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27 Motherless Disney Characters

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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)

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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.

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11 Times Mickey Mouse Was Banned
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Despite being one of the world’s most recognizable and beloved characters, it hasn’t always been smooth sailing for Mickey Mouse, who turns 89 years old today. A number of countries—and even U.S. states—have banned the cartoon rodent at one time or another for reasons both big and small.

1. In 1930, Ohio banned a cartoon called “The Shindig” because Clarabelle Cow was shown reading Three Weeks by Elinor Glyn, the premier romance novelist of the time. Check it out (1:05) and let us know if you’re scandalized:

2. With movies on 10-foot screen being a relatively new thing in Romania in 1935, the government decided to ban Mickey Mouse, concerned that children would be terrified of a monstrous rodent.

3. In 1929, a German censor banned a Mickey Mouse short called “The Barnyard Battle.” The reason? An army of cats wearing pickelhauben, the pointed helmets worn by German military in the 19th and 20th centuries: "The wearing of German military helmets by an army of cats which oppose a militia of mice is offensive to national dignity. Permission to exhibit this production in Germany is refused.”

4. The German dislike for Mickey Mouse continued into the mid-'30s, with one German newspaper wondering why such a small and dirty animal would be idolized by children across the world: "Mickey Mouse is the most miserable ideal ever revealed ... Healthy emotions tell every independent young man and every honorable youth that the dirty and filth-covered vermin, the greatest bacteria carrier in the animal kingdom, cannot be the ideal type of animal.” Mickey was originally banned from Nazi Germany, but eventually the mouse's popularity won out.

5. In 2014, Iran's Organization for Supporting Manufacturers and Consumers announced a ban on school supplies and stationery products featuring “demoralizing images,” including that of Disney characters such as Mickey Mouse, Winnie the Pooh, Sleeping Beauty, and characters from Toy Story.

6. In 1954, East Germany banned Mickey Mouse comics, claiming that Mickey was an “anti-Red rebel.”

7. In 1937, a Mickey Mouse adventure was so similar to real events in Yugoslavia that the comic strip was banned. State police say the comic strip depicted a “Puritan-like revolt” that was a danger to the “Boy King,” Peter II of Yugoslavia, who was just 14 at the time. A journalist who wrote about the ban was consequently escorted out of the country.

8. Though Mussolini banned many cartoons and American influences from Italy in 1938, Mickey Mouse flew under the radar. It’s been said that Mussolini’s children were such Mickey Mouse fans that they were able to convince him to keep the rodent around.

9. Mickey and his friends were banned from the 1988 Seoul Olympics in a roundabout way. As they do with many major sporting events, including the Super Bowl, Disney had contacted American favorites to win in each event to ask them to say the famous “I’m going to Disneyland!” line if they won. When American swimmer Matt Biondi won the 100-meter freestyle, he dutifully complied with the request. After a complaint from the East Germans, the tape was pulled and given to the International Olympic Committee.

10. In 1993, Mickey was banned from a place he shouldn't have been in the first place: Seattle liquor stores. As a wonderful opening sentence from the Associated Press explained, "Mickey Mouse, the Easter Bunny and teddy bears have no business selling booze, the Washington State Liquor Control Board has decided." A handful of stores had painted Mickey and other characters as part of a promotion. A Disney VP said Mickey was "a nondrinker."

11. Let's end with another strike against The Shindig (see #1) and Clarabelle’s bulging udder. Less than a year after the Shindig ban, the Motion Picture Producers and Directors of America announced that they had received a massive number of complaints about the engorged cow udders in various Mickey Mouse cartoons.

From then on, according to a 1931 article in Time magazine, “Cows in Mickey Mouse ... pictures in the future will have small or invisible udders quite unlike the gargantuan organ whose antics of late have shocked some and convulsed others. In a recent picture the udder, besides flying violently to left and right or stretching far out behind when the cow was in motion, heaved with its panting with the cow stood still.”

