People Spotted A Controversial Detail In ‘The Little Mermaid’ That Has Disney Scrambling For Answers

People Spotted A Controversial Detail In

The Little Mermaid is widely considered the film that made the House of Mouse relevant again, so naturally, it holds a special place in the hearts of Disney fans. But beneath the catchy songs and colorful animations, people have started to notice some suspicious elements under the sea that might not fly with modern audiences — and we’re not talking about that controversial VHS Cover either.

Is It Outdated?

The Little Mermaid was released in 1989, meaning many of the ideals and attitudes of the decade made their way into the film. In the ’80s, the average woman married at age 22. Guess how old Ariel is when she and Eric tie the knot?

Walt Disney Pictures

A Bit Uncomfortable

You guessed it — 16. Rather than bump her up to a legal adult at 18, Disney decided to make Ariel the equivalent of a high school sophomore. While Eric just turned 18 himself, they’re still way too young to get married.

Walt Disney Pictures

“Under the Sea”

Sebastian’s iconic rendition of “Under the Sea” is arguably one of The Little Mermaid‘s most memorable moments (and catchiest songs), but take a deeper dive looking at the performers of lighthearted tune about living under the sea and things start to get fishy.

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Clear Caricatures

The song appears to feature some pretty overt racial stereotypes. First there’s the so called “Fluke of Soul” clearly meant to be a reference to the “Duke of Soul,” and then on the right we have the “Blackfish.”

Walt Disney Pictures

Giving Up Her Voice

The primary conflict in The Little Mermaid stems from Ariel’s bargain with Ursula, giving up her voice for a chance to find true love. Yet this sacrifice isn’t just about losing the ability to sing.

Walt Disney Pictures

Not To Say A Word

Ariel may be a confused young teenager, but there’s something to be said about literally giving up your ability to speak because you think it’ll give you a chance to get a guy. Even Ursula seems to think that’s what the prince is after!

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Not So Modern

When The Little Mermaid first debuted in theaters, many critics praised Ariel for being the first Disney princess with genuine desires and the drive to get what she wants. But her silence for most of the film leads to one large imbalance.

Walt Disney Pictures

Disproportionate Dialogue

A whopping 68 percent of the movie’s dialogue is solely dedicated to male characters. That’s still better than Aurora, who only had a total of 18 lines of dialogue in Sleeping Beauty, so we guess we’ll count that as a victory?

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Not So Evil

Ursula is undoubtedly the villain of the film, with a lair filled with the withered remains of the “poor unfortunate souls” who have made contracts with her before, but is she really all that evil?

Walt Disney Pictures

A True Businesswoman

Ursula may not be willing to play fair, but Ariel was fully aware of all the risks she was taking by signing a contract from the Sea Witch. It’s not her fault the mermaid didn’t read the fine print!

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Sexualized Princess

Ariel also appears to be bizarrely sexualized for a 16-year-old girl. It’s made even more uncomfortable when you realize that the animators modeled her after a young Alyssa Milano, who was barely older than Ariel herself back then.

Walt Disney Pictures

Unhealthy Proportions

To top it off, Ariel’s proportions — along with all the other Disney princesses besides maybe Moana — are totally unrealistic and, frankly, unhealthy. It shows just how far Disney still has to go to make a “realistic” looking princess for modern girls.

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Nice to Meet You, Will You Marry Me?

It’s not as though “Love at First Sight” is anything new for princess films. Heck, even Disney themselves are starting to lampoon it in newer films, but how much does Eric really “love” Ariel?

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Loving A Fantasy

Eric almost seems more interested in the fantasy of the girl who saved him than the real Ariel considering how easily he was duped by Ursula in disguise as “Vanessa.” He was even visibly disappointed when he saw Ariel didn’t have the voice he was looking for.

Walt Disney Pictures

Worth the Price?

On top of giving up her voice to get a chance at Eric, she’s also willing to give up who she really is — a mermaid. Granted it’s her body and thus her choice, but what else is she giving up in the process?

Walt Disney Pictures

Leaving It All Behind

She flat out abandons her entire previous life, family and friends included. What about Flounder? And Sebastian? Or even her entire mermaid community? That’s a lot to leave behind for a guy you’ve only gotten to know for three days.

Walt Disney Pictures

Evil or Empowered?

It’s pretty common knowledge that Ursula was based off of the drag queen Divine. Disney had a nasty habit of creating characters with flamboyant “queer” traits and making them the villains, but she’s much easier to root for than the main character.

Walt Disney Pictures

A Real Hero?

Ariel the protagonist shows bizarrely little growth or change during the movie. She only realizes she may have done something wrong after her deal with Ursula goes south, and her father is the one who has to pay the price for it. Speaking of King Triton…

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Not So Kingly

Despite frequently butting heads with Ariel throughout the film, King Triton is portrayed as a sympathetic character, a wise father who only cares about his daughter’s well-being. Yet do his actions really reflect this?

Walt Disney Pictures

Bordering on Abusive

Not only does Triton come off as more aggressive and overprotective than caring, but he even goes as far as destroying Ariel’s collection of “thingamabobs” in a rage over her desire to forge her own path. This seems more abusive than fatherly.

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A True Classic

You’d think Disney would be more careful, yet just five years later, it gave us The Lion King. Despite being a beloved, critically acclaimed film that spawned a long-running Broadway musical and a live-action remake, the movie has had as much controversy as success over the years.

