Walt Disney: The Tragic Reason Behind the Absence of Mothers in His Stories
Considered a pioneer of animated films and the theme park industry, Walt Disney left behind a creative empire that continues to expand even 57 years after his death. However, one common thread that tragically connects him with his stories is the absence of mothers, a deficiency that will be repeated in the live-action remake of The Little Mermaid, according to EW.
Throughout his animated classics, there are several protagonists who grow up without a mother and, sometimes, without a father as well. Examples include Snow White, Bambi, Cinderella, Pinocchio, Peter Pan, The Jungle Book, or The Sword in the Stone. Even after his death, the tradition continued with productions such as The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Pocahontas, Aladdin, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Tarzan, Lilo and Stitch, or Finding Nemo, among others.
This absence of mothers had a significant dramatic influence on productions aimed at children. Who can forget the death of Bambi’s mother in the movie released in 1942 or the loneliness of Cinderella without a parental figure to protect her? While the executive producer of Maleficent has given the explanation that it was due, in part, to the narrative need to force the characters towards maturity and growth, that reason does not explain the total absence of mothers without an explanatory context, such as Snow White, Cinderella, Peter Pan, or The Little Mermaid.
The reason behind this absence is related to a personal tragedy that shook the life of Walt Disney and his family. Walter Elias Disney was the fourth of five children born to Elias and Flora Disney. After drawing since childhood and working for a couple of decades in the business, Walter decided to produce a feature film, Snow White, which was hugely successful. Walter and his brother Roy bought a house for their parents in 1937, but an unexpected accident occurred. Flora Disney called her son to ask if they could fix a leak in the home gas oven, but the device continued to leak, and Flora did not survive.
Understandably, Walt Disney felt personally responsible for the accident. There is a theory that ensures the traumatic incident haunted him psychologically. This idea that he contributed to the death of his mother was tragic and, thus, Walt may have avoided creating characters that would remind him of his past or the tragedy.
In conclusion, the absence of mothers in Walt Disney’s stories had a significant dramatic influence on productions aimed at children. The reason behind this absence is related to a personal tragedy that occurred in the Disney family and shook Walt’s life.