The Walt Disney Company is an absolute giant in the entertainment industry. It’s a name synonymous with childhood wonder, the power of imagination, and family-oriented media that has been enjoyed for decades. But even with the studio’s reputation and image, that hasn’t stopped other outlets from throwing a few jabs at the House of Mouse.
Everyone from Dreamworks to Warner Bros. has made a crack at Disney’s expense, but not even Walt’s magical empire can resist mocking their own success. From inside jokes in cartoons to full-on animated features lampooning their cliches and tropes, Disney definitely knows how to take a joke with the best of them.
Olaf Presents might just be another symptom of Frozen fever that still somehow grips the Disney fanbase, but it’s also a very tongue-in-cheek way for Disney to poke fun at some of their biggest hits, including movies like Moana, Aladdin, and The Lion King.
By having Olaf give a rushed-yet-hilarious performance of each movie, Disney is able to sneakily take a jab at their biggest films. Josh Gad is in top form in these performances and he does not hold back any punches. He also addresses plot holes, sings the infectious songs, and hams up each recap as only his animated snowman could.
Caricatures Of Animators & More
There are a few inside jokes that many hardcore Disney buffs look for in their animated materials, and one is the caricatured versions of Disney animators. Most of the time, these will be done by the lead animators or directors of the film themselves, but there are occasions where famous figures of the company found themselves in the features.
Such examples feature animators like Milt Kahl, Ward Kimball, and perhaps, most frequently, John Musker and Ron Clements. Other names in the Disney company were also turned into cartoons and some even went on to become recurring characters.
Shattering The Fourth Wall
Breaking the fourth wall is a common practice in various forms of media, but Disney goes the extra mile when their animated characters pull themselves from the inkwell and into the “real world.” Things get even more interesting when the characters interact with the animators.
A great example of this is seen in Disney’s The Plausible Impossible where both Donald Duck and Mickey Mouse become the playthings of an animator’s palate. Hearing Donald giving Walt Disney attitude is a different brand of abstract humor.
The Disney Glare
It takes a certain type of courage to poke fun at someone’s boss, but when the boss in question happens to be Walt Disney himself, that animator deserves a medal. Those who have delved into the creation of Walt Disney’s “Concert Feature” know that the character of Yen Sid was heavily inspired by Walt as mentioned by illustrator Anne Elizabeth, but they also know about a certain defining feature.
The way Yen Sid looks at Mickey after catching him with the magic hat was inspired by what some fans and artists referred to as “the Disney glare.” Walt was reportedly a tough critic to please, and his brow-heavy stare was something that was too perfect not to fix onto the character.
Mickey’s Black Cauldron Bootleg
Any Disney fan worth their salt knows about the less-than-savory reputation of The Black Cauldron. Considered by many to be Disney’s black sheep, the film was the company’s biggest flop and one of the darkest movies dreamed up by the studio. Even Mickey Mouse has his copy hidden away.
In the short film, “For Whom the Booth Tolls,” Mickey has to find change for a very insistent toll booth. While searching the floor of his car, a discarded bootlegged copy of the film can be seen under his chair. Even Disney’s biggest mascot knows it’s not the company’s proudest moment.
Not In The Book
This was more of a joke at the filmmakers’ expense than the company’s, but it’s one of the biggest and perhaps most overlooked Disney inside jokes. Anyone familiar with Winnie the Pooh knows about Gopher, the whistling rodent that’s constantly falling into his own holes. However, those who’ve only read A.A. Milne’s books might not.
Gopher’s catchphrase is “I’m not in the book, but I’m at your service.” While this might have been referring to a phonebook to audiences in the ’60s, it’s actually referring to the fact that Gopher literally isn’t in the book. It means the animators are calling out their own original character.
The Simpsons: Plusaversary
As many times as the Simpsons have made fun of Disney, it only feels fair if the humor is directed the other way. In The Simpsons: Plusaversary, the zany citizens of The Simpsons‘ city of Springfield mix and mingle with the various icons of Disney’s famous features. Everyone from classic cartoons to even Marvel and Star Wars characters get a little piece of the screen.
In true Simpsons style, the short proceeds to poke fun at Disney+ and its products, even referencing how the short itself is a sort of glorified commercial. As jarring as it is to see Goofy drinking Duff beer with Homer, it’s also refreshing to see two seemingly opposite styles of animation and humor play so well together.
“Anything But That!”
There are two types of Disney fans: those who love “It’s A Small World” and those who don’t. The infamous theme song sung by hundreds of puppet children is one of Disney’s most infectious earworms, and even the iconic animation studio knows that. The tune has reached such a level of notoriety that it warranted an in-canon reference when Scar hears it and cringes with annoyance, crying “Anything but that!”
The fact that a film as big as The Lion King called this notion out is definitely a sign of how truly contentious the song is. If one of Disney’s most famous villains dislikes it, it has to be pretty bad, at least to some.
“So, Let It Go.”
It’s one thing to make fun of something notorious like “It’s A Small World” or The Black Cauldron, but to repeatedly make fun of Disney’s biggest success is a work of art. Chief Bogo’s line in Zootopia is only one jab at Frozen, and several movies made since then have given the iconic film a few potshots.
Bogo’s quote not only tries to keep Judy in her lane but also fired one of the first shots against Frozen shortly after its release. At the time, the fanbase surrounding Arendelle’s royalty was still riding the high. So the fact that Disney was mocking what was their current smash was a very unexpected move.
The Entirety Of Enchanted
While many viewers consider Shrek the cornerstone of fairytale parodies, Enchanted is a self-aware masterpiece that would make Deadpool jealous with how many times it mocks its own source material. Essentially a roast of every single Disney Princess movie cliche the studio ever invented, it’s perhaps one of the greatest comedies on the Disney formula.
Poking fun at nearly all of the cliches Disney created, both live-action and animated, the movie hits as many high notes as it can to not only be a good Disney movie but to play with all the cliches to an optimal effect. Leave it to Disney to lampoon themselves in their own magical way.
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