Disney Color Palettes

So, when I was working on this, I spent quite a few minutes searching my screen caps for a close-up picture of Aladdin. More time, in fact, than I would care to admit, considering it should have taken just seconds to find a shot of the main character of the movie. But the issue I was having was that so many of the shots were colorized, with the color, aura, mood lighting, whatever you want to call it coloring the characters’ faces in addition to the backgrounds.  Shots like these:

aladdin-disneyscreencaps.com-2427 aladdin-disneyscreencaps.com-2999 aladdin-disneyscreencaps.com-8626 aladdin-disneyscreencaps.com-9186

In fact, the only time you get an accurate color shot of the characters are in just a few scenes (the marketplace and in the palace during the day). This got me to wondering if this was just my imagination, a coincidence, or something very much intended. So I took a sample of the screenshots that I had downloaded from disneyscreencaps.com (an awesome site, by the way), about 10% of them, and put them together to get an idea of the colorization. This is the result:

Aladdin color palette final copy

You can click to enlarge to prove to yourself that I’m not manipulating the image. These are unaltered screenshots (though a bit low-res to keep the size down).

Remind you of anything? This is the thought that popped into my head after I had assembled the finished product:


Yup, it looks like Carpet. It wasn’t intentional, but the width I had used for my collage (which I kept thin so that the stripes of color would be thicker for emphasis) makes the finished product resemble Carpet, but not just in shape, but in color. The main colors are there: Dark and light purple, gold, and maroon. This was almost certainly intentional by the artists: they chose a palette of colors and stuck with it, weaving threads of it into both the characters and the backgrounds themselves. Aladdin’s got a maroon fez and a purple vest, Jafar’s main color accent to his black is maroon, and he’s got a gold staff. But the rest of the colors don’t follow this pattern: Jasmine wears a kind of light turquoise, the Sultan wears off-white, Genie is bright blue, etc. So the colors we’re seeing in the overall scheme mostly come from the backgrounds themselves, and the reflected light onto the characters’ skin and clothes that gives this illusion. It’s done for mood. Darker scenes have darker colors, big scenic shots are often pink or purple, often at sunset/sunrise to give it a emphasized beauty. The oasis and Jasmine’s gardens are mostly shot in broad daylight, so most of the green color comes from the foliage in the background. Jafar’s takeover is in a cloudy purple to show the darkness overtaking Agrabah and is later red to reflect Jafar’s signature color and his eventual red genie form. (Even Jasmine and the Sultan’s outfits are colored red to reflect Jafar’s total takeover. By the end of the movie, everything is back to normal, with totally unaltered color and bright blue skies.

So this got me to wondering again… This color scheme was so intricately woven into the movie that it could be not be anything but intentional, so what about the other movies of the time? I turned to the rest of what I (and many others) call The Fab Four: The Little Mermaid (1989), Beauty & the Beast (1991), and the Lion King (1994). (Aladdin was 1992, BTW). Here’s what their color palettes look like:

The Little Mermaid Color palette final copy Beauty and the beast color palette final copy The Lion king color palette final

The Little Mermaid (Left), Beauty & the Beast (Center), The Lion King (Left)

Disappointed? I was, at least a bit. There’s not the same coherence of color in these movies as there was in Aladdin. Let’s do a detailed analysis for each (because, if you haven’t noticed this about me yet, that’s sort of my thing).

The Little Mermaid:
Out of all of them, Little Mermaid seems to lack a coherent color palette, and seems much more subdued than the others. This is actually rather understandable, considering where Disney was coming from at the time. Many people signal TLM as the game-changer for Disney, bringing them back out of a slump into the glorious age that brought us the Fab Four, plus other awesome movies like Mulan and Hercules which are definitely on par quality-wise. Before, the movies were a lot darker, with things like The Brave Little Toaster, Oliver & Company, the Black Cauldron, and the Great Mouse Detective. Plus, you have to realize that Little Mermaid takes place under water half the time, and if you remember from that one oceanography class you might have taken in college (and that I definitely did), there’s only a thin layer of the entire ocean where light can penetrate, so I imagine it was a challenge to make it look realistic and yet look like they’re underwater. I also have to give Disney credit because, if you look closely at the underwater shots, they do a fantastic job of varying the light and making it act correctly underwater in a way unequaled until the glory that is Finding Nemo.

