?Children’s movies are big business. Every couple of weeks, you can pretty much count on a new CGI movie to appear in theaters, nowadays usually in 3-D and more than likely with a Kids Meal tie in at a fast food chain. The majority of these films are pretty bland and the only real guarantee with most of them is that they will be out on DVD in about six months. But not that long ago, children’s movies used to be darker, weirder and kind of insane. Let’s face it, a sequel to Wizard of Oz that starts with Dorothy Gale in an insane asylum is not very likely to get the greenlight for production today.
A little while back, Topless Robot made a list of 14 incredibly disturbing moments in kids’ movies. Although the list wasn’t meant to be all-inclusive, judging from the comments section, there were a ton of messed up childhoods out there, because there were hundreds of comments telling us which traumatic movie moments we forgot. So here are 11 more moments from kids’ films that were terrifying, weird and just plain upsetting (feel free to let us us know what we should include in the inevitable round 3).
11) The Wizard of Oz
?The Wizard of Oz definitely has some weird moments the whole way through the film, especially when you consider that the film really hinges on people wanting some shoes that Dorothy pulled off the corpse of a witch that she accidentally killed. But it never gets more terrifying than the flying monkeys scene, somehow not available to embed on YouTube except as some goofy fan-made music video). The sky gone dark with swarms of blue faced flying monkeys, hopping and screeching as they rip the Scarecrow apart. And as they soar, that terrifying, taunting “Witch” theme plays over and over again.
10) Superman III
Superman III is not technically a kids’ movie. It’s also not technically a good movie. But for a legion of young fanboys who were at just the right age when this film came out, this scene hit a major nerve. Lead villain Ross Webster’s supercomputer becomes self-aware which is never a good thing. When Ross and his cronies try to escape, Ross’ sister Vera is dragged back into the computer where she is forcibly transformed into a cyborg. Sure, to today’s untrained eye, she kind of looks like Irona the Robot Maid from Richie Rich. But to a generation of young nerds, watching Vera’s terrified reaction slowly get reduced to robotic stillness — and those eyes! –is a horrific scene that is imprinted on their brain forever.
9) The Secret of NIMH
The Secret of NIMH follows the adventures of a widowed mother who needs help to protect her ill son. Along the way, she finds out information about her dead husband’s former life. Great kids movie fodder already! But what if you sweeten the pot by making the majority of the main characters rats and mice? And not cute mice, like Mickey Mouse. Some of these rats have glowing eyes and gnarled, warty bodies. NIMH was meant to be the first shot in an animation war in which Don Bluth promised to bring back the early Disney style of animating. And not surprisingly, along with the traditional animation, Bluth re-introduced terrifying small children through cartoon movies as well.
Labyrinth is the Jim Henson film that doesn’t go as crazy as The Dark Crystal, but doesn’t completely regress to Muppets territory either (although it came damn close with the “Magic Dance” number). Still, the movie did have a lot of weirdness to it, especially the scenes where Jareth, The Goblin King (and also King of Unnecessary Crotch Shots) seems to be in love with a 15-year-old Jennifer Connelly. The tension is probably at its peak in the fantasy Masquerade scene where Jennifer, playing the character Sarah, is very tempted to stay in a fantasy land that is constantly playing Bowie songs — which admittedly could be worse.
The Pink Elephants on Parade scene in Dumbo is supposed to be Dumbo’s reaction to getting accidentally drunk, which can only mean that animators in 1941 had much stronger booze than what is available today. After waking up in a tree from this alcohol-fueled nightmare, Timothy the Mouse hypothesizes that Dumbo can fly. Which just lends further credence to my theory that this elephant/mouse combo were actually just straight up tripping balls. It’s kind of amazing that a whole generation of Disney kids didn’t grow up as teetotalers after watching these animated DTs.
6) Transformers: The Movie
The Transformers animated film was a blood bath. Fan favorites like Ironhide, Ratchet and Starscream all perished in the film, but one death sticks out: Optimus Prime. Optimus had a protracted death, eventually dying slowly on a hospital bed. Plus, his arch enemy Megatron was almost immediately resurrected as Galvatron, which just added insult to injury. In a world where Shia La Beouf is killed and sent to Transformers heaven and instantly resurrected, the impact of this scene has definitely been blunted. But when the film came out, legions of young Transformers fans were devastated to see their hero killed by Megatron. But also excited to hear Spike and Bumblebee say curse words. Oh, if you don’t think adults of the day were trying to disturb kids on purpose, please watch the end of this ad.
5) The Lion King
Simba might be the most traumatized child on this list. Sure, he starts off as a self-centered brat, but his entire world comes crashing down around his ears in the course of one wildebeest stampede. Simba lying next to his dead father is heart breaking enough, but his uncle Scar shows up to push the knife in further. After manipulating the entire chain of events, Scar blames Simba for his own father’s death. And after torturing the young lion’s emotions for his own personal amusement, he sends his hyena goons out to kill Simba. Pretty grim stuff for a movie built on “Hakuna Matata” t-shirts.
4) Who Framed Roger Rabbit?
Judge Doom is a dick. When we first meet Doom, he’s torturing an animated shoe by lowering it slowly into The Dip, a substance that dissolves Toons into nothingness. Later in the film, Doom reveals that he actually is a cartoon and is, in fact, the Toon responsible for killing Eddie Valiant’s brother. Which would be fine if Doom actually was a cartoon. Instead, he became a terrifying mix of Christopher Lloyd and animation with a high-pitched, terrifying squeal. Not fully human or cartoon, Judge Doom existed in a weird sort of stasis that existed solely to scare the crap out of six year olds.
3) Watership Down
There is a lot of debate on whether Watership Down is actually a children’s movie or not. But it’s animated, and it’s PG, and it’s based on what is considered a classic of children’s literature. Whichever way to look at it, I think we can all agree that blood splattered, realistic looking animated rabbits are pretty damn creepy no matter what age you are.
2) Return to Oz
Return to Oz is a terrifying film from start to finish. Being tasked to pick one especially disturbing scene in this movie is like being asked to choose one especially fantastic grain of sand. The Wheelers are a stand out, though. Their ornate facemasks and loud cackling, combined with their lumbering rolling, are pure nightmare fuel. Although, in hindsight, one wonders how the Wheelers dress themselves, put on their masks or even wipe their butts.
1) The Neverending Story
Artax’s death in The Neverending Story is one of the most depressing scenes ever filmed in anything. Watching beloved pets and animals perish is always a risky maneuver in film, but watching young Atreyu beg and plead with his beloved horse to get up and out of the Swamp of Sadness is beyond upsetting. And watching the clearly terrified horse sink into dirty water in this scene doesn’t help matters.