The death of parents is a consistent, reoccurring theme in Disney animations. It is tradition in the plot line of many Disney stories, so the creators continue to utilize the theme to adhere to expected standards of story lines. Once again, by straying from the norm, or what society expects, Disney could risk losing money. Yet, in keeping this tradition, it is not taken into account how witnessing abandonment may impact children, who serve as the majority of Disney's audience.
In Disney's production Bambi, released in 1942, the mother deer is killed in an early scene. Bambi, the young deer, is living happily with his loving mother, when one day, while the two of them are searching for grass to eat, the mother is shot by a hunter. Bambi escapes, loses track of his mom, and is left alone and confused. When Bambi questions his father about the location of his mother, the father responds, "Your mother can't be with you anymore" and leads Bambi home out of pity (Acuna 2012). Bambi is mournful and loses the figure in his life who protected him and warned him of the dangers of the forest. The father never explains to Bambi what happened to his mother, and Bambi was physically left alone in the forest after running out of fear for his life.
In Disney's 1994 production, The Lion King, Simba, a young boy, also loses a parent. His father, Mufasa, is murdered by his own brother, Scar, and Simba witnesses the whole occurrence. Simba is tricked by his uncle into starting the stampede that kills his father, and then manipulated by Scar into thinking that he is to blame for Mufasa's death. The scene is very graphic and traumatic. Simba is left afterwards, alone at the scene, mourning his father's death. He then flees the land to be on his own for he feels responsible for the incident and cannot face the other animals at home.
Disney's 2010 production, Tangled, features the princess, Rapunzel, who is kidnapped from her family, and then raised by an evil witch pretending to be her mother. Though Rapunzel's parents do not die, she lives her entire upbringing without them, and is under the impression that another woman is her real mother. Mother Gothel traps Rapunzel in a tower, and convinces Rapunzel that her 'love' for her is real. Rapunzel learns to trust this woman, only to have Mother Gothel's true evil form revealed to her later in the film, discovering that the care she was given as a child was all for a selfish reason. She does not meet her real parents until she is an adolescent, freed from Mother Gothel.
In many Disney animations where a parent dies, the child witnesses the event or a very traumatizing experience accompanies the death, such as in Bambi and The Lion King. The child is then left alone to fend for him/herself. Disney's rhetoric on the abandonment of a child comments that the incident allows him or her to grow stronger and more independent. Simba, for example, eventually returns to his home land, defeats Scar, and becomes king of Pride Rock; Bambi saves the deer he fancies, and they grow up to have two children together with Bambi as the Great Prince of the Forest. However, the young children viewing these films are actually harmed in their own ability to be independent and strong. In their stage of development, according to Erik Erikson, the connection with and intrinsic trust in their parent is imperative and the expansion of fears that young children are developing increases their anxiety over losing their parent. Disney movies containing the theme of abandonment worsen children's fears of mistrust in their guardian. They could have nightmares from witnessing these fictional deaths, or even be impacted in their sense of self-trust and independence. The fear of abandonment, of the idea that his/her parent may not always be there when needed, could cause a child to be tenaciously attached to his/her parent and less prone to develop autonomy and initiative. Disney's rhetoric on this dark theme must take into account the affects on young viewers, by eliminating the deaths or altering their commentary on a child's development after the death.