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Nightmare On Elm Street Was Almost A Disney Movie (& Very Different)

While Disney did consider making A Nightmare On Elm Street, director Wes Craven didn’t like the studio’s proposed rating for the project. It might be hard to imagine any studio turning down A Nightmare On Elm Street nowadays, but the slasher movie was not always guaranteed to be a hugely popular hit from its inception. Creator Wes Craven had a serious struggle getting studios interested in A Nightmare On Elm Street, a problem that came about partially because the movie’s ambitious mixture of fantasy and slasher horror had never been pulled off before.

While the Friday the 13th and Halloween franchises were both making a killing at the multiplex in the early 80s, those were straightforward slashers with little in the way of supernatural elements. Although Jason and Michael Myers were implied to be immortal, this was never explicitly addressed until the later, sillier sequels. In contrast, A Nightmare On Elm Street’s central conceit relied on the paranormal premise of a killer invading people’s dreams. This led Disney, of all studios, to consider taking on the project, once Craven toned down the R-rated horror movie into a family-friendly PG-13 version of A Nightmare On Elm Street.

Related: Nightmare On Elm Street 2010 Almost Had An Even Worse Freddy Krueger

Disney’s PG-13 Nightmare On Elm Street Explained
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It is tough to imagine a bloodless, PG-13 take on A Nightmare On Elm Street. However, in fairness to Disney, Craven’s original A Nightmare On Elm Street had a happier ending and its ambitious dream sequences were more like a fantasy movie than most slasher horrors of the era. As a result, it is perhaps not too surprising that the studio thought the director might be interested in toning down his take on the material. However, Craven had no interest in a PG-13 version of A Nightmare On Elm Street, and the gore present in the finished movie proves this would have been hard to pull off.

In particular, Glen’s infamous death is a tour de force as the unfortunate teenager is reduced to a geyser of blood. However, Tina’s death (which went on to inspire Stranger Things villain Vecna’s first murder) is also much too intense for a PG-13 movie. Although a spate of high-profile news stories about child molestation made Craven decide against explicitly confirming that Freddy was a pedophile, the sadistic glee he takes in torturing his victims makes the villain way too intense for any movie marketed towards even older children and young teens. As such, A Nightmare On Elm Street was always intended to be an R-rated project.

Why Craven Rejected This Version of Freddy
Friday the 13th jason Halloween michael myers Freddy Krueger
Another issue with Disney’s take on A Nightmare On Elm Street was that this would have changed the character of Freddy himself. Craven designed the character, justifying everything from Freddy Krueger’s lack of a mask to his razor glove in his production notes. However, most of Freddy’s character design would have been jettisoned in favor of a more harmless, conventional monster in Disney’s PG-13 take on the movie. The MPAA already set a precedent for how scary a character design could be even if it didn’t include any explicit gore in 1984 when an early version of the Ghostbusters library ghost was rejected for being too scary (the prop ended up used as Fright Night’s vampire Amy.)

Would Disney’s Nightmare On Elm Street Have Worked?
Heather Langenkamp as Nancy and Robert Englund as Freddy Krueger in A Nightmare on Elm Street
While it could have been fascinating, it is unlikely that Disney’s take on A Nightmare On Elm Street would have been good. Like the lost script for A Nightmare On Elm Street 6, this unrealized project is a fascinating prospect with too many logistical flaws to make its execution possible. Without Freddy’s gory modus operandi, it isn’t even clear if Disney’s version of the villain would have killed kids or just scared them. Similarly, without Freddy’s iconic, terrifying appearance, there is no way of knowing if Robert Englund would even have been cast in the role.

Related: Nightmare On Elm Street 4 Almost Avoided Its Worst Death TwiceWithout Englund as Freddy, Freddy’s instantly recognizable appearance, or the gore that made the movie so effective, Disney’s A Nightmare On Elm Street would scarcely have resembled Craven’s vision. This take on the material might have made for an interesting curio, but there are few PG-13 horror movies with the cultural impact and staying power of A Nightmare On Elm Street. Freddy, unlike Michael Myers and Jason, might be in creative limbo right now, but his introduction of fantasy elements to the slasher effectively reignited the sub-genre in the mid-80s. As such, there is little doubt that A Nightmare On Elm Street wouldn’t have been as good—and horror history would have suffered—if Disney made the movie.

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