CLOSE
Original image
getty images

27 Motherless Disney Characters

Original image
getty images

While “happily ever after” may be a staple of Disney’s family fare, the legendary filmmaker’s own life wasn’t always so picture-perfect. The phenomenal box office success of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs created a financial windfall for Walt and his brother, Roy, who used a portion of their newfound wealth to purchase a home for their parents in Hollywood. Less than a month after the elder Disneys moved into their new abode, a defective furnace caused their mother, Flora, to die from asphyxiation due to carbon monoxide poisoning.

Devastated and guilt-ridden, Walt never spoke of her death. And it’s this tragedy that some people point to in explaining why so many Disney movie characters are motherless. But, as Snopes.com explains, a quick look at the chronology shows that this theory doesn’t quite hold up, as Snow White had already been completed—and Pinocchio and Bambi were in production—when Disney’s mother passed away. Still, there’s no denying Disney’s propensity for motherless characters. Here are 27 of them (and counting). 

1. SNOW WHITE IN SNOW WHITE AND THE SEVEN DWARFS (1937)

Though much is made of Snow White’s stepmother, the Evil Queen, not a lot of information is given as to what happened to her biological mother—she isn’t even given a name. But a 1938 storybook of the tale, published by Disney, includes a picture of the original Queen and a brief description of her passing: “While Snow White was still in her cradle, the good Queen died. So all the little Princess could remember about her mother was a sweet lullaby she used to sing.” 

2. BELLE IN BEAUTY AND THE BEAST (1991)

More than 50 years after Snow White’s biological mother faded into the distance, so too did the mother of Belle, the beautiful young heroine who transforms her beast of a captor with love. All we know about Belle’s nameless mom is that she is deceased. 

3. PINOCCHIO IN PINOCCHIO (1940)

Considering that he’s not really a real boy, it makes sense that Pinocchio doesn't have a mother. But he does have the Blue Fairy, who does a fine job of filling that maternal role.

4. BAMBI IN BAMBI (1942)

Bambi may be the most famous of all motherless Disney characters, mostly because some insensitive soul somehow believed that it wouldn’t be totally traumatic to kids to sit idly by and watch (okay, hear) her get shot by a hunter. 

5. TOD IN THE FOX AND THE HOUND (1981)

Because one ruthlessly murdered-by-a-hunter mom wasn’t enough, in 1981, the mother of Tod, the titular fox in The Fox and the Hound, suffered the same fate.

6. CINDERELLA IN CINDERELLA (1950)

The Evil Stepmother is yet another common Disney trope, and one that’s clearly related to Motherless Character Syndrome. In the case of Cinderella, it’s her doting father’s desire to make sure that his beloved daughter is attended to that leads him to marry the evil Lady Tremaine who, with her equally miserable daughters Anastasia and Drizella, turns Cinderella’s life into a living hell. Good thing she’s got a fairy godmother. 

7. PETER PAN IN PETER PAN (1953)

Peter Pan and his hooligan crew of Lost Boys may not have any mothers to speak of, but they do have Wendy Darling, who is surprisingly maternal, despite being just a kid herself. 

8. ARTHUR IN THE SWORD IN THE STONE (1963)

Arthur, a.k.a. Wart, a.k.a. Disney’s version of King Arthur in The Sword in the Stone, is an orphan who is taken under Merlin’s wing so that he may help him extract said sword from said stone and become the next king.

9. MOWGLI IN THE JUNGLE BOOK (1967)

Mowgli gets the short end of the parent stick in just about every version of The Jungle Book. Found parentless and wandering the jungle, he’s adopted into a family of wolf cubs, thanks to Raksha, who raises him. And though she doesn’t play a huge role in the series, in 1998’s live-action The Jungle Book: Mowgli’s Story, she is killed by the tiger Shere Khan toward the end of the movie. 

10. PENNY IN THE RESCUERS (1977)

Penny starts out The Rescuers as an orphan being held prisoner by a treasure hunter named Madame Medusa and ends it being adopted by new parents. 

11. OLIVIA FLAVERSHAM IN THE GREAT MOUSE DETECTIVE (1986)

It’s no wonder that Olivia Flaversham, the teeny tiny mouse heroine in The Great Mouse Detective, spends the bulk of the film searching for her kidnapped father: He’s all she’s got, as her mother is deceased.

