The Most Traumatic Scenes in Animated Films

Over the last few decades, the animation film industry has changed a lot. Most notably, the target audience of animated movies has shifted from kids to people of all age groups.

As such, many production studios started incorporating various aspects of life in their films. They were no longer about happy-go-lucky characters but focused on heavy themes like grief.

At the forefront of this revolutionizing change were a few studios – Disney, Pixar, and Studio Ghibli. While a lot followed suit, these three companies showed the world that animated films, much like any other medium, had the power to resonate with the deepest part of the human soul.

The trio made films on pretty much every topic, from talking toys to sentient robots. Some got quite difficult to watch because they explored less-talked-about and sensitive matters.

In this blog, we’ve listed a few of the most traumatic scenes of animated films produced by the said and other companies.

Just get the tissue box ready.

Editor’s Note: The article contains spoilers for some popular animated films. Please read it at your own risk.

Inside Out – Riley Cries on Her First Day of School

Picture Courtesy: Walt Disney Pictures and Pixar Animation Studios

Inside Out showed how the inside of an eleven-year-old girl works – literally. It followed the five primary emotions that shape human behavior: joy, sadness, anger, fear, and disgust.

Halfway through Inside OutRiley, the movie’s protagonist, has to introduce herself after being transferred to a new school. Although she starts enthusiastically, a sense of sadness takes over Riley as she remembers her life back in Minnesota.

Anyone who’s been through the same must’ve related to Riley. Leaving your house, school, and friends behind is never easy, and the scene perfectly encapsulates the feelings of those who had to move throughout their childhood.

Bambi – Bambi’s Mother Is Killed by the Hunter

Picture Courtesy: Walt Disney Productions

“How harmful could a movie about a young fawn living in a forest be?”

Oh, my sweet summer child.

A whole generation is traumatized by one scene in Bambi, where a hunter kills his mother while they’re gathering food.

You’d think it’d be hard to watch because of blood or anything.


The film doesn’t even show the hunter dragging the body behind him; just the sound of a gunshot is heard, and it’s enough to send shivers down your spine.

Poor Bambi searches for his mother in a dense forest during a heavy snowfall, not knowing he’ll never see her again.

Grave of the Fireflies – Setsuko Passes Away

Picture Courtesy: Studio Ghibli and Shinchosha

Studio Ghibli films are known for being eccentric, yet you want to watch them repeatedly. However, one in particular is so sad that a single viewing is enough – Grave of the Fireflies.

It’s about two orphan siblings struggling to survive a war-torn Japan during World War II. Although intended for children, the film didn’t shy away from depicting the atrocities of living in inhumane conditions.

The ultimate gut punch, however, was when one of the siblings – a four-year-old girl named Setsuko – died of malnourishment. And that too when her brother, Seita, manages to get food for her.

The passing of Setsuko is enough to make anyone burst uncontrollably into tears.

The Good Dinosaur – Arlo and Spot Part Ways

Picture Courtesy: Walt Disney Pictures and Pixar Animation Studios

This isn’t a distressing scene, per se, but it will make you shed a tear or two.

In The Good DinosaurArlo, an apatosaurus, and Spot, a 7-year-old Neanderthal, form an unlikely friendship. Both are searching for their respective communities, trying to make it in a world dinosaurs hadn’t gone extinct.

That makes Arlo and Spot a target for the carnivorous pterodactyls. Toward the film’s end, Spot finds a caveman family willing to take him in. Going with them meant parting ways with Arlo, someone Spot shares a beautiful bond with.

After understanding this, Spot runs to Arlo and hugs him one last time as tears roll out from both characters’ eyes. Suffice to say, they weren’t the only ones bawling their eyes out.

The Little Mermaid – Prince Eric Impales Ursula

Picture Courtesy: Walt Disney Pictures

Ursula, the sea witch, of The Little Mermaid does some pretty questionable things in the film to get her hands on Triton’s magical trident.

She kidnaps Ariel, transforms Triton into a polyp, and grows into a monstrous size to declare herself the Queen of the Seven Seas.

So, you’d think murdering an evil witch like Ursula would seem like a moment of relief. For some reason, however, it felt harrowing, especially considering how she was killed (Prince Eric drives his boat’s bowsprit straight into her abdomen).

What’s surprising is Disney clearly shows the impaling, although there’s no blood involved. That’s some pretty dark stuff for a fairy tale film.

Coraline – Button for Eyes

Picture Courtesy: Laika and Pandemonium Films

Coraline follows the titular character, an 11-year-old girl who feels isolated because her parents are always working. One day, she encounters a black cat who leads her to an alternate universe, the Other World.

There, Coraline discovers her parents’ doppelgangers, who give her everything she yearns for – food, attention, and luxuries. And Coraline can live there forever.

The only catch?

Coraline must sew buttons over her eyes like her parents’ doppelgangers.

Naturally, Coraline freaks out after learning this, and so do the viewers. In fact, that particular scene is the reason why many people never see the film again.

The Lion King – Mufasa’s Death

Picture Courtesy: Walt Disney Pictures

Despite gore or blood, Mufasa’s death in The Lion King remains one of the most brutal and unforgettable cinematic experiences.

No one, especially not the juvenile audience, could’ve thought that a film about talking cartoon animals would kill one of its primary characters halfway through.

That’s why the scene of a young cub caressing the dead body of his father, to this date, remains impactful. And the fact that Mufasa died after being betrayed by his own blood made the scene even more devastating.

Disney decided to shock viewers once again after making the photorealistic live-action film of the animated movie in 2019.

Who Says Animated Films Are Just for Children?

It was quite disturbing revisiting the moments from animated films that broke us. Some did it while we were still children, while others hit us like a truck after growing up.

This shows the power of animation. That a 90-minute film about talking animals, robots, or toys can forge such powerful connections that you laugh and cry with them.