Simon Cowell / Twitter

Devil’s in the Details

Fans started to notice details throughout the movie that are changing the way that they look at this beloved classic, and Disney has been coming under fire for it. To understand why, we need to take a look at an artist that has nothing to do with Disney’s Franchise.

Walt Disney Pictures

Across the Pacific

In 1940s Japan, a young man wanted to use the power of his drawings to help convince people to take better care of the world. At only 17 years old, he published his first comic series and quickly became an overnight success. This young artist took the nation by storm.

Walt Disney of Japan

It was Osamu Tezuka, the man whose works like Astro Boy and Phoenix were so influential in Japanese comics and animation that he came to be known as the Walt Disney of Japan. But what does this have to do with The Lion King?

A Stand-Out Character

Tezuka had been creating animation for years, and after Disney’s release of The Lion King, people started to notice some startling similarities to one of his works. Looking at the mural of Tezuka’s creations below, you may be able to find one that resembles a certain Disney character…

Brian Camacho

Kimba the White Lion

To make The Lion King, it seemed Disney ripped off characters and scenes from one of Tezuka’s works: The Jungle Emperor, or Kimba the White Lion. There are plenty of elements shared between the two that seem to point to foul play on Disney’s part.

Tezuka Productions

Taking it Side-by-Side

Fans of classic Japanese animation began doing side-by-side comparisons of the two films and were startled by how many similarities the two shared, and Disney quickly found themselves in hot water. The evidence piled up in surprising ways, even going back to the development stages of The Lion King.

YouTube/Alli Kat; Walt Disney Pictures; Tezuka Productions

Simba and Kimba

The two main characters share similar names, though simba literally means lion in Swahili. The most startling bit of evidence, however, comes from early pitch reels from The Lion King that show Simba as a white lion cub just like Kimba. The finished film had some more bizarre similarities, too.

Alli MacKay, “Kimba & The Lion King – How Similar Are They?“; Walt Disney Pictures; Tezuka Productions

A Wise Mandrill

Many of the characters in The Lion King seem to be directly copied from Tesuka’s work. For example, both of the protagonists have a wise mandrill sage they receive advice from. The film’s villains aren’t all that different, either.

Alli MacKay, “Kimba & The Lion King – How Similar Are They?“; Walt Disney Pictures; Tezuka Productions


On the left you have Scar and on the right you have… Claw. Both are evil lions with similar color schemes and a distinctive wound over their right eye. There was another curious element that these two villains seemed to share as well.

YouTube/Alli Kat; Walt Disney Pictures; Tezuka Productions

And Henchmen, Too…

They both employ hyenas as henchmen! It might not be too much of a stretch to think that two animated films set in the African savanna might have similar animals as their characters. But the similarities only begin to get more suspicious from here.

YouTube/Alli Kat; Walt Disney Pictures; Tezuka Productions

Not Just The Characters

Many of the most memorable scenes from The Lion King seem to have been directly lifted from Kimba, too. Observant film fans have compiled a full collection of eerily similar scenes that provide a strong case against Disney. There are tons of examples ranging from Kimba/Simba surveying their kingdom…

Walt Disney Pictures; Tezuka Productions

And the Climax

… To the climactic battle with Claw/Scar playing out almost entirely the same. But there was one scene in particular that seemed like it was way too similar to just be a mere coincidence, and it had people roaring for an answer from Disney.

Alli MacKay, “Kimba & The Lion King – How Similar Are They?“; Walt Disney Pictures; Tezuka Productions

Too Many Coincidences

The image of Mufasa as a giant lion in the sky is one of the most memorable scenes from the movie, but it looks like that one was also suspiciously similar to a scene from Kimba. Fans of the obscure Japanese animation weren’t the only ones to notice this either.

Alli MacKay, “Kimba & The Lion King – How Similar Are They?“; Walt Disney Pictures; Tezuka Productions

Maintstream Attention

The suspected cat burglary by Disney was even parodied in an episode of The Simpsons! With all of this evidence against them, the crew who worked on The Lion King were forced to finally address these accusations.

The Simpsons

A Disney Denial

Unsurprisingly, Lion King co-director Rob Minkoff, left, told the press that nobody working on the project had ever heard of Kimba, or were in any way influenced by Tezuka’s works. According to some animation experts, there was no way that was possible though.



Researchers found that the other co-director, Roger Allers, had lived in Tokyo for 2 years in the 1980s when Tezuka’s work frequently aired on TV. This lent serious doubt to Disney’s claim that nobody working on The Lion King knew who Tezuka was. Japanese animators responded with outrage.


Growing Anger

A petition signed by 82 of Japan’s artists and hundreds of Kimba fans was sent to Disney requesting that Tezuka’s influence be acknowledged in the opening credits of The Lion King. However, a response from an unexpected source stopped Disney from owning up to the controversy.


“Osamu Tezuka Would Be Very Pleased”

The president of Tezuka Productions stated, “If Disney took hints from the Jungle Emperor, our founder, the late Osamu Tezuka, would be very pleased by it.” Apparently Tezuka himself was a huge fan of Disney and had even worked on Bambi comics in Japan. Not everyone was pleased by that answer though.

Walt Disney Pictures; Tezuka Productions

Legal Non-Action

Many fans of the original work wonder if Tezuka Productions never took legal action against Disney out of fear of going up against such a big company with so many powerful lawyers. Either way, Disney is probably more than happy to finally let this lion sleep tonight.

Rusty Epstein