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There is no other movie studio in the world quite like Walt Disney Studios. When you use the phrase "Disney Movie," you might be talking about an animated film or a live-action one, or maybe it features superheroes or pirates, but you're always talking about movies that are suitable for just about everyone. No other studio has that sort of relationship with the films it produces.
And yet, with that level of public understanding, there's a lot of responsibility. Disney has, on occasion, tried to break out of that mold, or at least shift the boundaries of what constitutes a Disney movie, and the company hasn't always been successful. We've even seen instances recently where Disney movies of the past have been edited to bring them in line with what people think of as Disney movies today.
Of course, even now, not all Disney movies are acceptable for literally every viewer. Which is why Disney+ allows you to setup a Kids Profile (you can check it out and sign up now). This profile changes the interface of the Disney+ app a little, but mostly it removes content that might not be suitable for the youngest viewers. The Marvel Cinematic Universe movies and the Star Wars films aren't available under the Kids Profile, which probably isn't too surprising. Pretty much everything with a rating stronger than PG is gone.
However, those are far from the only movies that aren't available if you use a Kids Profile, and some of the missing content is a bit more surprising. I recently set up one of these profiles and discovered that while using it, some of my daughter's favorite films were not accessible. A number of Walt Disney Animation and Pixar films are apparently deemed unsuitable for a Disney+ Kids Profile. These movies include the likes of Moana, Cars 3, Onward and even the original Fantasia.
There doesn't seem to be much rhyme or reason to the decisions. Cars 3 is unavailable, but the first two movies in the franchise are there, along with all the shorts. Atlantis: The Lost Empire is not there, but your kid can watch the direct-to-video sequel. They can watch the animated original of Lady and the Tramp, but not the recent remake.
It's Not The Ratings
It would be simple to think this is a simple issue of ratings, but that isn't the case. All three Cars movies were rated G by the MPAA. Meanwhile, both Frozen and Frozen II received PG ratings, and both are available to watch using a Kids Profile. The Princess Diaries movies are both rated G, and both of them are off-limits.
Now, it's certainly true that regardless of ratings, many of these missing movies have things in them that might not necessarily be acceptable for all audiences. Both Atlantis: The Lost Empire and Treasure Planet, are some of the most action-focused, and therefore violent, animated Disney movies ever made, and that might not be something you want your toddler watching, which is totally fair. But are they more violent than the X-Men animated series from the '90s, which is available?
Is Lightning McQueen getting in a serious wreck significantly worse than watching Mufasa fall to his death in The Lion King? Of course, you can only see that in the animated version, as the remake is not available in the Kids Profile. Maybe there was a feeling that the sequence is more intense when it looks more real? This could help explain why the animated versions of Lady & the Tramp and Dumbo are available while the live-action remakes are not. Of course, what if you would like to keep your kids from seeing the "outdated cultural depictions" in those films?
It's Not Just The Content
It's not like Disney movies are generally free of scary or emotional moments. The Wicked Queen in Snow White and the Seven Dwarves literally had kids wetting themselves in the late 1930s, and that's probably happened more than a few times since then. Finding Nemo has a character die in the opening minutes, but kids can see it. They can't watch Finding Dory, however.
Zootopia has some pretty grown up concepts built into it, but it's not necessary to understand them in order to enjoy the fox and bunny detective story portion. There are a lot of movies, Disney and otherwise, that have elements that might go over the head of young kids, but can still be entertaining to them. There's actually a lot of stuff in the Toy Story movies that is clearly meant for an older audience, but the entire series is available to those using the Kids Profile.
Fantasia probably has the closest thing to animated nudity on Disney+ with the centaurs of the "Pastoral Symphony" sequence, but could that really be the reason kids can't see it? It's not that there's a feeling kids won't like or understand the connection between animation and classical music, because they can see Fantasia 2000.
I asked Disney about this, but as of this writing, have received no response. It could be this is some sort of random glitch and these movies aren't supposed to be off-limits to kids. But Disney+ has been around since November, and this seems like a problem which would have been fixed by now. If that's not it though, then it would appear that movies are being considered on a more or less individual basis, and something in them is being found objectionable.
If the idea here was to just remove violence or mature themes entirely from the Kids Profile that would be one thing, but clearly that's not the case. If there is some sort methodical approach to this question, the method is lost on me. More than likely, these are just judgment calls made by people, though it would be enlightening to get an idea just what is guiding these judgments.
This is a close to impossible fight to win. Parents are always going to be concerned about what their kids are seeing, but what exactly concerns them is going to vary from one family to another. Beyond giving parents the ability to curate the Kids Profile one item at a time, there will always be parents who feel something that was let through the age gate should not have been, or that something else is ok even if it's not available.
In the end, it will always be up to the parents and guardians to decide what is okay for the kids to watch, as it should be. If you're limiting your own kids viewing on Disney+ based on this profile, it's at least worth knowing what they can't even see