Today marks Mother’s Day/Mothering Sunday here in the UK.
If there is one thing to be noticed about Disney films it is the general absence of a parent or two, and most of the time, it is the mother. A few years ago in an interview with Glamour magazine, producer Don Hahn gave us two suggestions as to why this is the case:
1# Many of Disney’s films are about growing up, gaining independence and that is often easier without parents, especially when a film often has to be made with a specific time restraint in mind.
2# Walt Disney’s personal and familial history regarding the carbon monoxide poisoning that killed his mother. As he had recently bought the house she died in, he felt personally responsible and it plagued him for a long while.
The interview spurred on the publication of other articles such as:
The dates might be different but the subject is the same – people questioning the reason behind this trend, and believing what Don Hahn says to be true.
What doesn’t seem to be mentioned is that this trend is widespread throughout film and literature – it is nothing we haven’t seen before. A lot of Disney films are based on fairy tales, stories that traditionally have no mothers or the step-mothers are villainous: Snow White, Cinderella, and all those that culminated in the production of Enchanted.
Also it is important to remember that around the middle ages and the eras when these stories were set, it was very rare for a lot of people to live past the age of 45. Many mothers would have died in childbirth or even soon after, so it is not surprising that a lot of the fairy tales and Disney’s own stories follow that pattern.
Whenever there is a missing mother, I am always under the assumption that they died prior to the events of the story, but at the end of the day it is not something that I pay particular attention to, despite me writing this post. Yeah it is great and I love it when there is a full family unit in a story but unless it is particularly important, should it matter so much? Most of the time now, Disney films focus on the independence and growth of a child/teenager and that is often easier when there has been a loss of a parent, or the main character goes off to search for their own destiny i.e. Moana.
If it is a general topic that anyone wants to focus on, then it is interesting in regards to film, tv and literature as a whole but it can’t solely be contained to Disney for it is a popular trend. Off the top of my head I can think of:
Harry Potter by JK Rowling
Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens
Throne of Glass by Sarah J Maas
Shadowhunter Chronicles by Cassandra Clare
The Chronicles of Narnia by CS Lewis
His Dark Materials Trilogy by Philip Pullman
And there will be more.
What I have recognised whilst writing this is that the subject’s relation to Walt Disney’s own personal tragedy is merely a myth. There is not enough evidence to draw a specific connection between that and all the films. If there is, I can’t find it and everything I do find is linking the trend back to the original fairy tales and the harsh historical reality that motherhood and childhood left many families bereft at early ages.
Maybe you have other ideas. If you do, share them in the comments below!
What are your opinions?
Thank you for reading and have a brazzle dazzle day!