Why Disney Classics Are Only For Grownups

Um, are there any Disney classics that are appropriate for sensitive almost four year olds? Sunday was rainy and dismal, and by 4pm, Brett’s and my collective parental gas tank was at empty, and we had three hours of active duty left. Movie time.

We’ve watched A Good Dinosaur, Ice Age, and Fox and The Hound with Charlie successfully (and by successfully I mean they didn’t provoke any disconcerting questions about parenthood or mortality). Charlotte’s Web was a problem, not because of bacon, but because Wilbur’s mother was nowhere in sight. For another tale of missing mothers ruining my small son’s day, read this.

Sleeping Beauty was also a fail. Halfway through, in the midst of the horrifying scene in which Millificent lures Aurora to the green, eerily glowing spinning wheel, Charlie abruptly jumped up from his nest on the couch and demanded we turn the TV off. And really, after revisiting the severe graphics of 1959’s rather noir animation style, I couldn’t blame him. Dinosaur Train this was not.

So we started flicking through Netflix, Brett searching by category, slowly and agonizingly checking all 517 movies in the “children’s entertainment” section. His unflappable patience while doing this drives me bonkers – search by keyword for the love of god.

We assessed the options. Lion King – no way. Dad is stampeded to death and son is an eyewitness to the carnage. Bambi – obviously not. Bullets and the end of mummy. Aladdin could work, but that scene with Jafar and Jasmine in the hourglass is really quite frightening and seems slightly sexual (in a bad, misogynistic way). I wanted Beauty and the Beast (no orphans, no patricide, no matricide, Belle is probably the most intellectual and most fully clothed of all the Disney princesses, and lots of comedic relief by way of the Candlestick and the Teapot), but Beauty and the Beast was unavailable. Fail.

We were left with Cinderella and Little Mermaid. For whatever reason, we were hell bent on watching a Disney classic, and shunned the more obvious (and probably more age appropriate) Ratatouille, Cars, and Lego Movie. We basically chose a movie for our toddler out of cinematic snobbery more than a genuine desire to provide a joyful viewing experience for the little guy. And selfishly, we wanted to relive our childhood favorites. Ultimately we chose Little Mermaid because of the plethora of cheerful Jamaican beats and quirky animal friends.

Charlie said, “uh-oh” when Ursula slunk onto the scene, because duh, but otherwise watched the entire movie without any clear signs of duress. I was making coleslaw in the kitchen during Ariel’s rousing rendition of Part of Your World (when she poses majestically on the rock, waves splashing, you know what I’m talking about, the scene every girl has reenacted in every available body of water since Ariel first flapped her jaunty green tail), and I tell ya, I dare you to listen to the climax of that song without getting goosebumps. That shit is legit.

HOWEVER, how did I miss the fact that Ariel was fucking 16? We’re talking statutory rape in most states (not that Triton’s kingdom is technically part of the ol’ U.S. of A, but still). Did Triton have to sign a parental agreement form? Did he make some sort of patriarchal marriage deal with Eric, giving him a hefty dowry of pearls and sushi-grade tuna? Also, the moronic look of “love” on Ariel’s face when she first sees Eric is gross. She goes from being a curious, driven, inquisitive individual to being brain-dead with lust.

Today, Wren was playing with her little rubber octopus (one of those bath toys that you can buy at the grocery store – distinctly un-scary), and Charlie suddenly started shrieking that he was scared of the octopus. When further questioned, he sited the octopus “from the movie.” Obviously. An hour later, he ran into the bathroom where I was sorting laundry, and told me the TV was scaring him. The TV was not on. Apparently, his fear that Ursula might pop up unannounced on the screen was wreaking havoc with Charlie’s imagination.

Lots of hugs today, and lots of discussions about “pretend” stories and creatures. But totally not worth the ninety minutes of zen-time yesterday afternoon. Guess it’s back to a strict diet of Thomas and Daniel Tiger for the foreseeable future. Daniel Tiger’s saint of a teacher probably even has a song I can utilize for this particular parenting quagmire.

“When we do, something new, let’s talk what we’ll do.”


“If you’re haunted by a terrifying octopus/woman monster who steals a young woman’s voice, letttttt’s talk about what we’ll do.”

disney movies and kids

Sara Petersen

I am a bookworm, a lover of all things beautiful and curious and fun, and a total perfectionist when it comes to writing clear, relatable, REAL prose. I am obsessive about searching the depths of the Internet for the most perfect of all French butter crocks. I am ever-intrigued about how life, love, and relationship continue to shift and morph in my thirties

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