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12 Brazzle-Dazzle Facts About Pete's Dragon
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Forty years ago, on November 3, 1977, Pete's Dragon was released in theaters across America. Though it was a box office disappointment at the time, it has since turned into a beloved classic for the generations of audiences who grew up with Pete and Elliott. In honor of its 40th anniversary, check out these brazzle-dazzle facts about the Disney classic.

1. ELLIOTT WAS VOICED BY VETERAN ACTOR CHARLIE CALLAS.

Charlie Callas was a comedian known for his rubbery face long before Jim Carrey was around.

2. IT WAS HELEN REDDY’S FIRST LEADING ROLE IN A FILM.

You’d assume that working with an invisible dragon would be pretty challenging for anyone, let alone someone new to the film industry, but Helen Reddy enjoyed the experience. “I only had one actual scene with the dragon," she explained, "and during rehearsals I worked with a latex model of his head so that I would be familiar with the dimensions during filming.”

3. REDDY’S BALLAD IN THE MOVIE WAS NOMINATED FOR AN OSCAR.

Reddy's "Candle on the Water" was nominated for Best Original Song. It lost to “You Light Up My Life.”

4. DON BLUTH SUPERVISED ELLIOTT'S ANIMATION.

The project notoriously called for a lot of overtime hours, and a couple of years after Pete's Dragon was released, animator Don Bluth left Disney. He went on to animate and direct The Secret of NIMH (1982), An American Tail (1986), The Land Before Time (1988), and All Dogs Go to Heaven (1989), among others.

5. CALIFORNIA DOUBLED FOR MAINE.

The movie may look like it takes place in Maine, but neither the cast nor crew went anywhere near the Pine Tree State. The landscape scenes were courtesy of Disney’s Golden Oak Ranch in Canyon Country, California, while the Passamaquoddy town square and wharf area was constructed on the Disney Burbank Studio lot, partly from an old Western set. Even the harbor was constructed on-set.

6. ACTOR SEAN MARSHALL HAD NO FORMAL ACTING BACKGROUND.

Despite this, he beat hundreds of kids who auditioned to play Pete. “I think Disney always went for kind of the natural,” he said.

7. MARSHALL BECAME AN ALL-AMERICAN POLE VAULTER IN COLLEGE. 


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He partially attributes his athletic success to his role in the film, saying that the training he went through for the part, especially ballet, made him more of an athlete.

8. THE LIGHTHOUSE BEACON COULD BE SEEN FOR MILES.

Nora and Lampie’s lighthouse was equipped with a real lighthouse lens and a wickstand that could create a beacon that was visible for 18 to 24 miles. Constructed on California's Morro Bay, Disney had to obtain permission from the U.S. Coast Guard to actually light the lamp. There were plans to eventually move the lighthouse to Disneyland, but it became too deteriorated.

9. MICKEY ROONEY AND RED BUTTONS DID SOME AD-LIBBING.

The scene where Mickey Rooney and Red Buttons drunkenly walk to the cave to see Elliott turned into a massive ad-lib session, with each comedian trying to outdo the other with pratfalls and slapstick. “The director said, ‘That was fantastic, but we can’t have a 20-minute scene where you two are just walking through the cave. We’ve got to re-shoot it,’” Marshall recalled.

10. IT WAS A DISAPPOINTMENT AT THE BOX OFFICE.

The film only made $18 million in the U.S., which was a real disappointment to Disney. The studio was hoping to experience the same level of success it had had with another movie that mixed live action and animation—Mary Poppins.

11. THE SODIUM VAPOR PROCESS WAS USED TO MIX ANIMATION AND LIVE ACTION SCENES.

Invented by Ub Iwerks, the co-creator of Mickey Mouse, the process involved using a camera with a prism installed that separated the sodium vapor lights from the rest of the color. This projected a yellow light onto the screen behind the actor, which could later be subtracted out, and any background could be added in its place.

12. THERE’S A GOOFY YELL TUCKED AWAY IN THE FILM.

It’s when Dr. Terminus (Jim Dale) accidentally sends himself flying via harpoon. Listen for it at 1:13 below.

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