But there’s the difference, and this applies to the other two as well: they went for a more realistic approach. Sure, it’s an animated movie about mermaids and magic and whatnot, but there’s nothing too imaginative about their take. It’s not stylized like Hercules to make the characters (and clouds) more closely resemble Greek pottery or Mulan with the backgrounds that resemble Chinese watercolors. It’s just a Disney movie underwater.


Disney should know ears don’t look like sticky buns.


Check out the trees. That’s definitely an art style choice. They even allude to the art style of Chinese watercolors in the opening credits.

Back to Little Mermaid. There’s a ton of detail in the scenes, which kind of muddies the zoomed-out view of the movie. Some of the water scenes have so many details in the rock formations that the brilliant blues and turquoises are darkened, making them not pop quite as much as they could.  Even on those scenes where the background art is gorgeous (like the sunset right before Eric’s wedding to Ursula-in-disguise, the misty greys of the opening sequence of the ship at sea, and the purples of most of Ursula’s scenes, the colors are not as obvious in the grand scheme because the character coloration generally remain constant, so you’ve got a red-haired, purple-shelled, green-tailed, pale-skinned girl against a teal sky with grey clouds and a tan shore. It’s hard to see what the dominant color is supposed to be. Even when there is a dominant color, it’s not as stark a color choice. Check out the rowboat scene with Ariel & Eric. It’s got a kind of teal hue to it, but the characters themselves only look as if the darkness got cranked down a bit, but their color balance stayed the same as usual. You can tell it best by looking at Ariel and Eric’s sleeves, which we know to be white. They’re just a bit of gray, not teal like the background.

Beauty & the Beast:
This color scheme bears a resemblance to Aladdin’s (lots of reds, purples, golds and blues), but it’s far more subdued. There are pops of color here and there (mostly around “Be Our Guest”, with all the colored spotlights they use), and some tonal color changes: Murky blue for the Beast’s castle interior, ominous green for the fight scene, which fades to a more melancholy blue when the Beast’s death/transformation occur. Everything else is mostly just realistic interiors like wallpapers, blue skies, etc. Note that the screenshots were taken from the extended version of the movie, which includes the song “Human Again”. This song’s coloring does a lot more to set the tone than a lot of other scenes. It’s mostly in pinks and purples, which are very bright and hopeful about (you guessed it) being human again. Beast & Belle’s dance sequence and subsequent balcony chat I think is interesting color-wise because the ballroom is gold (matching Belle’s dress) and the nighttime sky is a royal blue (matching Beast’s coat). Similarly, the hunting lodge/tavern scene for the “Gaston” number is very similar in color to Gaston himself, a sort of reddish brown to match his bright red shirt. All of his cronies, too, (except the Bimbettes) blend into the background, giving you this hint that Gaston’s got a kind of control over the town. (Also, what is it with villains and red?)

I’m not saying the comparison between Aladdin’s clear design decision about color and that of B&tB is fair, or that one style is intrinsically better than the other. In fact, I think the absolute single greatest frame of any animated Disney picture is this one:


The colors are amazing, the shot is wonderful, it’s just…gorgeous. I had a Beauty and the Beast trading card collection as a kid and this was my all-time favorite one. But when you zoom out of it, you can’t really get the bright blue sky, the fiery oranges, the fluffy pinks…you just get a tan mess. That’s the point I’m trying to make. The details are great, but it’s colorization is more down-to-earth and realistic.

The Lion King:
The colors definitely pop in this one. They do a great job of setting a color scheme, if not as pronounced as Aladdin’s. You definitely get a feeling in the zoomed-out version that this is an outdoor movie. There’s the greens of the grasslands and jungle, the browns of the desert, and the bright blue African sky. They even set the mood for the villain, though all of the movies do a pretty good job of that. Scar’s early scenes are darker, bland in comparison to the bright colors of the Pridelands. The elephant graveyard background is practically the same as the hyenas’ coats. Scar’s “Be Prepared” scene is ominous, to say the least, with eerie greens and dark silhouettes (and goose-stepping hyenas for that Nazi vibe). Mufasa’s death is a smoky tan from the dust of the wildebeest, with all of the colors so subdued to echo the somber tone. They could have done the standard dark, rainy scene, but they’ve got to save that for the end, of course (although it works better there, with the rain being life-giving instead of mournful as Simba becomes king). And, of course, Simba and Scar’s confrontation is a dark, subdued pink that blazes into fiery red once, obviously, the fire starts. It all works really, really well. This is done, as with the other films, mostly in backgrounds and not in an overall color mask like in Aladdin, with the few exceptions of the fire and nighttime scenes, for obvious reasons.

