Movies aimed at children tend to be pretty wholesome and inoffensive. They rarely upset audiences with provocative content or controversial casting choices. And you rarely hear about banned kids' movies, excluding relics like Disney's Song of the South, which the company has kept from the public for decades due to its offensive depictions.
However, that doesn't mean films aimed at young audiences don't occasionally generate a little heat. There have been a number of controversial family films, many of which were released in the 21st century.
Reasons for these controversies run the gamut from unintended implications to depictions of animal mistreatment to concerns over children imitating bad behavior. In some cases, the outrage was justified; in others, oversensitivity may be to blame. A few seemingly innocuous children's movies have even sparked protests.
Peter Rabbit (2018) is based on the beloved Beatrix Potter children's book series. Early on in the film, we learn that Peter's human nemesis, Mr. McGregor (Domhnall Gleeson), is severely allergic to blackberries. In one scene, Peter attacks McGregor with blackberries, forcing them down his throat and causing him to have a severe reaction.
In real life, if someone with such an allergy ate berries, the results could be tragic. A number of health organizations, including Kids With Food Allergies, condemned the movie for making light of a serious issue, and parents of children with allergies organized a boycott.
Sony Pictures and the filmmakers eventually released a joint statement apologizing for the scene.
Show Dogs is a family comedy about a Rottweiler police dog forced to go undercover at a dog show. The movie mines laughs from his fish-out-of-water situation and is filled with canine-related jokes. The National Center on Sexual Exploitation (NCOSE) took exception to the movie due to some scenes in which the dog has his privates inspected against his will. This is a normal part of dog shows, but the character is told to go to his "Zen place" and learn to be okay with the unwanted touching.
The NCOSE and other groups noted this advice is uncomfortably similar to what child victims often hear. They argued kids might walk away with the idea that it's okay for a stranger to touch them inappropriately.
Global Road, the distributor of Show Dogs, responded to the controversy by chopping the scene out and immediately shipping new prints to theaters.
The Lego Batman Movie offers a fresh spin on the Dark Knight story, albeit one in which he - and everything else in Gotham City - is composed of plastic building bricks. Some conservative viewers believed the story is less about Batman and more about exposing children to LGBTQ+ values.
In the film, Robin is adopted by Bruce Wayne and partners with his alter ego, Batman. Detractors felt Robin's comments about his "two dads" was an attempt to force "pro-gay-adoption propaganda" onto impressionable children.
Conservative critics also thought they saw suggestive overtones in the love/hate relationship between Batman and the Joker.
A lot of people grew up loving The Adventures of Milo and Otis, a 1986 movie about a dog and kitten duo who embark on a perilous river journey. However, once fans hear some of the alleged behind-the-scenes details, they tend to like it a lot less.
It has long been rumored that the lives of at least 20 cats were lost during the making of the film. The felines were allegedly put in hazardous situations and were even tossed into a river. Another scene involving a pug and a bear was reportedly filmed with insufficient safety precautions.
American Humane attempted to verify these claims but was unable to do so.