While Disney is known for spinning heartfelt tales, it’s not without cost. Rarely does a character make it to the end of a without experiencing loss or a cruel reminder of reality.
Starting with the 1942 animated tearjerker Bambi (1942), the death of Bambi’s mother halfway through the movie rattled many a child’s sense of security. animated movies shouldn’t just entertain the next generation, but also teach them about life. Life isn’t fair. Sometimes we have no choice but to move on and grow from profound tragedies. himself encouraged these tragic story beats. He stated that his life-action and
Simba Discovers Mufasa’s Death – The (1994)
Except for Bambi’s mother, this is possibly the most iconic Disney death. Based on Shakespeare’s Hamlet, in The , young Simba’s evil Uncle Scar plots a scheme to kill his brother Mufasa and advance his political status. Luring Simba to wait for his father in a gorge, Scar instigates a stampede causing Mufasa to come to Simba’s rescue.
While Simba is saved, Mufasa tragically perishes in the stampede. will start to prick your eyes when Simba looks for Mufasa, but they will be flowing uncontrollably when he finds Mufasa’s body. Once young Simba is pleading with his father to wake up, you’ll remember why this is considered the of the 90s.
Dr. Facilier Squishes Ray/Ray Becomes a Star – The Princess and the Frog (2009)
The Princess and the Frog features a gorgeous return to 2D animation, a catchy Randy Newman soundtrack, and a cast of unforgettable characters.
One of the most endearing is Ray, the firefly (voiced by Jim Cummings). This Cajun-accented firefly helps Tiana and Prince Naveen navigate the swamps and break the curse inflicted by the witch doctor, Dr. Facilier. Throughout the movie, Ray provides humor, wisdom, and an unrelenting sense of optimism.
Surprisingly, he is killed in the third act when trying to lure Dr. Facilier away from his friends. Ray’s death is a shocking off-camera squish. The weepiness doesn’t stop there though. In a beautiful twist of fate, it is revealed that Ray becomes a star after his death, joining his beloved star, Evangeline. Ray’s friends are enthralled beyond belief, but we think viewers at home are probably still shedding .
Carl and Ellie’s Adventure Book – Up (2009)
Known for having one of the most impactful opening montages of any film, Up universally destroyed audiences with this character’s death.
In the opening scene, we’re introduced to a happily married elderly couple, . They live a simple, but immensely fulfilling life together. Plagued by guilt that his wife has never taken her dream vacation, Carl surprises her with plans for a trip, only to lose her shortly afterward. and his Ellie
The most painful moment is when he visits Ellie for the last time in the hospital. Too weak to sit up, Ellie nudges her Adventure Book (her scrapbook of dreams) to her husband, indicting her adventures in this life are over. On a comforting note, near the end of the movie, a still grief-stricken Carl finally takes another glance at this book. He finds a collection of pictures from their marriage and a note from Ellie thanking him for their and lifelong adventures. She encourages him to keep having more. If that doesn’t bring on the waterworks, nothing will.
Ian and Barley’s Dad Disappears – Onward (2020)
Damaged somewhat by an unlucky theatrical release date, Onward is an underrated that hit theaters right before the 2020 pandemic.
This charming film features two elf brothers, Ian and Barley, who lost their dad to an illness. Ian never even met his father. On his 16th birthday though, his mom reveals a special gift his late father had set aside. It is a spell that when cast, could bring him back to life for 24 hours. Due to some fumbles, Ian and Barley can’t cast the spell properly and find themselves racing against time before the magic wears off.
As the two siblings reconnect over this 24-hour journey, Ian makes an unforgettable sacrifice. After realizing that his older brother has been his loving and supportive caretaker, Ian feels more determined than ever to have Barley reunite with their dad. Circumstances cause only one brother to get a few precious moments with their father and Ian gives that moment up.
Peering from a distance, Ian only sees his father’s back for a few moments before he disappears in his brother’s embrace. This quiet moment is both deeply touching and guaranteed to bring on . However, audiences can rejoice that Ian now truly appreciates Barley, a brother that loves him like a parent.
Drops Off Tod – The Fox and the Hound (1981)
Move over (1957), many pet owners argue that no is more gut-wrenching than The Fox and the Hound.
Serving as a metaphor for relationships between societal classes, Copper (a hunting dog) and Tod (a domesticated fox) form a doomed childhood friendship. What most people remember though, is Tod’s kindly adoptive mother, . Throughout Tod’s life, this kindly woman nurtures him, but their idyllic life is disrupted by her hostile neighbor, Amos Slade. An unruly man and obsessive hunter, he harasses their little family until must make the hardest of choices.
Unbeknownst to Tod, she drives him to a local nature preserve, where he can be safer. Tod, who has been a pet his whole life, is confused when his mother doesn’t let him follow her back to the car. must reluctantly drive away, leaving her confused fur baby abandoned in a rainy forest. Many people can’t bear to watch this short, emotion-packed scene again. Have mercy on us Disney.
On a more uplifting note, even the most tragic Disney is always followed by redemption and healing.
No one will judge you for sobbing during these movies, but take heart, there is always hope around the corner – for ourselves and the fictional characters we love!