The Grapevine

Children's Cartoons Contain 2.5 Times More Death Than Adult Horror Movies: Violence From 'Snow White' To 'Frozen'

Cartoon Violence Is Worse Than Adult Scary Movies
Violence and death in kids' cartoons trump anything the top grossing horror films can show. Photo courtesy of Shutterstock

Children’s cartoons seem like a safe option for movie night, but turns out they contain 2.5 times more violence than Mom and Dad’s horror films. A research team made up of Canadian and UK scientists compared violence in children’s cartoons to adult scary movies and came to a startling conclusion: Children are exposed to more death and violence than adults. They published their study in the British Medical Journal, along with a warning to parents that G or PG cartoon ratings don’t mean their children will have a violence-free viewing experience.

"Rather than being innocuous and gentler alternatives to typical horror or drama films, children's animated films are, in fact, hotbeds of murder and mayhem," the study authors Dr. Ian Colman and Dr. James Kirkbride wrote. They described the animated kids films as "rife with death and destruction," that were comparable to the "rampant horrors" found in popular adult horror films.

Researchers watched the 45 top-grossing children’s cartoons that were released between 1937 and 2013, starting from Snow White and ending at Frozen. They recorded how long it took lead characters to die and marked down if they were rated either suitable for a general audience (G) or suggested parental guidance (PG). The on-screen deaths were either a main character or their parent (Who could forget when Bambi’s mother was murdered in the first few minutes of the movie?).

They compared the kids’ cartoons to the two top-grossing adult scary movies that were released the same year as each of the cartoons. The scary movies they used to compare included The Exorcism of Emily Rose, What Lies Beneath, and thrillers such as Pulp Fiction, The Departed, and Black Swan.

It was surprising for the researchers to find a child’s main cartoon character was 2.5 times more likely to die than a main character in an adult horror flick. What’s worse is that it was the parents of main characters that were more than five times as likely to die in a children’s cartoon as their own mom and dad’s scary movie. The deaths in the children’s cartoons had a common thread of violence. Within the first four minutes of Finding Nemo, Nemo’s mother was eaten by a barracuda, and roughly four minutes into Tarzan, his parents were killed by a leopard.

Researchers also reported they found no difference in the levels of violence between Disney’s 1937 Snow White and the 2013 Frozen cartoon that took over nearly every household. There were stabbings in Sleeping Beauty and The Little Mermaid and shootings throughout Bambia, Peter Pan, and Pocahontas. Snow White’s evil stepmother was struck by lightning, forced off of a cliff, and crushed by a boulder after being chased by seven angry dwarves. Disney makes a scary adult movie about a haunted little girl pale in comparison.

Source: Colman I. and Kirkbride J. British Medical Journal. 2014.

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