It is probably safe to say that you all know that Sunday was Mother’s Day. My grand plan was to do a post about all the great Disney moms in celebration of the day. However I encountered a problem with my plan. If you have seen a fair number of Disney movies you will realize my problem. Disney is very short on moms.
A recurring theme in Disney films is the loss of mother. Major characters in the animated features have in common that their mothers are dead (Snow White, et al), removed (Dumbo, Aurora, etc), or disengaged (Mrs. Darling). Then of course, there’s the whole Bambi drama that scarred oh so many of us for life. In fact, the first mother character that is actively involved in her children’s life for the entirety of a film is Perdita in “One Hundred and One Dalmatians” in 1961. She was followed by Duchess an impressive nine years later in “The Aristocats”. You may notice, in addition to being well spaced out both of these characters are animals. In fact we do not get an active, engaged and present human mom until “Mulan” in 1998. (Though a case could be made for Hercules’ adopted mom a year earlier. However he was forcibly removed from his real mom, so I’m putting him in the mom-less category.) This trend is much bigger than storytelling coincidence.
Why does Disney actively avoid giving their main characters moms? It is a question that bears looking at. Even when they choose to give their characters a single parent it is overwhelming a single father. The evil step mother trope is used repeatedly as is the story of the stolen child. And while it is not surprising that certain stock story forms are repeated in an 80 year old history, the single mom doesn’t appear until “The Princess and the Frog” in 2009. (You’re going to say ‘Andy’s Mom’ to me and I’m going to say Pixar films break this trend and I will talk about them separately on Thursday.) The poor widow woman raising her child is also an established trope that Disney has entirely ignored in their 80 year history. Again I ask, why?
It can’t be about marketing. If you look around movie theaters, Disney parks, and stores it is the moms who are there. If fact, moms are the primary decision makers for purchases involving children and family. We are who Disney should be marketing to. It’s not about demographic. Disney fans are predominately female. We are predisposed to be interested in Disney products and services. In fact, Disney has a solid lock on the mom demographic. So why are we not on the screen? It makes no sense.
I have no answers about why Disney vanished the mothers from their stories. I don’t know if anyone does. What I do know is that it is past time for that trend to change. Bring on the the moms! We are here and we are wating.