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In MsMojo's "Top 10 Disney Plot Twists," these narrative arcs surprised the audience as much as the characters. For this list, we’re counting down the most surprising reveals in Disney movies. Of course, due to the nature of the list, we’re issuing a full spoiler warning for all films discussed.
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#10: Kenai killed Koda's mother. 'Brother Bear' (2003)
This was a reveal that perceptive viewers likely predicted, but foresight wouldn’t have made it any less devastating. In Brother Bear, a boy named Kenai is transformed into a bear after angering the spirits by killing a bear to avenge his brother’s death. He is given a mission that he must complete before becoming human again and on the way meets another bear cub named Koda. As the story moves on, we learn that Koda’s mother, who has been missing for some time, was in fact the bear that Kenai killed. By that point, the two have formed a deep bond, and the moment where he has to confess to him is absolutely heartbreaking.
#9: Miguel's Great-Great Grandfather 'Coco'
Miguel lives for music, there's only one problem: Ever since Miguel's great-great grandfather abandoned the family for a music career, they forbid it. For much of the film, Miguel believes that the famous musician Ernesto de la Cruz is his relative. After Miguel ends up in the land of the dead, matters get even more complicated. On his quest to find Ernesto and get back to the land of the living, Miguel meets Hector, an old friend of Ernesto's and whose living family is forgetting him. It soon becomes clear Ernesto isn't Miguel's ancestor or a good guy. He killed Hector, Miguel's actual great-great grandfather, to steal his music, which is why he never made it home. Now that's some family drama.
#8: The masked villain “Yokai” is Callaghan. 'Big Hero 6' (2014)
Set in the fictional future city of San Fransokyo, a young inventor named Hiro Hamada quickly shows the robotics world what he’s made of, and attracts the attention of Professor Robert Callaghan, the Robotics Department head at the Institute of Technology, and entrepreneur Alistair Krei. As the events escalate, it looks like Callahan has been killed, and suddenly a villain in a Kabuki mask has taken Hiro’s invention, and will do anything to keep it. Both the film’s characters and the audience think for quite some time that Krei is the man behind the mask. When Yokai was unmasked and revealed to be none other than Professor Callaghan, well, we had to pick our jaws up off the floor.
#7: Meg conspired with Hades. 'Hercules' (1997)
When Hercules first meets Meg, she’s in a sticky situation with Nessus, providing our hero with a convenient opportunity to come to the rescue and impress the damsel in distress. It quickly becomes clear that she’s no helpless victim, and can totally hold her own—keeping Hercules on his toes with her sarcasm and quick wit. Much to Hercules’ shock, and the audiences as well, we learn that she’s been manipulating our hero from the very beginning. Her soul belongs to Hades as a result of a bargain she made to save a past boyfriend, who quickly betrayed her and left her in Hades’ debt, heartbroken and understandably jaded.
#6: Wilbur is actually Lewis’ future son. 'Meet the Robinsons' (2007)
When a movie involves time travel, it’s inevitable that there will be some unpredictable twists and turns. Meet the Robinsons may be one of Disney’s lesser known animated films, but you shouldn’t underestimate it—it delivers BIG surprises. Lewis is a young inventor who meets a boy named Wilbur Robinson at a science fair who claims he’s a time traveler and proves it by taking Lewis to year 2037. In a twist that no one could have seen coming, it turns out that Wilbur’s dad Cornelius is actually Lewis in the future—and Wilbur is his son! Admittedly… you might have to watch the movie to fully grasp the impact of this one.
#5: Eugene cuts Rapunzel's hair. 'Tangled' (2010)
We all knew the story of Rapunzel long before seeing this 2010 Disney film, but this modern adaptation takes some liberties with the classic fairy tale. Tangled adds dimension to the powers of Rapunzel’s hair, giving it healing powers and anti-aging abilities. As a result, many people are attempting to take advantage of Rapunzel in order to reap the benefits of her magical hair. When her closest ally Flynn (a.k.a. Eugene), chops off her magnificent mane though… we were totally floored. It takes us a few moments to realize that he’s actually doing it for her own good. Thanks to a little unexpected leftover magic, the move even secures their happily ever after.
#4: King Candy is Turbo. 'Wreck-It Ralph' (2012)
In this video game-inspired film, the titular Wreck-It Ralph is a villain who longs to be a hero. Along the way, however, he sets some potentially devastating wheels in motion, forcing him to become a REAL hero to fix his mistakes. In the game Sugar Rush, Ralph attempts to help Vanellope, a glitch who wants to become a playable character. Nothing is as it seems in Sugar Rush, however, and we learn that the supposed hero, King Candy, is actually Turbo, an infamous rogue character. Furthermore, it’s revealed that Vanellope is really a princess and former protagonist of the game Turbo corrupted. It’s complicated in summary, but in-film, this reveal was flawlessly executed.
#3: The Wolf in Sheep's Clothing 'Zootopia' (2016)
2016’s Zootopia may seem like a fun romp through an exciting anthropomorphic animal world, but if you take a closer look, there’s a lot going on underneath the surface. The moral takeaway of the film is about prejudice and bigotry and no one better exemplifies this than the character of Dawn Bellwether. This sheep is introduced as the assistant mayor, and seems as sweet as can be, endearing herself to Judy as a fellow small animal. In the end, though, it’s revealed that she is actually the villainous mastermind behind the drugging of predators in the city. Because of her diminutive stature and personality, this one came as a total shock.
#2: Te Fiti is Te Kā. 'Moana' (2016)
The primary villain in Disney’s 2016 film, Moana, is a fiery demon called Te Kā. What neither viewers or Moana knew, however, was that Te Kā was actually transformed into her current state by Maui, the demi-god. She used to be Te Fiti, the goddess of life and mother island before her transformation. While we are initially given the lore of Te Fiti’s history and told that Moana is the one who has to revive her; it’s not until later that we realize she and Te Kā are one and the same.
Before we unveil our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions.
- Lotso is the villain. Toy Story 3 (2010)
- Buddy Pine/Incredi-Boy is Syndrome. The Incredibles (2004)
- Charles F. Muntz is bad. Up (2009)
#1: Hans is evil. 'Frozen' (2013)
Red herrings about the identity of the true villain in a film are a dime a dozen, but the reveal of who the true the bad guy is in Frozen is something we won’t be getting over anytime soon. When Princess Anna meets the dashing Prince Hans, it seems like a match made in heaven. They even have one of the cutest duets together in the history of Disney songs. So imagine our surprise when Hans turns out to have ulterior motives to rule Arendelle himself. As if this wasn’t enough, we also get a twist ending when Anna is saved by Elsa’s love in the film’s conclusion.
Do you agree with our picks? Check out other great clips from MsMojo and subscribe for new videos every day.