10 Best Mother-Child Stories In Animated Disney Films

Being a mother is no easy feat and the struggle of being a parent is a theme prevalent in cinema. However, Disney, possibly the biggest family entertainment corporation, has a history of leaving mothers out of their stories. Classic Disney princesses were often written with absent mothers to facilitate a coming-of-age story. As Disney has evolved to fit contemporary themes, so have the structures of the stories they tell, and those heartwrenching stories between a mother and child have slowly become more persistent in these family films.

These mother-child relationships are not evaluated based on the perfectness or the quality of the mother herself. Mothers are people too and the stories where they struggle to bridge a disconnect with their children are some of the most important stories to tell. Stories of overcoming and learning.

Co-directed by Brenda Chapman and Mark Andrews, Pixar's Brave is arguably one of the most nuanced portrayals of a mother-daughter relationship in Disney history. The story centers around Merida, the stubborn and independent daughter of Queen Elinor. The two are complete opposites and Elinor's insistence on Merida's betrothal has Merida turning to the help of a witch.

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The best part about this movie is how human Merida and Elinor's relationship is. Their struggles to understand each other are so realistic but despite their disagreements, they both clearly love each other. Throughout the film, Merida and Elinor learn to understand each other, to care for each other, and Elinor learns to respect Merida's autonomy.

Co-directed by Chris Sanders and Dean DeBlois, Lilo and Stitch is an iconic Disney movie about family. Although Lilo and Nani are sisters, Nani has taken on the role of raising Lilo and has become a mother figure. As Lilo teaches Stitch about the meaning of family, Lilo and Nani's semi-dysfunctional relationship also unfolds.

This film, at its core, is about the meaning of family; the meaning of 'ohana. Lilo is a typical young girl getting into trouble, and that trouble often bleeds into Nani's high-stress life as she struggles to maintain custody over Lilo. Despite their problems and their constant bickering, the sisters love each other and Nani proves she would do anything to keep Lilo safe.

In Turning Red, directed by Domee Shi, Mei, a thirteen-year-old girl with a strong personality, desperately wants to please her mother, Ming. So when Mei unexpectedly transforms into a giant red panda, she's caught between wanting to embrace this new side of her and Ming's insistence that she seal it away forever.

The refreshing thing about this mother-daughter portrayal was how good their relationship was from the beginning, with theirs being one of the best relationships in Turning Red. Mei and Ming both know that the other cares for them. The story centers more around communication and respect: Mei learning to set boundaries and Ming learning to respect them.

Big Hero 6 is a Disney-Marvel production co-directed by Chris Williams and Don Hall that follows a young genius named Hiro and his late brother's robot Baymax as they work to bring down the villain responsible for his brother's death. Although Hiro is raised by his Aunt Cass, she serves as a mother figure and her addition to the film is a vital one.

Related: Every Big Hero 6 Main Character, Ranked By Power

Following his brother's death, Cass, who herself is struggling with grief, makes every effort to ensure Hiro is okay. She's far from overbearing, but her worry is clear and Hiro's distance from her only exacerbates that. As Hiro works through his grief, he learns to become more open with Cass.

Created by renowned Pixar director Pete Docter, Soul confronts the complex themes of life, death, and logic as well as what it means to be human and to have a purpose in life. Joe Gardner is an aging jazz pianist working at a middle school with dreams of playing as a professional. His pragmatic mother, Libba, encourages Joe to have a backup plan but Joe finds her words unsupportive.

Although his mother takes up a relatively small portion of the film, her role in Soul is important to Joe in coming to terms with life's purpose. His mother does not mean to come across as unsupportive, she just wants to ensure Joe is happy and doesn't spend his life chasing the future. Her poignant conversation with him speaks volumes about a mother's love.

Princess and the Frog, co-directed by John Musker and Ron Clements follows a young woman named Tiana in New Orleans as she works tirelessly as a waitress in hopes of funding her own restaurant. Her mother appears early on, encouraging Tiana to think beyond her career aspirations, and reminding her about how important family is.

Tiana's relationship with her mother isn't the core theme of the film, but her mother does encourage her to expand her goals and think about what she wants her future to be. While Tiana's hard work is commendable, her mother knows that a restaurant will not satisfy her when the core of Tiana's love for the culinary arts comes from family and community. Urging Tiana to remember the heart of the restaurant reminds her to later reconsider her true goals.

Pixar's hit film Lucadirected by Enrico Casarosa, follows sea monsters Luca and Alberto who can transform into humans on land and who run away to the small Italian town of Portorosso. Both of Luca's parents are protective of him, his mother the stronger voice of the two, who is outraged when they discover he's been going to land.

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Luca's disconnect with his mother is ultimately her need to keep him safe. She knows that if people find out he's a sea monster, it could be dangerous for him. Luca doesn't seem to truly understand her motivations, simply feeling stifled. But in the end, Luca understands his parents better and they understand him, even letting him go to school with Giulia.

Onward was directed by Dan Scanlon and produced by Pixar. It follows two brothers, Ian and Barley, who set out on a quest to temporarily bring back their deceased father to re-unite one of Pixar's best families. Although the film is more about the relationship between the two brothers, the mother Laurel embarks on a quest of her own in an effort to keep them safe.

In the film, Laurel has moved on from her husband's passing and is actively dating someone else. She has a good relationship with both of her sons and doesn't hesitate to go after them when she thinks they're in trouble. Her role in the ending is incredibly heartwarming. Although she has had the space to grieve and move on, she knows her sons need closure and fights hard with them to bring their father back for even just a moment.

The classic Disney animated Dumbo directed by Ben Sharpsteen follows a young elephant from the circus born with unusually large ears. Dumbo and his mother are a heartwarming duo; the love that Mrs. Jumbo has for her son is immeasurable.

Mrs. Jumbo is incredibly protective of Dumbo, as he's often ridiculed for his ears. It gets her into trouble when she hits a kid who was pulling at his ears. She's locked away and Dumbo is integrated into the circus. Eventually, his large ears make him somewhat of a celebrity and he is able to free his mother. Their relationship comes full circle and Dumbo proves his maturity by freeing his mother.

Directed by Wolfgang Reitherman, The Aristocats follows a family of cats - a mother and her three kittens - who, after being kidnapped by their owner's butler, follow an alley cat back to their home in Paris.

The mother, Duchess, knows her kittens and has a unique relationship with each one. She is a wonderful mother who cares for her kittens and gives them the space and support to discover themselves throughout their adventure.

NEXT: 14 Disney Parents Ranked From Worst To Best



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