Disney’s Single Parent Problem

I get weird stares from people if I ever mention that Disney has an obsession with single-parent households. Look no further than Disney’s animated movies. They’re sorely lacking in displaying intact, two-parent homes. Why is Disney, a champion of “family values”, so obsessed with featuring children in homes that do not strive for and appreciate two involved, intelligent parents? In other words, homes like yours? Or consider Mickey: Disney refuses to marry him off to long-time gal-pal Minnie. Why? Whenever kids are needed in Mickey’s script, nephews and nieces are thrown in – and these characters also lack parents. Why? The same goes for Donald Duck and love-interest Daisy Duck. Huey, Dewey and Louie are the parent-less nephews that are thrown in when kids are called for. Isn’t that just a tad odd?DisneyFamilyProblem

If the above doesn’t convince you, there’s always the facts.

The following is a listing of most of the full-length, box-office animated movies released by Disney since their first, Snow White, in 1937. Take note of the parents (or lack thereof). True, some of their movies are adapted from legends and classics such as Cinderella, and the parental status was not decided by Disney (but even in Disney’s Cinderella, Prince Charming comes from a single-parent family, and his father is a buffoon. Who’s decision was that?). So the goal of this list is to detail the parental situation of the characters in these animated movies. If the main character has an involved, intelligent parent that lives more than 1/3 way through the movie, they get credit. We’ll also note that supporting characters get short-shrift in the parenting department. Since I haven’t watched all the Disney animated movies, some of them have a question mark since I don’t know the parental status of the characters in the movies.

While reading this list, bear in mind the following peculiarities:
a) Disney is a self-proclaimed champion of “family values”. We should expect them to care and aim for ideals that matter.
b) 70% of American kids live in a home with two parents (US 2000 Census). This should make the disparity all the more disconcerting.
c) Although Disney frequently sprinkles in fathers, if the father can be construed as a white person, more often than not, he is portrayed as a doofus, in need of a child to correct him. If he’s an animal or a non-white, more often than not, he’s sensible. Please, people!
d) Disney seems oddly obsessed with adding magic and spiritualism in their stories, even when it’s not essential to the story line, or not present in the real life story from which the movie was adapted. Take Pocahontas, for example. If any spirituality should be included, it should be Christianity, because the real Pocahontas converted to Christianity. However, Disney refuses to acknowledge her conversion to Christianity, and rather, inserts a mystical “Grandmother Willow” into the story. Why on earth ruin a (quasi) true story with such nonsensical rubbish?

Please don’t get me wrong: This is NOT to say that single-parent families are evil. This is, however, to say that single-parent families are not part of our original design, and other than a few eccentric Hollywood types, the overwhelming majority of people on this planet WANT two-parent households for their kids.

So why is Disney, a self-proclaimed champion of “family values” so oblivious to this?
(Someone at Disney gave an interesting answer. I’ll address it at the end of this article)


