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, loosing 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’s 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/Are Presumed Dead
Cinderella: Cinderella lost her mother when she was a child and her father died only a few years later. Cinderella 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.
Tarzan: His parents were both killed by Sabor, a leopard. Tarzan was then adopted by Kala, a female gorilla.
Lilo and Stitch: Nani and her little sister Lilo lost their parents in a car accident before the beginning of the film.
Frozen: Elsa and Anna’s parents died in a shipwreck and Elsa became Queen of Arandelle.
Atlantis: The Lost Empire: Kida’s mother was consumed by the crystal protecting the city. Kida’s father, the King of Atlantis was killed by Rourke.
The Sword in the Stone: Arthur was left an orphan after his parents, King Uther Pendragon and Lady Igraine both died.
Ratatouille: Linguini lost both his parents, Renata Linguini and Gusteau.
Bambi: Everyone remembers the scene where Bambi’s mum is killed by hunters. It was very traumatizing.
The Hunchback of Notre Dame: Quasimodo’s mother was killed by Judge Frollo on the doorsteps of Notre Dame, while trying to protect her baby.
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.
Aladdin: 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.
Pocahontas: Chief Powhatan raised his daughter on his own as her mom died many years ago.
The Lion King: 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.
Mulan: 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!