10 of the Darkest Moments in Disney

Disney has earned itself a reputation, not only for using musically-gifted characters and for being the happiest place on Earth, but also for rewriting history, myths, and literature. Unlike in Brother’s Grimm Cinderella, where the wicked sisters forced to fit the silver slipper by cutting off their toes, they had their own version of the story, where one sister finds herself a baker boy.

Though most of their tales ended in “happy-ever-afters”, some ended in a much darker way. Here are ten of the darkest moments ever in Disney films:

10. Bambi, Bambi’s Mother Dies

The death of Bambi’s mother is among Disney’s darkest moments. After everybody saw how she raised and taught Bambi the ways of the forest, she died.

It all happened one harsh winter day, when they all went out in the meadow grazing. Suddenly, his mother sensed danger. Hunters were all over the woods. Bambi’s mother quickly told him to go run without turning back. While running, a sharp blast of gunfire was heard. Bambi fortunately made it safe home, but when he turned back and said, “We made it, Mother,” there was nobody there but him.

He then searched for his mother out in the snow. He called out for her, but there was only silence. He was later on told that his mother could no longer be with him.

9. Pinocchio, When He Became a Real Boy


Pinocchio follows the story of a puppet, who wanted to become a real boy. In order to attain his dream, he went through a lot. He was kidnapped by fake artists, who forced him to work in a puppet show. When he finally escaped, he found himself on Pleasure Island, a place where boys who “make jackasses of themselves” transform into donkeys and then sold to work in circuses and salt mines.

Fortunately, he escaped the torture island, but was swallowed by a giant whale that happened to have swallowed his maker, Geppetto. It was then when he knew he was on his way to Pleasure Island to rescue him. For them to escape, Pinocchio sacrificed himself. The Blue Fairy saw his act of selflessness and brought him back to life. He was then turned into a real boy.

8. Mulan, “How many messengers does it take?”


Though it seems nothing but a film about warfare, one short scene in the movie Mulan has surprised the viewers with its cruelty. Shan-Yu, the Hun leader, captured two imperial scouts. He then asked them to give a message to the Emperor of China. When they were on their way, Shan-Yu asked one of his colleagues, “How many messengers does it take to deliver a message?” His friend replied, “One.” At that point, he released his arrow, killing one of the two scouts.

7. The Fox and the Hound, Copper Hunts Tod

The Fox and the Hound

Right at the start, The Fox and the Hound appears to be a cute and charming film about friendship. However, somewhere in the middle, a sudden twist in the story took place. Chief, Copper’s mentor, was hit by a train in a mishap caused by Tod.  Copper then promised to get him.

Slade, Copper’s owner, then prepared some traps. Soon, Tod was backed up in a hole with fire on one end with Slade and Copper on the other end. Tod leapt through the fire and Copped caught up with him. They clashed, snapped, and howled at each other, forgetting the childhood memories they had.

When a black bear appeared, Tod escaped, and Copper rushed to protect Slade. In a sudden twist of fate, Tod turned back. He saw his old pal in danger. So, he lured the bear down to a rushing waterfall.

The ending was achingly bittersweet. The old friends were in their respective homes already. And then, Tod asked, “We’ll always be friends forever, won’t we?” Cooper replied, “Yeah. Forever.”

6. Lilo & Stitch, “We’re a broken family, aren’t we?”

Lilo & Stitch

Unlike any other Disney films, the darkness in the film Lilo & Stitch is about the pain and the sufferings of a disjointed family.

When a social worker saw how disastrous their family was, Nani must prove she is capable of caring for her younger sister, Lilo. One day, she heard her praying on a shooting star for a friend. She then decided to get Lilo a pet, Stitch, which turned out to be an alien.

Nani thought everything would turn out well with Stitch as the center of them. However, more disasters happened. When the social worker returned, she told Nani it would be best if Lilo was under the care of another person. Seeing the trouble he has caused, at that same night, Stitch left. Lilo told him, “I’ll remember you; I remember everybody who leaves.”

5. Tarzan, The Death of Clayton


At one point in the film, when Clayton’s intentions were revealed, he planned to catch gorillas and then sell them in England. It was a relatively easy task if Tarzan wasn’t on his way.

Clayton shot Kerchak, fatally wounding him. Tarzan then chased Clayton in the forests. After all the struggles, Tarzan got a hold of Clayton’s gun and pressed it against his throat. Clayton dared Tarzan to shoot, telling him to act like a man. However, Tarzan did the other way. He destroyed the gun and threw it away to the jungle floor.

Clayton immediately pulled out his machete and followed Tarzan across the vines. But, while he was trying to slash Tarzan, he accidentally cuts all vines holding him up, except one which was around his neck. And then, there is a short drop. After that, a lifeless Clayton was left hanging.

4. The Lion King, The Death of Mufasa

In the early Disney films, the absences of the parents of main characters weren’t explained and mentioned. Snow White had missing parents, while Ariel and Belle had missing mothers. In the Lion King, Simba has both of his parents. But, in the long run, he lost his father.

During the length of the film, Simba was made to understand he was responsible for his father’s death. Simba ran away, and Scar, Mufasa’s brother, asked the hyenas to kill him. At the end of the day, justice was served. Scar also died. Since then, the famous “Forever Alone” moment of Simba became the subject of a thousand of memes.

3. Pocahontas, “Savages”

The song Savages was heard at the climax of the movie, where the natives and the settlers were battling each other. Ratcliffe was forcing the settlers to get out and battle, while Powhatan was seeking punishment for the death of Kocoum.

The message of the song was so intense. It had lines, such as, “What can you expect from filthy little heathens? Here’s what you get when races are divers. Their skins are hellish red. They’re only good when dead” and “Behind that milky hide, there’s emptiness inside. I wonder if they even bleed”.

Those lines were compelling enough for a Disney film that deals with racism and imperialism. Though the film did get a happy ending, there was still darkness in its song.

2. Hunchback of Notre Dame, “Hellfire”

Hunchback of Notre Dame

Hellfire is another villain song from a classic Disney film, Hunchback of Notre Dame. It is a song of an incoming doom and a judge’s sexual frustration. However, instead of war and imperialism, the song was about rape, sex, and sensuality.

After Judge Frollo witnessed how Esmeralda gracefully performed a pole dance and saved Quasimodo from his punishment, it made him very angry. He was even consumed by lust. In the only way he knew, he asked Esmeralda to “choose me or your pyre”.

He then sang a song with lyrics like, “Destroy Esmeralda and let her taste the fires of hell. Or else, let her be mine and mine alone.”

1. The Black Cauldron, Everything

The Black Cauldron

The Black Cauldron is the darkest animated motion picture of Disney. It follows the story of a young boy named Taran, who dreams of heroism. He was on a mission to find and tear down an enthralled black cauldron before the Horned King could use it and raise an undead army.

The film became the first ever Disney animated feature film that received a PG rating, due to the violent and dark images. Among these images was the Horned King, who was inspired by Satan by appearance and temperament. Under his cloak, the Horned King was nothing but a horned skeleton with bright red eyes. Apart from him, the film’s set was also frightening. It involved a spooky castle, filled with rotting corpses.


While plenty Disney films taught us lessons about love, acceptance, friendship, and kindness, they also taught the world that hardships and losses do happen in real life. Even if they showed the harsh realities of life, their movies still left a mark in the hearts of the viewers.



Holly Bissonnette

A marketing writer for several years, I have recently shifted my focus into entertainment. I have been working as a freelance writer for Explore Talent for more than a year now.

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