There’s a level of duality when it comes to our favourite Disney films. On the one hand, they’ve provided kids with some of their most cherished movie moments since 1937.
However, the undeniable sinister side of these family-favourites – the side which left us sobbing when Mufasa plunges to his death and Bambi’s mother is shot – has resulted in a certain level of mystery around the creators and their motives.
And wherever there is mystery, conspiracy theorists aren’t far behind.
Even before the internet, the Disneyverse was linked to a slew of plausible theories, many of them associated with sex-related subliminal messages aimed at pushing some sort of disturbing agenda.
And now thanks to Tumblr, Reddit, Twitter and the rest, the online sleuths of this world have a platform to discuss these theories in great depth and ruin our childhoods in the process.
Arguably, the most infamous urban legend centres on The Lion King, claiming that the scene in which Simba kicks up a dust cloud sees the lion spell out ‘SEX’ in the sky.
It was the talk of the playground when we were kids, but is it actually true? Seemingly, the answer to this is ‘yes’ – but not entirely.
Disney animator Tom Sito eventually confirmed that while Simba does spell something, it’s not as dirty as we originally thought – apparently the dust cloud says ‘SFX’, a nod to the special-effects creators.
However, some fans are having none of his explanation, and anyone who agrees might be interested to know about a 2002 edit of the film which appears to suggest the original theory to be true. Time to get that tinfoil hat out of retirement.
Although everyone is well aware of the changes Jon Favreau made to the original in his live-action remake, perhaps you didn’t know about the edits of the animation when it was given an IMAX re-release in 2002, followed by a Platinum Edition in 2003.
The differences are small and mostly related to title cards, logos and updated graphics. However, in this version, the letters (‘SFX’ or ‘SEX’) were cut and replaced with a generic dust cloud.
Now for that tinfoil hat moment – if the text really did spell out an innocent reference to the special effects team, why did it need to be erased? Diehard theorists reckon that by editing the words out, they’ve basically admitted the message was NSFW.
Then again, it could just be that they wanted to put an end to the controversy altogether.
Whatever the truth may be, the debate is still open for discussion, as are a whole host of similar urban legends linked to Disney movies. The fact is, as long as the internet keeps internetting, our favourite childhood films will be tainted with sinister conspiracy theories. Ultimately, it’s up to you to decide whether they deserve that PG rating or not.
As for The Lion King, with the live-action remake out today (July 19), for nostalgia’s sake, maybe it’s better to live in a fantasy world.
The Lion King is out in cinemas now.