24 Historical Inaccuracies in Disney Movies
1. Did you know there are some architectural inaccuracies in Disney's The Hunchback of Notre Dame? Or "dahm."
The story takes place in the late 15th century, but the Notre Dame in the film has a few features that weren't added until later, like the large statues of the twelve apostles wouldn't have been there even though they make several appearances in the movie.
And remember those stairs that Quasimodo's mother died on? The real Notre Dame is more or less at ground level without gigantic stairs in front of it.
2. In Sleeping Beauty, Prince Phillip tells his father, "You're living in the past, this is the 14th century!" So we have a pretty good idea of when the film took place. And there are some problems with that.
Like when Aurora waltzes with the prince, for instance. This type of dance emerged in the 16th century. Phillip and Aurora would have been doing a line dance in the 14th century. Or at least something involving holding hands. He definitely would not have been touching her waist.
3. Moving on to Mulan, this is an ancient Chinese legend, so we have a pretty good idea of the time period. Her story was first written in the 6th century and it was believed that she lived somewhere between 420 and 589 CE.
Unfortunately, Disney didn't take those dates into consideration. They just kind of mashed together a bunch of Chinese history. Like, for instance, the Great Wall of China can be seen in the film. And while there were, yes, there were walls built around China from the 8th century BCE on, the one that appears in the film didn't exist until the 14th century CE.
You know, around the time that Philip and Aurora wouldn't have been waltzing.
4. At one point, Mulan also writes some text on her arm, which happens to be simplified Chinese, a bunch of characters that weren't invented until the 1950s.
5. Another issue? Fireworks. It makes sense that they're there, but they would not have been multiple colors. Multi-colored firework displays weren't developed until the 18th century.
6. Now, it's less clear when Beauty and the Beast was supposed to take place, but it's probably in the 1700s in France. Not only is that when the story was written, but there are also some clues in the film like, uh, the appearance of rifles? And in that case, one anachronism at least, the Eiffel Tower appears during the "Be Our Guest" scene. The characters wouldn't know about the structure because construction wouldn't start until 1887.
7. There's also some debate about when Tarzan takes place. The first book about him was published in 1914, but Disney enthusiasts put this version at around the late 1880s, partly because of a certain kind of typewriter helps date it. Regardless, it doesn't make ton of sense when Jane tells Tarzan that she can take him to meet Charles Darwin and Rudyard Kipling. Darwin died in 1882 and Kipling didn't become famous until 1889.
8. Frozen probably takes place around the same time. The costume designer said she was going for 1840 Western European look, so that gives us a clue. This means that Elsa wouldn't refer to "frozen fractals" in the song Let It Go because the word fractal was first used in 1975.
9. Also, this is gonna sound weird, but in the 1840s in Europe, there should have been guns. There are way more swords and crossbows in that movie than there should have been. Those characters in that movie should have had rifles by that time.
10. Now, let's move on to Tangled, because as our Disney fanatic viewers already know, it is said to take place in the same universe as both Tarzan and Frozen. I mean it, Google it. That means it takes place in the 1780s, at least according to the filmmakers, which means that Rapunzel would not have been able to use matches to light candles.
11. Hercules is obviously about a mythological character, but we're still gonna mention some inaccuracies to the original myth because it was very real and important to ancient Greeks and Romans. First of all, he was never said to be Hera's son like he is in the movie. His mom was actually a mortal named Alcmene.
12. And Hades wasn't actually evil! In fact, for more info on that, you can see our episode on mythological misconceptions.
13. Okay, let's move on to Robin Hood. So, the presence of King Richard in Robin Hood helps us place the film somewhere between 1189 and 1199 when he reigned. And that means at least a couple things are out of place—I mean, aside from talking animals and whatnot: Badminton and the farthing coins. Even badminton's ancestors only date back to the 1600s and farthing coins wouldn't be minted in England until 1222.
14. One of Disney's first high-profile computer animated films was the movie Dinosaur from the year 2000. It was about a dinosaur who's been raised by lemurs. I've had to watch it 4000 times and I'd just like to say there were no lemurs at any point when the non-avian dinosaurs were roaming the earth.
15. Another out-of-place animal in a Disney film, the Coelacanths in Atlantis: The Lost Empire. They can be seen in an aquarium, but the film takes place in 1914 and Coelacanths weren't rediscovered until 1938. Until then they were believed to be extinct. [gasp] Just like the city of Atlantis! Maybe they did that on purpose. Those Disney people are geniuses.
16. Jasmine's outfit in Aladdin would not happen. I mean, this film is estimated to take place sometime between the 4th and 7th century CE. She probably would have worn much looser clothing without her stomach showing. And because she was a princess, she'd probably have a veil.
17. Now, to be fair, the Genie references Jack Nicholson and the Marx brothers, so many people theorize that the film actually takes place in a post-apocalyptic future.
18. The opening of Pinocchio shows a clasp-bound book version of the story. But the story was actually published in 1883 and probably takes place around then too, and, of course, us book-binding experts know that a book written that late in time would not have clasps! They were reserved by then only for Bibles and journals.
19. Another hard-to-spot anachronism: One Hundred and One Dalmatians has a TV show within the movie starring an action hero dog named Thunderbolt, but it's sponsored by Kanine Krunchies, a type of advertising that would have been against the rules in the UK at the time.
20. OK, we're gonna finish up with a couple movies that are actually based on true stories, like the 2013 live action film Saving Mr. Banks. A couple important corrections: Walt Disney and Mary Poppins author P.L. Travers did not ever visit Disneyland together.
21. Travers had also essentially signed away her work to Disney in 1960, before she even met Walt Disney and before going to his studio. The film doesn't even start its story until 1961. That's when we see Disney try to convince her to sign the rights over, which she had already done.
22. And while Travers did cry at the premier of Mary Poppins, it was not for the reason the film makes it seem: happiness and relief. According to the biography Mary Poppins, She Wrote: The life of P.L. Travers, she cried because it was still jarring to see the words Mary Poppins onscreen, let alone her name in such tiny print.
23. Another non-fictional person made into a practically fictional character: Pocahontas. The real woman went through a lot more turmoil than the movie portrays, and one thing that tends to shock people; she was only about ten years old when John Smith came into her life.
24. And finally, there was no romance between Pocahontas and John Smith either, you'll be glad to hear. She did save his life, but he was just a friend.