Disney movies with dead parents

Disney movies with dead parents DEFAULT

A common trend in Disney movies is killing off family members of the main characters. This has outlasted Disney's former trend of killing the main villain (despite being less often to be seen), as both films after Wreck-It Ralph (which marked Disney's final death of a main villain) continued to do so.

(Note: Villainous characters such as Scar will not be listed)

  • Bambi's mother - Shot by Man. (Bambi)
  • Cinderella's father - Died of an unknown illness (Cinderella)
  • Aladdin's mother - Unknown. (Aladdin)
  • Mufasa - Thrown over a cliff by Scar. He is the father of Simba. (The Lion King)
  • James's parents - Eaten by the Rhino. (James and the Giant Peach)
  • Quasimodo's mother - Knocked onto the stairs by Frollo, hitting her head on the stairs and breaking her neck. (The Hunchback of Notre Dame)
  • General Li - Killed offscreen by Shan Yu. He is the father of the tritagonist Shang. (Mulan)
  • Tarzan's parents - Killed offscreen by Sabor. (Tarzan)
  • King of Atlantis - Punched by Rourke, causing death by internal bleeding. He is the father of the secondary protagonist Kida. (Atlantis)
  • Lilo's parents - Died in a car crash. (Lilo and Stitch)
  • Nemo's Mom and siblings - Eaten by a barracuda. (Finding Nemo)
  • Ellie Fredricksen - Died of an unknown illness. She is the wife of Carl Fredricksen. (Up)
  • James - Killed offscreen in World War I. He is the father of Tiana. (The Princess and the Frog)
  • Anna and Elsa's parents - Killed in a storm at sea. (Frozen)
  • Tadashi Hamada - Killed in explosion caused by Yokai. He is the brother of Hiro. (Big Hero 6)
  • Bing Bong - Disintegrated in the forgetting pit. He is the imaginary friend of Riley. (Inside Out)
  • Henry - Swept away and killed by a flash flood. He is the father of Arlo. (The Good Dinosaur)
  • Mr. Big's grandma - Died of an unknown illness. (Zootopia)
  • Gramma Tala - Died of an illness. (Moana)
  • Sitka - Fell off a glacier with Koda's mother in an attempt to protect Kenai and Denahi. (Brother Bear)
  • Koda's mother - Impaled by Kenai's spear. (Brother Bear)
Sours: https://listofdeaths.fandom.com/wiki/Disney_family_members

Sarah Sands

We have all done it. We’ve sat in a theater or at home ready to enjoy a light-hearted Disney movie about princesses, singing, and talking woodland creatures when BAM! We are suddenly crying our eyes out.

This usually happens early on in the movie, and more often than not, we are crying because a cartoon parent is dead or just died.

The best known, most emotional, and classic example of this Disney phenomenon is Bambi.

But a quick, critical look back at my Disney movie watching days shows I weathered many Disney parents dying and more than a few protagonists without parents.

Tissue up: here come some examples. There’s Little Mermaid‘s Ariel, Beauty and the Beasts‘ Belle, and Aladdin‘s Jasmine without their mothers. Cinderella has an evil stepmother and loses her father. Dumbo‘s mother is taken away from him. Poor Simba from The Lion King not only loses his father but is tricked into thinking it’s his fault. Nemo loses his mother (permanently) and his father (temporarily). Russell from Up has an absentee father. And to close out this sad, sad list: Frozen‘s Elsa and Anna send their parents off on a quick trip only to lose them in a raging storm.

This is almost too much fictional parental death to bear.

Speaking of bears: Merida’s mom becomes one for a while, which is a pretty traumatic experience, too!

After reviewing this incomplete and sad list of Disney characters without parents, we have to ask “why?”.

Well, it may come from Walt’s own personal experience. This theory says Walt, unconsciously or consciously, used his own personal experience of losing his mother as he drove and developed movies after her death.

In 1938, after enjoying the financial success of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Walt and his brother Roy bought a house for their parents in Burbank, CA, near their studio. Shortly after their parents, Flora and Elias, moved in, the furnace was acting up. Walt sent a few of his studio repairmen over to the house to take a look at fix the furnace. Sadly, they did not properly fix the furnace, it continued to leak, and Flora Disney died of asphyxiation a few days after the attempted repair.

It is said his mother’s death haunted Walt for the rest of his life. He blamed himself for sending his repairmen over, and he never recovered from the guilt and grief he felt at losing her.

But this theory doesn’t explain the subsequent theme of parental loss in movies post-Walt. Rather it seems the theme of death and the various manifestations of associated grief that come from losing an important parental figure are ones that imagineers and film writers regularly use as a tool in their storytelling — even in light-hearted animated ones.

We have to go get a box of tissues now. 😢

What do you think of this theory — is it viable, or do you have your own theory? Share your thoughts in the comments.

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Sours: https://allears.net/2019/08/28/why-do-the-parents-always-have-to-die-in-disney-movies/
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Before we step into this list of all times Disney killed parents in animated classics, we’re quickly going to try to understand why Disney has to break our hearts, say, basically every time. Why, oh why Disney?  Well, no one really has an answer to this, but we can hypothesize that plot wise, this is the kind of background story that builds up the main character. The kind of past that gives a purpose to the hero’s goal and shape this character’s journey. Sometimes, losing a parent is even the call to adventure, the call that will initiate his odyssey.