Anyway, so I hope you like my take on the colors of the Fab Four (most notably, Aladdin), and hopefully you’ll give more thought to this easily overlooked subject when rewatching your favorite Disney movies.


Related Posts:
Little Mermaid Comics
The Disney Animal Paradox
Disney Heroine Body Swap – Part One
Disney Heroine Body Swap – Part Two


Ursula Gender Swap

It’s time for another gender swap! In a previous Little Mermaid swap, I envisioned the gender-swapped Ursula the Sea-Witch as Urkel, but we’ll call him Ulrich to keep the sort of Germic theme of the names.  (Also because the part of me that grew up watching TGIF can’t read/type Urkel without giggling).  So here he is: Ulrich the Sea-Warlock.

Ursula gender swap

(Note: In the picture I kept Ariel as she is, mostly because I’m lazy but also because there’s something far creepier about this whole deal-with-the-devil scene than in the original.  But for the sake of the story, I’m swapping all the genders, just to see what happens.)

So, Ulrich’s story isn’t much different than Ursula’s.  He wants to be king of the ocean, hates King Triton (Queen Triton?) and tricks poor Eric (because he’s the mermaid in my version) into selling his voice for some legs to woo Princess Ariel on the surface.  Eventually he gets popped by Ariel’s ship and all is well down under the sea.

What is interesting is how different the character’s behavior would be.  Rewatch the movie and you’ll see what a diva Ursula is.  In fact, it was really hard to get a screenshot of her where she wasn’t doing something that might be considered overly feminized.  She does a lot of hip thrusts, arm flails, sly smiles and the like.  She’s almost a little drag-queen-ish (no offense to drag queens.  Many of them make better women than me.)  I feel like Disney probably would have made a male version of her into a smooth talker like Jafar or a fast-talking, double-dealer like Hades.  For my purposes, I’ve made him into more of a trucker-looking character, but what kind of personality would fit that? I don’t know.

Bonus: Before and after!

Ursula gender swap - before and after

I just want to make some notes on the changes I’ve made.  I’ve changed nothing about Ursula’s original weight.  Nada.  In fact, I actually took off a few of his lower poundage so that I could give the illusion of muffin-topping.  I guess black really is slimming.  Nonetheless, it makes me a more than a little offended that the “evil” character has become the “fat” character.  True, it does make Ursula one of the more recognizable villains solely based on her character silhouette (big ‘ole octopus with a bit of an updo), compared to all of the super-skinny stepmothers, witches, queens, etc.  (There are a few exceptions…very few.  For a truly awesome critique on Disney character designs, read this.)

Despite this, I decided to keep the flab, going so far as to give Ulrich some moobs.  (Yes, now I have “moobs” in my search history when I looked them up for reference.) The fingers got a little wider for the man-hands, he got a five o’clock shadow, and added a bit more mullet, thicker eyebrows, removed the makeup and made him a shell wristband instead of a shell necklace.  (I had wanted to make a shell belt buckle but the combination of muffin top and the total lack of pants meant that it wasn’t feasible).

Related Posts:
Little Mermaid Gender Swap
Little Mermaid Comics
Disney What-ifs: Ariel’s Mother
Disney What-ifs: Young Triton

Obligatory Copyright Notice: The original images, characters, etc. are owned by Disney.  The altered artwork is mine, and is a work of fan art.  No copyright infringement is intended.

Little Mermaid Gender Swap

This gender swap allows us to see the story of Eric, a merman who dreams of the surface and the wonderful things humans make.  (I can’t even type that with a straight face.)  His father King Triton sees Eric’s longing for the surface as dangerous, and his obsession with humans equally so.  Still, Eric is a dreamer and he can’t see how a world that makes such wonderful things…could be bad.

