There’s nothing like taking your child to see the latest animated film at the cinema or popping in a cartoon flick on the DVD on a rainy day. Kid’s movies can be educational, inspiring, entertaining–or in some cases, downright frightening. Films that are rated “PG” or “PG-13” give parents a heads up that there may be disturbing scenes or images, but for almost a century that “G” rating has promised, but not exactly sometimes delivered, on the assurance that the approved material will provide family-friendly enjoyment.
Don’t let the colorful picture of happy animals or friendly, adorably wacky characters on the cover fool you–some of the popular “G” rated movies can give your child nightmares for weeks. So don’t pop in the video and start doing the laundry without doing your homework. You (and your child) might be in for quite a surprise!
Here are five of the creepiest kids movies that somehow slid past the censors and got a “G” rating from the Motion Picture Association of America.
1. All Dogs Go to Heaven
There are plenty of reasons to make a film about where dogs go after they depart this world. The demise of a beloved pet is usually a child’s first experience with the pain and loss of death. Parents everywhere must have jumped at the chance to go see this 1989 whimsical flick. The trailer seems adorable enough, although it’s suggested that good old Charlie might have had a hard time in the afterlife, being a con artist and all. The trailer does show a quick flash sequence of a dark, red hole that might be a hint at the fun to come. The focus of the movie is about the greedy flim flam canine Charlie and the little girl who turns his life around. She’s an orphan, of course, as what good would an animated film be without the prerequisite missing or dead parents. This film has a very reassuring title but there are some scary scenes that seem graphic and drawn out in length just to add to the creepiness factor. In this film, Charlie, voiced by Burt Reynolds, goes down to hades and is attacked by a malevolent bird, and chased by fireballs lobbed at him by Satan. Then to make matters worse, devilish creatures glom on to him like demented fleas and begin eating him alive. Thank goodness, Charlie gets his act together and goes to heaven; however, the hell scene was over the top for viewing by little ones.
2. The Tale of Despereaux
Based on the novel by Kate DiCamillo, Desperaux is a heartwarming tale that starts with a woman dropping dead of a heart attack because of a rat in her soup.She clutches her heart and falls face down into the bowl for sick comedic effect. Starting out with the dead mother trope, her death causes the royal family to develop a prejudice toward soup loving rodents. The unfortunate Desperaux ends up in a dungeon and endures all sorts of depraved cruelty, including cat torture in a gladiator ring. They even roll out a ball of twine to spring the cat into action! Such fun! That’s what Despereaux got for doing things ‘his way”. He makes it out alive but there is a grisly end for the villain, plus lots of off camera screaming. Desperaux wasn’t afraid enough of everyday life and just wanted to make good soup. Not since the mock turtle scene in Alice and Wonderland has broth been the basis for creepy imagery.
3. Finding Nemo
Again, like many family friendly stories, mom is dead, of course. Mom and most of the eggs are eaten in the opening scene. Nemo’s dad is trying to keep his son safe from an aquatic world full of predatory sea creatures. Wacky Dory comes in as comic relief (and mom substitute) so it’s all okay in the end after many encounters with fishing boats, sharks and the like. The essential message seems to be that the world is a scary place but pay no mind–just “keep swimming”.
4. Charlotte’s Web
Another “G” rated classic, this 1973 musical animated tale was remade to feature film in 2006. This film’s basic premise of life on a farm will put your family off bacon for a while. There is plenty of mourning, of course, and the farmer wants to have Wilbur for dinner, but it’s all a good time adventure full of lessons in love, loyalty, and kindness. Kids who are growing up on farms will view this film from a different perspective than those who buy their pork shrink wrapped from the supermarket. The friendship is all well and good but the chickens in the crates and other animals will be going from farm to table, so it’s best not to get too attached.
Everyone knows the story of the carpenter who wanted a little boy to love, so he builds one. He gets his wish when Pinocchio comes to life, but his creation, like other live boys, isn’t perfect. Once you see the scene where the little boys who misbehave are turned into jackasses, you can’t unsee it. All the mischievous lads are brutally handled while being loaded on a boat, stripped of their clothes, locked up in crates to be shipped to the salt mines. This Disney movie scene where the titular character’s transforms into a donkey is absolutely cringe worthy.
The expression in the captive donkey’s eyes is vividly heartbreaking. Being swallowed by a whale seemed tame in comparison. Oh, and when he first comes to life, Pinocchio puts his finger on a candle, lighting himself on fire. Gepetto who thought he would make a good dad just runs around holding him while he’s burning! Good thing Jiminy Cricket was on hand to tell him that some water to put the kid out would be a good idea. There is no mom to help raise him, of course! This is Disney, after all, so moms, except for evil stepmothers, are nonentities.