7 Disney Movies You Had No Idea Originally Had Much Different Endings

If you grew up with Disney movies (as most people in the developed world have) chances are good that you remember a lot of them pretty vividly. Disney is such an integral part of many people’s childhoods–you watch the movies, play with the dolls, and, if you’re lucky, get taken to Disney World for vacation–that they have a way of sticking with you, even after you’ve technically outgrown them.

And, of course, part of what makes these movies so memorable are their endings. Like, you remember that (spoiler warning for some twenty-year-old movies coming up, I guess?) Ariel and Prince Eric get married at the end of The Little Mermaid, Prince Charming finds Cinderella and gives her the glass slipper at the end of Cinderella, and that Anna saves Elsa at the end of Frozen. These endings are so important because they tie each film together, so, in many ways the ending is more memorable than the actual plot.

But not everything is perfect the first time around, and your favorite Disney movies are no exception. Many Disney movies originally had endings that differ vastly from the versions you’re familiar with. Curious as to what they are? Check ’em out here:


In the original script for Frozen, the relationship between Elsa and Anna is nowhere to be found. In fact, Elsa and Anna aren't even sisters--Elsa is a "spurned woman" who's seen as a threat to the kingdom of Arendelle, gets cast out, and creates the winter out of spite. She's basically a one-dimensional villain who might get a slight redemption arc at the end of the movie, but doesn't come anywhere close to the more complex sister relationship of Elsa and Anna.

Image source: Frozen

The Lion King

You probably already know that The Lion King is based on Shakespeare's Hamlet. But since The Lion King is an animated children's movie and Hamlet is, well, a Shakespearean tragedy in which literally (not figuratively) everyone dies in the end, the Disney adaptation is significantly more lighthearted. But the original script for the movie is a lot darker than the final product--particularly the ending. An earlier version of the movie showed a battle between Scar and Simba in which Scar attempts to throw Simba off a cliff (just like he did to Simba's father. Parallels!), but Simba manages to kick him off. There is then another, more complicated struggle--Scar starts to slip and begs Simba to help him, and when Simba does, Scar pushes him down again. But Simba manages to catch onto a tree branch while Scar, who's busy celebrating his victory, gets engulfed in the fire that's burning in Pride Rock. This ending was eventually deemed too horrific and cruel for a kid's movie--though, if you recall, the final version of the movie ends with Scar being mauled by his (former) hyena friends, which might be worse? Who knows!

Image source: The Lion King

Beauty And The Beast

Another Disney film with a gratuitously gruesome original ending? Beauty and the Beast. Apparently, in the film's original script, Gaston survives the fall he takes from the castle, but is then eaten alive by wolves. This was cut, however, because it was seen as being too graphic and scary for a movie about glorified bestiality.

Image source: Beauty and the Beast

The Little Mermaid

As a little kid, I wasn't allowed to watch The Little Mermaid for a certain amount of time because I would get so freaked out by the huge, blown-up version of herself that Ursula becomes at the end of the movie that I would have nightmares for weeks. And, if Disney had stuck to its original ending, I wouldn't have had to endure it--in a scene that was partially animated but later cut, Ursula stays her normal size, but tries to drag Prince Eric into the sea with her and drown him. And that also would have been scary! But not, I maintain, quite as scary on a visual level as the nightmare fodder that's in the final cut of The Little Mermaid.

Image source: The Little Mermaid

The Princess Diaries

At the end of The Princess Diaries, there is a fairly iconic shot of Princess Mia's new castle. But that glimpse of Mia's castle almost never happened--instead, the movie ended right when Mia accepted her role as Princess of Genovia. But the film's director, Gary Marshall, showed the movie to his five-year-old granddaughter before it was officially released, and she was disappointed that she didn't get to see a castle (and, considering that the movie is about royalty, it does make sense that one might expect to see at least one castle). So, Marshall convinced Disney to buy some footage of a European castle last-minute and placed Genovian flags on it via digital animation. Thus, the ending of The Princess Diaries as you know and love it came to be.

Image source: The Princess Diaries

Lilo & Stitch

The original ending of Lilo & Stitch had a sequence in which Stitch hijacked a plane to follow Gantu's ship. But Lilo & Stitch came out in June 2002, which meant that it was less than a year after the 9/11 terrorist attack. Because of this, the powers that be at Disney felt that any kind of hijacking, malicious or not, might be too sensitive for audiences at the time, and a new section was created before the film's release in which Stitch uses a ship instead of a plane.

Image source: Lilo & Stitch

Toy Story 3

Most people you ask will tell you that Toy Story 3 is more or less a perfect film. But an early version of the script? Definitely not perfect. In fact, it was essentially a different movie--Disney and Pixar were feuding at the time that Toy Story 3 was being developed, so each studio started working on a separate script. In Disney's version, Buzz has a part malfunction, so Woody and the rest of the toys decide to send him off to Japan for repairs. But while he's there, the toys find out that Buzz is part of a product recall, so they go to Japan to save him. Eventually, the studios made up, and the Disney version was scrapped in favor of the coming-of-age tearjerker that the actual Toy Story 3 became.

Image source: Toy Story 3

Were you surprised by any of these? Which ones? Let us know in the comments!

You can reach the author, Sara Hendricks, on Twitter and Instagram.

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