They may have been your childhood staples, but parents today are keeping these Disney movies from their kids.

By Melissa Mills
Updated March 12, 2021

With screen time limits completely out the window due to the coronavirus pandemic and more time spent indoors as temperatures drop, my husband and I have been letting our 2-year-old watch more TV and movies than we otherwise would. When we couldn't take one more Blue's Clues episode or Trolls rewatch, we broke out the next social distancing tool up our sleeves: Disney Plus, Disney's streaming service.

Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, Moana, and Toy Story were all hits—we've got a major Buzz Lightyear fan on our hands—but when it came time to watch 1953's Peter Pan, we were struck by how outdated it was. I certainly didn't remember all of the racism and sexism. Between Peter Pan telling Wendy that "girls talk too much," the guns (!!), Tinker Bell trying to kill Wendy over jealousy, and the treatment of Native Americans ("What makes the red man red?"—seriously?!), I was happy when my son walked away to play with his toys and just wasn't that into it.

Happy daughter and father looking at laptop on couch at night
Credit: Westend61/Getty Images

Disney Plus even just placed restrictions on some titles—including DumboPeter PanSwiss Family Robinson, and The Aristocats—to prevent children under 7 from viewing them on their own profiles. This update comes as part of Disney's campaign to review its library and release appropriate advisories—like the addition of content warnings about racist depictions in some older films—on some of its classics to flag outdated stereotypes and racism.

Parents can still allow their kids to watch these movies from their profiles, of course, but turn on Peter Pan, Dumbo, or Lady and the Tramp and you'll see the following message:

"This program includes negative depictions and/or mistreatment of people or cultures," the warning reads. "These stereotypes were wrong then and are wrong now. Rather than remove this content, we want to acknowledge its harmful impact, learn from it and spark conversation to create a more inclusive future together. Disney is committed to creating stories with inspirational and aspirational themes that reflect the rich diversity of the human experience around the globe."

According to a recent survey, 18 percent of parents were pretty unaware of just how inappropriate and outdated some Disney films are. However, 62 percent of parents surveyed said they didn't have an issue with watching these types of movies, and more than half said they would still let their kids watch them.

"I don't think you should shield your children from anything. These films were made in a time, and as long as you explain it, and teach them that it's not acceptable, then I don't see anything wrong with it," one parent said.

Another parent says that certain movies are just going to be off-limits in their home: "I don't want my children watching these old films. I have a son and a daughter, and I don't think either of them should be seeing those kinds of attitudes towards women, or the roles taken up by women. That combined with some of the awful racist stereotypes means it's a no-go for my kids!"

The most inappropriate Disney movie, as voted by parents? Dumbo, hands-down. Here's the full list of movies parents ranked—from least to most problematic:

  1. Toy Story 3
  2. Bambi
  3. The Little Mermaid
  4. The Jungle Book
  5. Snow White
  6. The Aristocats
  7. Fantasia
  8. Beauty and the Beast
  9. Peter Pan
  10. Dumbo

Now many of these Disney movies are super nostalgic—the ones we grew up with as kids. So some parents are going to allow, or even encourage, their children to watch. If that's the case, these could be good opportunities to talk to your kids about racism, tolerance, and diversity. Nearly 30 percent of parents surveyed said they might let their kids watch the outdated/inappropriate movies, but cited their children's age as a factor so they could explain things a bit more.

As for my family? We're probably going to be a little more selective about which movies we show our son until he's old enough to have bigger conservations about them.