Disney’s recent backlash for a so-called inappropriate and insensitive joke in a newsletter earned them another helping of backlash amongst other such controversies as the Genie+ price hike, but the joke was tame compared to some of the lines the studio actually got away with.
Walt Disney’s original goal for his company and theme parks was to appeal to both children and adults, which meant that he had to play to both audiences. While their traditional films and projects feature some of the most beloved characters to ever grace the large or small screens, Disney has never shied away from a dose or two of adult-oriented humor. Younger audiences might love and adore their favorite animated friends, but even the likes of Mickey Mouse aren’t immune from an adult joke once in a blue moon.
Disney has a history of trying to maintain a squeaky-clean image, but when they decide to pop in a dirty joke, double entendre, or sprinkling of naughty humor, they go all out, and we’re not talking Pumbaa’s infamous farts either.
Although these jokes and line might go over younger viewers’ heads, they’ve been effective enough to raise a few parental eyebrows on occasion. Many of their classic films have a handful of winks to the grownups, but many entries in their modern media have gone even further in their subject matter.
One such example includes the reference to foot size in Frozen. Although it goes by really quickly and the rapid-fire exchange between Anna and Kristoff on their sleigh ride, the comment about “foot size” not mattering might not grab kids’ attention a bit, but it might cause their parents to do a double take at first. Harkening back to the expression “you know what they say about a man with big feet” might go over a few heads, but not many adults. Of course, this is only one of the more tamer examples seen in recent years.
Anna’s unwittingly double entendre might have been pretty subtle, but Disney only got bolder in some of their following releases.
Another instance of adult humor surprisingly comes from the pilot episode of The Lion Guard on Disney Junior of all places. Before Simba can tell his son, Kion, about the duties of the Lion Guard, the cub immediately suspects their talk is “the talk.” In a surprisingly meta-humored moment, Kion remarks “Dad, we already had THAT talk. ‘Can you feel the love tonight?’ Clearly a reference to the inference that Simba and Nala’s Oscar-winning love song had indeed a far more physical meaning.
While the previous remark can certainly be regarded as only dirty if viewers take it that way, there have been adult jokes in Disney cartoons that were written, approved, and aired without even a shred of caution to audiences’ response.
The 2019 Ducktales reboot gets a little more wiggle room than most, given a large portion of its dedicated audience likely grew up with the series, but Disney didn’t even attempt to hide one joke in particular.
In the episode “The Curse of Castle McDuck,” Huey, Dewey, Louie, and Webby are introduced to Scrooge’s parents and ancestral home, along with his family tree. When shown a portrait of Scrooge’s grandfather, the boys burst into fits of giggling at the name “Dirty Dingus McDuck.” That’s right, Disney literally made a joke pertaining to male anatomy in an animated kids’ show and got off completely scot-free.
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