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Disney movies have a reputation for being family-friendly, but don't let the talking animals and songs fool you! Almost every Disney movie has some sort of underlying sadness, usually in the form of a dead parent or two. Frozen, Tarzan, Aladdin, The Little Mermaid, and Big Hero 6 are just a few examples, but the two saddest deaths may belong to Bambi and The Lion King. Both classics feature the death of a parent, but The Lion King took a lesson from Bambi by deciding to show the death on-screen.
We were thinking that [Simba] needs to deal with the fact that his father died. We need to bring some closure to it. And the fact that later in the story, his father does come back to him, in a very meaningful and important way, kind of closes the loop. It's not that he really does die and disappear forever, which I find much more disturbing.
Other than solely starring talking animals, Bambi and The Lion King share something in common: they both feature the death of a parent during the course of the film. In Bambi's case, it's famously the little deer's mother and in The Lion King, Simba's father, Mufasa. The difference between the deaths is that Bambi's mom is shot off-screen by a hunter, while Mufasa is thrown off a cliff into a stampede of wildebeests and his son finds his corpse. That difference is intentional because the death of Bambi's mom taught the director of The Lion King that they needed to show Mufasa's demise for it to have an impact on Simba.
The Lion King co-director Rob Minkoff told Yahoo Movies that he found it "disturbing" that Bambi's mom essentially disappears from the movie after her death. It's a terribly sad moment, but then the next scene is Bambi as an adult singing with his friends and getting twitterpated. And true, after Mufasa, Simba ends up an adult singing with his friends and getting twitterpated, but the ghost of Mufasa quite literally haunts him. It's something that affects him throughout the whole movie, whereas Bambi never thinks about his mom.
This is likely a result of the limits of an animated film in the 1940s, and they were probably reluctant to upset kids so blatantly. Audiences were likely more prepared for The Lion King, which produced one of the most unforgettable deaths in cinematic history.
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