Bambi, for instance. My mother took us to see this when it was rereleased in 1982, and it terrified the bejeepers out of me. Up until this point, I’d had no idea that mothers could die. I’d thought they were magical entities that would live forever. Until Bambi’s mom was shot by hunters.
This was the same year I went to a child psychologist for the first time.
I was a little older when Sleeping Beauty was rereleased in 1986. At the mature, know-it-all age of 13, I figured a stupid kiddie movie wouldn’t scare me. That was until Maleficent transformed in to a giant black and purple dragon with eyes like molten lava and more teeth and claws than the Kardashian girls. I was not so big that I couldn’t hide under the seat, whimpering, for the rest of the movie. My big sister would have teased me mercilessly had she not been elbowing me out of the way to make room under the theater seat next to me. That dragon is still the scariest fairy tale creature I have ever seen to this day.
It isn’t just the villains – Cruella DeVil, the Wicked Stepmother with her warty face, Captain Hook, and even Kaa, the giant, Mowgli-eating snake in theJungle Book. (You will notice that I left Shere Khan and Scar off of the list as I firmly believe they are both big kittens at heart. Sorry, Walt. I refuse to believe cats are scary.) Mr. Disney also seems to be preoccupied with death. Sleeping Beauty and Snow White both fall in to death-like trances. Simba’s dad croaks (and don’t give me that ‘circle of life’ crap – when you start snuffing out fuzzy lions, you’re a real sicko.) The mother in Peter Pan, the mother in The Fox & The Hound, the mom in Cinderella…dead, dead, and dead. Ol’ Walt had some serious issues.
Of course, I’m leaving the scariest one for last. Who can forget the sweet tale of a young lad, left to protect his family when his father abandons them to go on a cattle drive, and learns the responsibilities of being a man and a provider with the help of his faithful dog, Old Yeller? That’s right, kids – before there was Cujo, there was Yeller, a rabid, snarling monster who wanted to rip out the throats of the very boys who had loved him and took care of him.
Sickening. Forget Hitchcock, or Corman, or Craven. Disney is truly the Master of Horror.