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Guess how long this happy unit lasts

So, a few days ago I’m watching James and the Giant Peach, I’m into the first ten minutes, awaiting a thrill ride of childish adventure and whimsical stop motion. James and his loving parents sit on an idyllic beach soaking in rays of sunshine planning the rest of their happy future together, and then literally out of the blue, James’  parents are gobbled up by a rhino (of all things). Now gobbled up is a pretty nice way of saying “James parents were torn limb from limb by a big pissed of flying rhino”, and yes it flies, and towards the end of the movie it shoots lightning out of its horn, but that’s beside the point (pun unintended).  I began to think back over Disney’s back catalog and saw a disturbing trend with the parents of its movies. If the parental figures weren’t being eaten, trampled to death or shot by a twatish hunter they were probably being portrayed in a negative light. Let’s examine closer.

Let’s start off with the just plain neglective parents of the Disney universe. Ones that couldn’t give a flying fuck about their children in peril, and often they were so indifferent to the whole situation they weren’t even in the movie. In Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, Snow White’s dad was nowhere to be seen, while his wife (evil step mother) was out making poisonous apples and demanding the heart of Snow White, when you write the lot of it down it sounds like a Tarantino movie. In Peter Pan Wendy’s dad attempts to kick her out because she is of age, so she runs off with the archetypal bad boy, joins a gang called the lost boys and dies in a fatal drag race against a rival gang, some of this is true. This neglective parent syndrome didn’t end with the older films, it is right here in the 21st century. The brilliant Up had a prime example of “letting your son run off with an old lonely man in a flying house”, its something I suppose all parents must face, but the fact the kids dad doesn’t even turn up on screen at all, not once through the entire film just makes us question his skills as a father figure.

Moving swiftly on to the good parents, who get killed by Disney’s evil writers.  Bambi is up first, we have all had a childhood experience with this little fella, bedtimes were never the same once mommy and daddy couldn’t explain why Bambi’s mom didn’t get home that day. What your parents didn’t tell you is that Bambi’s mom was shot, skinned, cooked and eventually devoured by some bloke, scary thing is, Disney knew this, and he alluded to it, blame Disney for the money spent on all those therapy sessions. Up next is the Lion king, the coolest most protective dad out there, Mufasa. This poor guy is flung down into a herd of wilder beast and swiftly trampled the shit out of, oh and he was thrown by his brother no less, Hakuna Matata indeed. Starting to get the picture about Disney’s special treatment for parents and I mean special treatment in the context the Nazi’s would have used it for the Jews.

*Spoiler* Bambi has to move in with detached dad

A few more Disney classics that feature bad/dead parents include Sword in the Stone, Honey I shrunk the kids (where they made a film completely based around shit parents), Honey I blew up the Kids (Yes they fucked up twice) and Wall E (don’t tell me you didn’t get the whole metaphor for the abandoning of a creation by its Creator). Another fifteen years of this anti parent propaganda and the children of the Disney revolution, us. will have us herding our parents into a dark and sinister looking Disney world never to be seen again, dark smoke rising from its tall towers, Mickey Mouse acting as the commandant of the slaughter house, Donald Duck leading Mom and Dad into the ovens, Some of this may not happen…

The Rebellion Begins

Lee Smith

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153 thoughts on “Why Does Disney hate parents?

  1. In all fairness the father in “Up” was basically shown to be a deadbeat dad who never followed through on his promises to his son, rather than just neglecting his son in that one instance. As for the lack of concern on the part of the parents—what kid would want to see a cartoon about parents running around trying to find their missing child? Balloons and birds named Kevin are much more fun.

  2. It’s not just Disney. Children’s literature is known for “killing off the parents.” That’s the way to get a good story that focuses on a child protagonist. Otherwise, the parents keep butting in . . . .

