Saturday, July 10, 2004


Claim: Prankish Disney animators slipped a few frames of Jessica Rabbit sans underwear into the film Who Framed Roger Rabbit.
Status: Undetermined.

Origins: Several brief, offcolor jokes are allegedly hidden within the film, detectable only by viewing the film frame-by-frame on a high-quality VCR or laserdisc player. Some of these gags -- if they ever indeed existed -- were removed before the movie was released to the home video market. The scenes most often mentioned include the following:

An incident that occurs during the scene in which Jessica Rabbit is riding through Toon Town with Bob Hoskins in an animated cab. As the taxi runs into a lamp post, Jessica and Hoskins are both thrown from the car; Jessica lands spinning, which causes her red dress to start hiking up her body. For a few frames of Jessica's second spin her underwear supposedly disappears, revealing Jessica's unclothed nether regions.
The frames in question are frames 2170-2172 on side 4 of the laserdisc version; in these frames Jessica's pubic region is colored darker than the surrounding flesh-colored areas. Whether this coloration was intended to suggest nudity or was the result of a paint error is unknown. The intention might have been to paint the darker regions a color representative of underwear, but an error in the color markup chart produced some ambiguous images instead.

A scene at the beginning of the film depicts a diaper-clad Baby Herman stomping off the set and underneath the dress of a woman. Watched frame-by-frame, the scene reveals Baby Herman extending his middle finger just before jumping underneath the skirt and re-emerging with a spot of drool on his upper lip. This scene can indeed be seen on the home video release and was clearly intentional.

In another scene, Bob Hoskins steps into a Toon Town men's room. Graffiti on the wall reads "For a good time, call Allyson Wonderland", with the phrase "The Best Is Yet to Be" appearing underneath it. Allegedly, Disney chairman Michael Eisner's phone number replaces the latter phrase for one frame. Although the "Allyson Wonderland" graffiti is clearly visible on laserdisc, Eisner's phone number is not. If the phone number was in the film originally (as rumor has it was), it was removed before the home versions of the movie were made available.
Animators have traditionally amused themselves by slipping occasional racy frames or other gags into their work, frames which flash on the screen far too briefly to be detected by theater audiences. With the advent of home video and laserdisc players which allow viewers to examine scenes frame-by-frame, these gags can be spotted by sharp-eyed film watchers. Many of these fleeting images are more the product of the power of suggestion than animators' intentions, however.

Claim: The photographic image of a topless woman can be spotted in the background of The Rescuers.
Status: True.

Origins: On 8 January 1999, Disney announced a recall of the the home video version of their 1977 animated feature The Rescuers because it contained an "objectionable background image." Approximately 38 minutes into the film, as rodent heroes Bianca and Bernard fly through the city in a sardine box strapped to the back of Orville, proprietor of Albatross Air Charter Service, the photographic image of a topless woman can be seen at the window of a building in the background in two different (non-consecutive) frames: first in the bottom left corner, then at the top center portion of the frame. (Click on each image below to view an enlargement of the frame.)

Unlike most rumors of risque words images hidden in Disney's animated films, this one is clearly true, and the images in question were undeniably purposely inserted into the movie.

The two "topless woman" frames have reputedly been present in the film ever since its original 1977 theatrical release (a fact apparently confirmed by Disney, whose spokesperson said that the tampering "was done more than 20 years ago"), although Disney claims that they were not included in the 1992 home video version because "it was made from a different print." Disney also claimed that the images were not placed in the film by any of their animators, but were inserted during the post-production process. The company decided to recall 3.4 million copies of the video "to keep our promise to families that we can trust and rely on the Disney brand to provide the finest in family entertainment."

Disney's announcement of this recall might be considered a bit curious. Unlike previous rumors over "hidden" items in Disney's animated films, this one was not widespread until Disney itself made a public statement about it. As well, unlike the salacious images and sounds allegedly to be found in The Little Mermaid, Aladdin and The Lion King, the Rescuers frames in question are not noticeable during a normal viewing of the film -- one has to know they're there and freeze-frame the video to view them. Disney didn't recall any of those other videos, so why this one? Because they knew how quickly the story would spread via the Internet? Because this occurrence was as undeniable case of tampering rather than misinterpretation? The cynical among us might ponder that one of the best ways to boost sales of a slow-selling video would be to announce its recall due to the presence of some "objectionable images."