Prince Eric Gender Swap

It’s interesting to see this with a man hording human junk in his grotto.  With a sixteen-year-old girl, for some reason it seems far more normal (I dunno, like some women’s obsession with buying shoes).  It also makes lines like, “But Daddy, I love him!” truly hilarious.  He’s got of a bit of a Romeo flair–I don’t mean that in the colloquial sense…I mean it in the Shakespearian sense:  Romeo’s a bit of a whiner who goes from being desperately in love with Rosaline to being in love with Juliet on the same day (or close to it, at least). Teenagers really don’t know what love is.

Anyway, one day, Eric sees a human on board a ship and falls madly in love.  Her name is Ariel, and she’s a princess.

Ariel Gender Swap

It’s interesting with this gender swap that not a lot has changed about Ariel.  Both Eric and Ariel in non-swapped forms are adventurous and curious, and they are constantly searching for new experiences.  So the female version of Eric (i.e. Ariel) is the same.  She’s being forced to settle down by her parents and pick a husband (sounds a bit like Jasmine’s backstory, doesn’t it?) but she’d rather sail the seas.

So anyway, Eric watches Ariel and the other sailors celebrating and spends quite a bit of time simply ogling Ariel.  Note that it definitely feels more stalker-y when it’s a guy ogling a girl.  (Just wait, it gets weirder).  A storm breaks out, lightning starts fires everywhere, and the ship is wrecked.  In the process of saving her dog, Max (or Maxine, if we swap everyone’s gender), Ariel gets trapped on board as it explodes.  Eric bravely rescues her and takes her to shore.  Over her unconscious body,  (creepy!) Eric sings his undying love for Ariel then continues to watch her from a distance once she regains consciousness.  Ariel can’t contemplate getting a restraining order because she has no idea that a merman has become forever fixated on her.  No problem, though, because now she’s in love with her mystery dreamboat.

Moving on, after his dad blows up all of his neat human stuff and Eric’s having a cryfest on a rock in his grotto, two creepy eels convince him to go see the sea witch for help.  [[Note: If I gender swapped everyone, including Ursula, she’d/he’d probably still be a gross octopus, but he’d have a beer gut and a five o’clock shadow.]]  She turns him human at the cost of his voice.  Meanwhile, Ariel has been looking for the mystery man with the beautiful voice who saved her.  This is actually pretty logical.  Apparently, according to shows like Family Guy and others, a common female fantasy is to be rescued by a handsome merman (among other things).  Ariel’s smitten at this point.  She helps Eric out, thinking he’s the man of her dreams, only to find that he can’t speak.  Thus he is friendzoned immediately.

[[Side note: Using the friendzoning argument as defense because you don’t have the guts to ask a girl out is bullshit.  Girls can be friends with guys pretty easily (refer to When Harry Met Sally for the proof that the inverse is not usually true).  If you want it to be something more, we’re often oblivious and need some hints more than you just acting like a good friend.  Because, to us, someone acting like a really good friend means they’re a really good friend.  I mean, Ariel gave up the ability to talk just to be with the one she loved (however misguided the love-at-first-sight impulse might be).  Man up.]]

Moving on.  Eric is fascinated by the human world, almost gets to kiss a clueless Ariel and thus keep his human form, but then gets blocked by those two lousy eels.  Ursula (Urkel? Ulysses? I can’t think of any good U names for her/him) takes matters into her own tentacles and turns her/himself into a man and tricks Ariel with his pilfered voice to marry him.  For some reason this, to me, is even more creepy than when Eric is put in a trance.  Ariel’s going to marry, then who knows what else the sea witch.  Sure, maybe the wedding was just a stalling tactic to prevent the fateful kiss, since Ursula goes back to her usual form in time to gloat over her victory.  But seriously, she could have turned Eric into a merman and made him her gross octopus sex slave under the sea, or at least one of those gross seaweed people.

This is where it gets cool.  Ariel sets off after Eric after Urkel grabs him, saying, “I’ve lost him once, I’m not going to lose him again!” Then, Ariel faces down a hundred foot octopus with a magic trident and freakin’ skewers him with a boat.  Can I get a ‘hell yeah?’ Anyway, Triton has pity on his son as he sees him pining away for Ariel and gives him legs.  Then they get married and Ariel makes Eric her trophy prince.

Bonus: Before and after shots!

