It’s that time of year again: the British Medical Journal‘s Christmas Edition is out, featuring some of the most hilarious research published since… well, since forever! All this week, we will be featuring the best of this and past years’ BMJ Christmas research articles to get you in the holiday spirit.
Today, the focus is on kids’ animated films. I never really realized how dark and violent some cartoons were until I watched them with my toddler. Apparently, these researchers had the same experience, because they set out to quantitatively measure how much death occurs in kids’ vs. adults’ films. By comparing 45 animated films and 90 dramatic adult films, they discovered that important characters, including parents, in children’s animated films were more likely to die compared with characters in adult films. The form of death was also often gruesome: “our sample of animated films included three gunshot deaths (Bambi, Peter Pan, Pocahontas), two stabbings (Sleeping Beauty, The Little Mermaid), and five animal attacks (A Bug’s Life, The Croods, How to Train Your Dragon, Finding Nemo, Tarzan), suggesting grisly deaths are common in films for children.” Do you have suggestions for movies that don’t require you to explain the nature of mortality to your 3-year-old? Share them in the comments!
“Objectives To assess the risk of on-screen death of important characters in children’s animated films versus dramatic films for adults.
Design Kaplan-Meier survival analysis with Cox regression comparing time to first on-screen death.
Setting Authors’ television screens, with and without popcorn.
Participants Important characters in 45 top grossing children’s animated films and a comparison group of 90 top grossing dramatic films for adults.
Main outcome measures Time to first on-screen death.
Results Important characters in children’s animated films were at an increased risk of death compared with characters in dramatic films for adults (hazard ratio 2.52, 95% confidence interval 1.30 to 4.90). Risk of on-screen murder of important characters was higher in children’s animated films than in comparison films (2.78, 1.02 to 7.58).
Conclusions Rather than being the innocuous form of entertainment they are assumed to be, children’s animated films are rife with on-screen death and murder.”
Bonus figure from the full text:
How to make people think random Disney characters are creepy.
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