Interestingly, the movie rating system we know so well today wasn’t implemented until 1968. Even still, it’s amazing what a G and PG rating could do. get away with it, even after that.
Hidden in the depths of otherwise wholesome movies lurk moments so traumatic we don’t dare talk about them until years later. Some viewers joined the horror fandom to help deal with their damage, others vowed never to watch a movie with a PG rating again. And then there’s the rest of us, curiously morbid to remember the scenes we’ve erased from our childhood minds…
‘James and the Giant Peach’ (1994) – Aunt Sponge and Aunt Spiker
Why was child abuse so common in 90s children’s movies? In the first five minutes of James and the giant peach, we are taken from a sweet dreamscape with his parents to him living in a real hellscape with two horrible women. That’s a lot to put on a child!
The looming presence of the Rhino Cloud and what it represents throughout the film is also incredibly dark. Is James dying? We like Roald Dahlbut he gave the children heavy topics to deal with when they were seven or eight years old: they barely knew how to multiply and divide.
‘Matilda’ (1996) – Breaking into Trunchbull’s house
Well, check it out, another Roald Dahl classic. of Matilda (Mara Wilson) the teacher’s animalistic behavior reaches new heights when she decides to willingly break into her tyrannical principal (Pam Ferris) house to recover a doll for Miss Honey (Embeth Davidtz). She’s also a weird doll.
Was it every kid in the audience’s first experience with a suspenseful thriller? The entire sequence is thrilling and brings even hardened adults to the edges of their seats. We’re sure parents would excuse their kids for uttering their first swear word when Trunchbull discovered Matilda’s hair bow.
‘Anastasia’ (1997) – The Death of Rasputin
“In the Dark of the Night” is scary, but it’s also a banger, which is why Rasputin’s melting death (Christopher Lloyd) and his disintegrating jiggly skeleton gets a spot.
The final battle in Anastasiawhere our heroine (Meg Ryan) finally coming face to face with the evil ghoul who murdered his family, is deservedly chilling. Earlier in the movie, Anya’s dream possession nearly leads her to jump overboard, and that was just a glimpse of Rasputin’s abilities. Luckily, he’s too busy getting poetic to kill Anya before Dimitri (John Cusack) shows up to help her. We all know it’s Pooka who saves the day.
‘Ferngully: The Last Rainforest’ (1992) – Hexxus and the song “Toxic Love”
Tim Curry was the perfect casting choice for this sleazy slime, and we mean that as a compliment. Its rich tone exudes an evil charm, but when paired with visuals of a writhing skeleton transformed into a poison gas genie, it’s a visual experience altogether.
The disembodied head wrapping around the pipes is particularly memorable, and Fern Gully certainly made his point about the devastation wrought by pollution and deforestation, but damn it. The kids who thought it was a cute movie about a forest fairy were in for a hell of a reality check.
‘Pinocchio’ (1940) – Pleasure Island
It’s mind-blowing that this film has so much darkness, the titular character being eaten by a whale isn’t even the most disturbing thing that happens. The prize for this goes to Coach Master and Pleasure Island.
Was the “jackass” transformation a metaphor for something? Is there a darker meaning to all of this? We can’t help but feel like kidnapping hundreds of young boys, giving them a “good time”, turning them into animals, and then sending them off to work, it’s relentlessly dark, to put it mildly. lightly. Here again, the same goes for the source material.
‘Dumbo’ (1941) – Mrs. Jumbo Goes Crazy
With a bit of luck, Dumbo has done its part to convince younger generations to support banning live animals in circuses, with a global ban almost completely in effect. The Disney classic probably didn’t intend to create an army of animal activists, but those of us who were subjected to it certainly came away changed afterwards.
Watching the ‘deformed’ baby elephant being dragged away from his mother, as she is tied up and whipped for trying to protect him, is devastating. Watching her rock him with his trunk through the window bars while locked in a small car is soul destroying to say the least.
‘Spy Kids’ (2001) – The Thumb Thumbs, Floop’s Fooglies and Basically All That
The first question these creatures bring to mind is probably…why are they so horrible? It’s like the creators sit down and think, “how can we scare kids for life?”, and spy on kids was born.
They have a genetic disfigurement, a mean Pied Piper, a Danny Elfman soundtrack, children are tricked into believing that they are orphans for most of the film and must trust adults they have never met before… oh, and of course, the mangled heads of Alexander Minion (Tony Shalhoub). Did we miss something?
‘Jurassic Park’ (1993) – Raptors in the Kitchen
The thrilling sequence where Lex (Ariana Richards) and Tim (Joseph Mazello) crawling around the kitchen trying to avoid two hungry velociraptors is etched in our brains to this day. It’s one of those “watching with bated breath” scenes that only a child with an unbridled imagination can truly appreciate.
From there, whenever you’re alone in a dark room, you now have to worry about a raptor spawning in. The shadow moves? A raptor. Knock at the window? Definitely a raptor. If it’s any comfort to you, though, the actual velociraptors were only the size of a turkey. A quick kick and you would be free to run safely.
“The Neverending Story” (1984) – Artax and the Swamp of Sorrow
For years there has been a terrible rumor that the real horse died while filming this scene. The truth is that it didn’t happen, and the real horse lived a long and happy life on a large German ranch. Take a deep breath, everything is fine.
The swamp of sadness is always one of the sickest things to appear in a children’s movie, and allowing young viewers to watch a horse slowly drown in its own sad thoughts is sadistic. Noah Hathaway (the actor who played Atreyu) joked that he was “sending a few people to therapy” while filming this scene. You sure did, buddy.
“Pokémon the First Movie: Mewtwo Strikes Back” (1999) – Ash is Turned to Stone
In the most heartbreaking sequence of events for any young Pokéfan, Mewtwo (Jay Gode) orders the clones to fight as he confronts the mysterious Mew. Pikachu refuses to fight, receiving slap after slap from his clone. Distraught by what he sees, Ash runs between Mew and Mewtwo as they blast each other, and he is turned to stone.
With characters as deeply ingrained in many children’s upbringing as the original 151 Pokémon, the English version of Mewtwo Strikes Back is shocking. How can a show about fighting have a movie with the message “fighting is bad”? Talk about your audience’s gaslighting. The original Japanese dub is apparently much better, but we’ll never get the image of Pikachu crying out of our minds.
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