Bibbidi-Bobbidi-B- Oops! Science Mistakes in Disney Movies

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Disney Science (C) Mdf, CC-BY-SA 3.0

Personally, I myself am a huge fan of Disney movies. I think they are really enjoyable to watch and can teach many valuable life lessons to the people who watch them. However – let’s face it – the purpose of Disney movies is chiefly to entertain; scientific accuracy is not their primary aim. So, Disney movies, though still wonderful, are oftentimes very inaccurate in their portrayal of various scientific aspects. The following are some science errors that have appeared over the years in Disney movies.

The Lion King (1994)

Image result for rafiki and mandrill
Rafiki (C) Mdf, CC-BY-SA 3.0

In the Disney movie The Lion King, there are some inconsistencies between one of the main characters and his real-life animal counterpart. In the movie, there is a wise old monkey named Rafiki, who describes himself as a baboon. However, this is incorrect; rather than being purely baboon-like, Rafiki more closely resembles a mix between a baboon and a different type of monkey: a mandrill. One defining feature of any mandrill is its colourful, blue-and-red face. Rafiki does have this particular feature, whereas a baboon’s face is usually a dull shade of pink, brown, or gray. However, Rafiki is not exactly like a mandrill because he has a tail like a baboon; mandrills do not have tails.

Finding Nemo (2003)

Coral and Marlin (C) Mdf, CC-BY-SA 3.0

At the beginning of the movie Finding Nemo, a barracuda kills a clownfish named Coral, along with all except one of her soon-to-be-hatched eggs. Marlin, another clownfish who was Coral’s husband before she died, vows to protect the one remaining egg; when it hatches, he raises their son, Nemo, by himself. However, this movie is scientifically inaccurate because clownfish are “sequential hermaphrodites“. To explain further, each group of clownfish lives together in one anemone. The largest in the group of clownfish is its sole female, with all the others being male. Every clownfish that is born into the group also develops as a male. When the female dies, the group’s next largest fish then becomes a female. If the creators of Finding Nemo had included this fact in the movie, after the death of Coral, Nemo would still have been male; however, Marlin would have become a female clownfish. Then, if Marlin died, Nemo would have become a female as well.

The Good Dinosaur (2015)

Image result for the good dinosaur dinosaurs
Dinosaurs in The Good Dinosaur (C) Mdf, CC-BY-SA 3.0

In the movie The Good Dinosaur, a lost Apatosaurus named Arlo befriends a small human boy by the name of Spot. They become friends and go on a journey together so they can find the way back to Arlo’s family and home. As moving as it is, this story would have never happened in real life. This is because all dinosaurs went extinct about 66 million years ago; however, it is estimated that early humans only began to appear about 6 to 13 million years ago. Additionally, modern-day humans – Homo sapiens – are believed to only have begun appearing about 200,000 years ago. Evidently, 66 million years ago and 200,000 years ago is a very big time difference, so Arlo and Spot would most likely have never crossed paths. Also, there are many types of dinosaurs in the movie that existed at completely different times. For example, Arlo is an Apatosaurus; they existed around 160 million years ago. But, there are also T-Rexes, which existed about 65 to 70 million years ago. So, this part of the movie is also not accurate.

Finding Dory (2016)

Little Dory and Parents (C) Mdf, CC-BY-SA 3.0

Finding Dory, the sequel to Finding Nemo, also has some scientifically inaccurate aspects. It is the story of how Dory, who is a type of fish called a regal blue tang, searched for her family, whom she was separated from when she was very young. In the movie, it was revealed that Dory was born in captivity and had a close relationship with her parents for the earliest part of her life. However, since Dory is a regal blue tang, this would not have been possible. Regal blue tangs cannot breed in captivity because they spawn their eggs in water columns. They then leave and the eggs are swept away by currents so they can hatch. Then, they are brought by the currents to coral reefs so they can complete their development into juvenile fish – not eggs anymore, but not quite adult fish yet either. This means that Dory would not have been born in captivity or even know who her parents were.

Overall, knowing about these Disney scientific movie mistakes has not diminished my appreciation for Disney movies; I still believe that they are among the best movies out there. Rather, for me, it has just been very fascinating to learn about these blunders, and by doing so, to learn even more about science and the world around us.

Thanks for reading!

Gabby Salumbre

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