  3. You completely missed the point. A kid who is sheltered by the parents is not a kid that will have an amazing adventure. Breaking away from your parents is an important part of growing up, and an old form of story is the kid who is detached from their parents for some reason and has to grow up quickly.
    These are all coming of age stories, one of the oldest forms of the “personal growth” story that became so popular at the end of the 20th Century. Blame existentialism more than Walt.
    This was done for storytelling reasons – anything else seems boring. Now, it’s entirely true that the Disney people got a bit lazy and relied on this device far too much. It’s also true that lately they have been much more sensitive to the problem, starting around Mulan and working forward to the Princess and the Frog. So they have gotten much better.
    But this is all about the art of storytelling. A kid like Alladin, a street urchin, is far more interesting than Princess Jasmine, and that was the point of the whole story!

  4. I have recognized this trend too but in all fairness it is not just Disney. It is the whole of the main stream media aimed at children to teach them it is okay to hate and disrespect your parents.

  5. Haha I love this post! These are the types of blogs that make my (unmotivated because I’m already in weekend mode) Fridays pass by quickly 🙂 Hilarious. Thanks for sharing & congrats on being FP!

  6. This is so true! I remember playing a terribly ‘sad song’ on the piano when Mufasa died (I think it was just me hitting the low notes repeatedly with no tune whatsoever). That and Bambi dying put me off watching more Disney films for at least two years! Then I succumbed…. so weak!

  7. It’s so nice that everyone is aware that Disney doesn’t write it’s own original stories, however, Disney has popularized them and selected them out of many other available tales.

    I never noticed all of the anti-parentism until I started reading disney books to my own kids. Suddenly I was making up vacation destinations for the parents rather than reading about their horrible deaths!

  8. Remember though that while Disney makes these stories into animated feature for mass audiences, the stories themselves have existed for decades. Disney is not the original writer/author/creator. James and the Giant Peach is based on book by Ronald Dahl and movie is pretty true to the book including the parents being eaten. If you want to blame someone, point a finger at Grimms brothers and other authors.

  9. I think Disney has some formula for their films that for every “happy” there also has to be a “sad.” I guess this is how they create suspense, or balance good vs evil.
    It’s strange that they make the parents all the bad. A bit of a weird representation of life, especially given the audience of their films are probably mostly young minds.
    Congrats on the FP!
    Cheers,
    iRuniBreathe

  10. Argh! Am consulting Wikipedia and just go re-traumatised remembering poor Dumbo! Kids in Mary Poppins have such crap parents that they need the nanny and chimney sweep as surrogates! What about Swiss Family Robinson? I don’t remember well but was that one family intact??? Escape to and Return from Witch Mountain – uncle as lead ‘parent’? Wait, I’ve got one! The Incredibles! Nuclear family and mom rescues dad! And films like Muppets and Ratatouille don’t need parents as central to storyline. Relief! 🙂

  11. Our Mother would constantly point this out! She would complain that Disney movies only portrayed broken families. While my older self now understands their mission to give kids in those situations something to relate to while tugging on the rest of our heartstrings, I have to agree with her. Disney movies are never complete without a missing, dying or evil parent!

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  13. This is all so true… what about the hunter that was ready to stab Snow White to death. Amazingly we still let our children watch them and Now in 3D ….. Great post!

  14. If the parent’s aren’t absent, dead, or terrible, where’s the story? A lot of stories–not just Disney ones–involve kids who have to deal with not having loving, protective parents so they can grow and do what they need to do. Look at Harry Potter, for crying out loud.

  15. I never realised this before! I suppose it’s because the film is about the children and if the parents were there all the time the story wouldn’t be as fun or appealing to kids as the parents would be on the childs case all the time or wouldn’t let them fly away in a house or run away to live with dwarves. Though some are based on old fairy tales so that isn’t Disneys fault – although they did choose to turn them into films 🙂

  16. I have always felt animosity towards Disney for their killing of parents. I made a joke growing up that if a parent isn’t dead, it isn’t Disney. And if there is a parent present, he or she is usually the evil one.

    I understand that in the real world parents die. Or more realistically, they split up. But life does exist with two parents!

  17. I think we overlook one tiny detail about fiction writing, in that without conflict you have a boring story. Not one time when any of my four children engaged in pretend play, was there a fictional “parent” present, nor do I remember using them when I played pretend. Many of these stories are written to teach a moral.

    Also, consider what would be the one overwhelming “conflict” for a child and that would be the loss of your parents. As a horror writer, I write about fear. Horror fiction presents us with a way to deal with situations in life, granted situations which may never occur, allowing us to confront our fears in a safe way.

