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The 10 Best Disney Mothers, Ranked

Disney films don’t have the best reputation when it comes to mothers. In many classic Disney films, the main character’s mother is usually dead from the start. However, there have been plenty of Disney films with mother characters, many of whom have left their mark as symbols of strength and love.

Disney mothers take all forms. Some are biological mothers, while others are adoptive mothers. Even grandmothers started out as mothers. Some have powers and some are even animals. Some have appeared in live-action, animation, or even both, thanks to hybrid films. Even when the mother doesn’t survive the story, she still could have left an impression on audiences, having left the world with her children knowing that they are loved.



10 Ella’s Mother – Cinderella (2015)

Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

In Disney’s live-action remake of Cinderella, Ella’s parents are given slightly larger roles than their animated counterparts. Ella’s mother encourages her daughter’s imagination, even sharing her belief in fairies. Unfortunately, Ella’s mother takes ill, telling her daughter to remain kind and courageous. Soon, her place in the household is taken by Lady Tremaine, the infamous wicked stepmother.

As in the animated film, Cinderella has saved a dress of her mother’s and secretly plans to wear it to the prince’s ball. Unfortunately, Lady Tremaine has the dress destroyed. Luckily, Ella’s mother was right about fairies, and the torn dress is magically transformed. Once she becomes queen, Ella honors her mother’s memory by installing a portrait of her in the royal gallery.

9 Queen Elinor – Brave (2012)

Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Merida starts out Brave as the classic rebellious princess, thinking her mother, Queen Elinor, is too strict and controlling with her. Wanting to get out of an arranged marriage, Merida makes a deal with a witch to change her mother. Unfortunately, the spell transforms Elinor into a bear. To make matters worse, if the spell isn’t broken soon, Elinor will be a bear in body and mind.

Merida gradually learns that her mother’s calls for diplomacy and conduct are important, as it helps keep the peace between the lords and keep them in line. Eventually, fixing their bond is what ultimately breaks the spell, restoring Elinor to normal. That said, Elinor’s bear form also proved quite useful, as she was able to take on the monstrous bear Mordu during the climax.

Related: The 10 Funniest Animated Disney Movies, Ranked

8 Kala – Tarzan (1999)

Kala Tarzan

In one of Disney’s darkest moments, at the start of Tarzan, Kala’s infant son is killed by the leopard, Sabor. When Kala comes across the infant Tarzan, whose parents were also destroyed by Sabor, she rescues the infant from the leopard and adopts the baby as her own. Kala is wise enough to know that Tarzan won’t replace her lost child, but unconditionally gives the child a mother’s love anyway.

Kala serves as a good contrast to her mate Kerchak, who treats Tarzan coldly. Despite Disney’s reputation of killing off mothers, Kala notably survives the animated film despite actually losing her life in the original novel.

7 The Mother Swan – The Ugly Duckling (1939)

Ugly Duckling Mother Swan
RKO Radio Pictures

In Disney’s take on The Ugly Duckling, the titular duckling doesn’t get on too well with the family he was born into. The poor little duck eventually gets his happy ending when he meets up with a family of baby swans, led by a beautiful mother swan.

The duckling happily plays with the cygnets until the mother swan calls them to leave. Feeling unwanted once again, the duckling swims away, only for the mother swan to embrace him with open wings. The duckling even gets to swim away with his new family while his old family watches in shock. There is some ambiguity if the duckling has reunited with his birth family or has been adopted by a loving new family. Either way, the mother swan has already proved to be a better parent than the ducks in her brief appearance.

6 Perdita – 101 Dalmatians (1961)

Perdita 101 Dalmatians
Buena Vista Distribution

101 Dalmatians sees two Dalmatians, Perdita and Pongo, fall in love and have a litter of fifteen puppies. When Cruella de Vil kidnaps her puppies with the intention of making them into a coat, Perdita and Pongo make it their mission to save them. The puppies’ parents even combat Jasper and Horace to save their children.

This is all the more impressive as Perdita was shown to be completely terrified of Cruella early on. When it turns out that Cruella has kidnapped 84 other puppies as part of her scheme, and that they have no home to go to, Perdita and Pongo happily adopt them all as their own.

