It turns out Walt Disney’s reason for not including moms in a lot of his animated movies was a very personal decision.
While the princess movies always seem to feature strong dads — like Belle’s father Maurice the inventor, Princess Jasmine’s father the Sultan and Ariel’s dad King Triton — the moms have either passed away or are just absent without explanation.
Turns out, the most likely reason behind those decisions wasn’t sexism or a secret Illuminati message like some have speculated in the past.
Instead, Disney producer, Don Hahn, told Glamour a devastating story that explains Disney’s decision.
“Walt Disney, in the early 1940s… 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.”
Hahn added, “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… to me, it humanizes Walt. He was devastated by that, as anyone would be.”
Hahn also said that in stories where the entire plot based on a character’s growth has to happen in 80 or 90 minutes, it’s much easier to tell that story when the parents are absent because it makes more sense that the hero or heroine has to step in and fill that adult role sooner than expected.
But, ultimately, it’s clear that Hahn believes the loss of Disney’s mother, and the responsibility he felt for her death, attributed to the princesses rarely having positive female role models.
It’s important to note: Bambi seems to be an exception, but that film was released prior to Disney’s mother’s death. Dumbo and Snow White also preceded her death.