Snow White, Cinderella, Pocahontas, Ariel, Jasmine, Anna, Elisa, Belle... the list goes on and on. All of Disney’s leading ladies are beautiful, bold and have the voices of angels, yet there’s something else they all share.
It's something you wouldn’t wish upon yourself nor dream up in your happily ever-after scenarios. It's something that’s been a critique of movie goers and protective parents for decades: They're all motherless.
If you’re going for easy tears, you’ve done it, Walt. You’ve made us cry in almost every movie, while simultaneously forcing us to envision a life without the stability of two parents.
You’ve taken mothers away mid-birth, mid-movie and through tear-stained eyes. But why? Why must all our heroines and heroes be motherless? Why must Disney be so dark?
We’ve contested countless controversies throughout the Disney franchise, but have yet to unmask the case of the dead mothers.
Fortunately, Jessica Randolff of Glamour sat down with Don Hahn, producer of “Beauty and The Beast,” “The Lion King” and many other Disney films, to find out the truth behind this dark pattern.
Hahn finally opened up about the motherly presence that’s habitually missing from most of the Disney classics, along with the newer films. The first reason he gives is practical, yet not the one we're looking for.
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.
But that’s not the reason. The reason is much more dark, giving testament that you don’t just take your work home with you, but that you take your home life back to work.
In a story as sad as the Disney films themselves, Walt Disney became motherless in his own doomed plight of misfortune. After achieving success by the late 1940s, Disney decided to buy his parents a house.
Before moving in, Disney hired a studio guy to come in and fix the furnace. Following the "fix," Disney's parents moved into the home, only to be living with a leaky furnace that would eventually prove fatal.
The first night in their new home -- a home Disney had purchased for them -- his mother died, leaving his father in critical condition. Like all his heroes and heroines would later be, Disney was among the motherless.
While Walt never went on to talk about the incident, his movies reflected the pain and unconscious torment that would go on and live throughout most of his movies.
The man known for bringing song and magic into millions of children’s lives was living with his own misery, and that misery would live on in all those Disney princes and princesses we’ve come to know and cry for.
So next time you watch your favorite Disney movie, don't just cry for your favorite characters, but for the man who was living through them.
Photo Courtesy: Walt Disney Pictures/Aladdin