Top 10 Biggest Controversies In Disney

No doubt, the Walt Disney Company, commonly known as Disney, contributes significantly in defining the happiest moments of a child. With production spanning over nine decades, Disney films are numerous, diverse, entertaining and heartwarming, and usually very influential to children and even adults who watch animations. Unfortunately, not all Disney films are without criticism. Over the years, some older works of Disney have been criticized due to their politically incorrect or dated messages, and the context of the social, political and cultural ideas at the time the films were produced.

Rather than reduce, these controversies have increased in recent productions in terms of portrayal of woman, fashion and language in Disney films. These controversies reflect the historical progression of society that would now raise an eyebrow on a Disney movie that was loved and accepted 60 years ago. Obviously, Disney movies are targeted at the young at heart, and it is important that the minds of children are not poisoned with skewed views about the world, laws, culture and people of other races. Among other movies that have been heavily criticized for their controversial messages, here are the top 10 loudest Disney controversies.

10. Alice In Wonderland – Drug Related Imagery

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Alice in Wonderland is among Disney’s most loved children movies, but unfortunately, it has scenes portraying drug use. The most obvious is of course the caterpillar, who is constantly chugging on a Hookah pipe. Various other elements of the film correspond to drug use; Alice is seen eating mushrooms, shrinking from big to small (corresponding to the highs and lows of drug use) and the Mad Hatter’s behavior mimics the frantic nature of someone under the influence of drugs. The story was written when opium smoking was very common, and the result was a film showing various effects produced by taking psychedelic drug. However, it has been said that ‘Alice in Wonderland’ has the potential to give children mixed messages about drug use.

9. Peter Pan – The Native Americans

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Critics say the portrayal of the Native Americans in Peter Pan is highly offensive. Also the song ‘What Makes The Red Man Red?, that was sang in the movie is offensive and stereotypical. The Native Americans are portrayed as wild compared to their white friends, and are shown running around teepees with feathers in their hair, clapping their hands over their mouths. Not a nice way to portray the native Americans.

8. Dumbo – The Crows


Dumbo meets a group of crows that are portrayed as poor, useless beings who speak in jive and smoke cigars. All the crows except the leading crow are voiced by African-American actors, while the unique one named Jim, was voiced by a white actor. The question is ‘why did Disney decide to make the boss crow to be voice by a white actor?’ Doesn’t that suggest racism?

7. Lady and The Tramp – The Siamese Cats

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The Siamese cats from Lady and The Tramp have been named as some of the most racist Disney characters, said to embody negative Asian stereotypes. With heavily slanted eyes, thick accents and tanned skin, they are shown in a negative light; as manipulative, greedy and careless. Within minutes of their arrival to Lady’s house, they start destroying it. This film was released in 1955, just a decade after America’s battle with the Japanese during World War II. Because of it’s blatant imagery, a manifestation of ill feeling towards the Japanese is a likely reading of these particular characters.

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6. The Jungle Book – The Apes

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The apes in The Jungle Book seem to be an insult to African-Americans. King Louie is obsessed with the idea of being accepted into a more civilized culture, stating that he wants to “be just like the other men, I’m tired of monkeying around.” In comparison to Mowgli and the other animals in the jungle, who are well spoken and in some cases have posh British accents, the apes jabber and scat. The movie was released in 1967, soon after the Jim Crow laws had been abolished, the apes have been said to have provided a harsh, racist metaphor for how African-Americans had just begun to overcome the segregation that had been forced upon them.

5. The Little Mermaid – Phallic Symbols

The Little Mermaid received several complaints from parents due to what many believed to be a drawing of a penis at the center of the golden castle. The artist claimed that the rude image was an accident due to time constraints. As shown in the picture, those rods on the golden castle do have a striking resemblance with the reported object. However, in the next release of ‘The Little Mermaid’, those images were replaced with phallus-free cover.

4. Pocahontas – Racial Stereotypes & Authenticity Issues

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Pocahontas was released in 1995, and portrayed Native Americans as wild people who speak to the trees and the animals. Although the images are not as strong as they were in Peter Pan, the film has been said to portray Native Americans in a colonial light. This film has also been criticized as it completely changes the story of the real Pocahontas.

3. Aladdin – Racial Stereotypes

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In Aladdin, the opening scene was removed by Disney on the second release after Arabians protested. Aladdin and Princess Jasmine, although they are ethnic leads, have light skin along with western facial features, contrasting heavily with other characters in the film, like the villains of the tale who have more pronounced ethnic features. Among all the stereotypes in this film, the highest is the subtle message it passes to children about Arabian culture.

2. Tangled – Feminist Criticisms

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Tangled is Disney’s latest version of Rapunzel and the fact that the title was changed to make it more gender-neutral was a point of concern. Although it was said that Disney had clearly tried to make a less stereotypical, more feminist and independent Disney princess, many feminist blogs argued the point that Tangled is a predominantly male orientated film, with dangerous female stereotypes including a jealous mother obsessed with staying young and beautiful, and an unfeasible skinny, young blonde girl.

1. The Disney Princesses – An Ongoing Unfair Portrayal of Women

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The Disney Princesses is the most controversial Disney movie as a result of its portrayal of the Disney princesses. Most of the Disney princesses are obsessed with their love interests. The princesses’ appearance is usually the key factor that attracts the lead male and critics say this does not pass good messages to young girls. A clear example is Princess Ariel in The Little Mermaid; she changes her appearance (by asking for legs) and leaves her family and home under the sea to live on land with her lover, Eric.

Amira Daniel
Amira Daniel
Amira is a personal finance and entertainment writer by trade with several years of experience covering businesses, CEOs, and celebrity profiles, her favourite subjects include business and personal finance, entertainment, celebrities, and travel. When she's not writing, you can find her reading or catching up on any of her favourite series

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