The second hypothesis is that Disney didn’t really invent this “we have to kill the parents” tradition. Most of Disney animated movies are based on all time classic tales, or strongly inspired by famous plays. For example, The Lion King (1994) is largely based on Hamlet, written by William Shakespeare and published in 1603. That being said, if Mufasa, King of the Pride Lands, dies from the hand of his own brother, Scar, it is not a Disney creation. Disney simply followed Hamlet’s narrative arc, as King Hamlet himself is killed by his brother Claudius. 


The third probable hypothesis is that Walt Disney lost his mom in a terrible accident, which could explain the lack of mother figures in a lot of animated classics. 

Now, let’s dive right into this list, shall we? 

Both Parents Died/Presumed Dead 


Disney's Cinderella (1950)

Cinderella lost her mother when she was a child and her father died only a few years later. She had to stay with her evil stepmom and stepsisters. 

Snow White and the Seven Dwarves

Snow White’s mum died soon after her birth and her father passed away after marrying the Evil Queen. 


Disney's Tarzan (1999)

His parents were both killed by Sabor, a leopard. Kala, a female gorilla, adopted Tarzan. 

Lilo and Stitch

Disney's Lilo and Stitch (2002)

Nani and her little sister Lilo lost their parents in a car accident before the beginning of the film. 


Disney's Frozen (2013)

Elsa and Anna’s parents died in a shipwreck and Elsa became Queen of Arandelle. 

Atlantis: The Lost Empire

The crystal protecting the city consumed Kida’s mother. Rourke killed Kida’s father, the King of Atlantis. 

The Sword in the Stone

Both of Arthur’s parents, King Uther Pendragon and Lady Igraine both died, leaving him an orphan.


Linguini lost both his parents, Renata Linguini and Gusteau. 

Mother Died


Everyone remembers the scene where the hunters kill Bambi’s mum. It was very traumatizing. 

The Hunchback of Notre Dame

While trying to protect her baby, Judge Frollo killed Quasimodo’s mother.

Brother Bear

Koda’s mum was killed by humans, while she was trying to protect her baby. 

Finding Nemo

Coral, Nemo’s mother was killed by a barracuda at the beginning of the movie. 

The Fox and the Hound

Tod’s mother was shot by a hunter, while trying to escape with her baby. 

Beauty and the Beast

Belle’s mother is not mentioned but we assume that she died, leaving her daughter and her husband behind. 

Ariel’s Beginning

The movie explains how Ariel lost her mom. Queen Athena was crushed by a ship after saving one of her daughters and trying to reach for a music box on a rock. 


Disney's Aladdin (1992)

Jasmine’s mother is never mentioned, but we can assume that she died when the princess was younger. Aladdin finds his father, Cassim, in the sequel. But he also found out that his mother died when he was little and was led to believe he was an orphan. 


Chief Powhatan raised his daughter on his own as her mom died many years ago. 

Father Died

The Lion King

Disney's The Lion King (1994)

King Mufasa was killed/betrayed by his brother Scar. For most of his life, Simba thought that it was his fault if Mufasa died. 

The Princess and the Frog

Tiana’s father, James, died during the First World War.


Disney's Mulan (1998)

Shang’s father, General Li, died fighting the Huns.

What death do you find the most heart-wrenching in a Disney Classic? Let us know in the comments!

Sours: https://fandomwire.com/all-times-disney-has-killed-movie-parents/
Miguel Sings \

Roles of mothers in Disney media

The heroes and heroines of most Disney movies come from unstable family backgrounds;[1] most are either orphaned or have no mothers.[2] Few, if any, have only single-parent mothers. In other instances, mothers are presented as "bad surrogates" eventually "punished for their misdeeds."[3] There is much debate about the reasoning behind this phenomenon.[4]

A prevalent urban legend explains the phenomenon resulted from the death of Flora Disney, mother of Walt and Roy Disney, who perished in 1938 due to a gas leak in the house the two brothers had recently purchased for her. This, however, is demonstrably false. The so-called phenomenon had been present in Disney canon from before Flora's 1938 death, with the presence of the Evil Queen in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, which released in 1937. Further, the prevalence of absent mothers, or even evil step-mothers, were not creative choices made by the Disney brothers themselves, but were plot points present in the source material that were adapted into later animated films, such as the original Cinderella tale, the 1923 novel Bambi, a Life in the Woods, and Helen Aberson-Mayer's Dumbo the Flying Elephant.

Some feminists (such as Amy Richards) believe it is to create dramatic interest in the main characters; if mothers were present to guide them, they argue, there would not be much of a plot.[5] Some entertainment journalists (such as G. Shearer) believe that it is to show that a happy family does not have to consist of a mother, father and a child and that a family can be one parent and one child, or one parent and many siblings.[6] Below is a list of some notable examples of this aspect of Disney movies and television series.[7]

Categories of mothers[edit]

No (or 'absent') mother[edit]

