5 Disney Films Which Apparently Contained Sexual Messages

The Little Mermaid

The Little Mermaid

Have you ever heard of a gentleman by the name of Tom Sito? Probably not. Believe it or not, I am guessing that you would probably have seen a fair bit of this during your formative years, or at least his work. According to a recent interview with HuffPost Entertainment, Sito gave the lowdown on a few instances of conjecture in certain Disney films. I guess it might be worth mentioning that he no longer works for that company and now teaches animation at the University of Southern California.

The Little Mermaid is the first of these aforementioned points of conjecture which we shall visit. Of course, the Little Mermaid is a classic fairy tale originally penned and published by legendary Danish author Hans Christian Anderson way back in 1837. It has been adapted to a variety of different forms over the years but perhaps the most prominent and popular of those is the 1989 Disney adaptation in to an animated film.

The film portrays the plight of a young mermaid (if you hadn’t guessed from the title) who longs to become a human. This seems like an understandable, if not fairly ambitious dream, but hey, it is a fairy tale right?

So after various perils and triumphs throughout the length of the film, the character around whom the story revolves, Ariel, The Little Mermaid, somewhat predictably finds true love, gets married and lives happily ever after right? Well yeah, but it isn’t just the couple who are getting married that appear to be happy. The priest who is running proceedings appears to be showing physical signs of his joy by way of a bulge in the front of his pants. Yeah, it looks like he has an erection.

In fact, the clergyman appears to be getting wood so much that parents, at one point, became quite concerned. It even led one mother to file a lawsuit against The Walt Disney Company in 1995. “How dare they show my children an erect (but ultimately concealed and cartoon) penis,” she probably said. Ultimately though, she dropped the charges after just two months.

So back to Tom Sito. He told the HuffPost that he was the actual artist responsible for the protrusion, but dismisses those who claim there was a stiffy, perhaps suggesting that those with dirty minds will interpret what they see in an equally dirty fashion.

“It’s his knees,” he said, according to HuffPost. “The joke was he’s a little man standing on a box and his robes, his big bishop robes, are draped over everything so they’re covering his whole body. And people are just seeing what they want to see”.

No erection. Sorry folks.



The original story of Aladdin is a Middle Eastern tale. In the 18th Century, Frenchman Antoine Galland added it to a collection of tales known as The Book of One Thousand and One Nights or as it is otherwise known, Arabian Nights. From theatre to live action Bollywood films, and even television, the adaptations of the story have been plenty. But the one to which we refer is the easily the most well-known and popular; the animated Disney version released in 1992.

The thirty-first instalment of the Walt Disney Animated Classics series, Aladdin has also become one of the most controversial due to a few things. One of the reasons was that the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee actually forced the change of one line in the opening song “Arabian Nights” from “"Where they cut off your ear if they don't like your face,"(which was in the initial 1992 release) to the altered 1993 version where the same line became "Where it's flat and immense and the heat is intense”. Not nearly as provocative.

There was a bit more evidence cited that racial stereotypes were at play throughout the film with regards to skin colour and accentuated accents. But what about the sex bit? Well, at one point during the film, when Aladdin is attacked by a tiger named Rajah on a palace balcony, some apparently astute listeners claimed to hear the words “Good teenagers, take off your clothes”.

Hang on, what?! Is Aladdin telling teens to get nude? Surely not. Amidst the giggles of youngsters who watched that bit only have a laugh and rewind again, just to hear Aladdin’s lewd command, let’s hear what Tom Sito had to say about this when the question was put to him by the HuffPost.

“The two animaters who were doing that sequence are both, like, very religious guys ... that’s not their sense of humour”. But what about the voice itself? According to Aladdin’s director’s commentary, the line is actually an adlib bit which is mean to go something along the lines of “Good tiger. Take off. Scat. Go!”

As much as the Devil on my left shoulder wants it to say something about getting naked, just for the sake of it, doesn’t the director’s explanation make a little bit more sense? Especially when considering context. I don’t know about you, but if I am ever in a position which sees me set upon by a flesh-eating beast, I can’t imagine I’m going to think about nudity. But I guess I shall never know until I meet an angry tiger.

The Rescuers

The Rescuers

The Rescuers is an animated Disney film which was produced way back in 1977. It was based on a series of books written by author Margery Sharp, including the book of the same name, The Rescuers, and also others such as Miss Bianca. The film was a great success and many years later, in 1990, another film was released by the name of The Rescuers Down Under.

The story involves a young orphan named Penny, a message in a bottle which washes up in New York City along with a whole bunch of other weird stuff that happens in amongst the typical goodies and baddies portrayed in a children’s tale.

The supposed controversy surrounding this film began back in the first month of 1999 just a few short days after the film’s release on home video. The Walt Disney Company was forced to recall almost three and a half million copies of the release amidst claims that one objectionable scene contained an inappropriate image.

