Many children’s movies throw in a few jokes that only adults will catch. Disney, as one of the largest companies making children’s films, has had its fair share in creating subliminal messages to entertain any adults watching the show.
Owning Pixar, Dreamworks, and many other animation studios, there is no end to the amount of Disney movies to unpack. Here is just a short list containing 16 out of the hundreds of Disney subliminal messages that you may have missed as a child.
16 Subliminal Messages in Disney Movies
Many subliminal messages within Disney movies revolve around sexual content. They hope to get a laugh out of the adults while also ensuring it flies over every kid’s head until they are older.
1. Brothel in Aladdin
Image source: Pinterest
In Aladdin we see him running around the city and eventually he happens upon a building full of well-dressed women who seem familiar with him. They acknowledge him with disapproval before quickly kicking him out. As an adult, notice that this is likely a brothel that Aladdin has been to before and they kick him out because they know he has no money.
2. Risque Messages in the Cars Franchise
There are many sexual subliminal messages in the Cars franchise owned by Disney, but here are just a few. A few girl car fans flash their headlights at Lightning McQueen, a reference to flashing someone in real life.
In another scene, we see a sign that says “convertible waitresses” at a truck stop. Cars that are convertibles can remove their tops, meaning this is a message referencing topless waitress establishments.
3. Perverted Symbols in The Lion King
The Lion King is riddled with sexual subliminal messages, one of the most iconic being the scene between Simba and Nala. This scene is not so subtly hinting at the fact that the two lions got down to business.
Around the same time as this scene, fans noticed that the clouds in the sky spell sex quite clearly. If that isn’t enough, the main poster for the movie shows a lion’s face that looks more like the back of a barely dressed woman.
4. Phallic Imagery in The Little Mermaid
The cover of the VHS edition of The Little Mermaid shows the castle and its various spires, all of which look extremely phallic. More phallic imagery appears in the movie itself during the wedding scene between Vanessa and Prince Eric. The bishop seems a little too excited to wed this couple as seen by the visible tent in his pants.
5. Not So Subtle Reference in Ratatouille
One of the funniest jokes to look back on as an adult and an obvious example of subliminal messaging is in the tiny chef scene of Ratatouille. Linguini reveals to Colette that he has a tiny little chef, referencing the rat.
Colette, not quite understanding, shifts her gaze from his eyes to his pants, then back up again. It seems she thought he might be referencing something quite different during this scene.
6. Gay Joke in Inside Out
Image source: Pinterest
This subliminal messaging is slightly more subtle. In Inside Out, the characters Anger, Fear, and Disgust are watching a scene unfold through the girl’s eyes when Disgust pipes in saying there aren’t any bears in San Francisco, to which Anger responds that he saw a really hairy guy that looked like one. This is a nod to the gay community that refers to big, hairy men as ‘bears.’
7. See-Through Clothing in Mulan
Mushu the Dragon is an iconic character with various powers in the original Mulan movie. When he first meets Mulan he brags about his various powers, including the power to see through her armor. This hints at him being able to see through the rest of her clothing, which makes Mulan uncomfortable for good reason.
8. Anti-Government Messaging in A Bug’s Life
This example dives a bit deeper into the movie than some of the other examples have, unpacking the movie’s overall message as a subliminal message in itself.
The movie depicts the lower bugs fighting against the ones that control them, seeming to reference the exploited working class rising against the authority that oppresses them. Many speculate that this ‘authority’ figure could either be the bosses, big companies as a whole, or even the government itself.
9. Child Trafficking in Pinocchio
One of the main plot points in Pinnochio is him and several other boys being taken to ‘Pleasure Island’ where life is fun and simple. They get whatever they want, whenever they want with seemingly no consequences.
That is until things take a turn for the worse as they transform into donkeys and are locked away, never to be free again. Thankfully Pinnochio manages to escape, but this tale reflects the harsh reality of what happens to trafficked children.
10. Kronk’s Tent in The Emperor’s New Groove
Kronk’s character in The Emperor’s New Groove is notorious for not being very smart. In the movie, he fails to put up a tent quite spectacularly, so he eventually just settles down into what he did manage to pitch. Unfortunately, the tent is a small one that conveniently is placed right over his crotch, referring to a man’s pants making a tent during certain situations.
11. The Hunchback of Notre Dame Silhouette
Image source: Pinterest
One of the main plot points in The Hunchback of Notre Dame is Frollo’s struggle with sin and desire. During his iconic scene where he is singing about this, the fire shows a figure of a woman, wearing little to no clothing and being very provocative. That is what he wants and lust is his sin, which is no surprise to adults, but it is subliminal messaging for kids.
12. Pollination in A Bug’s Life
While in a bar setting, some of the main characters are looking around when a fly addresses one of them. The character in question is Francis, who looks like a girl because he is a ladybug and is very feminine. The fly catcalls Francis and asks him if he wants to ‘pollinate’ with a real bug, pollinating being a subliminal message referencing sex.
13. Skunk in Bambi
The male skunk in Bambi, Flower, is out and about with his other friends when he meets a female skunk named Petunia. The two hit it off and things go well, leading Petunia to kiss Flower. Flower goes bright red and is suddenly standing at full height, solid and frozen. The kiss leading to a rigid Flower is hinting at him getting very excited by the kiss as many men would.
14. Oedipus Joke in Hercules
During a playful scene between Hercules and Meg, Hercules makes an off-handed joke about Oedipus. He compares himself to Oedipus saying he thought he had problems, but doesn’t in comparison to him. This is a nod to the tale of Oedipus who unknowingly falls in love with and sleeps with his mother after murdering his father.
15. Naked Woman in The Rescuers
The main characters Bianca and Bernard are flying through the city on a mission, riding in a sardine can on top of Orville. They are whipping by different windows with different things in them, but one particular window is what caught people’s eye.
In the window is a picture of a fully naked woman with her front facing out of the window. She whips by with all the other figures, but it is still noticeable to those with a discerning eye.
16. Jessica Rabbit Flashing in Who Framed Roger Rabbit
During Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Jessica Rabbit and Bob Hoskins are riding in a cab together. When the car runs into a lamp post they are thrown from the car. At that moment, Jessica’s dress flies up and there is an animated section of the dress going up just enough to show that she is wearing no underwear.