9 Animated Movies That Secretly Traumatized 90s Kids

Remember that part in All Dogs Go To Heaven when the dog goes to hell? No, of course you don’t, because there’s scar tissue over that part of your brain. But it happened. There were little bits of secret trauma in the cartoons that kids of the 90s watched and those horrifying events are probably ruining your life right now as you’re sitting there reading this when you really ought to be having some dinner or calling your mom.

Toy Story established a fear of zombies. Someday, you’ll die, and your body will be harvested for parts just like the toys in the mean kid’s attic. You don’t really remember the mechanical spider/baby-head hybrid part of Toy Story, do you? This is mostly because Andy, your friend, found you to be outdated, throwing you aside on a whim for something shiny.

Snow White confused people about taboos like personal boundaries and necrophilia, upping our generation’s grope-quotient by 37%. No, it is not okay to hermetically seal a girl in a glass coffin, dwarf-cadre. Yes, it’s a mixed message that you can kiss a dead girl. Did you think it was odd that the motherly figure in your life secretly wants to (pay the hired help to) rip out your heart and put it on display? Blergh — the whole thing is going to confuse the sh-t out of kids.

The Lion King suggested that responsibility is something that should be shirked as long as humanly possible until your dad tells you to get your act together. Wait until after the drought-apocalypse to go and try to fix things, why don’t you, Simba? Family kingdom collapsing? Eh, no biggie. Mother in abusive relationship with her brother-in-law? Not even going to look up from your bong-rip. But if Ghost Vader tells you to do it, you stop pouting and go kill your uncle. Fear responsibility, but fear your father even more.

The Secret of NIMH reminded us that no matter how well-intentioned they might be, old people are still horrifying. Here, madam, wear this creepy Russian talisman and trust these genetically-modified rats to help you move your home with your sick kid still inside. This is the advice that the wizened old rat gives. And what happens? House collapse — ironically crushing the old rat.

Beauty & The Beast was an informercial for the benefits of Stockholm Syndrome. It was just… a weird time and feeling and… there was just a lot of confusing energy flying around with rose wilting and the pity and the magic… he gave her a whole library, okay, how bad can he really be? That whole bit with him mauling Belle’s dad really should be forgiven. 

The Land Before Time forced us to cope with the idea of abandonment. For instance, what would happen if your single parent got mugged and killed by a fanged monster? In front of you. How did Littlefoot not turn into The Batman Of Dinosaurs? Whatever. Your parents are gonna die. And it’s gonna rain.

The Nightmare Before Christmas was basically about class warfare. Are you from a different part of town? Do you celebrate different things? Do you want to learn about other traditions? All that awaits you is ridicule from your peers and enemies alike. I also don’t know what the Oogie-Boogie Man is, but I’m still afraid of jazz-scat music.

Pinocchio made us fear leaving the nest. Any curiosity or trust in anybody besides dear old dad will get you in trouble. Everybody else in the world is a bunch of filthy, exploitative donkey-men. It’s no wonder Pinocchio ended up being the Buster Bluth of Disney characters. At the end he finally becomes A Real Boy. Nice. Well done.

Bambi. C’mon.

The real trouble is that they’ve kind of filtered the trauma out of kids movies now. Is that a good thing or a bad thing? Well, it means things are really clean and saccharine, and characters have brief 90-minute emotional arcs that always end with things resolved, but the landscape is rarely different. Except for maybe Up or Wall-E, things aren’t that hard-hitting or life-altering. In most modern animated movies, nobody dies for real, there are always sequels, and if you look closely, you’ll realize that pretty much every Dreamworks movie ends with a dance number.

Except for How To Train Your Dragon. Toothless is the best dog you’ll never get to have. TC mark

image – Edward


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  • http://www.facebook.com/brianmay Brian Gregory May

    The clown in the Brave Little Toaster scared the sh*t out of me as a kid.

    • crystal


  • http://twitter.com/napsnfaps Emily Hirsch

    What about Thumbelina..for just being creepy as fuck. Mole man husband. Attempted rape by frogs? Scared the shit out of me. 

  • Courtney

    watching little  boys morph into donkeys was seriously terrifying

    • http://robvincent.net Rob T Firefly

      Disney did make Monstro’s innards seem like a cozy sort of place to kill some time while waiting for the sweet release of oblivion.  I wonder how many cases of vorarephilia that whole sequence was responsible for. 

  • Chelsea

    I am honestly still afraid of the zombie toys in Toy Story and refuse to watch those parts of the movie.

  • Raychel

    I’m an 80s kid and The Last Unicorn is extremely terrifying!

  • http://twitter.com/Kaagers Katerina

    Little did I know the Lion King is basically my life right now. 

  • Lord_b

    Fern Gully started what would be a lifetime of environmental malaise.  How many 90s kids have grown up into full-blown deniers of climate change?

  • Anonymous

    The two faced Mayor from Nightmare Before Christmas was the best character ever.

  • Kelly

    Baby Face was Sid’s, not Andy’s.

  • Guestropod

    The Last Unicorn taught me that to be human is to feel regret 

  • Guest

    Have you guys seen Woodship Down? If not, don’t. Ever.

    • Turnquisttim

      Watership Down

  • Kasey

    Little Nemo: Adventures in Slumberland

    • jane


    • Anonymous

      Takes the cake.  I thought my bed would fly away with me in it for years.

