Ross Murray's Border Report
Ross Murray
Ross Murray
is a freelance writer living in Stanstead, Quebec. You can reach him at
Posted 04.07.04
Stanstead, Quebec


Disney: It's all about death & dying

Walt Disney is dead. And he wants you to join him.

If you have watched as many Disney films as I have - and that's pretty much the entire oeuvre; here, allow me to recite Toy Story to you - you begin to notice a running theme: dead parents.

Dead, dying, suspiciously absent - family trauma is rampant in Disney films. And that doesn't even count the parents who want to kill themselves after sitting through The Little Mermaid for the thirty-seventh time.

Let's look at last year's big hit Finding Nemo. The film opens joyfully enough, with mom and dad fish swimming around their baby fish eggs. La-la-la. Then all the babies get eaten. Tee-hee, what delightful family viewing. Pass the popcorn and caviar.

I'll never forget taking our oldest daughter Emily to see The Lion King when she was about four years old. The stampede and Mufasa's death has got to be the most intense scenes in any kids' movie ever.

First you watch him get trampled to death and then you see him lying there, his young son Simba sniffling around his dead body. I remember sitting in stunned silence with Emily in the movie theatre. All of a sudden, the silence was broken with the sound of sobbing: "Why won't he wake up?" Emily was pretty upset too.

That's heavy stuff. I'm surprised Elton John's theme song wasn't called "The Circle of Death."

The fatality list goes on and on. Disney orphans: Cinderella, The Rescuers, Aladdin, The Jungle Book, Tarzan, Lilo & Stitch. Disney heroes with just one parent: Beauty and the Beast, The Little Mermaid. (Where is Triton the Sea King's missus anyway? There's got to be some back-story about her being mounted in a taxidermy shop somewhere.)

And let's not forget the ultimate Disney death, Bambi's mother. Blammo! And who is Bambi left with in the end? An aloof and uninvolved father, more interested in his stag parties than nurturing his son. Imagine the therapy.

You can be sure that if Mary Poppins hadn't been based on a novel, Disney would have cast the Banks children as orphans, their parents killed in a tragic umbrella-factory mishap, and only through Mary Poppins' care and common sense do Jane and Michael learn to overcome their fear of intimacy and raingear.

The marketing savvy behind all of this is likely the idea that parents hold kids back from adventure. Imagine Peter Pan if he had a mom nagging him all the time.

"Quit that flying around the house before you break something! Grow up, why don't you!"

Free of parental restraint, Disney heroes take risks, they live life to the fullest, save the day, and learn that great children's movie lesson: Be true to yourself. And don't forget to land that McDonald's Happy Meal tie-in.

I'm just worried what kind of impression all this is making on the kids: "Hmmm, if we off mom and dad, we could learn to fly, talk to animals, and find buried treasure! What shall it be, poison apple or torn apart by wolves?"

Where will Disney ultimately take this trend? I imagine before long, we will see an animated version of Oedipus Rex entitled My Big Fat Greek Complex. Think The Parent Trap with togas. And incest. Disney will add two adorable animated sidekicks for our hero Rexxy named Id and Hubris (Hubie for short).

They'll sing "How Are Ya, Hamartia," which will go something like this: "That fatal flaw's gonna get ya, brother. / You must be blind - that broad's your Mother!" Music by Randy Newman.