  • Pinocchio: Pinocchio – no mother.[8]
  • Peter Pan: The Lost Boys – no mothers.
  • The Sword in the Stone: Arthur, or "Wart", has no parents.[9]
  • The Rescuers: Penny – no parents, but gets adoptive parents by the end.
  • The Great Mouse Detective: Olivia Flaversham – no mother.
  • Oliver & Company: Oliver - no mother; Jenny Foxworth – her mother is mentioned to arrive in time for her birthday, but is not shown.
  • A Goofy Movie: Goofy is a single father to his son Max. His mother's absence is not explained.
  • The Little Mermaid: Ariel and her 6 sisters – no mother. In the direct-to-DVD prequel The Little Mermaid: Ariel's Beginning, their mother appears early in the movie but gets killed by a pirate ship.
  • Beauty and the Beast: Belle – no mother.
  • Aladdin: Jasmine – no mother;[8] a mother character was originally written for Aladdin's character, but was ultimately cut so he has no parents, although he finds his father in Aladdin and the King of Thieves.
  • The Emperor's New Groove: Emperor Kuzco – no parents present, assumed dead (since "Emperor" is a hereditary role).
  • Lilo & Stitch franchise:
    • Stitch & Ai: Wang Ai Ling and Jiejie – no mother and father. The Wang sisters' aunt, Daiyu, tries to take over as Ai's caretaker in the series to their resistance.
  • Super Robot Monkey Team Hyperforce Go!: Chiro – no mother and father.
  • Pirates of the Caribbean (film series): Elizabeth, Jack – mother referenced as dead (Elizabeth's mother is noted by her father's ghost but never seen), Will – mother mentioned having died, father is "Bootstrap" Bill Turner.
  • Ratatouille: Remy – no mother, had a father. Linguini – mother was not shown on screen and is mentioned to have died. His father was the late master chef Auguste Gusteau.
  • Pucca: Pucca – no mother and father.
  • Phineas and Ferb: Ferb Fletcher – biological mother not mentioned, had a father Lawrence and step-mother Linda.
  • Tron: Legacy: Sam Flynn – no mother. No father for the majority of his life as well.
  • Wreck-It Ralph: Ralph – mother was mentioned.
  • Raya and the Last Dragon: Raya – mother was mentioned.
  • Witch Mountain franchise: Tony and Tia Malone - no parents.

Stepmothers and mother-figures[edit]

Mother killed, died and/or captured[edit]

  • Dumbo: Mrs. Jumbo is locked up for the majority of the movie, but is not killed.
  • Bambi: Bambi – mother killed by a hunter.
  • The Jungle Book: Mowgli – his mother Raksha, killed by Shere Khan.
  • The Fox and the Hound: Tod – mother killed by a gunshot.
  • The Little Mermaid: Ariel, Attina, Aquata, Andrina, Arista, Adella and Alana – their mother Athena, killed by pirates.
  • Finding Nemo: Nemo - his mother, Coral, along with all other 400+ siblings, was killed by a giant barracuda
  • Pocahontas: Pocahontas – no mother[8] (mentioned only; revealed to have been dead for years).
  • The Hunchback of Notre Dame: Quasimodo – mother killed by Frollo.[8]
  • Tarzan: Tarzan – mother, (and as well as father), killed by Sabor.
  • Atlantis: The Lost Empire: Princess Kida – mother killed while trying to save Atlantis from its first fate. Father dies of internal bleeding in the movie.
  • Lilo & Stitch franchise:
    • Main continuity (2002–2006): Lilo and Nani Pelekai – parents dead prior to the events of the first film. Additionally, the Lilo & Stitch: The Series episode "Remmy" focuses on the anniversary of their parents' death, with Lilo having a dream of her and Nani being with their parents near the end of the episode (the only time they are "seen" alive).
    • Stitch!: Yuna Kamihara – mother dead prior to the events of the series.
  • Brother Bear: Kenai, Sitka, and Denahi – no mother and father. – Koda's mother was killed by Kenai and Sitka fell to his death in the ice.
  • Chicken Little: mother dead for unknown reasons.
  • Frozen: Elsa and Anna – mother (as well as father) killed in a shipwreck, leaving Elsa devastated. Kristoff – revealed to be an orphan.
  • Beauty and the Beast (2017): Belle — mother died from the plague
  • Big Hero 6: Hiro Hamada – mother (as well as father) died when he was 3 years old and his brother Tadashi was killed in a fire.
  • Amphibia: Sprig Plantar and Polly Plantar - mother passed away when they were young.

Present mothers[edit]

Biological mothers[edit]

