Who doesn’t love Disney movies? The music, the imagination, the sense of wonder, it all tugs at some small part of ourselves that just never grew up. Over the years, Disney movies have taught viewers many things: to believe in yourself, to chase your dreams, and most recently, to have courage and be kind. But did you know that several films by Disney also have Christian messages hidden in their background? Don’t blink, or you may miss these five Disney movies with secret lessons about finding God.
Snow White Starred a Devout Christian
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs was the first animated movie ever made by Disney, and the film has actually held up pretty well over the years. True, it’s not as coherent or empowering as new works like Frozen, but it is the only Disney movie to feature an openly Christian princess. Some viewers may recall that halfway through the storyline there’s a brief scene where Snow White is shown praying. With head bowed and hands clasped together, she asks God to bless the seven little men who have been so kind to her. It’s a short, but nonetheless poignant display of faith that you won’t find in most modern films.
The Lion King is The Prodigal Son with animals
The Lion King has often been called “Hamlet with animals”, but an argument could be made for The Prodigal Son as well. Like the youngest son in Christ’s parable, Simba lives a life of privilege while ignoring all responsibility. The only thing he cares about is the day when no one will be able to tell him what to do. So, after a series of events lead him away from home, Simba decides to embrace a Hakuna Mattata (i.e. foolish) lifestyle. While the prodigal son eventually finds himself eating pig’s feed, Simba ends up dining on grubs, until each one realizes he must return home and face the reality of his actions.
Though the reunion with Simba’s father differs from what’s written in Luke 15, it still captures the stark emotion of a father waiting for his wayward son to come home.
Tangled is a Gospel Allegory
In the opening of Disney’s Tangled, audiences learn that the main character, Rapunzel, was born a princess in an enchanted kingdom. However, one night she is kidnapped by an evil witch and taken to a tower far away from her mother and father. Hoping to find their missing daughter, the king and queen create a festival where every year lanterns are set off to light her way back home. There’s more to add to the story but you can probably see where this is going. In its own strange way, Tangled stands as a perfect allegory for the Gospel of Christ.
Rapunzel represents humanity, who has grown comfortable in her prison but can’t ignore the light that shines in the darkness. The devil is signified by the witch, who tries to convince Rapunzel to forget the lights and stay locked away in her tower. Lastly, God can be found in the parents, who without fail, continue to shine their light in the hopes of bringing their lost child back home.
Cinderella is All About Grace
When it comes to strong female heroines, Cinderella can usually be found somewhere near the bottom of the list. For years she’s been accused of being a pushover, someone who just lets herself be bossed around and never does nothing to help herself. Why should she get a happy ending? Shouldn’t those only go to the people who deserve them? Well, that’s not what Jesus said.
The Bible is, in essence, a story of God’s grace, and the whole point of grace is that’s its undeserved. In fact, Jesus told several parables to illustrate how his grace didn’t depend on good works. Just like Cinderella, humanity did not deserve the blessings they received. We may scoff when the fairy godmother makes Cinderella beautiful, but the truth is Christ does the exact same thing for us.
The Hunchback of Notre Dame Talks about God Everywhere
On second thought, to call The Hunchback of Notre Dame’s Christian message secret would be a bit of an exaggeration. Christian imagery is everywhere in this film. The movie opens with the main villain trying to kill the protagonist as a baby, only to be stopped by a Church deacon who invokes the true power of the Holy Spirit. Later on, the film’s heroine sings a song in which she talks to God and reminds viewers what prayer really looks like. Even the villain clashes with faith, wrongly believing his piety makes him a better Christian than everyone else.
When it comes to Disney movies, you won’t find one that incorporates God more than The Hunchback of Notre Dame.