10 Parents Disney Didn't Actually Kill

Whenever a mom or dad dies in a Disney movie, everyone shakes their heads. “Disney just has to kill off the parents every time,” they say, rolling their eyes. And it’s not just Disney. Plenty of other studios make movies that feature deceased or ambiguously missing parents. Kung Fu Panda, Despicable Me, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, Hotel Transylvania, even The Lorax—all missing at least one parent.

But the truth is, up until very recently, most Disney movies were taken from and inspired by pre-existing books and fairy tales, from Rudyard Kipling to The Brothers Grimm. So, here are 10 parents that Disney really isn’t responsible for killing.

1. Snow White’s mother

In the Grimm version of the story, published in 1812 in Grimm’s Fairy Tales, Snow White’s mother dies shortly after giving birth to her.

2. Bambi’s mother

One of the most famous instances of Disney killing off the mother first happened in the book it was inspired by—Bambi, A Life in the Woods, by Felix Salten. Like the movie, mom is taken down by a hunter.

3. Cinderella’s mother

In Charles Perrault’s Cindrillon, the wicked stepmother and stepsisters are still in the picture because Cinderella’s father remarried after her mother’s death. The father is still alive in Perrault’s version, but he’s obviously neglecting his daughter: “The poor girl bore all patiently and dared not complain to her father, who would have scolded her if she had done so, for his wife governed him entirely.”

4. Mowgli’s parents

Just like the movie, Rudyard Kipling’s story features the infant Mowgli abandoned in the jungle, presumably orphaned.

5. Oliver’s parents

Oliver & Company is based on Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist, the poster child for mistreated orphans.

6. Ariel’s mother

Hans Christian Andersen mentions almost immediately that “the Sea King” is a widower—though Anderson did include a grandmother mermaid that Disney omitted from the movie.

7. Belle’s mother

Beauty and the Beast has been around since at least the mid-1700s. Belle didn’t have a mother in those early versions, either, but she did have three brothers and two sisters who were left out of the movie.

8. Tarzan’s parents

The famous Edgar Rice Burroughs book also kills Tarzan’s parents right away—there wouldn't have been much of a book if they were alive.

9. Rapunzel’s parents

Disney actually did Rapunzel a favor in Tangled—not only was the long-locked princess reunited with her parents at the end, but those parents actually wanted her. In the Brothers Grimm version, Rapunzel’s parents gave her up because her mom had a craving for some rapunzel (a leafy green) growing in a garden that wasn’t theirs. A baby for a salad? Seems like a fair trade.

10. Penny’s parents

Though Margery Sharp’s orphan was named Patience, not Penny, the little girl in The Rescuers has always been parentless. Patience didn’t show up in Sharp’s first Rescuers book, by the way—she wasn’t featured until the sequel, Miss Bianca.

Also, I might note that all of these Disney movies feature two perfectly healthy parents/couples: Sleeping Beauty, Peter Pan, Lady and the Tramp, Mary Poppins, Brave, Frankenweenie, The Incredibles, Brave, 101 Dalmatians, and Mulan.

Pop Culture
Why Mickey Mouse Could Soon Be in the Public Domain

Mickey Mouse debuted to the world in the 1928 animated short Steamboat Willie, and has since transformed into an icon recognized around the world. But the mouse’s status as Disney's exclusive property is under threat. As Ars Technica reports, Steamboat Willie is set to enter the public domain in 2024, and unlike in previous years, there have been no moves from Congress to stop that from happening. Once it does, in theory, anyone could use Mickey's image for free.

This is the third time the cartoon has been on the verge of losing its copyright protection. The first came in the 1970s, back when copyright terms only lasted 56 years. That meant every book, song, and movie made in 1923 was scheduled to lose its protected status in 1979, and Steamboat Willie would follow on its 56th anniversary in 1984. But in 1976, under pressure from companies like Disney, Congress extended the statute to 75 years, keeping all works made after 1923 from becoming public domain until 1998 or later. Mickey remained safely out of the public domain for another two decades. Then, when copyright terms were again scheduled to expire in 1998, Congress extended them a second time, this time to 95 years.

Now, the clock is ticking down for these older works once again as the 2018 expiration date of that copyright extension nears. Only this time, it looks like Congress may let them become public property without a fight.

Today’s constituents tend to care more about copyright law now than they did in 1976 or even in 1998. The rise of online streaming and easily accessible pirated content has made the issue more relevant to the life of the average person than ever before. The defeat of the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) in 2012 made this clear to legislators. That bill, which would have empowered law enforcement to punish or block sites sharing pirated content, was so controversial that it sparked protests across the web. Because of the sheer scale of that public response, lawmakers are now hesitant to change any existing copyright protections, including those set to expire on January 1, 2019.

But even if those protections expire, Disney could still find a way to prevent rival studios from using Mickey’s image when 2024 rolls around. While copyrights are designed to be temporary, trademarks have the potential for serious lasting power. That’s because copyrights only protect a single work of artistic expression (in this case, the film Steamboat Willie), while trademarks are attached to images and logos that represent a brand (so Mickey Mouse, the character). As long as Disney can prove that Mickey has evolved beyond his first screen appearance into a symbol that’s synonymous with its corporation, he’ll remain a protected property. And if you take a look at their theme parks, cruise ships, media, and the dozens of Hidden Mickeys they've hidden in their movies, you’ll see that they can easily make that case.

But few works of art made in the 1920s have taken the same path to corporate dominance as Mickey Mouse, even other works made famous by Disney (like Winnie the Pooh, first introduced in A.A. Milne's stories in 1926). Even if Disney manages to protect Mickey, the public should have a big new batch of copyright-free content to access in the next few years.

[h/t Ars Technica]

Matt Stroshane, Disney/Getty Images
The One Phrase Disney Theme Park Characters Aren't Allowed to Say
Matt Stroshane, Disney/Getty Images
Matt Stroshane, Disney/Getty Images

The 14 Disney theme parks located around the world attract so many attendees each year that the company recently decided to increase admission for peak times by 20 percent to help decrease crowd congestion. Anaheim’s Disneyland is such a popular tourist attraction that some days the park is actually at capacity.

What keeps visitors packed in like sardines? The promise of a suspended reality—one that treats the various Disney characters as though they had just stepped out of a movie. There’s a laundry list of employee policies to help sustain that illusion, and Travel + Leisure recently uncovered one of the most interesting ones: Actors dressed as Disney characters are never allowed to say “I don’t know” to guests.

The motivation is understandable: Disney never wants people to feel as though they need to wander around looking for information. If they pose a question to, say, a Disney Princess, the actor is expected to communicate with other employees or areas of the park in order to find the answer. If Elsa doesn't know where the nearest restroom is, she's tasked with finding out before your kid's bladder gives up.

If a guest is looking for general directions, there’s also protocol for how to point. Performers are not allowed to use their index finger by itself. Instead, they use it in conjunction with their middle finger. In addition to index finger-pointing being considered rude in some cultures, legend has it that the gesture was partly inspired by Walt Disney himself, who once roamed the park grounds pointing at structures with two fingers that pinched a cigarette.

[h/t Travel + Leisure]


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