Legacy Content

Jim On Film
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by Jim Miles (archives)
December 12, 2002
Jim gives his 10 saddest moments in Disney animated film history

Does Anyone Have a Tissue?

Having been involved in various forms of entertainment at different levels, the feeling associated with laughter is amazing. To know that you have made a group of people you’ve never met before laugh, sometimes hysterically, is enough to keep you going for a very long time. And people love to laugh. Comedy is a very popular genre of film, and people flock to see something that will make them laugh. Disney, in its animated films, works very hard to fit in plenty of good belly laughs to keep audiences returning.

However, as satisfying as laughter is, so much more powerful and thrilling is the moment of silence, the thought that you have made people have a deep emotional reaction to your work. Because of this, celebrities who do animation voices often comment in interviews how amazing it is that drawings can move the viewer in such strong ways.

Below are the ten most moving and emotional scenes in Disney animation. While there are many scenes that could make this list, these are then ten that, I feel, most strongly move the audience closer to tears, if not all the way there.

Dumbo (1941)--Whenever there is any discussion about Dumbo, the two scenes that never fail to earn mention are Pink Elephants on Parade and Baby Mine. Most kids and adults can relate to both the love of the mother and the need for the child to feel loved by a mother so touchingly portrayed in this film. When Mrs. Jumbo is imprisoned for protecting her beloved baby, she is chained in a small area for the most unjust of all reasons. When poor little Dumbo, who has suffered agonies like no other, attempts to make contact with her, the only way of doing so is through the bars in the window of her holding cell. The scene is complemented with the emotional song Baby Mine, and when Dumbo must leave her, Mrs. Jumbo can only wave good-bye with her trunk. It is something so simple, and yet it moves you every time.

Bambi (1942)--If being separated from one’s mother is devastating, the loss of a mother is more traumatic. When Bambi loses his mother, the audience responds to that childhood (and adult) fear of losing those closest to you. The scene is played to dramatic perfection. As Bambi and his mother run from hunters, a single shot rings out. Bambi furiously runs to safety, and upon making it, turns with excitement to celebrate his victory with his mother . . . who has not made it. Not understanding the way of life in the forest, Bambi searches for her, desperately calling for her to no avail.

Make Mine Music (1946)--Willie the Whale is a happy-go-lucky fellow who dreams of making it big in the world of opera. Not only does he have the drive, Willie has the talent, equipped with the range of three opera singers. Thinking that Tetti-Tatti is a talent scout, Willie rushes to demonstrate his amazing talent for him, performing, in his mind, all the masterpiece operas he wishes to star in. On the heals of this phenomenal dream, Willie is harpooned by the misunderstanding Tetti-Tatti. Not only does Willie die, Willie dies for a senseless reason, never able to become the great opera star he so passionately longed for. The sight of Willie writhing in pain through the ocean waves hardly allows for a happy ending despite the fact that he is now performing in heaven. Nelson Eddy’s words are so plain, and yet they speak so much. Poor Willie.

The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh (1977)--After some thrilling adventures, Christopher Robin tells Pooh that it is time for him to grow up and go to school. The innocent loss of the freedom of childhood portrayed so gently and simply leaves the viewer longing for the simple days of youth. Even young children still in elementary school can relate to the loss of those carefree days when toys can speak and a balloon provides the greatest adventure of them all. And adults in the grind of daily work can only relate to it too much.

The Rescuers (1977)--Just as we respond to the injustice inflicted upon poor Dumbo, we feel for little kidnapped Penny at the hands of Madame Medusa. Medusa is a crafty and wicked woman who will do what she needs to do to get what she wants, including convincing Penny that nobody would want to adopt her because she is homely. Penny wants nothing more than to be adopted, and as established in the flashback with Rufus, something in her life has caused her, at her young age, to have insecurities about her appearance. On adoption day, she believes that she was not adopted because there was another girl who was prettier. For Medusa to manipulate her at such a tender age using her deepest insecurities is brutal, and as Penny walks into the night not understanding Medusa’s motives, our hearts cry out to comfort her.

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