This Is Why You Rarely See Moms in Disney Movies

How many Disney movies can you think of where a character's mom is present? The reason they're absent actually makes a lot of sense.

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Disney movies were a staple for many people growing up. You may think you know Disney movies really well, but there’s one thing about Disney movies you may have noticed and never knew the reasoning behind. From Disney’s earliest film, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, to more recent ones like Frozen, many Disney movies are lacking moms. Whether Mom is introduced and then killed like Bambi’s mom or simply never mentioned like in The Little Mermaid, avid Disney movie fans may wonder the reason for this strange trend. If you think you’re a Disney expert, see how you fare on our quiz of obscure Disney trivia.

Many people speculate that the lack of mothers in Disney movies has to do with the tragic fate of Walt Disney’s own mother. Flora Disney died in the early 1940s shortly after she and her husband moved into a house that their son, Walt, bought them following the success of his early films, Disney producer Don Hahn told Glamour magazine. There was a furnace leak that was never fixed (despite Walt sending people over from the studio to repair it) and both Walt’s parents became ill. Sadly, his mother ended up dying from the leak. Even Disney fanatics may not know these surprising facts about its most famous characters.

Many speculate that Walt channeled his grief and guilt over his mother’s death into his subsequent films. However, many of his movies before his mom’s death featured missing maternal figures, Snopes reports. Many Disney movies are also based off fairy tales where the mother wasn’t present. In the same interview with Glamour, Hahn said the missing mother tactic is a way to address themes like growing up and maturing in the short time frame of the movie. Many movies made long after Walt’s death, like Beauty and the Beast and The Lion King, feature main characters who lose parents and have to step up because of it.

We may never know if and how Walt’s mother’s death affected the lack of mothers in Disney films, but it seems like the source material and the themes make missing moms almost inevitable for many Disney films. Luckily for us though, mothers aren’t banned from Disney films and will hopefully be more present characters in the future—but these three things are banned from Disney movies.

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Erin Kayata joined Reader’s Digest as an assistant staff writer in March 2019, coming from the Stamford Advocate where she covered education. Prior to this, she was part of a two-year Hearst fellowship program where she covered crime and education in suburban Connecticut. She graduated from Emerson College and spent part of her undergraduate career writing for the Boston Globe. When she’s not writing articles about useful facts and pop culture, you can find Erin enjoying the local theater scene and working toward her goal of reading 50 books a year.