Disney movies are a universal joy millions have enjoyed for generations. Interestingly enough, it doesn’t take much to unearth powerful symbolism from the gospel throughout these nostalgic films. Check out these six Disney classics with hidden Biblical symbolism.
1. THE LION KING | Remembering our identity in Christ
One of the world’s most wildly popular Disney films The Lion King teaches us a powerful lesson, not only redemption but identity. The symbolism is everywhere. Mufasa, the strong and noble leader of the animal kingdom, explains to his young son that he only need look upward to ground his identity as a part of a legacy. Simba is manipulated into believing he is responsible for his father’s death at the hands of his dastardly uncle Scar. Simba flees from the guilt and shame of his past only to learn the truth as an adult—the only way forward is to remember who he is.
The redemption and forgiveness Simba must embrace brings him true freedom as opposed to his previous ‘do what you feel like” Hakuna Matata lifestyle. The story presents a beautiful symbolism for our lives as the daughters and sons of Christ. When we fail to remember our identity in Him and seek the pleasures of the world we find pain is around every corner. Only by accepting Christ’s forgiveness and thus our adoption into His family do we step into who we were created to be.
2. LILO AND STITCH | God answers prayer, just not how we always expect
A surprising film with Biblical parallels is Lilo and Stitch. Stitch is a mischievous alien who escaped imprisonment by crash landing on Earth. Little does Stitch know, he’s an answer to prayer—literally. Little Lilo kneeling at her bed prays for an angel to help intervene in the tense custody battle she’s facing. “God, It’s me again, I need someone to be my friend. Someone who won’t run away. Maybe send me an angel, the nicest angel you have.” Stitch crash lands in the next moments changing her life in the most unexpected way. A funny representation of God working in mysterious ways.
3. THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME | Serving ‘the least’ in society
The Hunchback of Notre Dame is likely the loudest of all Disney films in its Christian imagery. Set in 15th century France in the Notre Dame Cathedral—one of the most famous cathedrals in Europe—this film is all about the “least of these.” Quasimodo, a main character, is a hunchback who works in the shadows of Notre Dame. At this time, gypsies are largely on the hunt by the religious elite. Esmeralda, a kind and talented gypsy leader, protects Quasimodo as he is openly mocked and humiliated by the public during a parade. In exchange, Quasi offers Esmeralda sanctuary from the police that are after her. We see the contrast between the evil “religious” men full of hatred and the compassion of Christians sheltering the outcasts. A song Esmeralda sings in the church, God Help the Outcasts, beautifully reflects this message of God’s divine, scandalous love for “the least of these.” The Hunchback of Notre Dame is overflowing with powerful messages of the gospel.
4. BEAUTY AND THE BEAST | Our fight with our flesh
Beauty and the Beast details a love story of a book-loving woman Belle who slowly falls for a prince who is trapped in the skin of a “beast.” The beast can easily be a metaphor for our inner flesh. Our selfishness, pride, greed, all encompass the behaviors that beast slowly learns to break away from. The transformation from handsome prince to beast is punishment for his selfish ways when he harshly turns an elderly woman away in the cold. The old woman reveals herself to be a witch who traps him in the beastly body we find him in throughout the film. When he surrenders these selfish behaviors and chooses to sacrifice himself we finally see the beast return to his princely form—the man he is meant to be. This clearly parallels our own transformation as people aiming to become more of who God created us.
5. CINDERELLA | Working to please God, not man
Cinderella is a classic that will replay for generations to come. This well-known story reflects the power of working unto God, not for selfish gain. Cinderella works day in and out and is treated terribly by her stepmother and stepsisters. Her tireless efforts and work ethic, matched by her kindness and patience, are spent seemingly to no end. The cycle of frustration she finds herself in reflects our own struggles. To live waiting for breakthrough is a lot of our lives.
There is something beautiful to be gleaned in Cinderella’s posture in both the worst of her struggle and the heights of victory. She never fails to seek the best in either situation. She carries a posture of thanksgiving in the simplest things, including the friendships formed with the mice when she seems to have no one. Cinderella is a perfect metaphor for why we work; not for man but for our heavenly reward. In everything, we give thanks and surely we will see His promises fulfilled in our lives.
6. TOY STORY | Sacrifice for your friend
Toy Story is one of the highest regarded films in Pixar’s existence. The story is ultimately about one thing—friendship. Woody who prides himself as Andy’s favorite toy is threatened when Buzz, the cool new astronaut toy, seems to take his place in Andy’s heart. The tension and discontentment between Woody and Buzz reaches a point when Buzz is taken by the evil and reckless neighbor Sid. By the end, Woody sees his own selfishness and sacrifices his own well-being to save Buzz. A beautiful display of the famous verse; John 15:13, “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”