruled that people (mostly guys) with lots of hair—facial or otherwise—didn’t meet the theme park’s dress code, Biography notes. And that applied to both guests and the people who worked for Walt. Ironic, given that the man wore a mustache most of the time!
5 Safety Isn’t Always At The Forefront
Walt Disney World is a huge attraction in Orlando, Florida. So plenty of people heard about it when an alligator attacked a toddler near one of the hotels there. The little boy passed away, causing grief and plenty of controversy, too. Washington Post states that Disney knew the property had alligators, but they didn’t do enough to ensure visitors’ safety.
4 Employees At The Parks Don’t Get Enough Perks…
From news reports of workers living in their cars to confirmation that some employees only make $13,000 per year (per JWJ), there’s a lot to dislike about how Disney execs run their parks. Everyone's heard the behind-the-scenes stories about working for Mickey, and it's one of the ongoing issues with the brand.
3 … Plus Pay Isn’t Equal
The LA Times reported in early 2019 that Disney was being sued by two female employees who said they weren’t getting paid as much as their male counterparts. An attorney in the case noted that the company needs to get with the times, but Disney retorted that the lawsuit was “baseless.”
2 Some Movies Imitate Existing Art
A “Criticism of the Walt Disney Company” Wikipedia page includes a long list of plagiarism accusations against the company. From people who say The Lion King is too similar to a TV series (Kimba the White Lion) to an animator who said that Pixar employees copied her short film, there’s a lot of conversation about copyrights.
1 Accidents Happen… Sometimes A Lot
When it comes to theme parks, everyone knows there’s some risk involved. But from animal deaths to people falling off rides and experiencing seizures while on them, Disney parks have plenty of emergencies happening… There’s speculation that the company isn’t doing everything they can to prevent such scenarios—according to the Wiki page on “incidents” at Disney.
Sources: Daily Mail, Parents, LA Weekly, Biography, Washington Post, JWJ, LA Times