12. ARIEL IN THE LITTLE MERMAID (1989)

Technically, there are seven characters in The Little Mermaid who are motherless: Ariel, Alana, Attina, Adella, Aquata, Arista, and Andrina. They’re all sisters and were all equally traumatized when their beloved mom, Queen Athena, was killed by a pirate ship as she attempted to recover a treasured music box that had been given to her by her husband. But as Ariel is “The” little mermaid of the title, we’ll simplify the math on this one. 

13. AND 14. JASMINE AND ALADDIN IN ALADDIN (1992)

Jasmine and Aladdin may not seem to have a lot in common—she’s the daughter of a sultan; he’s a lowly street rat—but if the conversation between them ever got too stale, they could bond over the fact that neither one of them had a mother. Which wasn’t always the intention. Aladdin’s mom actually had been written into the original script, where she served as a sort of conscience for him (pushing him to find a legitimate career and insisting that he come clean about his true identity with Jasmine). But she—along with a few other characters—were eventually edited out of the movie to help streamline the storyline (though she does pop up in a deleted scene on the DVD).

15. POCAHONTAS IN POCAHONTAS (1995)

We don’t get to see Pocahontas’ mother, not even in flashbacks. It’s only mentioned in passing that she passed away several years earlier. 

16. QUASIMODO IN THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME (1996)

Poor Quasimodo! As if he didn’t already have enough working against him with that unfortunate hunchback, he also has to deal with the fact that his mom—a gypsy—was murdered by the evil Judge Frollo who, as punishment for the crime, is forced to raise Quasimodo as his own.

17. OLIVER IN OLIVER & COMPANY (1988)

In Disney’s animated interpretation of Oliver Twist—but with a cat—Oliver is, of course, an orphan.

18. TARZAN IN TARZAN (1999)

After managing to save themselves—and their infant son—from a burning ship and actually building a treehouse out of the boat’s wreckage, Tarzan’s parents meet an untimely demise at the hands (and teeth) of a leopardess known as Sabor.

19. EMPEROR KUZCO IN THE EMPEROR’S NEW GROOVE (2000)

In The Emperor’s New Groove, we learn that Emperor Kuzco’s dad disappeared while at sea when the would-be Emperor was just an infant. His mom is never mentioned, so it’s just assumed that she has passed away.

20. PRINCESS KIDA IN ATLANTIS: THE LOST EMPIRE (2001)

In Atlantis: The Lost Empire, Princess Kida’s mother died a hero. When a tidal wave threatened to submerge the wonderland that is Atlantis, the Princess’ mom—the Queen—sacrificed herself to protect her land. Unfortunately, it didn’t work. 

21. AND 22. LILO AND NANI IN LILO & STITCH (2002)

Following the death of their parents in a car accident, teenaged Nani Pelekai inherits the job of taking care of her precocious little sister, Lilo.

23. NEMO IN FINDING NEMO (2003)

It shouldn’t be surprising that Nemo’s father, Marlin, is the most overprotective clownfish in the ocean: It wasn’t that long ago that his wife, Coral, and all but one of their clutch of eggs were eaten by a barracuda. 

24. KODA IN BROTHER BEAR (2003)

Kenai, a young Inuit boy, isn’t a fan of bears. He blames them for the death of his older brother and so kills a bear as revenge. As punishment for his crime, Kenai is turned into a bear himself, which is how he meets Koda, a sweet-but-lost young bear who is mourning the death of his mother. As the movie progresses we learn that the bear Kenai killed was (surprise!) Koda’s mother. Awkward!

25. LINGUINI IN RATATOUILLE (2007)

>

As the garbage boy-turned-chef explained, "She believed in heaven, so she's covered, you know, afterlife-wise." [Note: The original version of this post incorrectly stated that Remy was famed chef Auguste Gusteau's son.]

26. AND 27. ELSA AND ANNA IN FROZEN (2013)

Disney’s most obsessed-over animated flick has not one but two orphans: Elsa and Anna, whose parents were killed in a shipwreck. Which may explain why they’re so intent on letting it go.

Original image
arrow
architecture
Want to Live Like Snow White? Buy This Cottage
Original image

In the 1970s, one family in Washington state decided to bring the magic of Snow White home—and we don't mean on VHS. (That didn't come out until 1994, anyway.) They built a replica of the cottage from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs in Olalla, across Puget Sound from Seattle. And now, you can take over Snow White’s housekeeping duties—the house is for sale, as we spotted on the listing site TopTenRealEstateDeals.com.