Prince Eric Gender Swap  - Side by side

Behind-the-scenes factoid: I tweaked Aladdin’s body for Eric the Merman. At first, I thought to myself, “I distinctly remember there being mermen in the movie besides Triton. I’ll just use their body and attach Eric’s head.” Nope. The mermen are all either 1) shown from the back, 2) misty in Ursula’s cauldron or 3) shown in full or partial silhouette. So, apart from having to majorly tweak King Triton from pro-wrestler size with Santa Claus beard and pepperoni slice nipples, I decided to use another character. Hercules was a no-go (that darn armor), and the thought of what a Google search of “bare chested Disney characters” would pull up terrified me, so there was only one other possible character. So there you have it. Aladdin’s body, Ariel’s tail, and Eric’s head. (Sounds like that song from Pete’s Dragon).

Ariel Gender Swap - Side by Side

Ariel’s photoshopping took quite a bit longer than Eric’s.  The background alone is four different stills, including the rope and (if you looked closely, you may have already noticed, Max).  Ariel’s head and body is a composite of five different shots, all of which are in varying states of dress.  Wow.

All characters and stills are owned by Disney.  No copyright infringement is intended.  Original frame grabs provided by disneyscreencaps.com.

The Disney Animal Paradox

Elephants fly.  People jump into sidewalk drawings.  Animal sidekicks give advice.  That’s Disney magic for you.  But that’s just the quandary.  In Disney movies, not all animals talk to the same extent, even in the same movie.  I’m going to delve deeper into the mystery of the mechanics of talking beasts in Disney animated (and live-action movies with animation).  Note: There are some obvious movies with animals that I’m leaving out, simply because they don’t have any humans in them and thus can’t shed light on the animal/human interactions (Lion King and Robin Hood, for example).  Here are the categories I came up with (the movies listed in each are by no means an exhaustive list):


1) Humans and animals speak to each other freely:

Jungle Book:
In The Jungle Book, though Mowgli is raised by wolves, he can converse freely among all of the animals, no matter the species.  There’s only one other human in the movie, the little girl from the village, whom Mowgli (apparently) can also understand.  Since she has no interaction with the animals, it is tough to say whether or not she, too can understand them.  Maybe talking to animals was all in Mowgli’s mind the entire time…

Mary Poppins:
Mary Poppins is another one where it’s not entirely clear whether the animated sequences are real (and thus Mary Poppins really does have magic), or if they’re all in the imagination.  After all, when Jane and Michael start talking about their experiences back in the real world, Mary Poppins calls it nonsense.  Whether she does this to dissuade the kids from spreading truth of her magic or because it really is nonsense they came up with is unclear.  It’s a really awesome nanny that can use make-believe to entertain her charges, after all.

Bedknobs and Broomsticks:
Anyway, for those you don’t know the story, Ms. Price is an actual witch (yes, there is real magic in this movie), who is trying to find the spell to make inanimate objects move in order to help with World War II.  They end up going to a magical island called the Isle of Naboombu on an enchanted bed.  On the island, animals have been given the ability to talk (given being a key word).  The animals can talk to each other as well as the humans.  However, it is clear that the ability of speech was given by humans and with magic.  This explanation’s all tied up.

[[Sidebar: I realize Bedknobs is a bit of an obscure reference for some people, but it’s definitely worth a watch.  The song “The Beautiful, Briny Sea” was a musical number originally written for a fantasy sequence in Mary Poppins (by the Sherman Brothers, arguably the best Disney songwriting team, tied with Alan Menkman and Tim Rice).  It’s the same sort of animation style: both live-action and animation, with David Tomlinson (also from Mary Poppins) and the amazing Angela Lansbury.  It’s a family favorite of mine, most notably because this extra in the Portobello Road scene is my dad:

Yay, dad!

Go watch it.  Just make sure it’s not the extended version. It’s about an hour too long.  There’s something to be said about editing.  Sidebar over.]]

Alice in Wonderland:
In Alice in Wonderland, Alice interacts not just with talking animals, but talking flowers and all sorts of weird, hybrid creatures.  Even without Alice, humans and animals interact easily: The Mad Hatter and the March Hare, or the Walrus and the Carpenter.  It’s pretty clear from the movie, however, that all of it’s in her head, since she wakes up from a dream at the end of it.  It is called Wonderland, after all, like it’s a figment of her imagination.

