When most people think about Disney, they naturally think about neat, happy endings where evil is defeated and heroes who get what they want after overcoming every obstacle thrown in their way. But if there is one thing the internet loves, it’s taking a seemingly happy story and turning it into a dark, twisted tale, and naturally, that means there are a whole lot of theories that will forever ruin the way you see your favorite Disney films. So if you don’t mind retroactively ruining your childhood, here are eight of the most compelling dark Disney theories that you definitely won’t want to share with your kid.
Mary Poppins: Helpful Super-Nanny or Evil Domestic Demi-God?
Everyone knows that Mary Poppins is “practically perfect in every way.” But is her cheerful demeanor a mask? While we are clearly supposed to see Poppins as a lovable protagonist, an alternative viewing suggests she may be a cruel demi-god who is secretly teaching humans to submit to her supernatural abilities and totalitarian authority.
Throughout the movie, Poppins truly shows no interest in personal growth or nonconformity and instead uses her power to amass admirers who follow her blindly with absolute devotion. To some, the idea of the angelic Poppins helping people only in order to hide her real plan to enslave humanity might seem crazy, but is it any less implausible than a random nanny coming down from the sky just to help a family keep their house tidy?
Toy Story: We Are the Monsters
This isn’t so much a theory as a realization: From the perspective of the toys, humans are violent oppressors who take pleasure in the mistreatment of living beings who feel joy, sadness, relief, fear, anger, jealousy, and, most of all, love. As such, the toys, as much as humans, deserve to have complete control over their own lives. And yet they live in servitude to humans, gladly giving up any sense of control over their own lives in order to bring children joy. The humans may not be aware of what they’re doing, but that doesn’t make their actions any less horrific. The disturbing implications that come with this realization are nothing short of horrifying, and essentially reverses everything you thought you knew about the films.
The Little Mermaid: Who Killed Ariel’s Mom?
Ever wonder why we never see Ariel’s mom in The Little Mermaid? Well, here is one extremely grim explanation. In the 2008 straight-to-DVD prequel Ariel’s Beginning, we learn that Ariel’s mom, Athena, was killed by pirates. Now, where in the Disney universe have we met a pirate who has an antagonistic relationship with mermaids? That’s right, none other than Captain Hook, Peter Pan’s notorious nemesis. This theory suggests that Peter Pan and Little Mermaid exist in the same universe and that Hook was the pirate responsible for Athena’s death. There’s even a mermaid in Peter Pan that looks like she could be Ariel’s mom, to add some fuel to the speculative fire.
Beauty & the Beast: The Sorceress Is the Real Villain
If you ask most people to name the bad guy in Beauty and the Beast, they’ll say Gaston. But while Gaston was unquestionably a cocky, misogynistic dick, he’s not really involved in the main story enough to be the real baddie. So who is the true villain? How about the enchantress who sets the entire plot in motion in the first place?
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For those who don’t remember, the prologue in the film explains how the Beast came to be: 10 years earlier an enchantress disguised as a beggar had asked for housing in exchange for a rose. When he refused, she cursed him and told him that if he didn’t find true love by his 21st birthday, he’d stay a beast forever.
This all sounds like standard fairy-tale stuff but if you really think about it, the enchantress is being extremely petty and her punishment absolutely doesn’t fit the crime. Basically, she asks an 11-year-old boy if she can stay at his house, and when he understandably says no the stranger, she nearly sentences him to a life of loneliness and isolation. Plus, she punishes all of his servants for absolutely no reason, which is just a total asshole move.
Emperor’s New Groove: Kuzco Is Not Alone
The plot of Emperor’s New Groove revolves around Kuzco needing to reclaim his throne and turn back into a human when Yzma, his evil adviser, secretly uses a potion to turn him into a llama. But while the movie focuses on Kuzco and his wacky misadventures, one theory from Reddit suggests that there is another human transformed who suffers a much darker fate.
This secret subplot takes place when llama-fied Kuzco ends up in the jungle and witnesses a fly trapped in a spiderweb who begs for help before being viciously eaten by a spider. On the surface, this seems like a throwaway gag, but the fact that the fly clearly talks has made some wonder if he is a human turned fly, similar to Kuzco. After all, Kuzco interacts with several other animals over the course of the movie and none of them have the ability to speak except Kuzco and this fly. So when this fly is eaten by a spider, it’s really some poor unfortunate soul who likely faced the wrath of Yzma and ended up getting devoured.
Snow White: Eternal Sleep
Like any classic Disney movie, Snow White seems to deliver an ultimately satisfying conclusion, as Prince Charming’s (potentially problematic) kiss wakes up the titular slumbering maiden and they live happily ever after. Or do they? One theory suggests that the impossibly handsome prince is actually the personification of death and that when he gives her a “true love’s kiss,” it’s really more akin to the Dementor’s kiss, as the last bit of life is taken from her. This might seem like a reach but remember that after Snow White wakes up from the kiss, she and the prince ride off into what is literally a castle in the clouds, which is a level of symbolism that feels almost too on-the-nose.
Wall-E: Follow the Money
With its beloved titular character and neat environmental message, Wall-E has become one of the most beloved kid’s films of this century. For those who need a refresher, Wall-E tells the story of an adorable robot of the same name who spends his days organizing trash on the now-abandoned planet Earth. Thanks to rampant consumerism and pollution, Earth is essentially uninhabitable for humans, who have been taken to space to live out their lives in front of screens that meet their every desire. Seems like a straightforward dystopian plot but some have questioned whether something even more sinister is happening beneath the surface.
First off, the idea of the Earth being covered in trash seems logical enough, but doesn’t really make sense as an accidental outcome. So that begs the question: Who would benefit from turning the Earth into a giant dump? The most obvious answer: Buy-N-Large, the mysterious mega-corporation responsible for the space program that takes all the humans up into space. Because once the humans are on the Buy-N-Large ships, they are basically slaves, which means that this company has essentially put itself in charge of humanity.
The Lion King: Can You Feel the Incestuous Love Tonight?
This isn’t so much a theory as an unfortunate realization that comes with understanding how lion prides work. Basically, in a standard pride, there is one male lion who then sleeps with all the female lions. So Simba and Nala may have different moms, but they both call Mufasa dad, making them half siblings. This explains why Scar is so determined to take down Mufasa, because he is basically the loser younger brother who isn’t getting any. And it means that when Simba takes his rightful place as king of Pride Rock, he isn’t just shacking up with Nala, he’s shacking up with all the lady lions (except for his mom, hopefully).