Disney characters and films are so iconic – and represent all that is good and clean – that they are a tempting target for parody. Even Disney itself has tried to make fun of its own films and attractions.
For the release of Lilo and Stitch (2002), Disney produced film parody trailers of classic Disney films The Little Mermaid (1989), Beauty and the Beast (1991) Aladdin (1992) and The Lion King (1994) with Stitch wrecking havoc in familiar scenes.
While Jasmine and Aladdin are flying on the magic carpet and Jasmine sings “A Whole New World”, Stitch in his spaceship follows the couple and he honks his horn, stopping them. He flirts with Jasmine and takes her away in his ship resulting in Aladdin yelling, “Hey! Get your own movie!”
Stitch takes the place of baby Simba as Rafiki lifts him up high on Pride Rock, his surfing interrupts Ariel singing and his hanging on to the gold chandelier in the ballroom causes it to crash to the floor while the Beast and Belle dance.
These were called “Inter-Stitch-als”. The original voice actors were brought back to reprise their roles. Even the official movie poster has classic Disney feature animation characters pulling away from Stitch.
The Simpsons (whether it is Mr. Burns singing “See My Vest”), Family Guy (singing about “A Wonderful Day for Pie”), Animaniacs (singing “Just the Same Old Heroine”) and South Park (Satan singing “Up There”) are constantly making fun of Disney animation. Saturday Night Live got attention for its Robert Smigel short “Journey to the Disney Vault” which was one of the TV Funhouse segments and included a biting look at why the Disney feature film Song of the South will never escape the vault.
I am particularly fond of animation legend Eric Goldberg’s Disney-inspired opening couch gag for The Simpsons that spoofed Disney features with Marge as Snow White, Homer as Baloo the Bear, Bart as the sorcerer’s apprentice from Fantasia and Lisa as Cinderella and little Maggie as an homage to the black and white cartoons.
The United States Supreme Court has declared that parody “is the use of some elements of a prior author’s composition to create a new one that, at least in part, comments on that author’s works” and so is protected under the term “fair use”.
Disney’s Three Little Pigs (1933) was so popular that it was often the subject of parody. It ran for weeks and weeks during a time when most cartoons were replaced each week.
There was a flood of merchandising for the characters and references and images of the Disney pigs and the wolf appeared in editorial cartoons, essays and more.
MGM’s Blitz Wolf (1942) was the first MGM cartoon directed by animation legend Tex Avery after he left Warner Brothers. Not only were the character designs reminiscent of Disney’s version but Pinto Colvig who had done the voice for Practical Pig was hired to provide the same voice for the Sergeant Pork (a parody of the name of the war hero Sergeant York) in the cartoon.
The wolf is “Der Fewer” (parodying Hilter as Der Fuerher) who invades Pigmania, huffing and puffing down straw and wood houses. However, the smart pig has a house that is a bunker outfitted with hundreds of cannons. The wolf is finally blown out of the sky by artillery shells filled with defense bonds.
An even more obvious parody was Warner Bros Pigs in a Polka (1943) meant not only to parody Disney’s pig film but also the pretensions of Fantasia (1940). Directed by Friz Freleng, who still harbored some ill feelings about being fired from the Disney Studio over a decade earlier, the cartoon was nominated for an Academy Award.
It is the traditional story with background music of several of Johannes Brahms’ Hungarian Dances. However, the wolf uses a match to destroy both the houses of straw and wood.
Freleng took another poke at Disney’s pigs with the Warner Bros Three Little Bops (1957) that was done in rhyme and told the story of a trumpet playing wolf wanting to join the jazz trio featuring the pigs.
Bob Clampett parodied Disney’s Fantasia in A Corny Concerto (1943) and Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs in Coal Black and De Sebben Dwarfs (1943).
When he entered television with an animated version of his Beany and Cecil characters, he did an episode to parody the popular Disneyland television program entitled Beanyland.
The story premise was that Beany and Cecil were going to the moon to create a perfect theme park with a “20,000 Leaks Under the Sea” ride, a Matterhorn, a train ride, and much more.
When I interviewed him, Bob remembered:
“ABC got very upset about ‘Beanyland’ because of course, they had been running the ‘Disneyland’ television program and other Disney programs and they didn’t want to make Walt mad because there were some legal things going on where Disney was leaving ABC. ‘Oh, you can’t have a caricature of Walt Disney in there saying, ‘I’ll make this my Dismal Land’!’ I’d answer, ‘Where’s Walt Disney in there? The character with the hook nose and mustache is my long time villain Dishonest John. Everybody knows who he is’.”
Jay Ward did a “Fractured Fairy Tales” version of “Sleeping Beauty”, as a parody of Disneyland, on the Bullwinkle Show in Season One, Episode Eighteen (1961). It was written by George Atkins and directed by Bill Hurtz.
“(“Sleeping Beauty”) was a take-off on Disneyland and I purposely caricatured the prince as Walt Disney and we had (voice artist) Daws Butler do his (comedian) Phil Silvers type voice which was the standard sneaky but friendly con man,” Hurtz told me when I was interviewing him for a never-published book I was writing about the Jay Ward cartoons.
The prince realizes “Awake she’s just another princess. Asleep she’s a gold mine!” He envisions Sleeping Beauty comics, Sleeping Beauty hats, Sleeping Beauty bubblegum and, of course, Sleeping Beauty Land where people will pay to see her.
There was the belief at the studio that the Disney parody where an “X coupon” would get you across the bridge of “Moat Land” in front of the castle, a “Y Coupon” would get you into “Entrance Hall Land” and a “Z Coupon” would get you up “Staircase Land” to see the Sleeping Beauty might raise the ire of the Disney Company and generate some publicity. Jay Ward’s daughter once claimed that Disney loved it.
Over the decades, there have been many parodies including the infamous ninety-second Bambi Meets Godzilla (1969). Disney continues to produce material that is ripe for future cartoon parodies.