Disney princesses have something in common besides their happy endings and fairy tale weddings — most of them are motherless.
Frozen sisters Anna and Elsa lost both of their parents, as did Snow White and Cinderella. Ariel, Jasmine, and Belle were all raised by their fathers. Non-princess character Bambi also lost his mother in one of the most heart-wrenching animated movie moments of all time. So why do so many Disney princesses and other Disney characters grow up without mothers?
During a recent interview with Glamour, Maleficent producer Don Hahn has an interesting explanation for why mothers are so scarce in animated Disney movies. It has something to do with a tragic event that changed Walt Disney’s life forever.
“Walt Disney, in the early 1940s, when he was still living at this house, also bought a house for his mom and dad to move into. He 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.”
According to Hahn, Disney felt partly responsible for the death of his mother — if he hadn’t bought his parents that house, his mother wouldn’t have died so soon. He also blamed himself because he sent the studio men who failed to properly repair the broken furnace.
“It’s every kid’s dream to buy their parents a house and just through a strange freak of nature—through no fault of his own—the studio workers didn’t know what they were doing. There’s a theory, and I’m not a psychologist, but he was really haunted by that. That idea that he really contributed to his mom’s death was really tragic.”
It would make sense for this tragedy to have a profound effect on Walt Disney’s future projects, but Hahn’s theory doesn’t actually explain why many of the Disney princesses became motherless. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs was released before Walt Disney’s mother died in 1938, and The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, and Frozen were released long after Walt Disney’s death. The only movies with missing moms that his mother’s death would have had an effect on were Bambi and Cinderella. Sleeping Beauty was released while Walt was alive, but Princess Aurora is one of the few Disney princesses who gets to keep both of her parents.
Hahn offered a second explanation for the large number of motherless Disney princesses that makes a little more sense.
“One reason is practical because 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.”
As Hahn pointed out by using The Lion King as example, some Disney characters also lose their fathers but keep their mothers. Princess Tiana from The Princess and the Frog is another example of a character whose father is killed off.
While Walt Disney’s family tragedy might not be the reason so many Disney princesses lose a parent or two, it’s interesting that the deceased parent trope has survived in Disney movies for so long. As The Inquisitr previously reported, the orphaned sisters from Disney’s Frozen have become so popular that they’re going to appear in live-action form on ABC’s Once Upon a Time. According to People, the newest Disney princesses are also getting their own ride at Walt Disney World Resort.
Because of the mega success of Frozen and the continued love for the other motherless Disney Princesses, expect to see the House of Mouse murdering moms for many years to come.
[Image credit: Disney]