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FAIREST ...AND THE SCARIEST OF THEM ALL - Page
So you think Disney means only sunshine and happiness, singing animals and cute characters?
The abandoned subplot ("The Captured Prince") for Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937) was not the first - and definitely not the last - of Walt Disney's attempts to shock and scare the living daylights out of audiences. From the cartoons and comics of the early 1930s to the most recent Pixar masterpiece Up (2009), the Disney product has included a significant amount of bondage and abuse (both children, adult, and also animal), threat, capture, and torture - with some of the most shocking death traps seen in "kids" entertainment.
Yet the audience's attention has been lingering on something very different. Ever since a phallic symbol was found in the original poster of The Little Mermaid (1989), there has been an endless amount of similar sightings concerning more the eye of the beholder than the actual truth in Disney's product. Forget the people who heard Aladdin (1992) say "Good teenagers take off their clothes" or dust clouds spelling "sex" in The Lion King (1994), because the unhidden Disney bondage art is significantly less far-fetched ...and yet much more provocative!
KenNetti's "Disney Dungeons" supplements the 6-page tribute of "The Fairest ...and the Scariest of Them All" by concentrating on the rarely dealt Disney bondage art - the authentic artwork that really exists in Disney cartoons, comics and movies.
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On the previous six pages of The Fairest ...and the Scariest of Them All KenNetti has described and analysed the legendary abandoned subplot to Disney's Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937). Many people would claim that the storyline of "The Captured Prince" - with heavy chains, cruel gags, terrifying torture and shocking drowning attempt - do not belong to "Disney". However, with the Mickey Mouse cartoons and comics of the 1930s Walt Disney had already produced several adventures with the mouse and his friends being tied up, chained, gagged, abused, taunted, threatened, tortured, and sometimes left in definite death traps, with rescue coming in the nick of time. Disney may not have been the first producer to include bondage and abuse in child-friendly cartoons and comics, but the influence of Mickey Mouse adventures on the development of "toon bondage" can not be underestimated nor underrated.
In analysing the "Disney bondage" throughout the ages, KenNetti uses the term "toon" strictly in connection with either comical characters, human caricatures and human-like animals in cartoons, comics and feature-length films. Thus the more realistically drawn human characters are not considered as "toons" in this bondage context; they are separated in this analysis as "classics". (The word "toon" comes naturally from the word "cartoon", popularized in 1981 by Gary K. Wolf's Who Censored Roger Rabbit?). In general, the "toon bondage" is regarded innocent and suitable for kids. KenNetti reminds that most often "dirty is the eye of the beholder" - meaning that even this 3-page analysis should not be taken too seriously.
The Mickey Mouse "toon bondage" has its roots in what was regarded popular and entertaining in the 1910s, 1920s and still in the 1930s. The legendary Perils of Pauline silent movie series (1914) may have been as much an inspiration for the Mickey Mouse adventures as the early men's adventure magazines (identified later as "sweat" magazines). While the men's magazines developed into significantly more adult direction during the 1930s, their main focus - with captivating cover artwork featuring often bondage - remained in the "damsel in distress" theme popularized by the Perils of Pauline series. Pauline always ended up in a definite death-trap (the most famous showing her tied to a railroad track) but she was always rescued at the last possible moment.
Curiously, the 1930s Mickey Mouse comic strips placed the mouse more often in the damsel's place, in life-threatning situations, tied up and gagged. It is worth noting that while the generally known bondage art has always concentrated on subjugating females, the majority of distinctive Disney bondage (in comics, cartoons and movies) has more often victimized male characters. KenNetti dares to suppose that the subjugation, abuse and torture of male characters in Disney productions has been a deliberate choice by Walt Disney himself - for he has always been described as an innovator who most often wanted to oppose the mainstream thinking.
"Walt Disney liked the tone of the adult adventure stories", revealed the Comics Scene magazine in the early 1990s. Legendary artist Floyd Gottfredson responded to Disney's thoughts by developing Mickey into a daring super detective getting often victimized by threatning thugs, but always ending up as the true hero. One of the best examples, an adventure called "Mickey Mouse Joins the Foreign Legion" (1936), shows the remarkable strength and endurance of the mouse as he is kidnapped, threatened and tortured by disguised figures who are actually secret service men only testing him, lead by his friend Captain Doberman. Mickey's ordeal includes some serious stretching on a rack, a hen pecking at the helpless mouse's tummy, and ultimately a mock hanging.
Another fine example by Gottfredson shows the tightly bound Mickey at the mercy of his arch nemesis, the "Phantom Blot", who has placed the helpless mouse on a high rafter, a noose around his neck. Giving him some "harmless sleeping powders", the Blot leaves Mickey fighting against the effect - for if he gets too drowsy and tumbles off the rafter, he will hang himself.
Several decades later, the tradition initiated by Gottfredson developed into quite debatable detective adventures of Mickey Mouse, usually with Goofy as his partner. Just like Batman and Robin in the 1960s legendary television series, the detective adventures of Mickey and Goofy followed the same predictable pattern of the mouse and his friend being captured, tied up and gagged - and sometimes left in a definite death-trap from where our heroes escaped usually thanks to the mouse's uncanny ability of getting free from his ropes. These comic book adventures, enormously popular in the 1990s in Denmark and Norway, featured huge amount of toon bondage with quite questionable threats, abuse and violence till the 21st century. (Click the above images to see full examples of Mickey Mouse detective story bondage throughout decades).