  • Dumbo: Mrs. Jumbo – single mother of Jumbo Jr., a.k.a. "Dumbo".
  • Bambi: Faline – mother of twins Gurri and Geno.
  • The Lion King franchise: Sarabi – mother of Simba; Sarafina – mother of Nala; -Nala – mother of Kopa, Kiara, and Kion; Zira – mother of Nuka, Vitani, and Kovu; Ma – Timon's mother.
  • One Hundred and One Dalmatians: Perdita – only to the original litter of 15 puppies.
  • Honey, I Shrunk the Kids franchise: Diane Szalinski, mother of Nick, Amy, and Adam Szalinski.
  • The Rescuers Down Under: Cody's mother (name not mentioned) – single.
  • The Aristocats: Duchess, mother of Toulouse, Marie, and Berlioz.
  • Beauty and the Beast: Mrs. Potts, single mother.
  • Mulan: Fa Li, Mulan's mother.
  • Lady and the Tramp: Lady – mother of Scamp, Annette, Collette and Danielle. Jane Brown – mother of James Brown Junior.
  • Toy Story franchise: Andy's mother; Bonnie's mother (names not mentioned).
  • Treasure Planet: Sarah Hawkins - mother of Jim l. Father left the family.
  • The Little Mermaid II: Return to the Sea: Princess Ariel – Melody's mother.
  • Peter Pan franchise: Mary Darling – Wendy, John, and Michael's mother; Wendy Darling – Jane and Danny's mother.
  • Sleeping Beauty: Queen Leah, Aurora's mother.
  • Recess: Ellie Detweiler, T.J. and Becky's mother; Flo Spinelli, Spinelli, Vito and Joey's mother; Vince and Chad's mother; Mrs. Blumberg, Mikey's mother; Gretchen's mother; Gus's mother.
  • Pepper Ann: Lydia Pearson, Pepper Ann and Moose's mother.
  • Hercules: Hera.
  • The Hunchback of Notre Dame II: Esmerelda – Zephyr's mother.
  • The Emperor's New Groove: Chicha – mother of Chaca, Tipo, Yupi.
  • Gargoyles: Demona - mother of Angela.
  • Lloyd in Space: Norah Li Nebulon - Lloyd and Francine's mother
  • The Incredibles: Helen Parr/Elastigirl – mother of Violet, Dash, and Jack-Jack Parr.
  • Meet the Robinsons: Lewis's mother (name not mentioned) – single. Franny Robinson – mother of Wilbur Robinson; Petunia Robinson – mother of Laszlo and Tallulah Robinson.
  • Bolt: Penny's mother (name not mentioned) – single.
  • The Princess and the Frog: Eudora, Tiana's mother.
  • Tangled: Queen of Corona, Rapunzel's mother.
  • Brave: Queen Elinor, mother of Merida.
  • Inside Out: Riley's Mother.
  • The Good Dinosaur: Momma Ida, mother of Buck, Libby and Arlo.
  • Zootopia: Bonnie Hopps, mother of Judy Hopps.
  • Kingdom Hearts: Sora's mother – only her voice is heard.
  • Kim Possible: Dr. Ann Possible, mother of Kim, Jim, and Tim.
  • American Dragon: Jake Long: Susan Shi Long – Jake and Haley's mother.
  • The Buzz on Maggie: Frieda Pesky - Maggie, Aldrin, Pupert and Bella's mother.
  • Phineas and Ferb: Linda Flynn-Fletcher – Phineas and Candace's mother.
  • Gravity Falls: Priscilla Northwest – Pacifica's mother; Janice Valentino - Robbie's mother.
  • Star vs the Forces of Evil: Moon Butterfly – Star's mother. Angie Diaz - Marco's mother.
  • Big City Greens: Nancy Green - Cricket and Tilly's mother; Alice Green - Bill's mother.
  • Coco: Mamá Imelda, Miguel's late great-great-grandmother, Héctor's wife, Coco's mother, and the matriarch of the family; Abuelita, Coco's daughter; Elena (Miguel's grandmother); Mamá Coco, Miguel's great-grandmother and the daughter of Héctor and Imelda; and Mamá, Miguel's mother.
  • Moana: Sina, Moana's mother, and Tala, Tui's mother and Moana's paternal grandmother.
  • Amphibia: Anne Boonchuy's mother.
  • Onward: Laurel Lightfoot - Mother to Ian and Barley Lightfoot.
  • The Owl House: Camila Noceda, mother of Luz Noceda.
  • The Ghost and Molly McGee: Sharon McGee, mother of Molly McGee.
  • Freaky Friday franchise: Ellen Andrews, mother of Annabel Andrews; Tess Coleman, mother of Anna Coleman; Katherine Blake, mother of Ellie Blake.

Adoptive mothers and legal guardians[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^Henry A. Giroux, Fugitive Cultures: Race, Violence, and Youth (Routledge Taylor & Francis Group, 1996).
  2. ^Lynn H. Collins, Joan C. Chrisler, and Michelle R. Dunlap, Charting a New Course for Feminist Psychology (Greenwood Publishing Group, 2002), 94.
  3. ^Stephen M. Fjellman, Vinyl Leaves: Walt Disney World and America (Westview Press, 1992), 263.
  4. ^Snopes.com, Disney Movie Mothers – Walt Disney – My Mother The Scar.
  5. ^Ask Amy
  6. ^Geoff Shearer, "Disney keeps killing movie mothers: DISNEY is continuing its tradition of being G-rated entertainment's biggest mother flickers," Courier Mail (March 07, 2008).
  7. ^Paul Loukides and Linda K. Fuller, Beyond the Stars: Themes and Ideologies in American Popular Film (Popular Press, 1993), 8.
  8. ^ abcdSara Munson Deats and Lagretta Tallent Lenker, Aging and Identity: A Humanities Perspective (Greenwood Publishing Group), 210.
  9. ^Stock, Lorraine K. (2015-01-01). "Reinventing an Iconic Arthurian Moment: The Sword in the Stone in Films and Television". Arthuriana. 25 (4): 66–83. doi:10.1353/art.2015.0047. ISSN 1934-1539.
Sours: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roles_of_mothers_in_Disney_media

Parents dead movies disney with

Disney's Dead Parent Problem, Explained

Disney has overused the trope of dead parents in its animated and live-action movies, but it's one used for good reason.

It's tragic but thankfully rare for a young child to lose a parent. Only about five percent of kids will suffer the death of a guardian before reaching adulthood. But if aliens were to study our society based solely on Disney properties, they'd deduce that society stood at best a 50/50 chance of surviving once we procreated. That's because, from 1937's Snow White and the Seven Dwarves to 2020's Onward, more than half of Disney/Pixar feature films use the death or disappearance of the protagonist's mom or dad as a major plot point. Parents aren't spared in the studio's live-action movies, either, especially now that those include Marvel, Star Wars and what used to be Fox Searchlight titles. But why is Disney obsessed with death?

