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FAIREST ...AND THE SCARIEST OF THEM ALL - Page
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.
A R N I N G :
& Other Horrors
Our journey through the subjugation horrors of "Disney Classics" continues by plunging into some of the most shocking drowning threats featured in "kids' movies". More than bondage, the story developers at Disney may have had a true fetish for torturing their characters with harrowing threats of drowning. Could this all be a homage to the abandoned subplot of the Prince's drowning for Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs?
Major characters who have survived from cruel drownings in Disney's animated features include Mr. Toad in The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad, Tiger Lily in Peter Pan, Geppetto in Pinocchio, Prince Eric in both The Little Mermaid and The Little Mermaid II: Return to the Sea, Melody in The Little Mermaid II: Return to the Sea, Penny in The Rescuers, Cody in The Rescuers Down Under, Belle in Beauty and the Beast: The Enchanted Christmas and Thomas in Pocahontas - and the list would be even longer if all the Disney characters, who were threatened or at the threat of drowning (but not quite in the water yet), were included. Each of the aforementioned "major" individual drowning threats have been included into this chronological essay.
The Little Mermaid (1989) brought back the Disney fairytale magic. It did also something else: Disney's male characters started developing into a more likable - and yes, significantly more "hunky" - direction. Prince Eric's most prominent feature was, however, his ability to survive several rough and cruel drownings. First he is nearly drowned during a sea storm, then he is dragged beneath the sea surface by the eel henchmen of Ursula the witch (in a deliberate attempt to kill him), and after destroying the witch, Eric once again survives from the waters of the raging sea and collapses onto the beach in exhaustion.
In the straight-to-video sequel The Little Mermaid II: Return to the Sea (2000) Eric is once again dragged beneath the surface by another pair of eels. To make things worse, this time the water is literally freezing. But the hunky prince survives again - and does not even catch a cold! Eric's daughter Melody has apparently the same knack of holding breath extremely long times; the girl survives even more horrifying drowning ordeal, imprisoned into an underwater grotto.
Both the The Little Mermaid and its sequel included actually a hefty dose of bondage, even though ropes and chains were not used. The tentacles of the octopus-like Ursula were an effortless way to grab and hold people - especially Ariel - even though it was Ursula's sister Morgana in the sequel who seemed to use tentacles with more relish. Also Ursula's and Morgana's eel henchmen used their long snake-like bodies to grab, hold and bind people.
Beauty and the Beast (1991) featured subjugation and deprivation of freedom in various forms, but no bondage. Belle's father Maurice gets thrown into a gloomy dungeon by the Beast and hence Belle sacrifices her own freedom by taking her father's place. Later in the movie both Belle and Maurice are locked into their own cellar, while the real villain of the movie heads for the castle to kill the Beast. The movie included plenty of evil plotting in greatest soap opera style.
It was, however, the video sequel Beauty and the Beast: The Enchanted Christmas (1997) that featured even heavier psychological undercurrent and one of the most shocking freak accidents ever in Disney movies. While fetching a Christmas tree from the Black Forest (by the villain's suggestion) Belle falls through broken ice of a frozen lake. In a most frightening fashion, reminiscent of a scene in Damien - Omen II (1978), Belle is seen through the ice, struggling in the murky waters under the frozen surface. Luckily she is rescued by the Beast at the last possible moment - and thrown into the cold castle dungeon immediately in the next scene.
Despite of the long list of drowning threats in Disney 's animated features, there isn't a single so horrifying attempt to kill a character by drowning as in the blockbuster Aladdin (1992). In the movie, Aladdin gets three wishes when releasing the Genie of the magic lamp. He uses the first wish to transform himself into a certified prince. Unfortunately the Sultan's evil grand vizier Jafar wants to get rid of the new prince and thus Aladdin is assaulted, gagged and subjugated by manacles holding his hands behind his back and chaining his feet together. In this helpless condition he is thrown into the sea with his chained feet attached to a huge iron ball, dragging him swiftly deeper and deeper to the bottom of the dark sea. His only hope to survive the shocking ordeal is to get his hands on the magic lamp, which conveniently follows his descent, inside his turban.
The thing that makes this attempt to kill Aladdin much more harrowing than any other Disney drowning is in its complete lack of realism - making the scene simultaneously both ridiculous and horrifying. As much as KenNetti salutes the epic drowning attempt of Snow White's chained and gagged Prince (of the abandoned concept), the line has to be drawn at Aladdin's drowning. The several reasons are listed below in the blue-coloured text section.
