Here on the Disney blogosphere, I am one obsessive among many, and a middling one at that. But out in the real world, amongst the normals, I am That Disney Girl. The one you avoid when you do not want to talk about Disney… and who you run to if you need to talk to someone about Disney. It’s okay. I get it. I understand my place in the universe and I embrace it.
As such, I recently found myself answering the question: what’s a good Disney movie for a sensitive child?
WAIT, WHO’S AFRAID OF DISNEY MOVIES?
I don’t have kids, but I do have an extremely solid memory of being a kid, which is more than I can say for a remarkable number of grownups. 😜 (Probably not you, though; you’re reading a Disney blog!) The kid in question was of the sort who is terrified by The Little Mermaid‘s Ursula, and you know what? Much as I love her now, I remember being scared of her when I was little, too.
Or take my friend Elizabeth, who says that as a child the zoom in on King Triton’s face when he shouts ARIEL!!!!! reduced her to tears. Or my niece, who found Horace and Jasper of 101 Dalmatians too unsettling to continue the movie.
So when I heard the phrase “sensitive kid,” I understood exactly what I was dealing with – and I knew exactly what to recommend.
Perhaps you’re thinking, uh, any Disney movie? They’re Disney movies. And sure, Disney is hardly synonymous with horror, but if you think about it, any number of unsettling things happen in the greats: Gaston and Scar fall to their death, neither the Evil Queen nor Maleficent cultivate a warm demeanor, Chef Skinner does a lot of screaming and mugging, Hopper, in addition to being Hopper, is also voiced by Kevin Spacey, Bambi’s mother… well, you get the idea.
Even movies that seem otherwise innocuous can have individual characters or moments that are a bit too much – Mulan‘s Shan Yu can be pretty menacing, or take Up‘s Charles Muntz, who turns sinister in the back half of the film. As such, yes, sometimes we must be extra selective when seeking comforting TV.
Not that conflict or even death are necessarily the issue. What brings the fear, in my remembered experience, is a combination of menacing facial expressions (a tight camera angle doesn’t help) and shouting, so what we need are movies that avoid that sort of thing entirely. If you’re looking for some gentler entertainment, try these on for size:
Yes, my favorite Pixar movie! So you could say I’m biased, but Wall-E has a lot to recommend it for the easily distressed: the main villain is a non-humanoid robot, and thus makes absolutely zero scary faces. He’s also voiced by MacInTalk, which means that while his monotone might be disconcerting to adults, I can guarantee no shouting goes down. Plus, the minimal dialogue makes it easily accessible for kids of all ages. No violence, no deaths, no problem!
THE EMPEROR’S NEW GROOVE
Are Yzma and Kronk even villains, really? You could make the case that The Emperor’s New Groove contains three redemption arcs: we end with Kuzco on a different hill, Kronk talking to squirrels, and Yzma… well, Yzma’s now a cat, and I consider that an improvement. Even at their most nefarious, Yzma and Kronk are a couple of goofballs with neutral-to-friendly character designs. Yzma may do a bit of shouting, but she’s voiced by Eartha Kitt, so the effect is completely different. Purr.
Who’s even the villain in Mary Poppins, really? I’d say the main candidate for the role would be Mr. Banks, but he hardly merits the epithet. He’s just a little disconnected, that’s all, and Mary straightens him out in under three hours. There is that one scene where Jane and Michael get lost on the streets of London, but Bert finds them like 30 second later and everything’s fine. Has Julie Andrews ever let you down? No, she has not.
GENTLER DISNEY HONORABLE MENTIONS
So those are my top three, but if you’re looking for more, here a couple others that I don’t think have any particularly triggering moments:
Finding Nemo (Nobody’s really a villain, just clueless, although you might want to skip past the barracuda at the beginning)
Coco (As a villain, Ernesto de la Cruz is pretty casual in his demeanor)
The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh (more deeply philosophical than anything)
I hope this list helps the sensitive souls among us, and that I haven’t steered you wrong. After all, fear – like the whole of the human experience – is very personal. However, I’d like to think this is one of those rare times when my childlike brain comes in handy. Let me know how the above play for you, and if there are any other gentle Disney movies that belong on this list!
Don’t forget, you can follow FRoA on Twitter @fairestrunofall and on Instagram @fairestrunofall. If you have any questions or thoughts, leave a comment or email firstname.lastname@example.org. See ya real soon!