Or, that was the longest blog title I’ve ever used. I’m not sure what I’m doing here, and I am no statistician, but let’s just for a second look at something:
- Snow White: No mother, evil stepmother
- Pinocchio: No mother
- Fantasia: Disney on crack, so no story anyway
- Dumbo: Finally a mother, but she is put in chains and locked away
- Bambi: Mother is shot in first scenes
- Cinderella: No mother
- Alice in Wonderland: No mother, evil queen
- Peter Pan: Another mother! But the story takes place in a land where there are only boys.
- Lady and the Tramp: Lady becomes a mother at the end.
- Sleeping Beauty: Sent off to live with three fairies in the woods.
- 101 Dalmations: Another dog who is a mother.
- Jungle Book: No mother
- Aristocats: never seen it.
- Robin Hood: Non issue.
- The Little Mermaid: No mother
- Beauty and the Beast: No mother
- Alladin: No mother
- The Lion King: Has a mother, father dies.
- Pocahontas: No Mother
- Hunchback of Notre Dame: No mother
- Hercules: Mother is a god.
- Mulan: No mother does in face have a mother, I have been told.
- Tarzan: No mother
- Fantasia 2000: Crack-tastic revisited.
- Lilo and Stitch: No mother
So, out of twenty-five (and this list is not exhaustive) feature-length Disney films, sixteen of them have a protagonist set up with no mother figure whatsoever. Of the remaining nine, two were abstract paintings, four were about anthropomorphic animals where parenthood came at the close of the movie, or was a non-issue, and the remaining three actually had a mother, even if she sent her kids away. Mrs. Jumbo (Dumbo) and Sarabi (Lion King) were the only two functioning mothers, with Mrs Darling (Peter Pan) being only ancillary to the story, while the kids flew off to a land where only boys live.
Next, let’s look at Pixar/Disney:
- Toy Story: Andy has a mother!
- Bugs Life: The queen is good.
- Toy Story 2: Andy still has a mother.
- Monster’s Inc: WHERE was Boo’s mother??
- Finding Nemo: Mother is eaten in first scene.
- The Incredibles: AWESOME mom.
- Cars: Do cars have mothers? Nah.
- Ratatouille: No mother.
- WALL-E: non issue.
- UP: Wife dies.
- Toy Story 3: Yay for Andy’s mom still being around!
So right off the bat, it’s clear Pixar is doing better than old-school Disney in at least keeping the moms alive. But what does that break down to? In the eleven current Pixar films, a mother is relevant in four of the movies. Three are Andy’s mom (Toy Story). Hmmm. Mrs Incredible is the first honest-to-goodness mom superhero. In two films, motherhood is irrelevant, as there is no humanlike protagonist or even anthropomorphized animal. In the remaining four films, once again poor mom is killed off (Nemo), dies sadly (UP), doesn’t exist (Ratatouille), or never bothers to look for her missing child (Monster’s Inc).
So what? I dunno. Maybe nothing. I love a great many of these movies, and they get shown often in my home. I enjoy them. I am especially fond of the Pixar movies, and their wonderful, evocative stories. But I can’t help wondering what’s the deal? Is the loss of the mother so often what send the protagonist on the Hero’s Journey? Maybe sometimes. Why are the original Disney movies so rich in female heroines, while the Pixar movies, better in so many ways, are almost entirely lacking?
I guess this is what happens when you take an Ethics class and start sitting around thinking all day.