Walt Disney's own parents lived to see old age, but still, his mother's death is said to have affected him for the rest of his life. That trauma may have worked its way into his art. In the wake of the massive success of Snow White, Disney bought his parents a new house, but shortly thereafter, his mother died from a gas leak. Though her death was accidental, he blamed himself -- a theme that recurs throughout the Disney canon. However, many movies that tackle that theme, like The Lion King and Frozen, weren't made until decades after Walt Disney's passing in 1966. In fact, the animation auteur was only alive long enough to shepherd 18 of Disney-branded feature films to the screen.

RELATED: After Onward's Tale of Death & Loss, Will Pixar's Soul Be More of the Same?

The immense pain that five percent of children experience surely stays with them forever, and maybe Disney should be commended for helping them navigate their grief. However, a quick flip through the Disney+ catalog reveals that, with few exceptions Lilo & Stitch, the movies are rarely about the mourning process. The vast majority of orphaned characters, especially the trademarked princesses, seem mildly bummed out to utterly nonplussed about their situation. Most of the Disney princesses have lost their parents, but it's not an event that shape their character. That makes one wonder what the point of killing parents is if not to give emotionally traumatized kids something to identify with.

To find the answer, one has to go back, not just to the start of the pantheon of Disney stories, but to the fairytales and fables upon which many of them are based. Dead and missing parents are actually an essential component of children's literature. Classics, old and new, like The Secret Garden, Tom Sawyer, Anne of Green Gables and The BFG, plus things like Harry Potter and The Hunger Games all have them, and that short but notable list doesn't even scratch the surface. It might seem like Charles Dickens and J.K. Rowling are as fresh out of original ideas as is the Walt Disney Company, but there are reasons why authors depend so heavily on what is really more of a literary device than subject matter.

RELATED: Disney Reportedly Wants Joaquin Phoenix For Its New Captain Hook

As has been established, most kids have parents, and happily, most of those parents are effectively responsible in the grand scheme of things. But stories are all about conflict and problem-solving, and if our young protagonists had parents, their problems would be solved entirely too quickly and easily. Thus, to make a hero out of a child, the author must separate that child from the adults that would otherwise be watching over them, preventing them from getting caught up in trouble in the first place. Even a halfway decent mother would've stopped the events of most Disney movies from proceeding beyond the second scene. With parents, Mowgli and Tarzan grow up to be regular men in society, and Arthur always knows he'll be king.

Untimely death isn't the only way to rid a juvenile main character of their parental figure, though, and one could argue that some of the best of both classic literature and children's movies find creative ways to avoid resorting to it. Roald Dahl's Matilda and Pixar's Inside Out are perfect examples.

RELATED: Disney's Live-Action Peter Pan Casts Title Character, Wendy

But dead parents aren't just a literary device in disguise. They're also a too-convenient way to raise the stakes and elicit emotional reactions from audiences. What's sadder than a kid who's lost the person who loves them the most in the whole world? What's scarier than a vulnerable child left alone to fend for themselves in that world, complicated and cruel as it can be? It's easy to imagine that near a century of exposure to Disney movies has left several generations subconsciously afraid that their dear mothers and fathers might be plucked away from them at any moment.

Surprisingly, psychology contends that kids actually like living vicariously through these tales of tragedy and danger. Kids whose parents fix their problems for them don't feel very powerful. They probably aren't allowed to go on unsupervised adventures, either, or spar against sociopathic villains. Orphaned fictional characters are necessarily independent, and often imbued with much more power and purpose than your average tween. That's exciting for younger readers and moviegoers, who long just to make basic decisions for themselves.

RELATED: Mulan: Despite Coronavirus, Disney's Live-Action Film Eyes Solid Opening

Except, without the fun of the adventure and the big personalities of the pint-sized heroes, death-as-a-plot-device can feel overdone, and can get in the way of what the story is supposed to be about. With Onward, Disney may have played the dead parent card one too many times. The movie is well-meaning in its depiction of brothers growing up without a father, but its premise seems like it wants to explore themes of acceptance and of not depending too much on technology, and for that, Onward didn't need to involve a disembodied pair of legs. Much more egregious examples are Disney's recent live-action releases The Nutcracker and the Four Realms, Dumbo, and Mary Poppins Returns. Here, writers created dead mothers out of thin air, where there were none in the source material. When the death of a parent is used as a manipulative shortcut to manufacture tears, kids know it.

Artemis Fowl will hit theaters soon, and it appears from the trailer that Disney may have killed off yet another mother for no good reason. The studio, with its practical monopoly on pop culture meant for kids' consumption, is certainly capable of telling riveting stories that have to do with death. The heartbreaking losses of Ellie in Up and of Bing Bong in Inside Out welled up more genuine tears than many adults have cried at actual funerals. When it comes to using the writer's tool that is dead parents, most of the time Disney gets it right by either barely acknowledging it (Cinderella) or making the most of it in every frame (Coco). Let's just hope that, from now on, Disney only takes aim at the endangered species that is loving parents when it has to.

KEEP READING: Artemis Fowl: What Happened to His Mother?


Jurassic Park's Biggest Errors Come From the Book

About The Author
Rita Dorsch (278 Articles Published)

Rita is a film and TV writer for CBR, and freelance writer and author. She teaches writing and theatre for Penn State and Kent State Universities. She studied writing and theatre at Carnegie Mellon University and the University of St. Andrews in Scotland. She lives and works out of the Greater Pittsburgh area.

More From Rita Dorsch
Sours: https://www.cbr.com/disneys-dead-parent-problem-explained/
Top 10 Strangest Disney Theories

Why are so many Disney parents missing or dead?

Why are so many Disney parents missing or dead?. Image 1.

How many Disney films have a primary character with a dead, missing or single parent?