The most important thing is that ever since Aladdin gives the first rub on the lamp, the lively Genie bounces and buzzes endlessly around his master - as if the rub onto the lamp is not needed for the Genie to reappear. Yet, at the bottom of the sea the Genie does not appear until Aladdin, helplessly struggling to get his chained hands onto the lamp, has already inhaled enough water to get unconscious. The magic lamp must be water-proof despite of its very restricted "itty-bitty living space". Furthermore the Genie has, by his own free will, given advice and conjured up an entire royal court from one wish ("make me a prince") - not forgetting that Aladdin did not need to make an official wish to get the Genie help him out from the Cave of Wonders - but now, at the bottom of the sea, the Genie is suddenly pathetically incapable of helping his young master if the unconscious Aladdin doesn't make a wish. Irritatingly frustrating logic - and shocking in terms of "friendship". Or then the production team actually wanted to warn audiences that no one should trust on any friend whosoever.
Aladdin is knocked out when assaulted. His prince turban is enormous and thick with fluffy material - and yet a hit on the turban gets him unconscious. The most natural explanation is that the blow may have been actually aimed at his neck (though it is very hard to make out). Aladdin has the lamp all the time inside his turban which remains on his head (until the dive) apparently by the same logic as his tiny fez during the rollercoaster ride inside the Cave of Wonders. If the guards, who execute Jafar's evil plan, would have been as cruel and barbaric as Howard Ashman wrote in the original lyrics ("--they cut off your ear if they don't like your face--"), surely they would have made a quick strip-search to Aladdin before throwing him off the cliff. However, we have to be happy that they didn't - and that the fluffy turban was heavy enough to follow Aladdin's horrifying descent to the bottom of the sea.
Aladdin's long dive from the cliff may be realistic, if the heavy iron ball pulling his feet keeps the young man in straight position when he hits the dead-calm surface of the water. Hitting the water surface in wrong position from such height could alone kill a human being - or at least make one severely unconscious. Aladdin's case seems to be irritatingly vice versa; when we last saw him, he was knocked unconscious, but when he hits the water surface, he is definitely awake - surely to make his helpless descent to the murky bottom highly dramatic ...with the exception of the ridiculous piece of cloth still over his mouth. The gag must have been an aesthetic decision from the animators, since the mouth and facial expressions of a drowning human being may not be the coolest thing to animate realistically. However, the gag which doesn't fall off when getting wet continues the same ridiculous logic as with the fez (that doesn't fall off even during high speed flying) and the turban (that sinks almost as fast as a human being attached to a heavy iron ball).
But it is far from hilarious to see Aladdin's desperate struggle at the bottom of the sea, manacles still holding his hands behind his back and the huge iron ball keeping him too far from the magic lamp, inside the sunken turban. We all know that it's just a "kid's cartoon" that shouldn't be taken too seriously - but we shudder to think that some viewers may not understand that in real world a human being chained to an iron ball would have already inhaled his lungs full of water by the time Aladdin still struggles towards the magic lamp inside the sunken turban. Compared to the abandoned concept of the Prince's drowning for Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, the drowning of Aladdin does not include "realistic" hope, whereas Snow White's Prince would have been rescued before the actual drowning. (Furthermore, a rescue by birds - as ridiculous as it sounds - is more believable than a purely accidental rescue by a pathetically incapable Genie).
One more completely infuriating detail of the murder attempt of Aladdin is the unexplained part of his captured friends - Abu the monkey and the Magic Carpet. When Aladdin becomes a prince, the Genie transforms Abu into a large elephant. When Aladdin gets captured, Abu the elephant is trapped with a net and the Magic Carpet is tied up to a tree. Immediately after this the helpless Aladdin is thrown into the sea and rescued by the Genie - but the movie never cares to explain how Abu and the Magic Carpet got rescued. Furthermore, if Jafar's order was really to get rid of the prince, surely the captured elephant and the carpet were to be eliminated as cruelly as the young man. Despite of Disney's Aladdin's great success at the box office the movie is unfortunately full of similar plot holes.
In addition to the drowning attempt, Aladdin included also other abuse, torture and bondage. When Jafar becomes the ruler, the old Sultan is strung up like a marionette and force-fed with crackers by Iago the parrot. Sultan's daughter Jasmine is subjugated by shackles to Jafar's will and dressed in rather skimpy outfit. A bit later, when Aladdin comes to the rescue, Jasmine is imprisoned into a giant hourglass, with sand slowly spilling onto her.