Despite it being in the background and somewhat blurry, there appears to be an image of a topless woman in two non-sequential frames during a scene behind Miss Bianca and Bernard as they are flying on the back of Orville the albatross through New York City. The offending images are only single frames which cannot even be viewed in real time as the frame rate moves too fast, meaning the human eye is incapable of focusing on the image.

Despite this, as London’s The Independent reported at the time, “A Disney spokeswoman said that the images in The Rescuers were placed in the film during production, but she declined to say what they were or who placed them,” wrote The Independent. “The company said the aim of the recall was to keep its promise to families that they can trust and rely on the Disney brand to provide the best in family entertainment”.

Tom Sito told the HuffPost that some of the executives at Disney who were there during production, had left and been replaced by the time the film was released and used the original negatives, unaware of the images being included.

“If somebody had asked an artist, he would say, ‘Oh yeah, there’s a naked picture in there,” he said. “I mean, the Playboy centrefold. Everybody knows that.’ Everybody who was in animation knew about the centrefold. But nobody asked us”.

The Lion King

The Lion King

The story of The Lion King is perhaps one of Disney’s crowning achievements and certainly one of the most popular and citable of its animated films, spawning a franchise with a mountain of lucrative merchandise that followed its 1994 release. The story centres on a community of lions in the African wilderness and is said to take some inspiration from Biblical stories, borrowing as much from tales of Joseph and Moses as it does from the Shakespearean masterpiece, Hamlet.

We all know the story but let’s just reacquaint ourselves with the basics shall we? The films tells the story of Simba, a youngster who must soon take the reigns as king of the jungle form his father, Mufasa. When Mufasa is murdered by Simba’s uncle, Scar, the young lion is manipulated in to thinking that he is in some way responsible for the whole thing and so he runs away. Later on, his friend Nala and a shaman by the name of Rafiki help to put life in to perspective for Simba, who returns to challenge Scar and his tyrannous regime.

For some reason, some people, including those who should probably know better including conservative activist Donald Wildmon, insisted that the film contained elements which were intended to promote sexual promiscuity. How did the producers of the film do such a thing? Well, they apparently included the word “SEX” written in dust. Yeah, that’ll do it.

In one scene where Simba flops down on to the ground at the edge of a cliff, dust flies into the air from the thud as he lands. The dust does indeed contain hidden letters and was completely intentional however, did they really do it to make children who watch the film want to engage in sexual activity, just by including the word “SEX” in capital letters? Of course not.

As Sito explained, the letters, whilst intentional, did not read “SEX” at all but instead made the letters “SFX”, which is a very common abbreviation of “special effects”. The animators included it as a bit of a playful and innocent signature of sorts. Harmless fun really. “It doesn’t say ‘sex.’ It says special effects. It’s SFX,” Sito simply explained.

Who Framed Roger Rabbit?

Who Framed Roger Rabbit?

Disney purchased the film rights to Gary K. Wolf's 1981 novel Who Censored Roger Rabbit? back in 1981 and turned it in to the film of the same name through its Touchstone Pictures division years later in 1988.

The ground-breaking films depicted a world in which cartoon characters and real-life people lived side by side, interacting with each other as if the world was fit for both to exist in. It starred Bob Hoskins as a private detective along with Christopher Lloyd as the villainous Judge Doom, with Charles Fleischer providing the voice for the animated lead character and Kathleen Turner as the voice for Jessica Rabbit.

The film was widely and wildly successful with many insisting it spawned what became known as the Disney Renaissance. However, it also spawned some controversy. Aside from a few legal issues where the author of the original novel is concerned, there were also some problems with some suggesting the film contained a particular racial slur.

However, we are here to talk about the sexual side of things. Upon release on Laserdisc, there were reports that the film contained nudity, despite being predominantly aimed at a child audience. It was supposedly the antics of the animators that saw Jessica Rabbit’s character appear wearing less than she might be required to in front of children. It might be a bit like the issue with The Rescuers, as if the nudity does exist, it only came to light due to the fact that the Laserdisc allowed viewers to advance frame-by-frame. It was undetectable unless you really tried to look for it.

Apparently later releases of the film were altered to give Jessica some pants. Sit neither confirmed nor denied the intentions of the animators in including nudity in the film. But he did share with HuffPost the fact that these sort of antics amongst animators is by no means an isolated thing.

“You know in pre-video and pre-VHS and VCR and stuff, people used to put little inside jokes in films because things were running at 1/24 of a second,” said Mr Sito. “So you say, ‘Well, nobody’s seeing anything.’ ... And then so (cartoonists) will do that as a joke. But really since the modern age of playing back stuff and everything, they look at everything now, even the old films. They’ll go frame by frame, and they’ll pull those questionable things out all the time”.