My wife and I went to see Toy Story 3 tonight. It was another great film and it was wild to see the end of a saga that began for us when we were still in high school (1995). It also made for a great date night, too! On the drive home, we started talking about the movie and the trilogy. As we talked we made a startling observation: there is no dad in any of the Toy Story movies. And not only that, but we also kept thinking about it: the first Toy Story movie has Andy’s young sister as an infant without any mention/sight of a father (even though we meet Sid’s couch-potato dad next door). So, I start to tweet about my amazing discovery. My friend, Matt Dearman, replies that it’s a trend in most Disney films. Since my wife is pretty much the Disney expert – we started thinking about it. The results were stunning.
Snow White was Disney’s first major motion picture in 1937. They have been making “family” oriented films for 73 years. In that time, here are the only movies we could find (that we had seen) that portray a married mother and father who love and care for their families throughout the entire film (who aren’t minor characters):
–The Incredibles (perhaps the best of all the animated films)
–The Emperor’s New Groove (Pacha’s familiy, though it appears briefly, still looks pretty healthy)
–Swiss Family Robinson (perhaps the best of all of the non-animated films)
–Remember the Titans (Coach Boone’s family)
There are other movies that have 2 parents, but their role is either minor or inconsequential to the film: Lady & the Tramp, 101 Dalmatians, Peter Pan, Sleeping Beauty, Hercules, Mulan.
Besides those few, most every other Disney movie you and I have ever seen over the past 73 years does not depict a 2-parent home at all, for very long, or in a healthy way. One parent is either completely missing (usually for an unexplained reason), dies shortly into the beginning of the film, or the main characters are orphans and never had parents to begin with. Consider some examples:
–Dumbo: no father
–Bambi: mom dies early
–Cinderella: mom dies early; dad remarries & dies – all in the introduction
–Alice in Wonderland: no dad mentioned
–The Jungle Book: the kid is raised by animals
–The Little Mermaid: no mom (in fact, most Disney princesses don’t have moms)
–Aladdin: he’s a homeless kid and Jasmine’s mom isn’t in the movie
–The Lion King: Dad dies early on
–Mary Poppins: The dad runs his home like a bank; mom’s a political nut and the kids are more attached to their nanny than their own parents.
–Finding Nemo: Mom dies early
–Pollyanna: orphan girl who lives with her rich, strict aunt
–Ratatouille: kid is illegitimate; both parents are dead – even the rat only appears to have a dad.
–I could go on and on and on!
See for yourself. Here is a complete list of major Disney productions. Are there other productions that we’ve missed that display healthy, traditional, nuclear families that play anything of a significant role in the story? (It’s a fun nostalgic look back at movies you haven’t thought about since you were 8).
Now, I know that Disney did not write all of these stories. Nevertheless, these are the stories they selected to produce and it is alarming how few of them model complete, traditional, healthy families – which is, of course, their prerogative. I just find the deficiency rather astounding. And we could broaden this observation beyond Disney for sure (most TV shows these days have dysfunctional, broken, or absent families). So, I’m not really blaming Disney for anything or really hoping that they will change their ways. I’m just wondering why the “leading diversified international family entertainment and media enterprise” hasn’t produced many films that have a married mother and father that care for and love their children.
So, that was our conversation on the drive home tonight. What do you think? Just a sign of the times or some kind of massive conspiracy? Any new insights or perspectives on this that I’m not considering? Can you think of any movie/TV show that does model a stable, healthy family well?