56out of104

total animated feature films
distributed by Disney since 1937

of those:

35out of 54

produced by
Walt Disney

0 out of 6

produced by
Studio Ghibli

5 out of 15

by Pixar

Many Disney movies share a curious detail. Where are the protagonists' biological mothers? Little wooden puppet Pinocchio is carved and cared for by his "father" Geppetto. Peter Pan is forever a motherless lost-boy. The mothers of Belle (Beauty and the Beast), Jasmine (Aladdin) and Pocahontas from the eponymous film are all either absent or deceased.

Delve further into the Walt Disney Studios' extensive archive of feature-length animated classics and similar trends emerge. If maternal figures aren't absent from the start of the story, many are killed, captured, or replaced by a "wicked stepmother" along the way. Even Disney's most high-profile acquisition ever, the Star Wars franchise, follows the pattern: a dead mom and absentee dad, with the Skywalker children being raised by relatives.

Is there a darker undertone to these tales—to the bastion of unadulterated childhood innocence promulgated by the Disney brand? We spoke with animation historians, fairy tale experts, activists and mythographers to explore the trope.

Absent parents

Why are so many Disney parents missing or dead?. Image 2.


Being a puppet, Pinocchio has no real mother or father. The Blue Fairy acts as his mother and Geppetto, as his father.

Why are so many Disney parents missing or dead?. Image 3.

Peter Pan

The Lost Boys have no parents. They appoint Wendy as their mother.

Why are so many Disney parents missing or dead?. Image 4.

The Sword in
the Stone

Arthur, or "Wart", is an orphan.

Why are so many Disney parents missing or dead?. Image 5.

The Rescuers

Penny has no parents but gets adopted by the end.

Why are so many Disney parents missing or dead?. Image 6.

Oliver & Company

Penny Foxworth's parents are away on business for the entire film. 

Why are so many Disney parents missing or dead?. Image 7.

Beauty and
the Beast

Belle's mother is unnamed and unmentioned in the final script.

Why are so many Disney parents missing or dead?. Image 8.

The Emperor's New Groove

Emperor Kuzco's family is absent and believed to be deceased.

Why are so many Disney parents missing or dead?. Image 9.

Lilo & Stitch

Lilo and Nani's parents died in a car accident prior to the beginning of the movie.

Why are so many Disney parents missing or dead?. Image 10.

Pirates of the Caribbean

Elizabeth's mother is noted by her father's ghost but never seen. Jack and Will’s respective mothers are dead.

Why are so many Disney parents missing or dead?. Image 11.

Wreck-It Ralph

Vanellope von Schweetz is a glitch and has no parents. Ralph becomes a father figure.

Why are so many Disney parents missing or dead?. Image 12.

Guardians of
the Galaxy

Star-Lord’s father is missing and his mother dies in the opening sequence.

Why are so many Disney parents missing or dead?. Image 13.

Meet the Robinsons

Lewis, the protagonist, is an orphan, as well as the future father of a family he abandons but later returns to.

Disney's "motherless" plotline—recurrently used over the past 80 years—has been refuted by many experts as coincidental. But, in a 2014 interview, even Lion King producer Don Hahn attributed its use to Walt Disney's own childhood trauma. According to Hahn, Disney deliberately wrote out, killed off, or replaced maternal figures as a consequence of the guilt he carried about his own mother's death. Hot off the heels of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs’ success in 1937, Walt and his brother Roy had presented their parents Flora and Elias with their own home in North Hollywood, near the Disney studios in Burbank, California. It was in this house, one year later, that Flora lost her life.

A historically Grimm tradition

Before Flora Disney's death in 1938, Snow Whiteand the Seven Dwarfs had been completed and released, and Bambi and Pinocchio were already in production.

"Part of Disney's reliance on single parents is simply owing to the presence of single parents in the source material, as with Pinocchio," animation historian Michael Barrier tells Hopes&Fears. "Was Geppetto a widower or a lifelong bachelor? I don't think either Collodi or Disney gives us a clue." These stories, inherited from traditional fairy tales and recycled over thousands of years, reflected the customs, norms and values of their orators.

"Historically speaking, people did not live very long from the medieval period through the early 20th century", Jack Zipes, author of Happily Ever After: Fairy Tales, Children, and the Culture Industry tells Hopes&Fears. "Women died frequently from childbirth. Therefore, there were many single parents, although men tended to marry quickly after their wives died as in Snow White and Cinderella."

"[Walt Disney] had the studio guys come over and fix the furnace, but when his mom and dad moved in, the furnace leaked and his mother died. The housekeeper came in the next morning and pulled his mother and father out on the front lawn. His father was sick and went to the hospital, but his mother died. He never would talk about it, nobody ever does. He never spoke about that time because he personally felt responsible."

Don Hahn, Glamour

Mothers killed and/or captured in film

Why are so many Disney parents missing or dead?. Image 14.


Mrs. Jumbo is locked up for the majority of the movie but is not killed.

Why are so many Disney parents missing or dead?. Image 15.


Bambi's mother killed by a gunshot. Bambi’s father reveals himself after her death.

Why are so many Disney parents missing or dead?. Image 16.

The Jungle

Mowgli's mother Raksha is killed by Shere Khan.

Why are so many Disney parents missing or dead?. Image 17.

The Fox and the Hound

Todd's mother killed by a gunshot

Why are so many Disney parents missing or dead?. Image 18.

The Little Mermaid: Ariel’s Beginning

Ariel and her sister's mother, Queen Athena, is killed by pirates. Her father is subsequently a widower.