The most shocking of early Disney cartoons is The Mad Doctor (1933). This highly atmospheric and powerfully suggestive black and white cartoon could easily be seen as a predecessor of contemporary torture extravaganzas such as Hostel (2005) and Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning (2006). But where modern torture movies go to extreme by showing everything, this nearly 80-years-old Disney cartoon relies effectively upon the power of suggestion. A mere glance at the utensils on the laboratory tables makes one shudder with fear; the cartoon needs not to show the extreme - the ghastly experiment on poor Pluto, chained onto the laboratory table. (Pluto's chaining method, however, shows once again that this dog's main ingredient is rubber - as with most toons).
Mickey, however, gets to experience quite extreme fate. The mouse has pursued Pluto's kidnapper into the spooky castle, but ends up being strapped on an operating table and is about to be cut in half with a whirling buzz-saw descending from the ceiling. The shocking quality of the climax is enhanced by the cruel suggestive power of Mickey only hearing Pluto's agonized, continous howling with the ear-piercing sound of the saw coming closer and closer to the helpless mouse. But as the buzz-saw touches Mickey's tummy, the entire misadventure turns out to be just a bad dream. Anything else could have been better to end such a powerful horror story.
The Mad Doctor cartoon may have been an earnest experiment of how far Disney animators could go with the shock value. The highly atmospheric scenes inside the spooky castle (before the laboratory climax) also included gruesome living skeletons and much of cobwebbed corridors and dimly-lit dungeons. The macabre ingredients clearly foreshadow the abandoned concept of "The Captured Prince" for Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937). Maybe The Mad Doctor cartoon turned out to be one good reason for scrapping the too-scary concept of the Prince's torture from the 1937 fairytale masterpiece. The cruel collar chaining his neck tightly to the wall would have surely choked the helpless Prince to death, if he had writhed too much while dangling helplessly in his heavy chains. The Prince's drowning attempt would have made his fate even more cruel - but not actually much more gruesome than the death traps Mickey endured in comics and cartoons of the 1930s.
Other Mickey Mouse cartoons featuring "toon bondage" include Shanghaied (1934) - in which both the mouse and his girlfriend are kidnapped, heavily tied up and gagged - and Gulliver Mickey (1934) with literally slight bondage.
In addition to Mickey, Minnie, Pluto and Goofy, even Donald Duck has had his share of highly imaginative bondage in cartoons and comics - although more often for laughs than thrills. If the character wasn't a cute duck with a tempestuous personality, his treatment at the mercy of cruel machinery would probably change from hilarious into crude in such classic cartoons as Modern Inventions (1937) and Donald's Dog Laundry (1940). The first mentioned cartoon features a hilarious but a bit questionable electronic barber chair & shoe-polishing machine with several manacles holding the customer. But Donald, due to his neverending curiosity, ends up being strapped to the chair upside down - his hands stretched wide apart, while his head gets a very effective polishing with his neck held tightly by a third manacle. (Although the cartoon's producers may not have questioned how many manacles are needed to hold the customer down in this particular machine, the third manacle between customer's legs seems unquestionably provocative).
In comics, Donald has gone through many variations of bondage - even in the talented hands of duck maestro Carl Barks. However, the Italian Disney comics of 1960s to late 1980s feature quite a lot of provocative toon bondage, both in Mickey's and Donald's adventures.
In cartoons and comics Donald Duck has been famous for not having trousers, but always covering his private parts when he doesn't have his shirt. But when he found out his alter-ego, the Duck Avenger (originally Paperinik in Italian), the duck started using a fully dark costume including tights. In only one book of the original series, Donald's girlfriend Daisy Duck became a super hero opponent for the Duck Avenger (in a book released in Germany as "Phantomias gegen Phantomime"). In one story of this specific comic book, Donald is kidnapped by the story's thugs and tied up on a bed, but strained so tightly between its four posters in a spread-eagle position (arms and feet spread wide apart), that he actually hangs suspended in the air rather than lies on the bed. The spread-eagle position, an all-time favorite in the world of bondage, has been represented in endless amount of mainstream super hero and adventure comics, movies and television series - but we may question, would the Walt Disney Company of the time have allowed such extreme bondage even in Donald's case if the specific comic would have been drawn in the U.S.A?
These original Paperinik comics, published from 1969 till the 1980s, were highly superior in their style and emotional storytelling than the too-violent, too-extreme 1990s renewed version of the same character.
In addition to Mickey, Goofy and Donald, a huge amount of supporting characters have been tied up and gagged in several different Disney comics. Quite astonishing is that although these comic books have been primarily aimed at young kids, several stories have included also child characters being tied up and sometimes even abused with life-threatning situations or suggested violence. The child victims in Disney comics include both Mickey's and Donald's nephews, The Three Little Pigs and also Hiawatha, the little Indian.
& Other Horrors
Next page featuring chronological analysis on the "Disney Classics" and in-depth segments especially on Prince Phillip (from Sleeping Beauty, 1959) and Aladdin (from Aladdin, 1992) on page 9.
All original artwork © Disney
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