Salem Ilese’s ‘Mad at Disney’ Was Inspired by a Dislike of 1 Disney Movie

Salem Ilese’s “Mad at Disney” is a lighthearted critique of Disney movies that discusses how they inform people’s expectations of real life. Both the song and the video allude to classic Disney films. However, the Disney movie that inspired the song isn’t one of the movies referenced in the song or video. Here’s a look at the story behind “Mad at Disney” — and how the world reacted to it.

Mickey and Minnie Mouse at a Disney castle | Mark Ashman/Disney via Getty Images

A list of the references to Disney movies in Salem Ilese’s ‘Mad at Disney’

The lyrics of “Mad at Disney” mention the lead characters of two classics: Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty. On top of that, they mention wishing on a star, an allusion to the ballad “When You Wish Upon a Star” from Pinocchio. The lyrics even discuss a “snow white horse,” a clear reference to a certain princess who rode on a horse to her prince’s castle. The music video for the song includes a few movie references as well. The scenery recalls Alice in Wonderland. Ilese kisses a frog a la The Princes and the Frog and has incredibly long hair a la Rapunzel from Tangled.

How disappointment in a Disney movie led to a hit song

And yet, none of these films inspired the song. Rolling Stone reports the film was inspired by songwriter Jason Hahs’ disappointment with the remake of The Lion King. After Hahs watched The Lion King remake, he had a fateful discussion with Ilese. “I said, ‘how are you today,’ and he said, ‘I’m really mad at Disney,’” Ilese recalled. “There was an avalanche from there, and I started talking about how Disney gave me an incredibly false view on relationships.”

Salem Ilese’s “Mad at Disney”

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What Ilese Salem thinks of princess movies

Although Ilese is most known for “Mad at Disney,” she likes the studio — even if she understands it fosters false expectations.“I’m a big Disney fan — when I was four, I would walk around dressed like a princess on any random day of the week,” she said. “Growing up you expect a prince and a white horse to come and rescue you from the tower,” she continued. “In reality, you get boys in high school who are scared of commitment and stand you up for a date.”

A trailer for The Lion King

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How the world reacted to ‘Mad at Disney’

Ilese said the response to the song made her feel she’d made it. “I remember on my 21st birthday, I looked and I saw a thousand people used [my song] on TikTok to make a video and I remember thinking ‘This is it, I’ve made it,’” she told KIIS-FM. “This is my peak. And then overnight the numbers just started doubling and it was absolutely insane to see.” “Mad at Disney” was born from anger, however, it seemed to make Ilese happy.

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