  • http://www.about.me/tanyasalyers Tanya Salyers

    Bambi made me cry when I was a kid.

  • Iengebretson

    the fox and the hound. it’s not such a secret traumatization, but seriously. the fox and the hound. 

    • Melissa

      Seriously. That movie was too much for 7 year old me to handle.

  • kelly

    Jumanji- To this day I have not seen him get sucked into the board game when he was younger. I start to see his hands start to fade and then I book it out of the room. I am 23.

  • Jane

    Did anyone remember the old Disney collection movies? About Willie the Operatic Whale? at the end the whole montage and chorus singing when you see in the shadows of him getting speared/killed? That was horrible…

  • http://twitter.com/sweetsoleil Ashley Wolfgang

    Once Upon A Forest. So depressing. 

    • Guestropod

      Oh yeah.  That poor fucking badger family.  

    • peachy

      THANK YOU i’ve been wondering for years what the name of that movie was

  • Margaret Thatcher

    I know you’re trying to play to your audience, and that the 90s are the “it” decade right now, but I think this was a sub-par article. Here’s why:
    First of all, Secret of NIMH came out in 1982. By the 90s, it was old news–we had a conversation at work similar to this the other day, and I brought up NIMH (and Last Unicorn!) and most of my fresh-out-of-college coworkers had never even heard of it.

    Bambi came out in 1942, and Snow White came out in 1937. In fact, I remember getting upset about Bambi’s mother as a child, and my GRANDMOTHER comforting me by explaining how it scared her badly as a child, too. Sure, these movies could have been traumatizing, but secret? Aren’t these movies sort of notorious for being frightening to young children?

    Speaking of “frightening to young children” … Nightmare Before Christmas was rated PG. Which means that, if you were traumatized by it, either your parents were doing it wrong by letting you watch it without guidance, or that you were old enough, and were just a pansy. Rated PG doesn’t mean “Let’s all drop our 6-year-olds off for the matinee.”

    In closing…what part of “shirking responsibility until your dad forces you not to” is traumatizing? Sounds like the basic plan of many 20-somethings. Might be a poor life strategy, but most people who have lived that life have just come out poorer and with less education because of it–I haven’t met any who seemed “secretly traumatized.”  In fact, they seemed to be having quite a bit of fun.

    • kitschrich

      Sadder than your wasting time reading an article you didn’t enjoy is your need to critique it. I feel that I wasted my day in dignifying this with a response.

      • Margaret Thatcher

        You did waste your time dignifying this with a response (though, if it took the whole day, as you seem to suggest, you might want to look into tutoring or perhaps a special school. There are people who can help!)

        The REASON you wasted your time is this: What I said could be used to make this a better article. What you said was awkwardly worded facial diarrhea. But, you know, if you really didn’t have anything better to do…

      • Anonymous

        Damn, I was logging in to make the “whole day!??!” joke, and you beat me to it.  At least now I realize its not funny.

    • Courtney

      wow, that was a really cool story in response to a completely innocuous article.

    • HarrietTubgirl

      I was about to leave the same comment. I don’t think I would have written four paragraphs about it…but I noticed a lot of the same things.

    • http://gravatar.com/arcrumb Alex

      Hi Margaret Thatcher,

      It’s a fair critique to level against the title, and if it was misleading, I apologize. With that in mind, I didn’t intend to write this so that all the people that grew up in the 90’s roaming the Internet would like me. That just happens to me automatically no matter what I do.

      Good to date-check Bambi and Snow White. I know that I grew up watching them and it sounds like a lot of people in my (our?) generation did too. Home video and VHS became really popular in the 90’s, which was why people currently in their 20’s ended up watching a lot of older Disney classics, and being scared by them. The use of “secretly” in the title of the piece, again, suggests that there might be more psychological damage being done to young viewers than you or I initially realized. I might be right. You also might be right. We may never know.

      Finally, you must have been very brave to not be scared of The Nightmare Before Christmas, I don’t know when you saw it. I know I was scared. Bizarrely-animated and disproportional stop-motion singing about eating you in your sleep? Creepy. Flat-out.

      Thanks for the critique and for keeping people honest,
      — Alex (the writer)

      PS: Big shout-out to anybody that mentioned The Fox & The Hound or Last Unicorn. That goddamn Red Bull, man. And isn’t The Fox & The Hound kinda about class warfare? Brutal.

  • http://general-disinterest.blogspot.com/ Taylor

    Anybody ever see The Adventures of Mark Twain as a kid? I’m sure I wasn’t the first 10 year old to have an existential crisis while watching it.

  • Shatha H.


    and i grew up just fine…maybe i have weird phobia of balloons! do you think it has any relation!!

  • Anonymous

    Chicken Run was a terrifying movie

  • Anonymous

    All my childhood movies!…destroyed.I can’t unknow this!

  • annie

    It’s not animated, but Matilda seriously traumatized me as a child. Still can’t watch it.

  • Alice Rose

    I remember E.T freaked me the hell out. Could never watch it, and it still makes me cringe a bit. Never came around to the idea that the alien E.T himself was cute, he just gave me the creeeeeeps!

  • Anonymous

    Did anyone ever watch Unico?  About the unicorn who went to a distant island to save humans from becoming living puppets…

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