It was July 2018. I was at the Lock City Anime & Comic Con to secure an autograph from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles co-creator Peter Laird, when I spotted the booth for an animator named Philo Barnhart, one of the artists behind Disney’s The Little Mermaid. The line to meet him was fairly long, but I knew that I had a rare opportunity before me, so I got on the line and waited. After all, I had a burning question for Mr. Barnhart and couldn’t pass up the chance to ask it.
After about 20 minutes of waiting to reach the front, I got my chance. Without saying another word, I promptly asked Mr. Barnhart maybe the most important question I would ever ask another human being:
“Did you draw the penis castle!?!?”
For those who don’t know what I’m referring to, well, prepare to be amazed. Back in 1989, one of the posters for The Little Mermaid — which later adorned the cover of the VHS — had a rather suspicious-looking spire.
Don’t see it? Well, take a closer look.
That most certainly is a dick, there’s just no debating it.
Now, how that dick got there has been the subject of many a debate and urban legend, with the most popular version of the story being that it was done by a disgruntled Disney animator, who — to exact revenge upon the company — hid a giant golden dick on the VHS cover of their popular new film. That’s the version of the story I’d always known, so when I saw Mr. Barnhart at that convention, I had to know if he was that dick-drawing, disgruntled Disney artist.
“Wasn’t me,” Barnhart said, as though he’d been asked this question a million times. He declined to tell me who it was, and then — out of sheer embarrassment — I bought a print from The Little Mermaid for my daughter to make it look like the dick castle wasn’t my only reason for waiting in his line (though it most certainly was).
Why did I do any of that? Even if he had been the artist behind the dick castle, what would I have done with this information? Would I have had him doodle a dick on a print of his? Would I bring it up at cocktail parties later on? Why did I care so much? Perhaps a more pertinent question to consider is, why do so many people care about this stuff? After all, Mr. Barnhart had clearly fielded this question before. Not only that, but if you simply Google “Disney Penis,” you’ll find an abundance of articles about hidden Disney sexual imagery from various films and cartoons. So clearly, I’m not the only one.
We’ve previously looked into the mystery of why guys draw dicks on everything, and it basically boils down to our own penile insecurities. But people don’t just draw dicks, we also see dicks, everywhere — on buildings, on monuments, in the Goddamn sky and most certainly in Disney films. After all, the dick castle wasn’t even the only dick in that movie — people also claim that the priest who officiates Fake Ariel and Prince Eric’s wedding had a hard-on during the ceremony.
There’s also this one of Donald Duck:
And while this one probably is a real dick joke hidden by an animator, it was hidden pretty well, appearing in just one frame of 1942’s Saludos Amigos. Here’s the clip which gives Donald’s raging boner a bit more context:
There’s another dick reference from that pantsless duck from 1947. This one lasts for several seconds and — anatomically speaking — is a bit high up on his torso to look like a dick, yet, it still definitely does:
Consider, too, this clip from Hercules, in which a guy grows a dick on his head:
So why are people seeing dicks all over Disney stuff? According to psychoanalyst Vanessa Sinclair, there are a few reasons, one of which is that, yeah, we pretty much are preoccupied with sex. “Sexuality is everywhere. Adults see sexuality in childish things like Disney films because sexuality is an integral part of life and permeates our culture,” Sinclair says, adding, “People may see phallic imagery where none is consciously intended because there’s an unconscious preoccupation with sexuality.”
When people see Minnie’s torso as a blue dick, then, it may just be because of our natural preoccupation with sex — a theory I feel also applies to this supposed Disney dick reference from A Goofy Movie:
Supposedly, the dick joke here is that when Bigfoot has Goofy’s underwear on his head, he takes a look through the flap and reveals one of his eyes — a reference to the “one-eyed-monster.” Yeah, that one’s a stretch.
This is also why we so often seem to sexualize things associated with our youth, because our brains just go to dirty places. Given this inclination, there are tons of fake Disney dicks out there too, like this old-timey-looking one of Steamboat Willie, who’s putting holes in Swiss cheese in a rather innovative fashion:
And this one, which supposedly shows an adult Andy having a lot more fun than he ever had with Woody — at least, the Woody that’s voiced by Tom Hanks, I mean:
Our brains are just wired to be sexual, which means so much of the world around us appears to be phallic. It kind of reminds me of that old-school Tootsie Roll commercial where the kids see Tootsie Rolls everywhere, but by the time we’re grown ups, all those Tootsie Rolls have turned to dicks and other sexual imagery.
The blame, however, isn’t all on the dirty-minded audience. Sinclair says that the artists may be sneaking them in there as a dirty joke, or possibly by accident. “Sexuality and creativity are intertwined in our libido, and our libido is our driving life force. So anyone who is passionate, driven to succeed, overtly sexual or even aggressive, is enacting this driving force,” Sinclair says. Basically, an artist can draw a dick unconsciously, which is why it’s possible that a penis spire on a golden castle could be accidental, yet still most definitely, undeniably a dick.
Then, of course, there’s just good, old-fashioned dick jokes, of which there are a surprising amount in Disney movies. For example, here are a few erection jokes, two of which appear in Bambi, which was released prior to Saludos Amigos, meaning they may very well be the first Disney dick jokes ever.
First there’s Thumper, which is a little bit suggestive:
Then there’s Flower, which is a good deal moreso:
And more than 50 years later, Buzz Lightyear gets a similar erection joke in Toy Story 2:
There are other Pixar dicks besides Buzz as well, like this rather suggestive clip from Ratatouille, where Collette thinks Alfredo may be talking about his little dick, and gives a glance in that direction:
And then this questionable turn of phrase, featuring the late great Don Rickles as Mr. Potato Head:
Back at Disney proper, in the little remembered Emperor’s New Groove, the character Kronk “pitches a tent” over his dick:
And in the even less remembered Brave Little Toaster a computer, um, cums. Yeah, this one’s a bit shocking:
Even the recent Disney hit Frozen has a rather obvious joke about dick (sorry, “foot”) size:
(As an aside, this is obviously something we’ve discussed before, and while it isn’t definitive, there does seem to be some sort of correlation there.)
Finally, there does seem to be only one direct reference to a dick in this Disney classic, but it’s hardly surprising.
Yes, in Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Baby Herman refers to having a “50-year-old lust and a three-year-old dinky,” which, considering there was also a part of the movie where Jessica Rabbit may have flashed her nether regions, is far from the dirtiest joke in the movie.
As for that penis castle, it turns out it was drawn by the late Ron Dias, a legend in Disney animation. The story is that he had a deadline and was getting tired one night, and jokingly drew a dick into The Little Mermaid castle. The next morning, he realized that his joke wasn’t at all subtle, but he had no time to change it before the 10 a.m. meeting, so it went forth and got approved by Disney, dick and all. Only later, once it was on VHS and the public began to notice, did it eventually get revised.
Unfortunately, this means that the penis castle and that horny priest — which as noted earlier, has since been edited out — are not available on Disney+. Neither is the blue Minnie dick, as that was on a product, not from a film. Aside from that, though, literally all of these other Disney dicks are now available on their new streaming service which launches today, which is certainly worth it for a mere $7 per month. Give your credit card numbers to Disney right now and get to freeze-framing — that horrible cumming computer is waiting for you.