When it comes to Disney, we all have preconceived notions about what we’ll see in their animated films. For example, we can all anticipate some brilliant, unique character designs, as well as a vibrant backdrop laced with generous amounts of magic and wonder. And, probably most significantly, we all expect the main characters to have a happily-ever-after, no matter how strong the challenges they face.
The Disney formula has become so ingrained in popular culture that it can be difficult for the company to surprise its followers. Every now and again, though, the Mouse House tosses us a cinematic curveball. They will occasionally kill off a cherished character. Other times, a film will be unexpectedly gloomy and mature. And every now and then, they’ll turn a famous cartoon cliche on its head. In other words, as the industry leader in animation, Disney has created numerous movie moments that have stunned viewers.
(Spoiler alert: Spoilers below.)
14The death of Bambi’s mother
One of the saddest sequences in cinematic history may be found in the 1942 animated classic “Bambi,” about a juvenile deer learning to become an adult under the care of his mother. So much so that for several generations of Disney fans, sad movies were graded on a scale ranging from “not at all sad” to “bawling your eyes out over Bambi’s mother dying.” This is despite the fact that we don’t see her death, which happens off-screen.
Even if the exact moment of death is not shown, there are enough painful clues for viewers to put together the tale. When they are attacked by human hunters during the winter, Bambi’s mother teaches him how to hunt for sustenance. The mother and son pair flee for their life, with Bambi’s mother pleading with him to keep going and not look back. In the distance, a misfired gunshot resonates… and then another, last gunshot. And all of a sudden, Bambi is running alone.
To add to the sorrow, the young fawn does not comprehend what has happened until he finds safety within a cave and joyfully exclaims, “We made it, mother!” The audience was so moved by the scene that the invisible hunter who murdered Bambi’s mother was named the 20th worst movie villain of all time by the American Film Institute.