    Many of these stories are simply true to the historical period they were written in. Given the times many of these stories were penned, death was not so uncommon. It wasn’t necessarily “dark” material for these time periods. It was quite common to have parents die. Many mothers died in child birth. Child deaths were quite common too. Modern medical technology allows us to live longer, we don’t see many diseases that were common to these periods, nor is war a harsh reality for young children today (at least not in the sense that they are witnessing the violence of it firsthand . . . depending on the country).

    The children were sent away in the Chronicles of Narnia to live with their uncle?, but it was war time and this series presented children with a way to deal with being relocated and separated from their parents to safer areas and helped to give them something else to focus on other than the war. TV was not around in the days of the Brothers Grimm. These stories would have made up part of their education and no doubt would have been used to reinforce spiritual beliefs as well. Children were not as sheltered then as they are today. There were no “teenagers”. By adolescence, they were considered adults.

    Many of those “dark” stories were meant to be dark to keep the children of those times safe. Hansel and Gretel was your classic “don’t talk to strangers”. My kids aren’t so quick to listen to me when I try to teach them some moral, but let a talking monkey, dinosaur, or grasshopper do it and all of a sudden, the lesson hits home. Couldn’t get my daughter to clean her room to save her life, but a purple dinosaur sings a song and all of a sudden clean up is fun. Monsters Inc. was your standard childhood fear, monster in the closet, the boogey man. This movie told children the monsters weren’t all scary.

    Sometimes, the moral isn’t for the kid. Finding Nemo was not just about losing a parent and a kid who is “kidnapped”, but a lesson to parents who hold on too hard or are suffocating their child. Even the most prepared and diligent parent can make mistakes.

    Don’t we as adults do the same thing? How many horror movies or movies/programming or books feature children being murdered, abused? Crashes, alien takeovers, zombies, obsessive stalkers, serial killers, rapidly spreading deadly viruses? And further, in how many of those movies where children are present in the beginning is the child removed from the film, conveniently, so that the adults may play out the rest of the fictional piece without the child hindering the action (in films where the child wasn’t central to the plot)? In many adult films, children are nothing more than props. As the parents in many child films are not featured (because how many kids want to watch a film about parents?) so are kids removed from adult content. After all, you didn’t get a baby sitter, or want to see a movie/read a book, based entirely on reality. No one wants the hum drum, not even children. Why would they? An ape in the jungle or being raised by a pack of wolves is much more exciting for a child (the target audience) than plain old parents. No wolf pack is going to tell you to chew with your mouth closed or get your elbows off the table! 😉

    Enjoyed your post thoroughly, all the same. Especially, the Hakuna Matata part. Congrats on Freshly Pressed. 🙂

  18. I have read many comments, but I cannot possibly get through them all. I just wanted to say that the the killing off of parents in childrens (not just disney) stories really annoys me – it just isnt always necessary, as many people may claim. I studied creative writing at uni and was always told to write for children well at the most they were only allowed one parent, and then they had to be going through some trauma, i was once told preferably they would be dying of cancer. The explanation behind this was that more children would be able to relate to it more…you know, cos all kids these days have this in their life, no child is brought up by two parents living together, and most certainly no child has married parents. Strange world we live in huh?!

  19. Disney tweaks the stories to give them happy endings, but initially the idea came from the author (I believe others have pointed this out). The point of Wendy’s conflict with her dad is the repeated argument through a lot of these stories: age/experience vs youth/inexperience. Growing old seems to often be equated with rules and boredom, while youth is fun. Wendy was coming of age and, rightfully so, her father wanted her to “grow up”, otherwise she would not be ready for marriage, etc. It then made since that her father would be played by the same actor that, later, would play Hook. I think, though, there are some Disney cartoons out there on television that do depict parents in a harsh or unflattering light. Any thoughts as to which ones? 🙂

  20. If you want good parents with good parts in the story, read the young adult author John Green. (Looking for Alaska, The Fault in Our Stars, etc) This beautiful bites of literature always include good-guy parents that quietly support their children through the struggles of the teen years. I think every parent should read these books as guides…for what teens face and for how to be there.

