FILM / John Lyttle on cinema

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Indy Lifestyle Online
It's been said before but we'll say it again. Walt Disney get away with murder. Figuratively, though sometimes it seems literal.

Hocus Pocus opens with the life being drained from a little girl - she's reduced to a dry husk. Then there's the attempted assassination of Snow White, the huntsman looming over the princess as she screams. These are moments of authentic horror but Disney goes even further. Consider the moment of primal trauma that is the death of Bambi's mother, a moment yet capable of reducing children to tears and their parents to jelly as they recall how, once upon a time, their emotional universe was likewise devastated. Uncle Walt knew how to hit where it hurt.

Still, nothing quite prepares one for The Lion King's centrepiece sequence. It comes after a splendidly animated wildebeest stampede. The Lion King has rescued his sole heir from trampling but dies in the attempt.

The dust clears and the cub stumbles to his father's lifeless body and pleads: 'Wake up Dad. Please wake up.' Not even sliding under Pater's paw provokes a response - except from the tots in the audience, who break into heartbreaking sobs and muffled screams.

Children can't be protected from death, of course. But in a time when their exposure to materials that might influence them is hotly debated, you have to wonder about the grown-up world which permits the exploitation of children's deepest fears while us adults beam happily, content that we've given the little darlings a treat they'll never forget. Well, at least we're half right . . .

'The Lion King' opens in October