4 Weird Trends That Keep Popping Up In Beloved Childhood Movies
When we think of kids' movies, we think color, comfort, and at least one musical number that’ll inevitably turn into an insufferable earworm (have fun hearing The Little Mermaid's “Under the Sea” for the rest of the day). It’s been like this since forever, and studios will probably continue with this winning formula for the rest of cinematic eternity, but when we look back at the kids' movies from our childhood days, there are a few strange trends that seem to have fallen away over time. Trends like …
A Kid Unexpectedly Dies A Tragic Death
We doubt that parents wake up in the mornings going, “Hey, let’s do movie night with the kids and watch some lovable little goofball die in the end.” That’s … not really what we think when it comes to kids' movies. Back in the day, however, studios totally had these thoughts, and we all had to watch in shock and horror how a bunch of bees ate Macaulay Culkin’s face. Here, let’s relive this trauma together:
Tragic, as is that wild bush on Dan Aykroyd’s head. And they didn’t stop there, giving us this scene to really turn on the waterworks:
At least Bridge to Terabithia didn’t milk the sudden death of little Leslie Burke or even showed us how that rope snapped, but it still came as a shock to see young Jess lose his version of the Manic Pixie Dream Girl.
And while Rufio was at least a tad older and seemed slightly more mature, his tragic death in Hook also stung — especially given his character arc.
We could also mention the sad, soppy scene in the middle of Casper where ghost boy remembers his death and recounts the tale of how he died of pneumonia. And who, pray tell, can forget watching this brief scene laid heavy with knowledge of younglings getting absolutely massacred:
Why this was a trend:
Seeing someone, anyone, die tragically on screen can oftentimes help a person — yes, even a kid — cope with their grief. I lost my dad when I was very young, and watching little Vada in My Girl deal with the loss of her mother, her friend, and just coming to terms with death in general was in many ways a cathartic experience. It was relatable, as it most certainly was for many.
Also, people die, and sometimes those people are kids. It’s a harsh reality that even younglings need to learn eventually, and it’s clear that these types of movies decided they’d be the ones to push mommy and daddy to have “the other talk.” While many of these scenes may still haunt us from time to time, they at least didn’t beat around the bush about what it’s like being a kid in a world where horrible things happen (but like, eat dung, Anakin).
And, of course, we all learned to never, ever kick a beehive.
So Much Horniness
It’s hard to talk about the original 1993 Hocus Pocus movie without bringing up the sheer horniness of it all. There’s the Sanderson Sisters who display more lust than hunger, with Sarah Jessica Parker so famously riding the bus all innocent while sitting on the driver’s lap. There’s the young virgin boy Max who we’re repeatedly reminded hasn’t popped his peaches yet, and who refers to boobs as “yabbos” for some inexplicable reason, all while he constantly drools over Allison. It’s a lot of camp, but also a lot of raunch, which was kind of a staple in kids' movies back then. Casper couldn’t stop salivating — or, we guess, dry heaving? — over Christina Ricci in that bonkers 1995 movie. Both Vada and Jess from My Girl and Bridge to Terabithia had crushes on their teachers, and do we even dare bring up Labyrinth?
You may also recall a piece I wrote earlier this year about Disney’s hand in creating an entire generation of furries because in classic animations, rodents and other furballs needed to be sexy for … reasons.
And, of course, who can forget the sexy/sex-obsessed characters and scenes in animation like Aladdin, the furniture in Beauty and the Beast, and that wild movie about a hunchback in Paris?
Why this was a trend:
It’s obvious that movies like Hocus Pocus, Casper, even Labyrinth and the likes dealt with tweens becoming teens and discovering their hormones — much like the kids who grew up watching these movies. Also, these films were written by adults, who seemingly couldn’t help themselves when it came to slipping in suggestive jokes like they were winking at the other adults in the room.
We can’t explain the whole furry business, though. That seems to have simply been a very specific and deliberate choice.
Parents Abandoning Their Kids (Or Just Being The Worst)
Ah, yes. The classic trope that essentially became a competition of “Let’s see which movie has the worst parents possible.” The Home Alone franchise really set the bar here, with Mom and Dad McCallister leaving behind their kid not once but twice. We suspect they secretly regretted having half a dozen kids.
In The Parent Trap, we have one parent abandoning one child each for (again) reasons, and in The Pagemaster, kid Culkin is again dealing with ridiculous parents who think sending their kid out on his bike to the hardware store while a tropical-level storm approaches will, somehow, build character. Honestly, the kid should’ve stayed with Christopher Lloyd in that library forever.
There’s also Danny DeVito and Rhea Perlman being the absolute worst of the worst in Matilda, but that’s just Roald Dahl for you. The man loved bringing out the worst in most of his characters, especially the grown-ups.
Why this was a trend:
We guess this one is self-explanatory, as parents can totally be the worst sometimes. It’s also a way of getting kids to realize that, unfortunately, they won’t always be able to rely on the people who raised them and that there will be times in their young lives when they need to experience life stuff on their own. You know, like how to deal with home invaders or finding out you have a long-lost twin your stupid mom/dad didn’t tell you about because the script says so.
Animals Being Put Through The Ringer
Man, the 20th century was just way darker when it came to kids' movies and animations. These days we have animal movies featuring mice being chefs or furries getting all political a la Zootopia. Back in the day, however, animals had a tough time on screen because who doesn’t want to see Satan come and collect everyone’s favorite roguish pooch?
In fairness, ol’ Charlie boy had to go from bad dog to good dog to give us the (sort of) happier ending, but boy, did that scene give a lot of kids anxiety at the time. We were kind of used to it, though, given that we had animations like The Secret of NIMH teaching us all about scientists torturing rats:
And the 1978 classic that probably features the most bloody scenes in a kid cartoon ever:
Homeward Bound wasn’t the easiest of watches at times — what with the cat getting swallowed by a waterfall and Shadow the dog falling down that mud hole — and who could ever forget this absolute wrencher:
Yep, the “Swamp of Sadness” still gets us, and as it well should because that scene right there might possibly be one of the best scenes to ever depict depression that we’ve seen in a kids' movie. And that is …
Why this was a trend:
It’s important to refrain from sheltering kids against strong emotions like the ones we feel when we see animals suffering. Kids should totally feel that (it’s usually, you know, a good sign), and having them experience these things in a safe environment where they can talk to their parents about it is kind of the idea here. All Dogs Go To Heaven was a lesson in morality, The Secret of NIMH made kids aware of how the world can mistreat animals, and all of these movies depict the harsh reality animals sometimes face on this planet of ours. These kind of movies breed empathy — not only for other people but also for our furry and sometimes best friends.
But hey, movies about rodent chefs are cool, too.
Zanandi is on Twitter.
Thumbnail: Buena Vista Pictures, Warner Bros.