  21. “Honey I shrunk the kids (where they made a film completely based around shit parents), Honey I blew up the Kids (Yes they fucked up twice)” BAHAHAHAHA — great post. Got me thinking! And, you were freshly pressed! WTG!

  22. I too have noticed how the mother is just about always dead or missing in Disney stories that are geared toward girls, such as with Cinderella, Beautify and the Beast, the Little Mermaid, etc. Why can’t there be a good story that doesn’t involve dead parents!?!?

  23. I love animation, and wish I had time to learn how to do it.

    But, I guess I should be content with my normal cartooning (see my blog), and leave the brilliant stuff to the experts.

  24. Mufasa’s death is seriously brutal, made me so sad… I think Disney’s lack of parents makes the lead characters more determined (in vengeance or inspiration) due to their loss of their parents.

  25. i loved this perspective of the disney movies. I’ve always heard of the race perspective and even the feminist perspective but never this one. It was well written and had enough examples to get the point across.

  26. Oh you said it. Read the book “Born to Buy” by Juliet B. Schor if you haven’t already. Exactly what you said about children’s TV eliminating or making parents look terrible. Think…iCarly (no parents except the one crazy one), ANT Farm (dumb parents, when they’re there), Phineas and Ferb (oblivious parents)… Not just Disney either. And a quote from the book: “Nickelodeon tells its advertisers that they ‘own’ children ages 2-12.” Nice, huh? Anyhow, loved the post… thanks!!!

  27. And yet, as kids we all still loved these movies. I don’t think they messed me up psychologically, anywho.

    There are cases of looking in too deeply into something meant to be simple and family friendly, but this article is intriguing. On one aspect it’s saying that each kid will go through their own adventure (and through coming of age as some said), but on another hand it’s as if saying that the adventure can only happen if such a drastic change happens (the killing /missing of a parent). But this also contributes to an interesting plot, despite it being repeated just in multiple different ways. Sure, there are many ways you can take the story of Lion King and introduce different problems instead of the father figure dying, but how would it contribute to the kid growing up and learning through encountered obstacles?

    I never thought too deeply about the deaths in Disney movies, because they automatically made me focus more on how the child will survive. This is easily a problem recognized by children because they are of that age where they would react the same way if a parental figure died in their lifetime. So I guess they made it specifically for that reason? Just a speculation.

    This was a good article. Gave me a few laughs, too. 🙂

  28. Could people remember DISNEY DID NOT CREATE THE STORIES. THEY ONLY ADAPTED THEM FROM the source material. We need parents dead in stories like The Jungle book or Tarzan since the focus of the story is Mowgli and Tarzan are ‘man-cubs’. For stories like Cinderella the parents need to be dead since its about her being a servant to her step-family. Her nickname is from her step-family.

    About Mary Poppins. What do you freakin’ expect? The TIME PERIOD of the movie version of Mary Poppins was Edwardian Times so hence, Middle and Upper Class kids WOULD have had nannies back then. Since married women were too busy having tea and gossiping with other women of their class and men who were breadwinners would be too busy working and being the master of the house.

    Oh and author of this blog post. You’re seeing stuff that isn’t there. For one thing the ENTIRE THEME of the Peter Pan is ironically about Moms! The same reason as Mary Popppins.

    Even non-fairytales have orphans..let me name a few:
    Wizard of Oz (Dorothy lives with her aunt and uncle)
    Oliver Twist
    Superman
    Spider man (2x)
    Batman

    of course..we can’t forgot HARRY POTTER!

    I mean if you have read the HP books. How annoying would it be to have someone like Mrs. Weasly breathing down you’re neck. I mean writers only have like two choices when it comes to story-telling and its protangist.

    1)orphan
    2)have the child be seperated from the parents in some way or other.

    and of course many of our stories were told back in the days when there was little medical innervation (ie. if you got a limb amputed, you were surely to die). Kids barley lived past infant and if they did they were lucky if they could even reach 8 years of age let alone teen years!

  29. Hey there are using WordPress for your blog platform?
    I’m new to the blog world but I’m trying to get
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    Any help would be greatly appreciated!

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