The house looks straight out of a Disneyland attraction, with a winding staircase seemingly built into a tree, hand-built doors of different sizes with giant iron hinges, stone details and exposed beams, a wood stove, and a rounded interior that “wraps around you like a big hug,” according to the listing. (Good luck hanging shelves, though.) Honestly, the shiny walls look a little plastic, but it’s all part of the Disneyfied appeal.

The interior of the first floor shows a stone oven, a fake tree, and a chandelier.

A spacious room with two different sized doorways looking through to another room.

A bedroom has a mattress tucked into a cave-like nook.

An exterior view of the cottage through an overgrown garden.

Unlike the Seven Dwarfs’ pad, though, this comes with a hot tub and high-speed internet, not to mention a washer and dryer to save any future Snow Whites the effort of hanging laundry. And there’s no need for everyone to sleep side-by-side in twin beds. The two-story “cottage” has four bedrooms and five baths.

The 2800-square-foot house comes on a five-acre gated property. Outside, there’s a sweet tree house with a fireplace inside, a wooden bridge over a creek, and a garden with fruit trees.

It’s $775,000, zero dwarfs included. You can see the listing here.

All images courtesy TopTenRealEstateDeals.com.

Original image
Amazon
arrow
Fact Check
A Physicist Weighs In On Whether Scrooge McDuck Could Actually Swim in a Pool of Gold Coins
Original image
Amazon

Batman has the Batcave, Superman has his Fortress of Solitude, and Scrooge McDuck has his money bin. For 70 years, the maternal uncle of Disney’s Donald Duck has been portrayed as a thrifty—some might say miserly—presence in cartoons and comics, a waterfowl who has such deep affection for his fortune that he enjoys diving into his piles of gold and luxuriating in them.

It’s a rather gross display of money worship, but is it practical? Can anyone, including an anthropomorphic Pekin duck, actually swim in their own money, or would diving headfirst into a pile of metal result only in catastrophic injury?

According to James Kakalios, Ph.D., a professor of physics at the University of Minnesota and author of the recently-released The Physics of Everyday Things as well as 2005’s The Physics of Superheroes, the question really isn’t whether someone could swim in a mass of gold. They could not. It’s more a matter of how badly they’ll be injured in the attempt.

Diving into a gold pile the Scrooge way—hands first, prayer-style, followed by your head—is the most efficient way to begin breaking bones. “Keeping his arms stiff and his elbows rigid, he’s definitely going to break his wrists,” Kakalios tells Mental Floss. “Gold is a granular material like sand, a macroscopic object. You can’t swim through sand or dive into it easily.” Launch yourself off a diving board from 3 or 4 feet up and you will meet a solid surface. Landing with your feet, a far better bet, is unlikely to result in injury—provided you try to bend your knees.

In that sense, diving into gold is not dissimilar from “diving” into a concrete floor. But with gold being granular, it might be possible to break the surface and “swim” if the friction were low enough. “A ball pit is a good example,” Kakalios says. “The balls are lightly packed and have low friction relative to one another. The key is to have objects in front of you move out of the way in order to advance.”

Despite being a fictional character, McDuck hasn’t totally ignored the impossible physics of his feat. His creator, Carl Barks, has written in repeated references over the years to the implausibility of using his money vault as a swimming pool and has depicted the villainous Beagle Boys trio as getting hurt when they tried to emulate the stunt. Scrooge smirked and said there was a “trick” to making the gold dive.

That’s led to one fan theory that McDuck has used his fortune to coat the gold coins in some kind of lubricant that would aid in reducing friction, allowing him to maneuver inside the vault. Ludicrous, yes. But is it possible? “You would need a massive amount of lube to slide your body past the coins with minimal effort,” Kakalios says. “The ball pit is easier because the weight of the elements is low. Gold is a very dense material.” Diving and swimming into it, even with lubricant, might be analogous to trying to shove your hand into a deep bowl of M&Ms, he says. “M&Ms have a low friction coating. Continuing to move is really the problem.”

Presuming McDuck could somehow maneuver himself deeper into the pile, his delicate duck bones would almost surely succumb to the crushing weight of the gold above him. By one estimate, diving under one of his 5-foot-tall gold piles would put 2492 pounds of pressure on his bill.

We'll see if he tips his top hat to any further gold-diving tricks—or if he's in a full-body cast—when Disney XD relaunches DuckTales this summer.

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios