Since Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs graced silver screens in 1937, animated movies have become a cornerstone of the movie business. With their bright visuals, lovable characters, and kid-friendly stories, animated movies allow families to flock to the cinema to escape from the world for an hour or two. Sure, plenty of animated movies over the years have grappled with mature themes (we’re looking at you, literally any Don Bluth movie), but at the end of the day, these movies managed to incorporate mature elements without venturing too far into child-frightening territory. But that’s not to say that plenty of animated movies haven’t tried to get a little too dark. In fact, some classic animated films almost managed to incorporate scenes that are downright disturbing AF.
Over the years, animated movies running the gamut from big budget Disney flicks to hastily assembled toy line tie-ins have had to trim scenes that were just too scary, too violent, too weird, or just plain too disturbing. We’re talking explicit murder, songs about bumping uglies, and everything in between. Thankfully, you don’t have to wonder just what made these scenes so disturbing, as CBR has compiled a list of the 15 most disturbing scenes cut from classic animated movies. So buckle up and prepare to see some of your animated favorites in a whole new light… or dark, as the case may be.
15. PRINCE JOHN OFFERS TO MURDER ROBIN HOOD (ROBIN HOOD)
1973’s Robin Hood is regarded as an overlooked Disney classic, with its lush visuals and fun spin on the classic tale often getting overshadowed by the bigger titles in Disney’s classic catalogue. But if director Wolfgang Reitherman had opted to include the film’s original, significantly darker ending, odds are Robin Hood would have been remembered the world over, albeit for entirely different reasons.
In the originally envisioned ending, Robin Hood is wounded while escaping Prince John’s castle. Making his escape into the woods, our intrepid hero collapses, only to be carted into a church by Maid Marian. Hot on his heels is the villainous Prince John, who follows Robin’s escape thanks to a trail of blood left in his wake. Prince John eventually stumbles upon Robin Hood’s unconscious form, as Maid Marian begs the Prince to leave the pair alone. John draws his dagger, offering to end Robin Hood’s suffering. But before the killing blow can be struck, King Richard returns to Nottingham, overthrows the tyrannical Prince John, and everyone lives happily ever after. Still, the concept of having the villain in your family-friendly Disney movie offering to slit the plucky hero’s throat is a little dark, making the dropping of this scene a wise decision.
14. SCAR BURNS TO DEATH (THE LION KING)
Let’s not kid ourselves: The ending to The Lion King is already disturbing AF. After Simba triumphs over the villainous Scar, the evil lion is cornered by his hyena henchman and eaten alive. This may be a rare instance in which a Disney character receives a more brutal death than originally planned, but that’s not to say that Scar’s original demise isn’t still completely traumatizing.
In the original outline for The Lion King, Scar hangs from Pride Rock, begging Simba to spare his life. Simba obliges and moves to save his father’s killer, only to have Scar grab Simba and hurl him off the rock. Simba falls into the flames lapping at Pride Rock, only to have a tree break his fall, saving Simba from certain death. Scar, believing Simba to be dead, cackles as the flames creep ever closer, eventually consuming him. This scene was cut as Disney believed the death to be far too dark, but the House of Mouse apparently decided death via hyena was acceptable.
13. EVIL ELSA (FROZEN)
Frozen captured hearts the world over with its story of sisterly love, adorable singing snowmen, and that one song that nearly drove parents to madness. But Disney’s original plans for Frozen weren’t quite as cute and cuddly as the end product; in fact, the original pitch for Frozen cast fan favorite Elsa as a merciless villain that wasn’t above a little torture.
In a deleted scene, two soldiers make their way across the snowy mountain Elsa has set up shop on in search of Princess Anna. Unfortunately for these unlucky henchmen, they draw the ire of Elsa, who uses her ice powers to snatch the pair up. Demanding to know their business, the soldiers let it slip that Anna’s husband-to-be, Hans Westergard, has sent out his forces in search of his missing fiancee. When the soldiers won’t reveal the whereabouts of Westergard, Elsa employs her ice powers to tighten her grip, causing the soldiers to groan in pain. With Elsa dolls littering toy shelves and Frozen merch adorning bedrooms the world over, having one of your central characters resort to torture isn’t a great plan, explaining why this scene was ultimately dropped.
12. SCAR SINGS ABOUT PORKING (THE LION KING)
The Lion King regularly nabs the top spot on lists chronicling the greatest Disney movies of all time. Much of the praise heaped upon The Lion King stems from the film’s iconic soundtrack, with classic songs from Elton John intermingling with bouncy tracks such as “I Just Can’t Wait To Be King” and “Hakuna Matata.” But originally, mixed in with the songs about having no worries and feeling the love, was a song about the villainous Scar wanting to knock up Simba’s gal pal.
This little ditty, entitled “The Madness Of King Scar,” finds Nala pleading with Scar to rein in his army of hyenas, as the cackling henchman are forcing the lions of Pride Rock to over-hunt, leaving the pack in danger of running out of food. Sensing his opportunity, Scar breaks into song about Nala’s slammin’ bod, singing “I deserve a companion/A mate, who will start/My cylinders firing with fervor/And you, my sweet thing, fit the part.” A wise Disney executive likely realized movie goers wouldn’t want to hear Scar singing about knocking boots, and the song was left on the cutting room floor.
11. SHARPTOOTH CHASE (THE LAND BEFORE TIME)
There are probably plenty of adults that can’t help but break into a cold sweat when they think about The Sharptooth chase in The Land Before Time. After all, this nail biter of a scene had the adorable Littlefoot and Cera fleeing for their lives from the fearsome “Sharptooth,” as the monstrous creature nips at their heels and comes inches from swallowing the friends whole. The scene was terrifying, and it surely gave plenty of impressionable children lifelong T-Rex oriented nightmares. But it turns out the original concept for the Sharptooth scene was even scarier.
In the original pitch for the scene, Littleflood and Cera are confronted by the terrifying thunder lizard while playing on a dead tree. Sharptooth promptly decimates the tree, sending the pair tumbling within inches of the monster’s mouth. What follows is a white knuckle chase that goes on far longer than the theatrical version, and sees our heroes come close to certain death multiple times. Realizing the scene was far too intense for the children’s movie, the scene was significantly shortened and the scarier parts of the scene were left on the cutting room floor.
10. THE IRON GIANT’S PAST (THE IRON GIANT)
With a simple uttering of the word “Superman,” The Iron Giant cemented his place in the hearts of millions. This lovable visitor from beyond the stars fought against his programming and a war-hungry US government to discover his humanity and to learn the valuable lesson that your past should never define you. While vague hints are given to the lovable Giant’s origins, viewers never learn just where the the robot hails from. But in director Brad Bird’s original vision, viewers would have learned all about The Iron Giant’s gruesome past.
In a deleted scene, The Iron Giant has a fitful nightmare while sleeping in the junkyard. Viewers are shown a sequence of events from the Giant’s perspective, including a brief scene showing an army of Iron Giants marching in unison towards the bombed out ruins of an alien city. A shot of the circular panel found in the Giant’s chest briefly flickers into view, before a planet is shown being blown to smithereens. The Iron Giant proved that even a murder-bot from beyond the stars can overcome his past, but that doesn’t mean kids would want to see the lovable Giant taking part in a planet wide genocide, hence the dropping of this scene.
9. EDDIE VALIANT’S PIG HEAD (WHO FRAMED ROGER RABBIT?)
Robert Zemeckis’ Who Framed Roger Rabbit? is already notorious for being a serious source of nightmare fuel for children. From the dreaded “Dip” to Judge Doom’s bug-eyed toon revelation, Who Framed Roger Rabbit? certainly wasn’t lacking in scenes that would keep impressionable youngsters up at night. But this classic film almost had an additional scene that would give kids lifelong phobias, and it’s legendary in the way it disturbs.
In this scene, gruff private eye Eddie Valiant is jumped by Judge Doom and his gang of weasel henchman, only to be knocked unconscious and dropped off at the edge of Toontown. When Valiant comes to, he finds that Doom has shoved a toon head over Valiant’s noodle. Oh, and the head is ALIVE. As Valiant grapples with the pig head, the pig’s eyes move and his eyebrows arch, making the ensuing scene where Valiant melts the head off with a hot shower and a bottle of turpentine all the more unsettling. Zemeckis claims the scene was dropped as it was unnecessary and slowed down the pacing of the film, but we bet it also had something to do with the nightmares it would have inspired.
8. THE SHOCK COLLAR (ZOOTOPIA)
Don’t let the cuddly animals that populate the city of Zootopia fool you: Zootopia tackles some pretty heavy subjects, including racism and classism. But with an excellent mix of fun characters and a snappy plot, Zootopia managed to present its message without getting too dark. But in the original concept for the film, one scene exploring the life of the predators that make up Zootopia would have definitely pushed the film from “fun and family-friendly” into “disturbing AF” territory.
In the original Zootopia, predators are outfitted with shock collars, which serve to deliver a jolt to the wearer to prevent these meat eaters from eating their fellow Zootopia residents. As Judy and Nick make their escape from a sticky situation, they wind up being carted into a young polar bear’s “Taming Party.” The youngster is given his collar, which the youth sees as a rite of passage into manhood. But when the predator gets too excited, the collar gives the polar bear a painful shock, teaching the child that the collar is nothing to be excited about. Thankfully, this subplot was dropped, as this concept proved far too dark for the Disney flick.
7. ULTRA MAGNUS’ GRUESOME DEATH (TRANSFORMERS: THE MOVIE)
While children that came of age in the ’80s can argue all day long about whether Miami Vice or Magnum P.I. was the superior ’80s cop show, there is one thing that all ’80s babies can agree on: The Transformers: The Movie was disturbing AF. Beloved characters such as Optimus Prime, Prowl, Ironhide, and Ratchet are all gruesomely killed on screen, leaving plenty of Transformers–loving kids bawling in the aisles. While the movie is notorious for its high body count, at least all of the deceased aren’t made to suffer. But this wasn’t the original plan for the movie, as a cut scene had a beloved Autobot receiving a particularly brutal death.
In the theatrical version of the film, Ultra Magnus is cornered by the villainous Decepticons known as the Sweeps, before being gunned down in a hail of blaster fire. But the original plan had the Sweeps wrangling Ultra Magnus’ arms and legs with energy tethers, and then flying in opposite directions. That’s right: this movie for a beloved children’s toy line originally had a character pulled apart. Realizing the death was far too gruesome, the scene was scrapped and Ultra Magnus received a less unnecessarily violent end.
6. SID TORTURES WOODY AND BUZZ
Toy Story is the touching story of Andy, a little boy who loves his toys, and the adventures of the toys that love him back. Except for one extended sequence in the original film, which finds intrepid heroes Woody and Buzz carted off into the home of the sadistic next door neighbor, Sid. In a memorable scene, Woody is “interrogated” by the screw loose Sid, who uses a magnifying glass to burn a mark on Woody’s house. The scene was unsettling, but was over fast enough that it didn’t prove too scary. But Pixar’s original plan for this scene had Sid’s sadism go on for far longer, and take a far darker turn.
In the original Sid scene, Sid first has his fun with Buzz Lightyear, attaching the space man to a drill bit and spinning the toy until Buzz breaks off the drill and flies out of sight. Spying Woody under a milk crate, Sid proceeds to interrogate the doll by pulling the cowboy’s string to get him to talk, before taking Woody to put him under the magnifying glass. Pixar decided the scene was unnecessary and would only serve to upset viewers, so the scene was significantly shortened, clearly deciding that watching Woody have his face burned was still a-okay.
5. DESTROYING PACHA’S VILLAGE (EMPEROR’S NEW GROOVE)
The Emperor’s New Groove is a classic Disney movie chronicling the budding friendship between a man and a llama, and the wacky hijinks they get into. It’s regularly regarded as one of the most laugh out loud films in the Disney canon. What it is not known for, however, is being crushingly depressing and dark AF. But a scene ultimately cut from the final film showing Pacha witnessing a practice run of the destruction of his humble village would have drastically altered the mood of the film and could have pushed The Emperor’s New Groove from a fun family film into “watch a lovable family man witness the mock slaughter of everything he holds dear” territory real quick.
In this cut scene, Pacha leaves Emperor Kuzco’s palace dejected after being told that Kuzco will be demolishing his village, only to stumble upon a wooden recreation of his village. As Pacha watches in horror, Kuzaco’s soldiers practice the upcoming destruction of his village, burning, chopping, and smashing the village into dust. The filmmakers realized moviegoers weren’t interested in watching Pacha needlessly suffer, so the scene was dropped late in production.
4. WOODY IS A JERK (TOY STORY)
Never before has Tom Hanks been so adorable. With his unending love for his friends and the occasional cry of “There’s a snake in my boot!,” Woody is the toy every kid wishes they had. But this definitely wouldn’t have been the case if Pixar has stuck to its guns and gone with their original vision of Woody: a manipulative, rude, whip-cracking taskmaster who isn’t above a little attempted murder.
Before some serious retooling, Toy Story had Woody barking orders at his fellow toys, belittling his underling Slinky The Dog, and straight up acting like a huge jerk. When things become heated between Woody and the new toy on the block Buzz, Woody pushes Buzz out the window, leading to his fellow toys finally rising up against the no-good sheriff. Pixar quickly realized that this Woody was an unlikable bully, leading to the character receiving a massive overhaul into the chipper Woody we know and love today.
3. HELL (ALL DOGS GO TO HEAVEN)
All Dogs Go To Heaven deals with some serious topics right out of the gate; after all, this is a kids movie entirely based around the death of animals. But the movie takes a serious dark turn when the recently resurrected pooch Charlie is informed by an angel that if he dies again, he will not be allowed into Heaven. But where does a soul go if it doesn’t head to Heaven? Turns out, that soul would go straight down to Hell, and the original cut of this classic animated film depicts Hell in terrifying detail.
In the theatrical cut of the film, Charlie has a nightmare of Hell, where he dodges hellfire and grapples with pint-sized demons. But in the original cut, Charlie gets a grand tour of Hell, coming face to face with smoke belching hellhounds and boiling magma, before sinking into the river Styx. Director Don Bluth was notorious for working terrifying imagery into his movies, but it turned out the Hell scene was just a little too scary, and the scene was trimmed to keep the movie from receiving the dreaded PG-13 rating. Thankfully, what was kept in the final version of the movie was still scarring for children, so Don Bluth still got what he wanted.
2. DISSOLVING HENCHMEN (THE BLACK CAULDRON)
When it comes to heavy subjects like death, Disney prefers to tap dance around the subject or, when it comes to their villains, have it occur somewhere off screen. After all, with an audience primarily composed of families, depicting a graphic death just isn’t in the cards. Apparently, The Black Cauldron did not get this memo, as the movie originally wanted to show the audience full blown death via skin melting.
In the already remarkably dark flick, main baddie The Horned King plans to conquer the land of Prydain and procure the mythical Black Cauldron for his own insidious gains with an army of the undead. When the Horned King finally raises his army from beyond the grave, a group of unlucky henchmen are jumped by the undead. In the theatrical version of the film, the group dies off-screen. But in a deleted scene, the undead are shown touching the unfortunate henchman, causing their skin to blister, boil, and fall off their bodies in gloopy sheets. It’s like a scene straight out a Cronenberg movie, smack dab in the middle of a Disney flick. The scene was quietly dropped, presumably due to Disney’s hard “no stomach churning body horror in children’s movies” rule.
1. PUDGE THE FISH DIES/LILO’S PARENTS GRAVES (LILO & STITCH)
There are depressing, distressing, and downright disturbing scenes that have been cut from animated films, and then there is the infamous “death of Pudge The Fish” scene from Lilo & Stitch. Director Chris Sanders was insistent that Lilo & Stitch not shy away from heavy topics such as broken families and ostracization, but this cut scene was just a little too heavy for a children’s movie.
In this scene, Lilo brings Stitch to the cove to meet Pudge The Fish, the pudgy little fish that the lonely Lilo regularly feeds sandwiches to. When Lilo pulls Pudge from the ocean to show off her friend, seagulls attack. Not realizing the ramifications of the attack, Stitch takes a seat and watches the events unfold. With no one to help her to fight off the seagulls, Lilo is unable to protect Pudge and the fish dies. Frustrated at Stitch, Lilo yells at the alien, before tromping off to bury Pudge. After giving Pudge his send off from this mortal coil, Stitch looks over and sees that Lilo has buried the fish near the tombstones of her deceased parents. Yeesh. Realizing families wouldn’t want to see a depressed little girl grapple with the ramifications of death, the scene was wisely dropped.
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