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Study: Kids' Cartoons Have More 'Death and Murder' Than Adult Shows

The Short of it

When we think of cartoons, we think of innocent films about princesses, magical beings and silly animals, but actually, they're "rife with on-screen death and murder," according to a new study led by Ian Colman of the University of Ottawa, Canada.

The Lowdown

Main characters in kids' cartoons are 2.5 times more likely to die than those in adult dramas. And those victims are five times more likely to be parents.

If you don't believe it, let's take a minute to think about it. Bambi's mom dies almost immediately in the movie. In "Frozen," Anna and Elsa's parents die. In "The Princess and the Frog," Tiana's dad dies almost immediately. What about Cinderella and Snow White? Or Merida in "Brave"? Her mom was nearly a bear indefinitely. And where the heck are Max and Ruby's parents? Cartoon parents have terrible life expectancies.

The sad fact is that if your kids are watching cartoons, they're probably watching someone die, even if it's in a slightly less violent way than in adult dramas. Cartoon characters usually die from animal attacks, anvils dropping from the sky or just seem to fade to black compared to adult dramas, where people are usually killed in more violent ways.

Colman and his research colleagues studied the 45 highest grossing box office children's animated films and matched each cartoon with the top-grossing films for adults from the same year, including horror films. They recorded when the key characters died in the films, how they died and their roles in the movies. Two-thirds of the cartoons depicted a death, compared to half of adult dramas. Cartoon characters were 2.8 times more likely to be murdered than their counterparts in films for adults.

The Upshot

Thankfully, we don't live in a cartoon world, and next time your kid wants to watch "Frozen" for the millionth time, you might want to ask her what she thinks about the parents' deaths and then use it as a teachable moment for "How to Explain Death to Your Child."

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