Roles of mothers in Disney media

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The heroes and heroines of most Disney movies come from unstable family backgrounds;[1] most are either orphaned or have no mothers.[2] Few, if any, have only single-parent mothers. In other instances, mothers are presented as "bad surrogates" eventually "punished for their misdeeds."[3] There is much debate about the reasoning behind this phenomenon.[4] Some feminists (such as Amy Richards) believe it is to create dramatic interest in the main characters; if mothers were present to guide them, they argue, there would not be much of a plot.[5] Some entertainment journalists (such as G. Shearer) believe that it is to show that a happy family does not have to consist of a mother, father and a child and that a family can be one parent and one child, or one parent and many siblings.[6] Below is a list of some notable examples of this aspect of Disney movies and television series.[7]

Categories of mothers[edit]

No (or 'absent') parents[edit]

  • Pinocchio: Pinocchio - no mother.[8] The Blue Fairy acts as a mother to Pinocchio.
  • Peter Pan: The Lost Boys - no mother,[9] so they appoint Wendy as their mother.
  • The Sword in the Stone: Arthur, or "Wart", has no parents.[10]
  • The Rescuers: Penny - no parents, but gets adopted parents by the end.
  • The Great Mouse Detective: Olivia Flaversham - no mother.
  • The Lion King: Sarabi is a single mother to Simba after his father Mufasa was killed by Scar in a wildebeest stampede.
  • Oliver & Company: Jenny Foxworth - Jenny Foxworth - her mother is mentioned to arrive in time for her birthday, but is not shown.
  • A Goofy Movie: Goofy is a single father to his son Max. Max's mother has died and Goofy tells Max "she's up there with the stars". Her death is not explained.
  • The Little Mermaid: Ariel and her 6 sisters - no mother. In the direct-to-DVD sequel The Little Mermaid: Ariel's Beginning, their mother appears early in the movie but gets killed by a pirate ship.
  • The Rescuers Down Under: Cody - no father. According to Cody, he is deceased; Marahute's chicks lose their father to McLeach.
  • Beauty and the Beast: Belle - no mother.
  • Aladdin: Jasmine - no mother;[8] a mother character was originally written for Aladdin's character, but was ultimately cut so he has no parents, although he finds his father in Aladdin and the King of Thieves.
  • Pocahontas: Pocahontas - no mother[8] (mentioned only; revealed to have been dead for years).
  • The Emperor's New Groove: Emperor Kuzco - no parents present, assumed dead (since "Emperor" is a hereditary role).
  • Lilo & Stitch: Lilo and Nani - parents dead prior the beginning of the movie.
  • Pirates of the Caribbean (film series): Elizabeth, Jack - mother referenced as dead (Elizabeth's mother is noted by her father's ghost but never seen), Will - mother mentioned having died, father is "Bootstrap" Bill Turner.
  • Ratatouille: Remy - no mother. Had a father. Linguini - mother was not shown on screen and is mentioned to have died. His father was the late master chef Auguste Gusteau.
  • Tron: Legacy: Sam Flynn - no mother. No father for the majority of his life as well.
  • Wreck-It Ralph: Ralph - mother was mentioned.
  • Big Hero 6: Both parents dead prior to film. Brother dead at start of film. Adoptive mother figure "aunt".

Wicked stepmother[edit]

Mother killed and/or captured[edit]

Biological mothers[edit]

Adoptive mothers[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Henry A. Giroux, Fugitive Cultures: Race, Violence, and Youth (Routledge Taylor & Francis Group, 1996).
  2. ^ Lynn H. Collins, Joan C. Chrisler, and Michelle R. Dunlap, Charting a New Course for Feminist Psychology (Greenwood Publishing Group, 2002), 94.
  3. ^ Stephen M. Fjellman, Vinyl Leaves: Walt Disney World and America (Westview Press, 1992), 263.
  4. ^, Disney Movie Mothers - Walt Disney - My Mother The Scar.
  5. ^ Ask Amy
  6. ^ Geoff Shearer, "Disney keeps killing movie mothers: DISNEY is continuing its tradition of being G-rated entertainment's biggest mother flickers," Courier Mail (March 07, 2008).
  7. ^ Paul Loukides and Linda K. Fuller, Beyond the Stars: Themes and Ideologies in American Popular Film (Popular Press, 1993), 8.
  8. ^ a b c d Sara Munson Deats and Lagretta Tallent Lenker, Aging and Identity: A Humanities Perspective (Greenwood Publishing Group), 210.
  9. ^ Geronimi, Clyde; Jackson, Wilfred; Luske, Hamilton; Kinney, Jack (1953-02-05), Peter Pan, retrieved 2016-04-05 
  10. ^ Stock, Lorraine K. (2015-01-01). "Reinventing an Iconic Arthurian Moment: The Sword in the Stone in Films and Television". Arthuriana. 25 (4): 66–83. doi:10.1353/art.2015.0047. ISSN 1934-1539.