It seems like kids' movies are in a golden age ... by which we mean they're making studios literal piles of gold. Because of this, studios know to keep their family flicks lighthearted. Modern kids' movies are the one category you can count on being free of the dystopian landscapes and seamy underbellies found in films geared towards older crowds, and the only price you pay is having to put up with a talking radish or a rapping pigeon.
That is, unless you stop and think about them for more than five minutes. That's when the horror starts to reveal itself ...
5Who Framed Roger Rabbit? -- Humans Made Themselves Obsolete
In Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, we discover that the cartoon characters we love, envy, and have weird fetishes about during puberty are actually actors playing roles, just like their human counterparts. They have their own lives -- they just play wacky cartoon characters as their day job.
But the fact that the toons are real doesn't mean they play by real world rules; they can take a huge amount of punishment, and they don't get injured or sick, so they don't face the same everyday dangers that humans do. The fact that the movie's villain, Judge Doom, found a way to kill toons is considered absolutely shocking.
Our mathematicians estimate that two-thirds of you have spontaneously started crying.
There are a lot of frightening implications of humans and cartoons living side by side, but chief among them is the fact that the functionally immortal and indestructible toons are essentially gods. They don't age, they don't get hurt, and they have no reason to fear humanity -- especially after Doom, the only guy who knows how to make the chemical that kills toons, is destroyed by his own creation.
Our mathematicians estimate that every single one of you is now hooting and applauding wildly.
Now sure, the toons seem harmless and fun. But how long will it be until they realize that they don't need humans around anymore? We don't care how tough you are -- years of being made the butt of jokes, dropped anvils, and misfiring Acme weapons would wear on you. Who Framed Roger Rabbit? is like a dark science fiction story that tries to warn humanity of its own follies, but with a cartoon character that every young boy from the era secretly jerked off to.
Her look-alike wasn't half-bad either.
Not to mention how, despite all the entertainment they provide, the toons are treated as second-class citizens. They all live in a walled-off corner of town, and they're relegated to menial service jobs once they're not popular anymore. Forget them realizing that they're more powerful -- they're the very definition of an oppressed population, which is always a powder keg.
Or hell, how long before a human decides to weaponize them? If an aspiring supervillain wanted a giant, flying, bulletproof armadillo that shoots lasers out of its eyes, it's just a drawing board away from becoming a reality and facilitating a bank robbery. It really changes the message of the movie when you realize that Doom did humanity a favor by figuring out a way to wipe out the toons. Had his villainous schemes skewed less towards "getting rich through murder and shady real estate deals" and more "conquering humanity," what would have stopped him? At least his acts made us aware of the possibility of a wacky, silly, and comedic violent uprising.
4The Incredibles -- The Return of Heroes Means the Return of Villains
The world of Pixar's The Incredibles is full of superheroes with awe-inspiring powers and abilities far beyond those of normal humans, like super strength, super speed, and super keeping-your-marriage-interesting.
Otherwise known as elasticity.
They keep the world safe from crime, but thanks to collateral damage caused by their heroics, they become the targets of expensive lawsuits. This leads to the government banning superheroes, who are placed in a witness-protection-style program designed to hide their powers and identities and integrate them into the rest of society. It seems to work pretty well.
There's an early scene where Mr. Incredible and Samuel L. Jackson reminisce about the good old days, when they fought supervillains as tough as the heroes themselves.
The French one dressed as a mime, because of course he did.
The ban on heroism prevented heroes from heroing without the fear of legal action, but the supervillains were already operating outside the law -- the ban opened the door to a whole new world of crime. You'd half-expect the newly unstoppable villains to take over the planet, but flash-forward 15 years and there's no evidence of mass slavery, destroyed cities, a villain king -- nothing. The supervillains are apparently as extinct as the heroes. When Mr. Incredible sneaks out to do some occasional crime fighting by night, he's taking on regular old petty criminals.
And resisting regular old arrest while abusing regular old cops. All in a hero's work.
Of course, the movie isn't 90 minutes of watching Mr. Incredible work his tedious office job -- he and his family eventually battle the villainous Syndrome. But he's the only bad guy in sight, and his motive of social change is very different than the motives of profiteering mimes. We're forced to assume that the villains were either dealt with after the ban, or got bored with having no one to challenge them and thus retired to wherever supervillains spend their golden years. Maybe they all got book deals, who knows.
However, almost immediately after the Incredibles defeat Syndrome and make it known that heroes are back, they're attacked by a new supervillain called the Underminer. The first supervillain to appear in years.
He looks like he could be defeated by a Boy Scout troop, but still.
It's almost as if once the heroes decided that they were making a public comeback, the dormant supervillains decided that they were coming back too, and that means the return of the horrifically damaging fights that got the heroes banned in the first place. The villains forced the heroes into hiding, which made the villains retire, until the heroes decided they were coming back, which made the villains come back, and so on. The cycle could last forever. This may mark the first time in theatrical history that a government ban was a smart move.