In my book Old School Evil, the main character Jayce, having grown up watching cartoons all his life, finally gets a chance to watch Transformers: The Movie fifteen years after it hit the theater. While he watches Autobot after Autobot get slaughtered, his life literally changes - he realizes that a world of cartoons, a world that he's gradually slipping into, isn't as simple as he thought as a kid.
Optimus Prime's death is probably considered one of the most traumatic events in kids' animation. Stories abound of kids being dragged out of theaters crying their eyes out after seeing his lifeless hand drop the Matrix. But it got me wondering what other scenes screwed with my head as a kid when I was watching television and movies.
Secret of NIMH - The Great Owl
Don Bluth had a talent for making ordinary things scary looking, and none were better than Mrs. Bisby's advisor, the Great Owl. What an incredibly eerie entrance he gets, from crushing the menacing spider to the glowing eyes and upside-down head, twisting over to glare at the little mouse hungrily. Any kid that watched that would be sharing her terrified expression. For the longest time after watching it, I thought that the owl's hunger took over and he tried eating her at the end of his scene, sage advise be damned.
Who Framed Roger Rabbit - The Shoe
A lot of people will say Judge Doom's reveal - the high-pitched voice and the dagger eyes - is the scariest scene in the movie, but for me, it was the sheer terror the animators were able to imbue into something as innocuous and innocent as a shoe that really messed me up. And for us to have to watch this innocent footwear dissolve into nothingness just like Eddie Valiant does, is almost too much to take.
Oliver and Company - Sykes's Death
Disney movies are full of death, there's no denying that. Plenty of villains will fall off cliffs or die in a puff of magic dust. But Sykes had a special place in Disney's funeral hall - he dies in a way anyone could in our world, by getting hit by a subway train. Sure, he's driving on the tracks in his banana boat car, but in reality, anyone could fall off the platform in the way of a train. I think the connection to the real world, one without dragons or magic, made it that much worse. This comes directly after his two dogs were tossed from the car and electrocuted on the third rail. It made me never want to go to a subway, that's for sure.
Inhumanoids - Gagoyle
Kids' movies may have held a monopoly on traumatic scenes because television shows are way more regulated. But if there's an exception to that, it's definitely Inhumanoids. In a show that's basically made up of nightmare fuel, one scene, or character really, takes the cake - Gagoyle. Whether it's his transparent stomach, where human villain Blackstone was trapped, pounding on the monster's gut while his armor was dissolving in acid, or how it just bit off D'Compose's arm and swallowed it whole, this blue monster is beyond freaky. The singular eye was just the icing on the cake.
Transformers: The Movie - Ironhide's Death
Yeah, I've said it a few times before, but Ironhide's Death is way harder for me to deal with than Prime's. Optimus had a great fight and honestly should have survived the damages to his abdomen. But Ironhide? First, he was blasted through by multiple shots from the Constructicons, just like Ratchet. But he survives to make one last attempt to stop Megatron. And what does he get? The shot from Megatron's cannon directly to his face was SO brutal. Even Megatron's line "Such heroic nonsense" line is heartbreaking.
If you want to see exactly how Optimus's death ruins Jayce's life, make sure to pick up Old School Evil, available on Kindle and paperback and for free on Kindle Unlimited.