Do you remember that one episode of Friends where Phoebe explains how her mother never let her watch the end of movies when she was going up? Instead, her money would quickly shut off the TV and shout “The end! The end!” whenever a sad part was about to happen. She did this so her daughter wouldn’t be sad. She knew that movies were powerful and can evoke all sort of emotions. What Phoebe’s mother didn’t understand is that her daughter would survive just fine if she was allowed to experience the pain that some movies bring.
Who didn’t cringe when the evil queen turned into the witch in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and who didn’t cry when Bambi’s mother got shot? Those are powerful moments. The funny thing is, now that we’re adult fathers, when re-watching some of these same movies, we can sense that our heart strings are being pulled for different reasons. We now empathize with the adult characters rather than the kids. Here are handful of popular animated movies that have a habit of messing men up.
1. Dumbo (1941)
The sad scene in Dumbo is when he is separated from his mother. While watching Dumbo as a child, you not only feel sad for Dumbo, but you relate to him as well. As a father, you relate to Mrs. Jumbo. Timothy Mouse bring the little elephant to see his mother who is locked up. In the wordless scene, Mrs. Jumbo stretches out her trunk through the bars in order to comfort and rock her baby boy. As a dad, one can only imagine what it would be like if we were behind bars and couldn’t comfort our sad child.
2. The Little Mermaid (1989)
Arial the Little Mermaid wants nothing more than to see world from above the water which is her home. So much so that she makes a foolish deal with Ursula the sea witch which cause her to lose her voice and become a lowly slave to the witch. Her father, King Triton, doesn’t hesitate to sacrifice himself so that his daughter may go free. It’s a beautiful, yet sad moment. At least the film has a happy ending.
3. The Lion King (1994)
Two of the most powerful scenes here are at the very beginning when Simba the lion cub is born and all the animal kingdom come together to celebrate. It immediately takes you back to the birth of your own children and the emotions you felt. Then, later in the stampede scene, Mufasa doesn’t hesitate for a moment to get his son to safety but he ultimately dies when his brother Scar actually pushes him off a cliff. One can read different things in the look of horror on Musfasa’s face when he is falling to his death, but as a father, I can only imagine him fearing what would happen to his son if he died. It’s a punch in the gut.
4. Ice Age (2002)
Of all of the Ice Age movies, the first one is still the best. It is sort of a Three Men and a Baby in animal form. At the beginning of the film, Manfred the wooly mammoth, Diego the saber-toothed tiger and Sid the Sloth find a lost human baby. At first they have no desire to find the parents, but, being that this is a family movie, they are eventually moved and put their lives in danger in order to reunite the child with his folks. This is all well and good, but the scene at the end when the baby’s father sees that his son is still alive will break you. If you ever felt the momentary panic at the mall when you child goes missing for 30 seconds, you know what I’m talking about.
5. Up (2009)
No other movie has been able to capture the highs and lows of marriage in such a short amount of time. In the span of about five minutes we see how Ellie and Carl meet as children, how they save up their money in hopes of taking that honeymoon that they never got a chance to take, the heartbreak of not being able to have children, the fun times the couple shared doing everyday menial tasks and of course, Ellie’s eventual death leaving Carl all alone. It’s very touching.
6. Tangled (2010)
Tangled is Disney’s version of Rapunzel where a little girl with glowing, flowing locks of magical hair is locked up in a castle where no one in the kingdom can find her. Every year on the Rapunzel’s birthday, the king and queen light a lantern in her honor with the rest of the kingdom. During this scene, it is clear that the king is tired of this ritual and just wants to have his daughter back in his arms. It will tear your heart out. Fortunately, by the end of the movie, he does.
7. Brave (2012)
While this mostly a mother and daughter story, we dads can get choked up with this film as Well. Elinor is the mother with strong convictions about tradition while Merida wants to do things her own way. Without meaning to, they both end up hurting each other … and mom turns into a bear. But near the end of the tale, both characters finally can see things from the other’s point of view and seek restoration of their relationship. If you have teenagers, you might be able to relate.
8. Wreck-It Ralph (2012)
Overall, this is a very silly story that is caters to gamers. It may appear “safe” for dads to watch, but beware. There is a scene where Ralph actually destroys Vanellope’s candy car and she is of course horrified by this. But his reasoning for doing so is to protect her. She is devastated and full of hate. Ralph, the surrogate parent figure, is left to face the feeling that he hurt the one that he loved in order to keep her safe. As a dad, we sometimes have to make tough choices that will hurt our children in the short term but we do it anyway because we know it will be best for them.
9. How to Train Your Dragon 2 (2014)
Most sequels are usually pale comparison of the original story, but for How to Train Your Dragon, the second story is actually more superior with more heart. There is still the father son struggle dynamic between Hiccup and Stoick, but this story reunites them both with wife and mother Valka who disappeared years earlier. It turns out that Valka’s absence from the family was less than admirable even though she had good intentions. The best moment in the film is when she sees her husband for the first time since her absence and she is expecting Stoick to have a fit. Instead, he just embraces her. Unfortunately the family reunion is short-lived but the pro-marriage message of the film is much appreciated.
10. Inside Out (2015)
In Inside Out, the parents of the story try to shield their daughter from feeling anything negative even though they had just moved across the country and have to get acquainted to new people and new surroundings. Unlike other adults, I didn’t find Inside Out to be as heartbreaking as they perceived it to be. That is until the very end when all at once, all three family members completely let their guards down and allow themselves some time to be sad. The lesson here of course is that sometimes going through the pain in life with others is worth going through. No one can ever be happy all of the time nor should they.
11. The Good Dinosaur (2015)
Dinosaurs stand in for human farmers in this Pixar flick. Orlo is the youngest of three dinos who is practically afraid of his own shadow. His father, Poppa is equally sad and frustrated with his son’s fears. Like the fathers in The Lion King and The Little Mermaid, he is faced with a decision to sacrifice himself to save his son and does so without reservation. The sadness here is that you could see what a good father Poppa was to his son and only wanted what was best for the boy. Now the boy has to face his fears a different way. This film will mess you up.