Claim: One of the castle spires on the cover of Disney's The Little Mermaid home video was deliberately drawn as a phallus by a disgruntled artist.
Status: False.

Origins: One
of the castle spires in the background of the The Little Mermaid promotional artwork bears an unmistakable resemblance to a penis, so much so that many people are unwilling to dismiss the drawing as mere accident or coincidence. Rumors started circulating shortly after the release of the videocassette edition of The Little Mermaid that the phallic object had been deliberately drawn as a last act of defiance by a disgruntled Disney artist who was miffed at being notified that he would be laid off at the conclusion of the project. The plain truth is that the resemblance between the castle spire and a penis was purely accidental, and it was drawn by an artist who was neither disgruntled nor about to be dismissed.

First of all, the artist who created the video cover art did not work for Disney itself, thus he was neither "disgruntled with Disney" nor "about to be fired." We questioned the artist, who also drew artwork for Little Mermaid theatrical advertising, pop-ups, greeting cards, Happy Meal boxes, and CDs. The theatrical posters were done before the original release of the film, but the video cover art was not created until a few months before the home video version hit the market. Rushed to complete the video artwork (featuring towers that were rather phallic to begin with), the artist hurried through the background detail (at "about four in the morning") and inadvertently drew one spire that bore a rather close resemblance to a penis. The artist himself didn't notice the resemblance until a member of his youth church group heard about the controversy on talk radio and called him at his studio with the news. The later laserdisc release of the film was issued with a cover containing an altered version of the infamous spire. Contrary to common belief, the phallic-like spire did not make its first appearance with the cover to the home video version. The same background drawing of the castle, with the same spires, appeared in promotional material and posters that accompanied the film's original theatrical release. The video cover does differ slightly from the original version, but the castle shown in the background is the same in both versions. (Later versions of the laserdisc cover were altered to remove the offending spire.)

Original artwork

Video cover

The alleged "phallic symbol" in The Little Mermaid's artwork went undetected by the general public for about a year while the film was in the theatrical release. Shortly after Entertainment Weekly ran a story about the offending artwork in mid-1990, the rumor became widespread when Michelle Couch of Mesa, Arizona, complained to Disney and a Phoenix supermarket chain (Bashas') about the phallus on the cover of The Little Mermaid. Bashas' pulled the videos from their shelves (but returned them less than 24 hours later), and the story of the "penis" cover was soon widely disseminated by the media.

Claim: The letters S-E-X are formed by a swirling cloud of dust in The Lion King.
Status: Undetermined.

Origins: About
halfway to three-fourths of the way through the film, Simba, Pumbaa, and Timon are lying on their backs, looking up at the stars. Simba arises, walks over to the edge of a cliff, and flops to the ground, throwing up a cloud of dust. Eddies of dust form and dissipate in the roiling cloud, and at one point the various curves and angles in these eddies appear to form the letters S-E-X. It takes a bit of persistence to see specific letters in the shapes formed by the swirling dust clouds, even when the video is played in slow motion.

Whether the image of the word "SEX" was deliberately planted in this scene or is merely a product of the power of suggestion is unknown. The letters seem readily apparent to those who know what they're supposed to be looking for, but persons unfamiliar with the rumor rarely make them out even after being told to look for a word in the still-frame images. The generally accepted explanation is that the letters were slipped in by a special effects group (to form the abbreviation "S-F-X").

A 4-year-old boy from New York (or Louisiana), viewing the video with his head tilted to the left, supposedly noticed the appearance of the letters S-E-X and told his mother (or aunt) about it. (How a mere 4-year-old could both spell and understand the significance of the word "sex" remains unexplained. When you want to charge a huge corporate conglomerate with slipping nasties into its supposedly wholesome children's films, however, it's best to pretend an unwitting child made the discovery. This method increases the outrage factor -- if a 4-year-old found the word "S-E-X" in a video all by himself, why, then anybody's child might see it, too.) His mother (or aunt) in turn notified a religious organization called the American Life League, who claimed this was yet another occurrence of Disney's deliberately inserting hidden images into their animated films. The American Life League, which had already been boycotting Disney films since the previous April, made this rumor the highlight of their September 1995 publicity campaign against several Disney videos allegedly containing "sexual messages."


Post a Comment

<< Home