As a rule, you probably assume that most family-friendly properties are going to be free of difficult things to explain to your kids, like adult innuendo, advanced mathematics, and notorious murderers. You would assume wrong, at least on the last one ...
(Speaking of infamous killers, did you know Hitler liked to prance around in short shorts? Read our De-Textbook for the details.)
#6. Nazi and the Chocolate Factory
Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory was full of scenes of questionable content, as any of us who still cry during the ferry tunnel scene can attest. But the most bizarrely dark scene is one you probably never even noticed. It's the part where Charlie, heartbroken, watches a news report about the final Golden Ticket being found in South America. The newscaster holds up a photo of the lucky winner ...
TV was low-tech. Private inventors were working on improvements.
German Federal Archives
And he hadn't taken a new photo since leaving Germany.
What the what? These days, when this kind of thing happens, it can usually be chalked up to a set designer's intern who played it loose with a Google image search, but this was 1971. They had to walk all the way to the ... photo library, we guess? It's safe to assume they knew exactly what they were doing.
According to the film's director, Mel Stuart, the photo was a joke that fell flat, presumably because they (slightly) overestimated the number of children in the audience who possessed an encyclopedic knowledge of obscure World War II villains.
Bormann was killed by the Red Army as he tried to flee Berlin, but there was a rumor that he actually escaped and fled to Paraguay, hence the reference about him winning the ticket in South America. Stuart went on to elaborate on the failure of such an obvious knee-slapper: "25 years after World War II, very few people knew or cared who Martin Bormann was, so the scene was never as successful as I had hoped."
Come to think of it, there is something kind of funny about Willy Wonka almost donating his chocolate factory to an aging war criminal.
#5. Animaniacs Once Opened a Show by Killing Saddam Hussein
To say that Animaniacs pushed the envelope for kids' comedy would be an understatement. They were sneaking some seriously adult humor over the heads of their target audience long before DreamWorks hid all those penises in every one of their movies. But the episode "Hot, Bothered, and Bedeviled" took things to a new level. The story details the zany shenanigans that ensue as the Warners terrorize the devil in hell -- which is a bit dark for after school color fodder. But you already know it's going to be a rough ride by the 15-second mark:
It opens with a caricature who is very clearly Saddam Hussein stepping out of a palace to address the people of Iraq. Instantly, a trap door opens under him and he is thrown screaming to his death into a lake of fire surrounded by demons:
"Regretting installing that trap door in retrospeeeeeeeeeeect!"
Bear in mind that this was produced while Hussein was still alive and the head of a sovereign country. We're not saying they were risking an international incident or anything, but aside from the time Bugs Bunny butchered Ho Chi Minh with a meat saw, we can't think of the last time a children's cartoon straight assassinated a world leader for a giggle.
#4. Stalin's Chilling Musical Number in Histeria!
Histeria! was another show from the folks behind Animaniacs that used music and comedy to educate kids about history. Because history is basically a quilt of assholes, it was unavoidable that the show would have to cover some dark content. Of course, there are "unavoidable touchy subjects," and then there's "let's steer right toward that touchy subject at full speed and see how hard we can ram the bastard." They titled a whole episode "Megalomaniacs" and dedicated it to history's greatest scumbags. Most notable is the song and dance number by Josef Stalin, in which he sings gleefully about government purges, state-sponsored murder, and the building of the Berlin Wall:
Stalin begins by admitting that running the Soviet Union can be a lonely job, but when he's feeling down, he sits back and thinks of all the things that make him happy. Things like running a cult, murdering Trotsky, and purging revolutionaries.
The victims grin throughout, so you know it's not too serious.
In the bridge, he details how much it made him smile when the Germans marched on Moscow and he watched them all freeze to death. Hey, you know the kids love hypothermia!
Even the guns are freezing to death.
In the end, Stalin is left standing alone in Red Square crooning about how he's killed everyone and now there's nobody left but him. It was nothing if not catchy -- your kids would be humming about genocide all day after watching it.
To be clear, we're not saying it's offensive that a kid's show did this -- they sure didn't give Stalinism a happy spin, and perhaps it is better not to pull any punches when teaching children about the terrors of war. It's just that maybe jaunty jingles aren't the absolute best medium for explaining the downsides of oppressive communism to 10-year-olds.