Why are so many Disney parents missing or dead?. Image 19.

The Hunchback of Notre Dame

Quasimodo's mother is killed by Frollo. His father's whereabouts is unexplained.

Why are so many Disney parents missing or dead?. Image 20.


Both of Tarzan's human parents are killed by Sabor.

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Atlantis: The Lost Empire

Princess Kida's mother is killed while trying to save Atlantis from its first fate.

Why are so many Disney parents missing or dead?. Image 22.

Finding Nemo

Nemo's mother Coral (along with all of Nemo's siblings) is killed by a barracuda.

Why are so many Disney parents missing or dead?. Image 23.

Brother Bear

Koda's mother is killed by Kenai.

Why are so many Disney parents missing or dead?. Image 24.


Elsa and Anna's parents are killed in a shipwreck. Kristoff is revealed to be an orphan.

Katie Orenstein, author of Little Red Riding Hood Uncloaked: Sex, Morality and the Evolution of a Fairy Tale, agrees. "Stepmothers were quite common, and warfare over the inheritance was a serious matter," she tells us. "In the 19th century in Europe, a peasant woman might bear around seven children, and bury as many as she raised, if she made it through all of those labors alive herself."

It's also plausible that fairy tales deliberately featured protagonists whose parents were dead, absent or inattentive in order to teach their listeners a moral lesson that helps guide them into adulthood. Most fairy tales adapted by Disney feature an eminently reusable and formulaic plot in which a youthful protagonist is forced to venture into the world alone. Without parental guidance and protection, the character learns the lessons necessary to overcome obstacles, and eventually succeeds in the face of adversity. This coming-of-age setup is a parable: It's possible to survive and flourish in the "real world" without parental intervention!

In the 1923 fairytale of Bambi in the Woods written by Felix Salten and adapted by Disney in 1942, for example, Bambi is forced, following the death of his mother, to acquire the survival skills necessary to thrive in the forest—steps which the character would not have to take if he was still under maternal protection.

Adoptive mothers and evil stepmothers

Why are so many Disney parents missing or dead?. Image 25.

One Hundred and One Dalmatians

Perdita is stepmother to the other 84 puppies.

Why are so many Disney parents missing or dead?. Image 26.


Kala is a gorilla that raised Tarzan from an early age.

Why are so many Disney parents missing or dead?. Image 27.

The Jungle
Book 2

Messua is Mowgli's adoptive mother.

Why are so many Disney parents missing or dead?. Image 28.

Bambi II

Mena is Bambi's adoptive mother.

Why are so many Disney parents missing or dead?. Image 29.


Guardian Gothel kidnapped Rapunzel from her biological parents when Rapunzel was an infant.

Why are so many Disney parents missing or dead?. Image 30.

Snow White
and the Seven Dwarfs

Queen Grimhilde is Snow White's stepmother.

Why are so many Disney parents missing or dead?. Image 31.


Lady Tremaine is Cinderella's stepmother

Why are so many Disney parents missing or dead?. Image 32.


Queen Narissa is the evil stepmother of Prince Edward.

Problematic formulas, empowered princesses

Because losing a parent is inherently dramatic and terrifying, an absent parent structure "plays on the primal fears that children have about their primal relationships," writer, activist and filmmaker Jennifer Baumgardner tells Hopes&Fears. "My issue, as a feminist, to how this primal fear is portrayed in Disney films such as Bambi is that losing a mother is shown as sad, but also as the reason that the protagonist can grow up, as if the mother was a barrier to strength and growth."

Art historian, activist, and writer Amy Richards agrees. "I think that presenting women as expendable after they have fulfilled their procreative and sexual purposes is not unlike how some women are treated in real life," she says. In her eyes, this is far from trivial and has serious real world correlations, citing the Boko Haram's kidnapping, rape, impregnation and subsequent return of young girls. "That's obviously an extreme comparison—but there are certainly more common examples of women being 'used' sexually and then discarded and, likewise, of women being exclusively presented as either sexual prey or maternal fraus."

When the voice of the storyteller shifts to literary in the 19th century, it assumes a paternal role. By the end of the century, the literary fairy tales, as Zipes notes in Happily Ever After, were primarily authored by men (Hans Christian Anderson, The Brothers Grimm, Wilhelm Hauff, William Makepeace Thackeray, Ludwig Bechstein, Carl Ewald, George MacDonald, Lewis Carroll) as well as collected by them. Walt Disney had a chance to write in purposeful maternal figures when he adapted fairy tales for the screen, but he chose not to.

In conversation with Zipes, we asked if the single-parent structure adopted in numerous Disney films draw any parallels with their creator’s own life.

"He was a 'happily' married patriarchal sexist," Zipes tells us. "His first three films were personally supervised by him up through the early 1950s. Then there was a pause through his death, and Beauty and the Beast was the Disney corporation's new endeavor to corner the fairy-tale market. It was also a time of growing divorce rates, and single mothers and fathers up through today. So, if there is a social and political parallel, it has to do with the way Americans now marry or do not marry."

"They glorifieda particularly American perspective on individualism and male prowess. In traditional fairy tales that Disney adapted for the screen, there were very few major plot changes because Disney and his co-workers generally subscribed to the ideological content of the action. In this respect, Disney depicted clear-cut gender roles that associated women with domesticity and men with action and power."

Jack Zipes, Happily Ever After

Single mothers and fathers

Why are so many Disney parents missing or dead?. Image 33.

The Rescuers Down Under

Cody's mother is widowed, his father is never seen. Marahute's chicks lose their father to McLeach.

