Subliminal messages in Disney films is a favorite topic among bloggers and Disney fans, who debate endlessly whether Disney movies contain secret messages. But as book and blog author Seth Adam Smith writes, "good art should have multiple meanings and interpretations." If the messages are subliminal, it is because it is up to the viewer to interpret and evaluate for themselves whether the meanings are valid for them.
Keep It Gay
Many of Disney's movies have been cited for their pro-gay themes, messages that promote acceptance and encourage positive outlooks. In "Frozen," blog writer Devin Farci, quoted in the New York Post, said there is a valid way to read that Elsa is gay. "The idea that she was born different (it's explicitly specified that she was born this way, not cursed) and that her difference makes her not a 'good girl,' lends itself to that interpretation." And the song "Let It Go" has been hailed as a gay kid's coming-out anthem. "Beauty and the Beast" has been called an allegory for someone suffering with AIDS, a disfiguring disease that has made him an outcast. Pinocchio, in the movie of the same name, says he doesn't know how to act like a "real boy" and tries doing macho tasks to earn his father's love.
Who Let the Mouse in
Sometimes the subliminal message is cross-marketing other Disney worlds. Characters from one movie will make hidden appearances in crowd scenes of other movies. For example, Rapunzel and Flynn Ryder from "Tangled" show up in "Frozen," Nemo from "Finding Nemo" appears in "Brother Bear" and "Monsters, Inc." Mrs. Potts and Chip from "Beauty and the Beast" dance in a musical number during "Tarzan." There is a poster of "Mulan" on the wall of Nani's bedroom in "Lilo & Stitch." The shadow of the dog in "Ratatouille" is Dug from "Up." The witch in "Brave" has several wood carvings. One features Sully from "Monsters, Inc." and another was the Pizza Planet truck from "Toy Story." That truck also shows up in "Wall-E," "Monsters, Inc.," "Toy Story 2," "Finding Nemo," "Cars" and "Ratatouille." The dead lion in "Hercules" is Scar from "The Lion King." "The Little Mermaid" features guests from "Cinderella" as well as Goofy and Donald Duck.
Don't Turn on the Red Light
Some of Disney's most controversial subliminal messages are so-called erotic images -- though whether the messages are purposeful or in the eyes of the beholder can be difficult to tell. When Simba and Nala stare up at the skies, some point out that "SEX" is written in the stars. Others have found the word in the trees and manes and wind from that movie. In the cover for "Tangled," some find "SEX" written in the hair that Flynn is wrapped in. Controversy surrounds a bump sticking out of the minister's gown in "Little Mermaid." Some claim he was overly excited while others point out it was likely a bent knee. Regardless, Disney removed it in later releases.
Preaching from the Bully Pulpit
While the religious have railed against Disney and its so-called satanic messages, others have pointed out that Disney movies are often very Christian in theme. Frozen "might be the most Christian movie I have seen this year," Collin Garbarino, a professor at Houston Baptist University was quoted in author Seth Smith's blog. "Elsa has broken relationships, and she has guilt and she pushes people away -- and her sister is sort of like a Christ figure who pursues her." There are many other moments in Disney movies that teach Christian principles, such as Simba's father appearing to him in the heavens in "The Lion King;" "Beauty and the Beast" teaches about repentance and "Aladdin" talks about the royalty and nobility in each of us. Likewise, the movies in "The Chronicles of Narnia" series contain Christian allegory due to the books' noted Christian author, C.S. Lewis.
As a professional writer since 1985, Bridgette Redman's career has included journalism, educational writing, book authoring and training. She's worked for daily newspapers, an educational publisher, websites, nonprofit associations and individuals. She is the author of two blogs, reviews live theater and has a weekly column in the "Lansing State Journal." She has a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from Michigan State University.