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The 6 Rules To Disney Animated Movies

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When it comes to making a Disney animated movie, there are certain guidelines that must be followed. The most important is to base your story on the work of a dead author so they can’t sue you for points off the gross. But after that come the following six crucial rules…


Girls Are Wonderful, Women Are Horrible

disney rules ariel ursula little mermaid


There’s absolutely nothing better than being a girl in a Disney cartoon. You’re pretty, you’re probably a princess, and not only does your daddy love you but mommy is long gone and so can’t take any of his attention away from you. You’re probably also smart (Belle, “Beauty and the Beast”), feisty (Ariel, “The Little Mermaid”) or can kill Huns (Mulan, “Mulan”). But how dare you be an adult woman in a Disney cartoon. That’s just asking to be drawn like Dame Edna as an octopus (Ursula, “The Little Mermaid”), wear clothes that barely conceal your horns (Maleficent, “Sleeping Beauty”), use animals as sports equipment (Queen of Hearts, “Alice in Wonderland”), and be so psychotically narcissistic that you’d slice open a kid’s chest and remove her heart because of something a mirror said (Queen, “Snow White”).


Animals Love Strangers

disney rules snow white animals forest


Whether it’s rescuing someone lost in the woods (“Show White”), providing immediate sweatshop labor (“Cinderella”), or just outright adopting someone without the hassle of court papers or a screening process (“The Jungle Book”). animals are always willing to help an absolute stranger in need. The same even goes for the villains, who can usually count on a slithery (Flotsam and Jetsam in “The Little Mermaid”), sarcastic (Iago in “Aladdin”) or just plain homicidal (hyenas in “The Lion King”) animal to aid in their evil or at least laugh at their jokes. Unfortunately, this kindness is rarely paid forward, since when the situation is reversed and an animal is dependent on human strangers, they either get horribly abused (“Dumbo”) or just plain shot (“Bambi”).


Villain Fools No One but the Movie’s Cast

disney rules scar lion king


From cackling with malevolent glee to speaking in that sly, soothing tone that says, “You won’t see the knife until it’s too late” to dressing in clothes so obviously villain-like they’d get a TSA pat-down at a supermarket, Disney bad guys are never shy about acting evil. That’s probably because they’re confident in the knowledge that the good guys don’t have access to the entire movie script and so don’t know just how evil they truly are. And so they can openly engage in such clear villain warning signs as practice dark magic (“The Little Mermaid,” “Aladdin”), sing out loud about nefarious plans (almost every Disney cartoon) or be voiced by Jeremy Irons (“The Lion King”).


Two Parents Are One Too Many

disney rules jasmine father aladdin


Maybe it’s to create a sense of longing in the main character. Maybe it’s to avoid the costs of hiring another voice talent. Or maybe it’s simply because Disney animators don’t know how to draw a girl over the age of 18 without making her look like Satan in drag. Whatever the reason, female leads from “The Little Mermaid” to “Beauty and the Beast” to “Aladdin” to probably half the cast of “Lady of the Tramp” (because male animals rarely stick around after impregnation) have only one parent, always the dad. And it’s even worse if you’re the male lead, in which case you either see (“The Lion King”) or hear (“Bambi”) your parent die, you don’t have any parents at all (“Peter Pan,” “Aladdin,” “The Jungle Book,” “Tarzan”) or your folks were lumber (“Pinocchio”).


Falling Is the Only Way to Die

disney rules gaston fall death


In Disney cartoons the difference between good and bad is clear and the distance between almost getting away with an evil plan and winding up a shattered corpse is a 500’ foot drop. This allows for a truly cinematic shot of the villain realizing both that they’re no longer holding on to anything and that gravity does indeed work. And so the bad guy eventually plummets to their death from a cliff (“Sleeping Beauty”), a castle (“Beauty and the Beast”), another cliff (“Snow White”), a cathedral (“The Hunchback of Notre Dame”), and yet another cliff, only to survive the fall but then torn apart by hyenas (“The Lion King”). In fact, cliffs are such a common instrument of death in these movies that one could think the studio was using them as product placement for an upcoming Disney World ride called “Drop 50 Stories and Then Get Sent to the Coroner’s Office.”


Be Pretty or Be Gone

disney rules belle smile beauty beast


You can be brave, you can be industrious, you can even conquer any obstacle that comes your way. But if you’re not a very pretty girl or an extremely good looking guy Disney will relegate you to “Background Character #147” in the movie’s “Townspeople Suddenly Burst into Song About Their Town with Minimal Prompting but Flawless Harmony” crowd sequence. After all, this is the studio that made sure generations would equate “ugly” with “evil,” from ugly stepsisters (“Cinderella”) to ugly old ladies (“Snow White”). The one instance in which this did not happen, however, was with Quasimodo in “The Hunchback of Notre Dame.” But that would have required such a massive rewrite of a famous story that people would have left the theater scratching their heads and wondering, “Did that movie really end with all of Paris chipping in for constructive surgery so he could be allowed happiness?”


What are some other rules to making a Disney animated movie? Let us know in the comments!

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