This one has the same situation as Jungle Book.  Man raised by gorillas can speak to all sorts of animals, but it’s not clear whether any other humans can.  And since Tarzan has to learn how to speak English throughout the movie, it’s clear that humans probably can’t understand the animals.

There are more movie examples, I’m sure, but I’m working from memory here.  Let’s move on to our next category…


2) Animals can speak, but humans can’t understand them:

The Princess and the Frog:
This movie is one of the best examples of animals being able to talk without humans understanding.  Tiana is shocked when Prince Naveen (as a frog) can speak.  Hence, it’s not a common occurrence.  In fact, all of the animals can speak, she finds out, but only other animals can understand them, or humans who have been turned into animals.

101 Dalmatians:
In 101 Dalmatians, it is clear that the animals can talk to one another (even cross-species), and they can understand humans, but humans can’t understand them.  Otherwise, wouldn’t it have been simpler for Pongo in the park to just say, “Hey, Roger.  You should go talk to that woman over there.  She’s got a dalmatian.  Then maybe we can both get some action.” But instead, Pongo has to go through this elaborate scheme with leashes to get them together.

Lady & the Tramp:
Another obvious one.  Yes, the guy at the Italian restaurant talks to Lady and the Tramp, but they don’t talk back except in barks.  Even dogs and cats can understand each other (the Siamese cats, for example), but not the humans.  (Side note: cats are jerks.)

Now on to the biggest category….


3) Animals can understand and interact with humans, but can’t speak:

Sure, Pocahontas speaks to a magical tree, but is she really talking to it or is she just “communing with nature” and the conversation is metaphorical? In any case, the animals themselves don’t talk (which, I claim, is why Pocahontas falls far behind most of the other Disney movies of its era.  The comic relief is all visual, so there’s not a lot of funny quotes to repeat.) However, the animals do an awful lot of interacting with each other, and a good deal of anthropomorphized interaction with the humans.  Pocahontas does talk to Meeko and Flit, but that’s more of that “communing with nature” bit, or like an owner talking to their pets.

The Hunchback of Notre Dame:
Not a lot of animals in this one, but the few there are don’t speak.  (Ex: Esmeralda’s goat and Phoebus’ horse). The gargoyles speak, but it’s unclear whether this is a manifestation of Quasimodo’s loneliness or actually real (probably the former rather than the latter).  [[Another underrated movie.  Go rewatch it.  The score is FANTASTIC and it’s really quite funny.  I think its only real failing is that it went a little too dark, but what can you do with the original source material? It’s not really that much darker than Gaston riling up a whole bunch of villagers to go storm a castle and commit murder…]]

Pascal the chameleon and Maximus the horse.  Simply awesome, but can’t talk.  Maximus is truly the most overly anthropomorphized horse of them all, with the way he is actively trying to find Flynn Rider, even without his rider.  Most of the other Disney horses interact with their riders, but just to show their emotions.  Maximus is truly autonomous.  He just can’t talk.

The big example from this is Sven.  Christoff talks to him (constantly) and talks for him (often), but Sven never talks under his own power.  He interacts heavily with Olaf as well, always trying to eat his carrot nose, but Sven is definitely one of the more animal-like of the animals.  I don’t count Olaf as an animal because he’s a snowman, and is also created by Elsa’s magic.

Snow White:
This one is obvious.  Snow White has the power to command forest creatures to do her bidding, having them do chores on her behalf while she sings away.  They understand her completely (“Ah, ah, ah…not under the rug!”) and know how to use cleaning implements.  But they can’t talk.

Sleeping Beauty:
Another princess with animal-summoning powers.  Aurora talks to the animals in the forest, who are so intelligent they can make a fake human just using Phillip’s clothes, one so sophisticated that Aurora can dance with it.  There’s also another great horse in this one: Samson, Phillip’s noble steed.  He’s got attitude.

Again, not very many animals in this one, but there are a few.  I don’t count Phil because he’s a satyr (thus, part-human) and a mythical creature rather than a straight-up animal.  There’s Pegasus, also a mythological creature, but I’ll count him as an animal.  He interacts with Hercules, even actively hates Megara and tries to divebomb the ground while she’s on his back, and is definitely one of the more anthropomorphized animals out there.  (Though, considering he was created from clouds by Zeus, this isn’t surprising.)