5 Eudora – The Princess & The Frog (2009)

The Princess and the Frog
Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

In The Princess and the Frog, Eudora is Tiana’s mother. Eudora is shown working as a seamstress to support the family and is known for her sewing skills. Eudora even manages to read Tiana and Charlotte a fairy tale, “The Frog Prince,” while working.

After a time-skip, Eudora is one of the few characters who supports Tiana’s dream of opening her own restaurant, in honor of her late father, Eudora’s husband, James. Despite this, Eudora does voice concern that Tiana needs time for herself outside of working, vocalizing her own desire for grandchildren. Eudora’s support pays off in the end when Tiana not only opens up her own restaurant, but even marries a prince who’s more than willing to wait tables for her.

Related: 10 Most Expensive Disney Movies Ever Made

4 Gramma Tala – Moana (2016)

Gramma Tala Moana
Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Gramma Tala is a loving grandmother to Moana and the mother of Moana’s father, Tui. Tala is effectively her granddaughter’s best friend and confidante. Tala is one of the few people in her village that still believes in the ancient legends of the land. Many in the village don’t respect her beliefs, but she is ultimately proven right as the story goes on.

Tala is one of Moana’s biggest supporters, encouraging her love of the sea and wayfinding, even when Tui forbids it. It helps that Tala remembers a time when her people were great wayfinders. Tala also promises to always be with Moana. Even after her death, Tala’s spirit stays close to her granddaughter, appearing as a manta ray.

3 Julieta – Encanto

Julieta Madrigal
Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Encanto revolves around the Madrigal family, most of whom are born with a special, supernatural gift, barring the heroine Mirabel. Mirabel’s mother Julieta is a kind, nurturing woman. This is even reflected in her special gift: the ability to make food that can heal various ailments and injuries. This especially comes in handy as her husband Agustín is quite accident-prone. This also allows her to function as a town healer and sort of mother figure for the populace at large.

Julieta is especially kind and nurturing to Mirabel, being one of her daughter’s biggest supporters throughout the story. This is in stark contrast to Julieta’s own mother, Alma, who acts cold and resentful towards Mirabel, though not without her sympathies. That said, as close as Julieta is with Mirabel, she doesn’t seem as close to her other daughters, Isabel and Luisa, to the point where Isabel seems closer to her aunt Pepa.

2 Bambi’s Mother – Bambi

Bambi's Mother
    RKO Radio Pictures

In Bambi, Bambi’s mother’s entire characterization revolves around her relationship with her son. Bambi’s mother starts the film giving birth to her son and teaches him about the ways of the forest. Bambi’s mother always keeps her son close. This is in stark contrast to the original novel, where Bambi’s mother was actually more distant to Bambi in order to teach him to be more independent.

Bambi’s mother is also the focus of a scene that has become infamous in animation, if not film, history. During the winter, Bambi and his mother realize that they are in the presence of an unseen hunter. While helping her son escape, Bambi’s mother is shot dead. Bambi is then taken under the wing of his father, the Great Prince. Over the years, this sequence has been considered one of the most shocking in cinematic history.

1 Giselle – Enchanted (2007)

Giselle Morgan Enchanted
Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Disney’s Enchanted revolves around Giselle, a character from a fairy tale world who gets sent to the real world. Giselle is taken in by a lawyer, Robert, and his daughter, Morgan. Morgan is currently apprehensive about her single father remarrying, but Giselle assures her that, even in fairy tales, there are plenty of good and kind stepmothers. Granted, Giselle does use her potential mother-in-law, Queen Narissa, as a reference, not realizing she’s the main villain of the story. Giselle also grows close to Morgan, in part because she never knew her mother, either. Throughout the course of the story, Giselle and Robert fall in love and eventually marry, making Giselle Morgan’s stepmother. Giselle even opens her own boutique shop, making her a working mother as well.

The sequel, Disenchanted, explores the “wicked stepmother” trope more in-depth, when Giselle’s wish for life to be more like a fairy tale. Unfortunately, one side effect is that Giselle starts acting antagonistic towards Morgan against her will, to the point where she’s ultimately dominated by an evil alter-ego. In the end, Giselle’s love wins out and the fact that she loves Morgan as her daughter turns out be to be the key to breaking the spell.

This story originally appeared on Movieweb

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