Tag Archives: mothers

Pixar’s got the Moms!

On Tuesday, I questioned the lack of mothers in the Disney animated universe.  It is interesting to note that that trend is not shared by Disney’s newer branch of animation, Pixar Studios.  Out of 17 animated features, 11 of them include moms of those 11, in 7 of them moms are major characters.  Let’s look at them, briefly.

It all starts, of course, with Andy’s mom.  In all three “Toy Story” films she is a major part of the action.  She brings home Buzz Lightyear, she tries to save Woody from Al, she takes the toys to the daycare.  More importantly, she is gives Andy the time and space he needs to develop his imagination by playing with his toys.  She doesn’t have a name.  She is simply, Andy’s Mom.

As the years have gone on, we have had a wide variety of moms.  In “A Bug’s Life”, the ant queen is ruler and mother.  Mrs. Incredible kicks butt.  Literally.  Neither “Monsters, Inc” or “Finding Nemo” have moms, but their sequels both do.  Russell talks about his mom often in “Up” though we only see her at the end.  “Brave”, Inside Out”, and “The Good Dinosaur” all have active, involved moms whose relationship to the main characters anchors them.  Moms are missing in both the “Cars” franchise and “WALL-E”, but this is perhaps to be expected of movies in which the main characters are machines.  In fact, the only movie that is about a human and doesn’t have a mom in it is “Ratatouille”.  Linguini is an orphan, Pixar’s only orphan.  If we set that against Disney’s record it is startling.  And before you say “Disney has been around longer, of course there’s more!”  Since “Toy Story” was released, Disney animation studios has produced eight theatrical releases in which the main character was an orphan (“Tarzan”, “The Tigger Movie”, “The Emperor’s New Groove”, “Lilo and Stitch”, “Brother Bear”, “Meet the Robinsons”, “Frozen”, and “Big Hero Six”).  By any standard, that reflects a trend.

Pixar is often credited for both saving and revitalizing animation as a genre.  One of the ways they have done that by using creative story telling that is not heavily reliant on existing tropes.  Giving characters families connections deepens their character.  The writers have to work a little harder to get us to care about them, but they always seem to get it right.

Thanks, Pixar, for not being afraid to tell the wider story.  Maybe as the two studios become more permeable we will see a rise in Disney moms as well.



Featured image by Dan the Pixar fan at danthepixarfan.com


The Case of the Missing Moms

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.