Dad Mom Movie (Release Date) Comments
Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs(November 21, 1937) Snow White* Step-mother
Pinocchio(February 9, 1940) Pinocchio*
n/a Fantasia(November 12, 1940)
Dumbo(October 23, 1941) Dumbo. The father, Jumbo, is mentioned, but never shown. The mother is mute. Very odd.
Bambi(August 13, 1942) Bambi
Song Of The South(November 12, 1946) This is a live-action movie for the most part, so technically doesn’t belong here.
n/a The Adventures Of Ichabod And Mr. Toad(October 5, 1949)
Cinderella(February 15, 1950) Cinderella* Step-mother
– Prince Charming – Father is depicted as a buffon.
Alice In Wonderland(July 28, 1951) Alice*
Peter Pan(February 5, 1953) Peter Pan (main character) and The Lost boys *
– Wendy and the boys. Both parents are present, but the father is a buffoon.
Lady And The Tramp(June 22, 1955) Lady
Sleeping Beauty(January 29, 1959) Aurora actually has both parents, but her parents are not the ones raising her.
– Prince Phillip
101 Dalmatians(January 25, 1961) This is the first animated movie from Disney to feature both sets of parents as involved, loving, intelligent. Pity that they’re dogs and not human.
The Sword In The Stone(December 25, 1963) Arthur
The Jungle Book(October 18, 1967) Mowgli.*
The Aristocats(April 24, 1970)
Robin Hood(November 8, 1973) All the peasant kids in this movie only have one parent.
The Many Adventures Of Winnie The Pooh(March 3, 1977) Christopher Robin
– Roo, the baby kangaroo
n/a The Rescuers(June 22, 1977) Penny is kidnapped.
? Pete’s Dragon(November 3, 1977)
The Fox And The Hound(July 10, 1981)
? The Black Cauldron(July 24, 1985)
The Great Mouse Detective(July 2, 1986) Olivia.
Oliver & Company(November 18, 1988) Oliver*
The Little Mermaid(November 15, 1989) Ariel. In the original story, Ariel turns into sea foam as a punishment for her disobedience. In Disney’s version, she’s a celebrated hero for teaching her narrow-minded father a lesson in being open minded.
? The Rescuers Down Under(November 16, 1990)
Beauty And The Beast(November 22, 1991) Beauty. Father is a buffoon.
Aladdin(November 25, 1992) Aladdin. In the original story, Aladdin has a mother.
– Jasmine. Father is a kindly buffoon.
n/a The Nightmare Before Christmas(October 29) Not fit for kids.
The Return Of Jafar(May 20, 1994) Aladdin.
– Jasmine
The Lion King(June 24, 1994) Simba. Although hailed by critics for the fatherly role played by Mufasa, the father dies 1/4 of the way into the movie. Gee, thanks.
A Goofy Movie(April 7, 1995) Max (Goofy’s son)
Pocahontas(June 23, 1995) Pocahontas. Her conversion to Christianity goes unmentioned, yet they bring in “Grandmother Willow”, a ficticious mystical spirit.
Toy Story(November 22, 1995) Andy, the good kid has one parent. Sid, the bad kid, has both. Why?
– Sid, the bad kid (father is seen sleeping while Buzz realizes he really is a toy)
James And The Giant Peach(April 12, 1996) James.
n/a The Hunchback Of Notre Dame(June 21, 1996) All adults. Scene of bishop in front of fireplace is NOT kid-appropriate.
Aladdin And The King Of Thieves(August 13, 1996) Aladdin reunited with long-lost father (a thief).
Hercules(June 27, 1997) Hercules. Father is oafish, and both parents are uninvolved with Hercules’ upbringing. This is almost borderline for the mom.
Pooh’s Grand Adventure: The Search For Christopher Robin(August 5, 1997) Christopher (see Poo entry above)
? How The Toys Saved Christmas(October 21, 1997)
Mulan(June 19, 1997) Mulan. China originally boycotted this movie because Disney essentially hijacked a Chinese legend about family honor and turned it into a flick about women’s rights.
? Pocahontas II: Journey To A New World(August 4, 1997, 1997)
? The Lion King II: Simba’s Pride(October 27, 1997, 1997)
A Bug’s Life(November 25, 1997) Real ants don’t have a King, so it shouldn’t bother us that these ants don’t.
? Doug’s 1stMovie(March 26, 1999)
Tarzan(June 18, 1999) Tarzan *
– Jane. Father is a buffoon.
? My Neighbors The Yamadas(Japan: July 17, 1999)
? Hercules: Zero To Hero(August 17, 1999)
? Madeline: Lost In Paris(August 29, 1999)
Toy Story 2(November 24, 1999) Andy still has no dad, but Buzz does. Sorta.
n/a Fantasia/2000(January 1, 2000)
? The Tigger Movie(February 11, 2000)
? An Extremely Goofy Movie(February 29, 2000) While I don’t know the parental status of the movie, in the comics and animated shorts, Goofy has a son, Max, but no wife.
Dinosaur(May 19, 2000) The main character has no parents.
– The minor characters (monkeys) have no father, but do have a grandfather (no grandmother).
The Little Mermaid II: Return To The Sea(September 16, 2000) Melody. Parents present, but not involved as she runs away and disobeys parents.
The Emperor’s New Groove(December 15, 2000) Emperor. We’re not told he’s a kid, but he sure acts like it. John Goodman’s character is the member of a healthy, intact family, but doesn’t spend much time with his kids.
? Recess: School’s Out(February 16, 2001)
Lady And The Tramp II: Scamp’s Adventure(February 27, 2001)
Atlantis: The Lost Empire(June 15, 2001) Atlantean girl.
Spirited Away(Japan: July 20, 2001) This is really an indie film, made in Japanese studios. The main character tries to rescue her parents from an evil spirit that has changed them into pigs.
Monsters, Inc.(November 2, 2001) Boo (infant)
Return To Never Land(February 15, 2002)
n/a Cinderella II: Dreams Come True(February 26, 2002)
n/a The Hunchback Of Notre Dame II(March 19, 2002)
Lilo And Stitch(June 21, 2002) Lilo raised by older sister.
Tarzan And Jane(July 23, 2002) Tarzan
– Jane. Father is looney (to use my daughter’s terminology)
Treasure Planet(November 27, 2002)
? 101 Dalmatians II: Patch’s London Adventure(January 21, 2003)
? The Jungle Book 2(February 14, 2003)
? Atlantis: Milo’s Return(May 20, 2003)
Finding Nemo(May 30, 2003) – Nemo has a clueless dad, mother killed off in the first 10 minutes.
? Stitch! The Movie(August 26, 2003)
? Brother Bear(November 1, 2003) Kenai. Animal rights PC nonsense run amuck. Animals EAT other animals, and God gave animals to man to eat (). This movie teaches otherwise.
? Teacher’s Pet(January 16, 2004)
The Lion King 1 1/2(February 10, 2004)
n/a Home On The Range(April 2, 2004)
The Incredibles(November 5, 2004) Unlike the majority of Disney blather, this movie is stunningly good in so many ways, one wonders if Disney is responsible for it! But I could be biased.
? Mulan II(February 2, 2005)
? Tarzan II(June 14, 2005)
? Lilo And Stitch 2: Stitch Has A Glitch(August 30, 2005)
? Chicken Little(November 4, 2005)
n/a Cars(June 9, 2006)
? Meet the Robinsons(March 30, 2007)
n/a Ratatouille(June 29, 2007)
n/a WALL-E(June 27, 2008)
? Bolt(November 21, 2008)
Up(May 29, 2009) – Russell
? The Princess and the Frog(December 11, 2009)
? Toy Story 3(June 18, 2010)
? Cars 2(June 24, 2011)
? Brave(June 15, 2012)
? Monsters Inc. 2(November 16, 2012)

Now that my kids aren’t so young, I haven’t seen a lot of the newer movies, so they get a “?” since the status of parentage is unknown to me.