Why are so many Disney parents missing or dead?. Image 34.


Mrs. Jumbo is a single-parent. It is unclear where Mr. Jumbo is.

Why are so many Disney parents missing or dead?. Image 35.

The Lion King

Sarabi, the mother of Simba, is a widow. Sarafina, the mother of Nala, appears to be a single mother because the father is unseen

Why are so many Disney parents missing or dead?. Image 36.

The Lion King II: Simba's Pride

Zira, the mother of Nuka, Vitani and Kovu, is perceived to be a single mother. The father of her children is unknown.

Why are so many Disney parents missing or dead?. Image 37.

Beauty and the Beast

Mrs. Potts is a single mother. She is a tea pot.

Why are so many Disney parents missing or dead?. Image 38.

The Princess and the Frog

Eudora is Tiana's mother. Her father, James, died in World War I.

Why are so many Disney parents missing or dead?. Image 39.

Toy Story trilogy

Only Andy's mother is present; there's no father (possibly, they are going through a divorce).

Why are so many Disney parents missing or dead?. Image 40.

Treasure Planet

Sarah Hawkins, is a single mother to Jim. Jim's father, Leland, left the family early for unknown reasons.

Why are so many Disney parents missing or dead?. Image 41.


Django is Remy's father. His mother is never mentioned. Both of Linguini's parents are deceased.

Why are so many Disney parents missing or dead?. Image 42.


Aladdin finds his father in the sequel. He mentions he lost his mother early in life. Jasmine has a single father. Her mother's whereabouts are unknown.

Why are so many Disney parents missing or dead?. Image 43.

The Great Mouse Detective

Hiram Flaversham is the father of Olivia Flaversham. Her mother's whereabouts remain unexplained.

Why are so many Disney parents missing or dead?. Image 44.


Hank Pym is a widower. His wife died, leaving him the sole parent of Hope Van Dyne.

Why are so many Disney parents missing or dead?. Image 45.

Beauty and the Beast

Maurice, father to Belle, is single. Her mother's whereabouts are never explained.

Why are so many Disney parents missing or dead?. Image 46.


Chief Powhatan is Pocahontas' widower father. His wife died many years ago.

Why are so many Disney parents missing or dead?. Image 47.

Tron: Legacy

Kevin Flynn is the single father to Sam. Kevin's wife is deceased and Sam grew up believing his father to be dead.

A "complex" answer

"The best-loved, classic fairy tales teem with figures of female evil", writes novelist and mythographer Marina Warner in The Absent Mother: Or, Women Against Women in the "old Wives' Tale". "The good mother often dies at the beginning of the story, and the tales telling of her miraculous return to life, like Shakespeare's romances Pericles and The Winter's Tale, have not gained the currency or popularity of Cinderella or Snow White in which she is supplanted by a monster."

According to psychoanalyst Bruno Bettelheim, there's a particular reason for this. In The Uses of Enchantment: The Meaning and Importance of Fairy Tales, Bettelheim asserts that the (deceased) mother and the (wicked) stepmother act as two halves of the same figure in our emotionally divided and complicated human relationships, representative of the opposite feelings of love and rejection.

"The typical fairy-tale splitting of the mother into a good (usually dead) mother and an evil stepmother serves the child well. It is not only a means of preserving an internal all-good mother when the real mother is not all-good, but it also permits anger at this bad ‘stepmother’ without endangering the goodwill of the true mother, who is viewed as a different person... The fairy tale suggests how the child may manage the contradictory feelings which would otherwise overwhelm him at this stage of his barely beginning ability to integrate contradictory emotions. The fantasy of the wicked stepmother not only preserves the good mother intact, it also presents having to feel guilty about one’s angry thoughts and wishes about her - a guilt which would seriously interfere with the good relation to Mother."

Bruno Bettelheim, The Uses of Enchantment: The Meaning and Importance of Fairy Tales

Barrier was also keen to remind us that not all Disney movies feature a single parent: "Don't forget all the intact families in other Disney animated features—Bambi has a father as well as a mother" (though she dies during the film and the deer father figure often treats him coldly), "the Dalmatians are a couple with children" (84 of the 99 puppies in 101 Dalmations are adopted by Perdita after she finds they have no one to protect them from slaughter), "as are Lady and the Tramp, and so on. I'm not sure that there really are enough single parents in the Disney cartoons to permit a generalization about them." Most of his examples, as many non-fictional families, are hardly "intact."

Barrier also suggests that Disney utilized a parentless formula for practical storytelling reasons: "It was probably just a matter of convenience. In Dumbo, for instance, there was presumably a Mr. Jumbo Sr., but the story proceeds much more smoothly without him around." Hahn, the same producer who mythologized Disney's traumatic personal motivations, also considered those plots to be "practical" devices. As he toldGlamour, "The movies are 80 or 90 minutes long, and Disney films are about growing up. They're about that day in your life when you have to accept responsibility. Simba ran away from home but had to come back. In shorthand, it's much quicker to have characters grow up when you bump off their parents. Bambi's mother gets killed, so he has to grow up. Belle only has a father, but he gets lost, so she has to step into that position. It's a story shorthand."

Shorthand or not, add the not-so-intact families to the absent and deceased mothers, wicked stepmothers and there lies a gendered pattern. This pattern has carried throughout history, manipulative storytelling and resonated from Disney's own life. It's too present to to ignore.

Sours: http://www.hopesandfears.com/hopes/culture/film/216573-disney-single-parents-dead-mothers

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