What could potentially be more traumatising for a child, a gory horror flick or an animated adventure featuring songs and talking animals? Well surprisingly it could be the latter, as a new study has shown that main characters in cartoons for children are more than twice as likely to be killed off as those in films aimed at adults.

Finding NemoWorse than a horror movie? Finding Nemo

The research, carried out by Dr Ian Colman and Dr James Kirkbride from University College London and the University of Ottawa, dubbed the top cartoons, “rife with death and destruction”. The report, published by the British Medical Journal, found that the content of animated kids films was on a par with “rampant horrors”.

The report singles out film’s such as Finding Nemo, where the main character’s mother is eaten by a barracuda within the first five minutes and Snow White which sees the villain, the evil queen, eventually struck by lightning, forced off a cliff and crushed by a boulder.

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Noting that “grisly deaths in cartoons were common”, the report also pointing out the shootings in Bambi, Peter Pan and Pocahontas, stabbings in Sleeping Beauty and The Little Mermaid, as well as the ‘potentially traumatising’ animal attacks in A Bug’s Life, The Croods and How to Train Your Dragon.

“Rather than being innocuous and gentler alternatives to typical horror or drama films, children’s animated films are, in fact, hotbeds of murder and mayhem,” said Dr Coleman.

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The two researchers analysed the length of time it takes for key characters to die in the 45 top grossing children’s cartoons between 1937 and 2013. They then compared their findings with the violent content in the two top grossing films exclusively marketed towards adults in the same years.

The study found that the parents of main characters were five times as likely to die in children’s cartoons as they were in films aimed at an adult audience. The researcher also showed that the film genre and year of release had no bearing on the results, adding that there was “no evidence to suggest that the level of violence has changed in children’s films since Snow White in 1937”.

Snow White The traumatising Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs

Dr Kirkbride wrote that these onscreen deaths and violences “can be particularly traumatic for young children, and the impact can be intense and long lasting”. We've got to agree, even now, how many of us are able to sit and watch Bambi without shedding a tear?