Aladdin also included a dungeon scene, where the title character (before transforming into a prince) is chained by his wrists to the wall, although sitting freely on the ground. In this scene the "hunky" Aladdin is seen nearly half-naked with his shirtless vest revealing armpits and perfect pecs. Similar chaining method - though with less nudity - was used in the video sequel Aladdin: The Return of Jafar (1994), in which the Sultan and Jasmine are imprisoned in the dungeons, while Aladdin is hooded and lead to execution. (This was rather unimaginative when considered that this was to be Jafar's revenge on Aladdin; he could have made the boy suffer much more in the palace's torture chambers than a quick walk to the scaffold). Naturally, Aladdin is rescued in the nick of time.
The second sequel, Aladdin and the King of Thieves (1996) featured a brutally realistic fight scene but also some bondage. In the climax Aladdin's father is tied to the mast of a ship by the villain.
And speaking of the dungeons of the Sultan's palace in Disney's Aladdin trilogy: a tour of these chambers was found on Aladdin's Magic Carpet Adventure, a game included on the second disc of the Aladdin special edition DVD. This beautifully computer-animated (but totally silly) game contains several different segments, although the dungeon segment is definitely the most detailed: you fly through dimly-lit corridors where walls converge with spikes, snake statues spit darts, the skeletons of former prisoners reach out from their cells and razor-sharp pendulums threat to slice you up. After crashing into a pile of bones and skulls you descend to the deepest part of the dungeons, where in a dark torture chamber even more grisly skeletons hang in their chains while one is strained to utmost limit on a stretch rack. These kinds of traps and horrors have not been seen in any chapter of the Aladdin trilogy.
While most of the aforementioned booby traps seem to be borrowed from the Indiana Jones movies, the deepest torture chamber is curiously reminiscent of the "Dungeons" scene in Snow White's Scary Adventures dark ride (the Paris, Tokyo and California versions) with the eerie fluorescent colours, the strange laboratory equipment and the totally grisly skeletons dangling on the walls in tight manacles. The spiky iron maiden and the uniquely cruel stretch rack are among things you'd never expect to find in a Disney product.
The Lion King (1994) was even greater success than Aladdin - quite surely because of the cute and cuddly animals. Bondage returned to Disney Classics with the next movie, Pocahontas (1995), in which the dashing John Smith got captured rather roughly by Native Americans and was to be executed in the most bloodiest scene ever suggested in Disney Classics. However, the bondage in the movie is only slight; Smith is imprisoned in a hut, kneeling freely, but tied to a pole with hands behind his back. The next scene, in which Pocahontas pays a visit in the hut, was originally planned to include the great song "If I Never Knew You". In the movie's finale - in which John Smith was originally going to be shirtless - the villain Ratcliffe is gagged and bound rather heavily with chains for the return trip to England.
The character of Thomas, in supporting role, gave great contrast to John Smith. Thomas also joined the group of Disney drowning survivors, although his drowning threat does not depend on villains, evil plots or freak accidents - it happens quite realistically during the sea storm that opens the movie.
Disney's version of The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996) continued to include both visual bondage, significant violence and suggested torture. In Judge Frollo's dungeons an imprisoned man is whipped off-screen, but the sounds - and Frollo's expression - are extremely suggestive. "The Court of Miracles" sequence features a jolly but actually dead-serious hanging attempt of Captain Phoebus and Quasimodo, both gagged and tied up with hands behind their back. Quasimodo himself gets heavily tied up onto a wheel to suffer humiliation during the "Festival of Fools". In the movie's climax he is again subjugated, this time with heavy chains straining his wide-spread hands between two pillars. The beautiful gypsy girl Esmerelda is tied to a stake to suffer death by burning. As gruesome as this all sounds, the Disney version of the Victor Hugo classic contains a happy ending (in the style initiated by The Little Mermaid) but is also a remarkably well-balanced tale of the eternal battle of light and dark in all of us.
Although distinctive bondage began to reduce in Disney movies after The Hunchback of Notre Dame, the (more or less suggested) subjugation and violence did not disappear. In Hercules (1997) the title character got so severely humiliated, that no chains were needed to subjugate him. In Mulan (1998) the balance of light and dark was pushed close to the limit of too much realism. Disney's Tarzan (1999) may have featured one the most hunkiest "kings of the jungle", but also a small amount of subjugation when the title character was captured. From The Emperor's New Groove (2000) to Up! (2009) the Disney movies have included occasional slight "toon bondage" or a bit heavier threats - but all in all the provocative bondage has disappered from the Disney product.