The Emperor’s New Groove:
This is an interesting one.  Emperor’s New Groove almost doesn’t fit in this category, or any category where the animals are anthropomorphized.  Pacha’s llama Misty really doesn’t act like anything but a pack animal (with the barely qualifying example being her interaction with Cuzco), and the jaguars are just jaguars.  The only animals we hear speak are ones who were once human (Cuzco and Yzma).  But why did I put Emperor’s New Groove in this category? Bucky the squirrel.  He speaks, but speaks Squirrel.  Kronk can only understand him because he has learned Bucky’s language previously (and teaches it to the others at the end of the movie).  Bucky is straight-up anthropomorphized, offering Cuzco nuts then getting revenge for being rejected so rudely, then giving directions to Kronk and Yzma.

Now on to the crux of the paradox…


4) The Disney Animal Paradox: Animals can talk to humans, but not all animals!

Here’s the paradox: There are some Disney movies in which one or more animals can talk, but there are other animals who clearly lack the ability.  Here’s a few:

One of the most obvious on the list.  Mushu can talk, but Cric-Kee and her horse Khan can’t.  Is this because Mushu is summoned by the ancestor’s magic? Is it because he’s a dragon? Would the Great Stone Dragon have been able to talk, too? (Also, why didn’t summoning him work, since obviously the ancestors can bring statues to life quite easily).

Gus and Jaq and all of their little mice friends can talk and be understood by Cinderella.  But the big fat cat doesn’t talk at all.  Is it because Cinderella is only imagining that the mice can talk, since she is so unloved by her step-family and has to make friends with vermin? (If this is true, then she needs to find psychological help ASAP!)

This is a weird one, straddling a few categories.  Iago can speak (and does so quite loudly and often).  Raja can’t speak, but interacts and reacts to things Aladdin and/or Jasmine say.  Then in between, there’s Abu, who mostly squeaks but occasionally is almost intelligible.  (You can clearly hear him say, “Hewwo…Awaddin…” as he tries to rouse Aladdin from unconsciousness.) Can Iago speak because he’s a parrot, because Jafar has used his magic to enchant him, or both? And Iago’s speaking is not mere parroting; he’s definitely got his own opinions about things.  And as for Abu, is his speaking just a choice of the voice actor, unconscious or otherwise? In trying to make monkey noises, did they slip in a few words just for some Disney magic and humor for those who can pick up on it?

The Little Mermaid:
This one’s also got some inconsistency to it.  It seems like everything under the sea can talk: Sebastian, Flounder, that little seahorse guy.  The fish in “Under the Sea” don’t speak themselves, but if they have the cognitive wherewithal to play instruments and dance in a coordinated fashion, they probably can speak.  But Max the dog can’t and doesn’t speak, and is as close to non-anthropomorphized as you can get.  It’d be easy to say that things in Ariel’s world (i.e. under the sea) can speak, but those on land can’t, except for Scuttle, who can speak.  So you see the problem.  Even that theory, if not already broken, gets debunked again by the shark in the sunken ship near the beginning of the movie.  Granted, maybe it could talk, but chose not to because it was hungry for mermaid flesh.  There’s also the matter of Flounder, Scuttle and Sebastian: can Ariel only understand them because she grew up under the sea (just as Tarzan could understand his animal friends)? Can Eric understand them as well? (As far as I can remember, they never had any interaction apart from Scuttle warbling, but as that was singing sounds and not words, I have no idea).  Sebastian doesn’t even talk to Chef Louis as he’s trying to kill the poor crab, so who knows if anyone but merpeople (let’s put them in the “human-like category”) can understand them.

The Great Mouse Detective:
Another underrated movie.  A Sherlock-Holmes-esque mouse faces off against Vincent Price as a Professor-Moriarity-like rat who thinks he’s a mouse.  Again, a little dark both graphically and tone-wise, but granted they were trying to make London look as it would have during that age, complete with London fog and coaldust-covered streets and buildings.  All of the mice (and the rat) talk, being the central species to the story.  However, the cat Felicia doesn’t talk at all, but the nasty peg-legged bat henchmen does.  Bats are not technically rodents, but maybe the similarity between them make them all be able to talk amongst themselves? Or does the cat just not talk because it’s a cat and can do whatever it wants, including not talk if it doesn’t want to? (See earlier argument: Cats are jerks.)

