Despite its reputation for being a homogenized entertainment empire, Disney has produced some disturbing content over the decades. There’s the repeated trauma endured by their younger, anthropomorphic characters when their parents are violently killed (see Bambi or The Lion King). And then there's the truly frightful, malevolent imagery (the demonic Chernabog in Fantasia, the incinerator scene in Toy Story 3). But according to Pete’s Dragon director David Lowery, there are three areas where the House of Mouse draws the line—each of which is contractually prohibited from being included in a Disney film.
“When you sign a contract with Disney, the things it says your film cannot have are beheadings, impalement, or smoking,” Lowery told Ain't It Cool News. “Those are literally the three things you are not allowed to put into a Disney film … They literally have those words in the contract as things you're not allowed to do.”
Of course, those restrictions have evolved over time. Pinocchio (1940), for example, had scenes of the boy-puppet sucking on a cigar until he was red in the face; the villainess Ursula was impaled by the bowsprit of a ship in 1989’s The Little Mermaid. It’s also unclear whether these restrictions apply strictly to live-action, animation, or films that fall under any one of Disney’s many sub-studios like Marvel or Pixar.
It’s possible the guidelines are dependent on the rating of the film in question. In 2015, Variety reported that Disney had banned depictions of smoking from any film rated G, PG, or PG-13, unless it was “historically pertinent.” Alice in Wonderland’s Red Queen, so fond of beheadings, was not immediately available for comment.
[h/t Ain’t It Cool News]