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Subliminal Messaging

In light of my recent infatuation with the topic of ‘invisible’ communication, I am moving on from body language to talk about subliminal messages.

These are defined on Wikipedia as:

a signal or message embedded in another medium, designed to pass below the normal limits of the human mind’s perception. These messages are unrecognizable by the conscious mind, but in certain situations can affect the subconscious mind and can negatively or positively influence subsequent later thoughts, behaviors, actions, attitudes, belief systems and value systems.

With that in mind, subliminal messaging can be a powerful communication tool, and as we live in a world where sex sells, it makes this invisible layer of communication even more influential.

Sex does indeed sell.

In fact sex has become a commodity so it seems only natural that many subliminal messages are related to sex. It is best to show this through examples so where better to look than at the films of Disney!

Hold on! Disney? Yep, Disney films are rife with sexual references, imagery and ‘hidden’ messages. Before I proceed, these are just my thoughts on possible hidden messages within Disney films! Please don’t sue me House of Mouse!

Right, legalities over with, let’s start with my favourite Disney film.

The Lion King

When Simba relaxes under the night sky, the stars above can be seen to spell out ‘sex’. The animators claim it says ‘SFX’ as a signature to their work. I’ll let you drawn your own conclusions:

Lion King - Subliminal Message

The Rescuers

There is one scene with a rather naughty image in the background. This was admitted by Disney and the film was recalled in the 1970’s and this image did not feature in the 1992 VHS release. See it for yourself:


The Little Mermaid

The cover artwork for this film, undoubtedly features a penis. Apparently the artist intended for this to feature but admitted that it was perhaps a little too obvious. Here is the cover:


Look a little closer though:ewwwwwdisneyisapervetjv7

Whilst this is quite explicit, it is still subliminal in the sense that we may not consciously notice references like this until they are pointed out to us. From afar it is quite subtle.

Who Framed Roger Rabbit?

It may only last for two frames but Jessica Rabbit does indeed do a ‘basic instinct’ as she exits a taxi, perhaps setting the benchmark for trashy drunken celebrities here after.


Beyond the few examples show above, it is also suggested that the personalities of the Seven Dwarfs represent the seven stages of cocaine addiction, Aladdin tells teenagers to take their clothes off in one scene, and the minister becomes, ahem, aroused, in the wedding scene of The Little Mermaid.

It’s not just Disney who are at it.

Whether these examples are real or not, it is important to remember that things are not always as they seem. As well as subliminal messaging in films, song lyrics can have hidden meanings (often related to sex), paintings can include subtle referencing, and adverts often have a distinct sexual undertone.

It is a proven effective way of communication. This video, whilst not the best quality, shows some examples of subliminal messaging:

For me it comes back to asking questions about the texts we consume. If we take things at face value then we risk missing out on a whole new level of the film/song/advert. It is good to challenge the assumptions and ‘read’ texts. Once you know what to look for it is surprising just how much can be read into texts and films are by far the easiest to study.

Does it happen online?

Do subliminal messages exist online? I haven’t stumbled upon any websites as examples but I’m sure they must exist. Maybe next time you are designing you can sneak in a phallic symbol or two! 😉

If you have your own examples, please leave a comment here as I would love to hear and see them.