These 10 Saddest Disney Moments to Tug at Your Heartstrings

Grab your tissue boxes and teddy bears — we’re looking at ten of the saddest movie moments put on film by Disney. The Mouse House has generated more tears than a grocery store full of onions — here are some of the wettest waterwork starters.

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1. Up: The first 10 minutes

Release date: May 29, 2009

About: Pixar has made a reputation on making movies that speak to children and adults. While there are plenty of things in “Up” that speak to kids – hi, Dug! – the four-minute scene that encompasses Carl and Ellie’s life is a masterful description of married life – both the wonderful little daily joys, and the occasional terrible discouragements.

2. Bambi: The death of Bambi’s mother

Release date: Aug. 21, 1942

About: By many accounts the most heart-rending off-screen death in movie history, the death of Bambi’s mother has been a cultural touchstone since the movie’s release. It was the first of what would become one of Disney’s signature heartstring pullers – the death of a parent. Bambi’s plaintive reaction is why the hunter credited as “Man” was named one of the top 20 villains by the American Film Institute.

3. The Lion King: The death of Simba’s father

Release date: June 15, 1994

About: There is an interesting contrast between the scenes in Bambi and The Lion King, reflecting perhaps a change in sensibilities. While we don’t see the body of Bambi’s mother, we do see Simba’s father after he is trampled (although noticeably without visible injury — it is Disney, after all). We also didn’t get nearly enough of Scar being dragged across a cheese grater and soaked in vinegar.

4. Dumbo: Dumbo’s mother comforting him after she has been locked up

Release date: Oct. 23, 1941

About: While Dumbo is barely the length of a modern-day TV show — clocking in at only 64 minutes — it packs a wallop, especially for any parent who has seen their child getting bullied. This was Walt Disney’s favorite movie made by his studio, and the first of Disney’s movies to be set in America.

5. Old Yeller: Old Yeller being put down

Release date: Dec. 25, 1957

About: Disney’s live-action films can be hit-or-miss, but this one hit every tissue in the box. Everyone’s heard about Old Yeller’s end, and Disney’s standard practice of showing a young person taking the turn toward maturity. Sometimes, taking that turn can suck rotten eggs.

6. Pocahontas: The end

Release date: June 23, 1995

About: While the film has numerous issues with historical accuracy and racism, the definition of a Disney ending has always been the hero and heroine ending up together. That’s not the case here, as John Smith goes back to England and Pocahontas is left behind. (In real life, she would later travel to England as the wife of a tobacco planter named John Rolfe.)

7. Toy Story 3: The toys face the furnace

Release Date: June 18, 2010

About: Facing the end with a stiff plastic chin, Woody, Buzz and the rest of Andy’s toys battled each other, Sid Phillips, greedy toy collectors and Emperor Zurg through three epic movies. Through it all, their acceptance and friendship became the lesson for us to learn. And, that Buzz Lightyear can totally fly.

8. Beauty and the Beast: Beast’s death

Release Date: Nov. 22, 1991

About: Clinging to the hero as he dies and sobbing out “I love you” is the surest way to guarantee an enchanting Disney ending, complete with magical smooching fireworks. However, few scenes are as well drawn and animated as this one. The expressions on Belle’s face are as tragic as any human.

9. The Hunchback of Notre Dame: The king of fools

Release date: June 21, 1996

About: The mood of the crowd can turn on a dime — especially when spurred on by evil henchmen. The fall of Quasimodo could be seen as a parable for many things, but the worst part might be that crowd turning on someone who so rarely heard a cheer.

10. The Fox and the Hound: Tod being taken to a game preserve

Release date: July 10, 1981

About: Being taken from your comfortable home and dumped out in the wild by someone whose heart is clearly breaking to do it — quick, cue the Kleenex squad. The Fox and the Hound is one of Disney’s more adult tales, as Tod and Copper learn that they must go their separate ways, even though they don’t want to. It was the last Disney movie to end with “The End: A Walt Disney Production” — after that, they went to closing credits.

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