Final Stats (approx):

Total Movies 100
Main character has two involved, sensible parents 4
One father 12
One mother 12
No father or mother 21
Unknown (movie not previewed) 28
N/A 11

This, from a “family values” company that makes movies for kids.

Kinda makes ya wanna say “hmmmmmmmmmmm”


In a 2014 interview, Glamour Magazine put the question to Don Hahn, executive producer of Disney’s live action Maleficent (2014):

Glamour: Maleficent felt like one of the first Disney movies where you had a motherly presence that’s usually missing. Ariel didn’t have a mother in The Little Mermaid; Belle only had her dad in Beauty and the Beast. Why is that?
Don: I’ll give you two stories that are the reasons. I never talk about this, but I will. One reason is practical because the movies are 80 or 90 minutes long, and Disney films are about growing up. They’re about that day in your life when you have to accept responsibility. Simba ran away from home but had to come back. In shorthand, it’s much quicker to have characters grow up when you bump off their parents. Bambi’s mother gets killed, so he has to grow up. Belle only has a father, but he gets lost, so she has to step into that position. It’s a story shorthand. The other reason—and this is really odd—Walt Disney, in the early 1940s, when he was still living at this house, also bought a house for his mom and dad to move into. He had the studio guys come over and fix the furnace, but when his mom and dad moved in, the furnace leaked and his mother died. The housekeeper came in the next morning and pulled his mother and father out on the front lawn. His father was sick and went to the hospital, but his mother died. He never would talk about it, nobody ever does. He never spoke about that time because he personally felt responsible because he had become so successful that he said, “Let me buy you a house.” It’s every kid’s dream to buy their parents a house and just through a strange freak of nature—through no fault of his own—the studio workers didn’t know what they were doing. There’s a theory, and I’m not a psychologist, but he was really haunted by that. That idea that he really contributed to his mom’s death was really tragic. If you dig, you can read about it. It’s not a secret within their family, but it’s just a tragedy that is so difficult to even talk about. It helps to understand the man a little bit more.
Glamour: That is so horrible.
Don: He was living here on a hilltop, on five acres. He had just made Fantasia, Dumbo, Pinocchio, Bambi, and Snow White in a five-year span. He buys a house for his mom and dad, they move down from Oregon, and his mom dies. Again, I’m not a psychologist to know it all, but it’s a really interesting story. To me, it humanizes Walt. He was devastated by that, as anyone would be.

Interesting.

Now all that remains is some kind of explanation for the doofus Dads and sappy spiritualism.

Cinderella(February 15, 1950) Cinderella* Step-mother

6:1 When man began to multiply on the face of the land and daughters were born to them, the sons of God saw that the daughters of man were attractive. And they took as their wives any they chose. Then the Lord said, “My Spirit shall not abide in man forever, for he is flesh: his days shall be 120 years.” The Nephilim were on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of man and they bore children to them. These were the mighty men who were of old, the men of renown.

The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the Lord was sorry that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart. So the Lord said, “I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens, for I am sorry that I have made them.” But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord.

These are the generations of Noah. Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his generation. Noah walked with God. 10 And Noah had three sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth.

11 Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight, and the earth was filled with violence. 12 And God saw the earth, and behold, it was corrupt, for all flesh had corrupted their way on the earth. 13 And God said to Noah, “I have determined to make an end of all flesh, for the earth is filled with violence through them. Behold, I will destroy them with the earth. 14 Make yourself an ark of gopher wood. Make rooms in the ark, and cover it inside and out with pitch. 15 This is how you are to make it: the length of the ark 300 cubits, its breadth 50 cubits, and its height 30 cubits. 16 Make a roof for the ark, and finish it to a cubit above, and set the door of the ark in its side. Make it with lower, second, and third decks. 17 For behold, I will bring a flood of waters upon the earth to destroy all flesh in which is the breath of life under heaven. Everything that is on the earth shall die. 18 But I will establish my covenant with you, and you shall come into the ark, you, your sons, your wife, and your sons’ wives with you. 19 And of every living thing of all flesh, you shall bring two of every sort into the ark to keep them alive with you. They shall be male and female. 20 Of the birds according to their kinds, and of the animals according to their kinds, of every creeping thing of the ground, according to its kind, two of every sort shall come in to you to keep them alive. 21 Also take with you every sort of food that is eaten, and store it up. It shall serve as food for you and for them.” 22 Noah did this; he did all that God commanded him. (ESV)

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1 comment to Disney’s Single Parent Problem

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