This is the weirdest one of all.  Timothy the mouse speaks (Incessantly.  He’s actually one of the main reasons I don’t like rewatching Dumbo.  That, and the waterworks-inducing song, “Baby Mine.”) Then there’s the excessively un-PC crows, who talk and sing.  But the main character, Dumbo, doesn’t speak a single word the entire time.  We know elephants can speak (the circus elephants and are actually pretty catty, considering they’re elephants), but Dumbo never does.  Is this because he’s still a baby and hasn’t developed that ability yet? Or is he mute? Or is he just an introvert? He clearly understands what Timothy is saying to him, so why does he never talk back?

Another weird one.  Nearly the entire movie is populated by the normal Disney system of humans with interacting-yet-non-speaking animals.  Pinocchio lives in a human village and nearly all of his interactions are with humans.  The fish Cleo and the cat Figaro can’t talk, but they react to things said or done to them.  Then there’s Jiminy Cricket, who is, in fact, an animal (well, an insect), but can clearly talk to Pinocchio (and, correct me if I’m wrong, Geppetto and Lampwick.  Granted, it is unclear if those two actually understand him).  The Blue Fairy can understand him, but she’s a fairy, so that’s a given.  Can Pinocchio only understand Jiminy because he’s not actually human himself, or because the Blue Fairy made Jiminy his conscience?

The real question you should be asking yourself is why, when Pinocchio lives in what is clearly a human village, with no strange animal behavior outside of his magical talking friend, is there a fox walking around town with his cat companion, wearing clothes and convincing not-real-boys to become actors or go to Pleasure Island?


This doesn’t make any sense.  It’s like Disney decided that having so many evil (or at least not-so-good) humans was making us look bad as a species, and decided to make Honest John a fox.  (Cuz, you know, foxes are crafty.)  Or maybe there were supposed to be more fully-speaking animal characters (like Jiminy Cricket) but they just decided to stop with those three.


Assuming all of these Disney movies are all part of the same universe, there is one over-arching theme I can give to explain all of these different categories: Animals can speak, they can be understood by other animals, but only some animals can or choose to speak in a way humans can understand (or at all).  I equate these non-talking animals to shy or introverted people, who may not be talking at all times.  They are observers, not doers.  Followers, not leaders.  They might have strong personalities in the animal world, but among humans (which, granted, are pretty scary and dangerous), they choose to maintain their appearance of docility and stupidity.  Also, humans who have been turned into animals gain (and apparently, retain) the power of understanding animal speech.

That’s it! My two cents.  Also, can anyone actually think of Disney movies where horses actually speak? I want to say either Lady and the Tramp or 101 Dalmatians, but since neither of those movies are my particular favorites and I don’t feel like rewatching them to find out, and Google didn’t come up with anything after a cursory search, I’m not going to bother finding out.  Also, I never saw Home on the Range, which I assume has horses in it because it’s on a farm.  Also, I’m open to any additions to the list I didn’t put here.  I was lazy and only listed Disney movies that I could remember without rewatching.

(Also, sorry for the near-absence of pictures.  I started with screencaps for each of the movies, but it was taking forever to find ones that I wanted, and they weren’t adding much to the post other than making it longer.  If you really can’t sit through an entire post of mine (which, granted, can be rather long-winded) without pictures, then maybe you should go to Buzzfeed. I promise I’ll have some picture-full posts soon.  Still working on that Little Mermaid gender swap.)

Little Mermaid Comics

I’m in the process of Photoshopping my next gender swap (guess which Disney movie…) and I thought up a few ideas for comics.  Since speech bubbles take a millions times less effort and time than a full gender swap, here they are to tide you over!

(Click images for full-size)

Tour of the Kingdom:

Ariel Talking Nonstop - Full Comic

This is Eric’s fate for the first several years of their marriage.  First, he’s got to unteach all of the bad habits Scuttle taught her when it comes to human objects.  Then he’s going to have to explain the entire history of mankind, including all technological and scientific advancements, culture and customs…just about everything.


Triton’s Bargain:

Triton Comic

Seriously, Triton.  Stop showing off.


After the wedding:

Boat comic

Why teenagers shouldn’t be allowed to marry the first person they get a crush on.

Screen grabs courtesy of disneyscreencaps.com. Images, names and characters owned by Disney.  Text and photoshopping by me.