weird, distorted, wildly colorful, or otherwise resembling images or sounds experienced by somebody under the influence of a psychedelic drug”
Although a union-busting, possibly racist and anti-Semitic, Commie-hating, just right-of-center corporate jerk, Walt Disney definitely knew how to drop random surreal dream sequences into his movies. As much a product of the 20th century (and Modernism) as Disney is, it’s not surprising to see those touches of more avant-garde influence touching on the overall studio oeuvre (cf. Fantastia.) Here are five of my favorite moments, plus one bonus mention.
“Hellfire,” The Hunchback of Notre Dame
Barring the frantic, more Warner Brothers inspired, antics of the “A Friend Like Me” sequence in Aladdin, this is about as trippy as it gets for more contemporary (at least post 70s) Disney, although it’s decidedly more of a “bad trip.” Especially notice what the robes turn into at 3:25.
5. “Heffalumps and Woozles,” The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh
I’ve wanted to argue it’s a metaphor for Communist paranoia (“because they come in every shape and size!”) but, any way you slice it, Pooh’s honey-based paranoia is palpable here in the rapacious Heffalumps and Woozles. Although it seems like a half-watered down version of the “Pink Elephants on Parade” sequence, this is definitely noteworthy.
4. Donald going insane, Der Furher’s Face
Trapped in a Fascist nightmare world, Donald Duck eventually goes insane before waking up (and overjoyed, of course, to see that he isn’t trapped in “Naziland,” but is in fact in the good old USA.) Now overlooked because of the at times callow racial stereotyping (and the “Donald Duck as Hitler” image from this sequence,) this is definitely one of the better examples of this trend.
It is also definitely a “bad trip.”
3. Ending Overture Sequence Alice in Wonderland
Picking one “bizarre surreal moment” in Alice in Wonderland is definitely fun. This basically recaps the entire movie at high speed.
2. “Pink Elephants on Parade,” Dumbo
Although Dumbo is supposed to be drunk here, I suppose we should count ourselves lucky that none of us have accidentally drank whatever he did.
“What’ll I do?! What’ll I say?!” Yeah. Another bad trip.
1. “You Belong to my Heart,” The Three Caballeros
After watching Disney’s “good neighbor” propaganda films (Saludos Amigos and The Three Caballeros) back-to-back with my girlfriend, we (she getting her masters in psychology, and me being somewhat psychoanalytically focused anyway,) came to the conclusion this is the climax of Donald Duck’s psychosexual crisis since, lacking genitals, he can’t actually consummate his desires for the myriad Latin girls he spends the movie chasing.
Language actually begins breaking down here describing just what is going on, other than women’s faces exploding from flowers, dancing cacti, and turns of events best seen to be believed.
In short, don’t drink the Kool-Ade at the Disney animation studios, unless you’re prepared to see some of this.