It's hard to find a children's movie made in the last couple of decades that doesn't have a happy ending, usually to the tune of a pop song. It's part of the formula, along with talking animals, celebrity voices and pop culture references no 10-year-old could possibly understand. Now it's all jokes and dancing. What happened to all the sadness and horror that used to traumatize children in the '80s? Where did we go wrong?
Fortunately, the traumatizing moments are still there, just better hidden. While the protagonists are learning important lessons and living happily ever after, some overlooked characters end up suffering fates that are often worse than death. Listen up, kids, because in ...
#6. Monsters, Inc. -- Did the Little Girl's Parents Think She Was Kidnapped?
Pixar's Monsters, Inc. is about a place powered entirely by the screams of little children, much like Disney World itself. The monsters living in this Monstropolis are currently in the middle of a scream shortage, so the corrupt CEO of the one company that runs everything secretly plans to kidnap kids from the human world and strap them to a machine in order to harvest their fear more efficiently.
"Let's just kill her parents in front of her. She'll be screwed up for years."
The first lucky kid to get this honor is Boo, a little girl who slips into the monsters' world during an implied kidnapping attempt and befriends a giant blue beast named Sully and a one-eyed atrocity called Mike. After about a day of shenanigans, Mike and Sully uncover the conspiracy and finally manage to get Boo back into her own bed, and she resumes her life as if nothing happened. Everyone lives happily ever after!
They Forgot to Mention ...
Wait a minute, Boo was gone from her home for "about a day"? Unless she had extremely absentminded parents, that means her greatest adventure was also her family's worst nightmare.
We saw Boo spend a whole night at Mike and Sully's, and by the time they returned her home it was night again, so she was in Monstropolis for at least 24 hours. Exactly what kind of hell were her parents going through at the same time? There was probably a Caylee Anthony style media frenzy going on in the real world while she was off having fun with her new friends.
There's a thin line between "adventure" and "Amber Alert."
We know what you're thinking: What if time flows differently in Monstropolis, like it does in Narnia? Well, first of all, you are a huge nerd for knowing that about Narnia, and secondly, no, it doesn't, because at one point Mike and Sully are exiled to the real world, where they meet the Abominable Snowman, as voiced by Cliff from Cheers.
If you just assume a Pixar character is voiced by John Ratzenberger, there's a 20 percent chance you'll be correct.
If time flowed more slowly in Monstropolis (slow enough that an entire day there was just a few hours for Boo's parents), by the time Sully trekked to the nearest town, sneaked into a house and used the closest to go back to Monstropolis, Boo would have been strapped to the machine for a long time and unable to do anything but scream.
"Here's your kid back. We ... 'cured' her hyperactivity problem."
If there's any consolation for Boo's anguished parents, it's that she isn't old enough to talk and can't tell them she spent her missing day with a big hairy man who made her dress up in weird costumes.
#5. The Incredibles -- Why Didn't the Government Tell the Family They Were in Mortal Danger?
The Incredibles is set in a world where superheroes have been forced to retire by the government, until they are brought back into action by a vast conspiracy that's killing them off -- it's essentially Watchmen, except with less gratuitous nudity.
In the movie, the government keeps tabs on all superheroes through the National Supers Agency, forcing them to stay in their lame secret identities. Former superhero Mr. Incredible, currently an insurance salesman, gets the chance to relive his glory days when someone recruits him to take out a rogue robot on a tropical island. However, the whole thing turns out to be a plot by the villain Syndrome. In fact, we learn that Syndrome has successfully killed several other superheroes that he lured to the island under similar pretenses:
The movie then shows a 45-minute scene of their slow disembowelment while they scream for their lives.
Mr. Incredible is eventually rescued by his superpowered family, and then Syndrome's cape gets caught in an airplane turbine and his body is torn to pieces in another perfectly happy Pixar ending.
They Forgot to Mention ...
Hold on, if the National Supers Agency is so good at keeping track of superheroes ... how come nobody noticed they were being killed off? Dozens of them. Wasn't this, like, their one job?
"Well, if we report them dead, we don't get paid to watch them, do we?"
When Mr. Incredible sneaks into Syndrome's hideout, we learn that the first six versions of his robot had killed 15 superheroes, leaving their corpses scattered across the island. And by the end of the movie, Syndrome is up to his 10th robot, each version more efficient at superhero-killing than the one before. The total body count may be somewhere around 30, which, holy shit, is more dead superheroes than in Watchmen and The Dark Knight Returns combined.
So apparently, the government either failed to notice that the people they were keeping tabs on were suddenly disappearing (which is unlikely) or didn't give a shit. When Mr. Incredible's identity is compromised for the umpteenth time, his government liaison Rick Dicker doesn't even think to mention the fact that Mr. Incredible and his family may be in immediate mortal danger. Instead, he complains about how much money it would cost to relocate his family again and tells him, "You're on your own from now on."
And he was even at their wedding!
Assuming that every registered superhero had their own liaison like Rick Dicker, what were the other ones doing this whole time? Besides enjoying a lighter workload, that is.
#4. The Iron Giant -- What Happens When the Rest of the World-Destroying Giants Show Up?
The Iron Giant follows the friendship between a 10-year-old boy and giant amnesiac robot from outer space who is currently being hunted by government agencies, since they view him as some kind of secret doomsday weapon. As it turns out, he actually is a secret doomsday weapon -- as soon as he gets his memory back, the lovable 50-foot-tall steel monster turns into a terrifying 50-foot-tall steel monster.
In a subsequent shot, speakers emerge from his back, blaring NWA's "Fuck tha Police."
Eventually, the boy convinces the robot that full on murder mode isn't the best way to make friends, and the robot ends up sacrificing himself to save an entire town in a heroic, tear-jerking final scene. However, in the epilogue, we see the scattered pieces reassembling and repairing themselves out in the wilderness, promising us that the robot will eventually come back to life.
They Forgot to Mention ...
If that ending made you feel good, you got it all wrong. And here's why.
We've previously pointed out that if there was a sequel to The Iron Giant it would have to deal with the fact that someone had to send this robotic weapon thing to Earth (a small detail the movie never acknowledges), and they probably aren't gonna give up after one failed attempt. What we didn't mention is that there couldn't be a third movie after that, because by end of the second one the whole world would look like this:
That's a burning city in the background, with an army of iron giants marching in the foreground.
That's from a deleted scene in The Iron Giant, which shows the robot's memory of what he and other robots did to another planet. Not only do we get a confirmation that there's an army of these things out there, but also that they don't just conquer planets and enslave their inhabitants -- they actually punch them until they explode.
And there must be a shitload more of them, because they were pretty willing to sacrifice the ones on the surface.
Also, as the final scene points out, they can survive nuclear blasts. The only one who could fight them is the Iron Giant himself ... but who says he's still friendly after rebuilding himself? For all we know, when those eyes lit up at the very end of the movie, the one thought in his head was "DEATH TO HUMANS."
"I long for the abbreviated screams of children."
If a bump to the head was enough to erase his memory at the beginning, we'd say a nuclear blast can do the trick as well. Sure, the boy could probably convince him to be friendly again, but he's in freaking Iceland when we last see him -- by the time his path of destruction reaches the boy's town, half the country would be in flames.