Disney and the Nuclear Family

I had heard an interesting stat that there are only 3 Disney movies where:

  1. Both of the main character’s parents are shown
  2. Both parents survive the entire movie

A few groundrules - they much be actual Disney movies (no Touchstone Pictures) and must have had a theatrical release (no direct-to-video sequels).

Off-hand I can think of one: 101 Dalmatians (Bongo & Perdita)

What are the others?

Tommy Kirk had two parents (Fred McMurray and Jean Hagen) who survive the film in The Shaggy Dog.

Peter Pan.
Lady and the Tramp.
Mary Poppins.

Oh… and both parents were alive in Mary Poppins.

Hercules had Zeus and Alcmene.

Hercules, I guess
Flight of the Navigator?
The Ugly Dachshund

Zowie, there’s a lot of things on the list that I’ve never seen–and don’t want to!

Forgot Song of the South.

Didn’t the parents of Sleeping Beauty survive the movie?

The Parent Trap

Yes, the two were divorced throughout most of the movie, but they did get back together before THE END.

I had heard this stat in the mid-90s so Mulan and Hercules would have to be added to the “list of 3”

So we’re up to 9 out of all of the Disney films. Any more?

Swiss Family Robinson?

And although the dad’s not in most of the movie, I’m pretty sure he’s alive at the end of Old Yeller. Unless you count the dog and not the boy as the main character, then I guess not so much.


Even in many of the ones mentioned, at least one of the parents are emotionally distant. Peter Pan – father doesn’t understand the children, and wants to make Wendy leave the nursery. Mary Poppins – dad’s a proper Edwardian gent who won’t have anything to do with his runny-nosed offspring…until Mary Poppins teaches him how to fly a kite. Song of the South – I think the parents are getting a divorce, and the little boy has to hang out with Uncle Remus because no one else will take care of him. Lady and the Tramp – don’t even remember parents there, unless you count the people who owned Lady, and they weren’t really relevant.

The parents in 101 Dalmations and Swiss Family Robinson were not only both alive and well, but they were also relevant to the plot, loved their children, and were involved in their children’s lives. That’s rare for a Disney movie.

Lady and the Tramp have puppies that they love very much.

I daresay that’s rare for any kind of movie. Or any TV show, for that matter.

Rare for children’s literature.

Children’s lit in particular is fond of orphans (Anne Shirley and Tom Sawyer) and widows/widowers. The source material for a lot of fairy tales (which is what Disney based a lot of their material from) lacks a mother or father. There is a theory that this has to do with empowering the kids to be able to act without the protective arm of parents and that you need to take the parents away to create permission for adventures. Harry Potter does it, the parents are absent in the Narnia books.

Then when you translate something into film, you often cut characters out in the interest of cost and/or storyline. Which means when you have two parents, you can usually make them one just fine.

Disney gets slammed for this one a lot - few whole families - particularly in their animated pictures - but its more a characteristic of children’s literature than Disney films.


Plus the missing parent or emotionally distant parent are the major force driving the plot. This underscores how important parents are. If the parents were both alive and loving and liked what the kid was doing, that would be boring.

Name family movies by other film companies that have the loving parents.

The thing about these lists is that most times when people say “only three movies” or somesuch, they’re really talking about famous memorable movies that Disney has made. How many dozens have been made and instantly forgotten, as opposed to classics like The Parent Trap, Old Yeller, etc.?

I would imagine if one slogged his way through every single movie Disney has released theatrically, the number would go somewhat higher.

Wouldn’t it?

Sir Rhosis

In “The Emperor’s New Grove” there’s a classic neuclear family. However, the mother is barefoot, pregnant and in the kitchen mostly, so make of it what you will.

The Incredibles, I believe, qualifies.