There is a curious thread that links most of Disney’s animated films together. The main characters typically seem to come from broken homes, or have in some way experienced the loss or absence of a parent. Hahn explained the significance of that factor.
Atlantis in Depth
“At their core, our movies are about growing up,” Hahn said. “Aladdin, Belle, Milo, all these characters had a crossroads in their life where they’re no longer a kid and they have to grow up. (They’re) at a number of ages. Milo’s probably in his 30s and that’s the case with real life; we don’t always grow up in adolescence. Sometimes we grow up in our 30s or 40s or 50s and beyond.
“By not having a complete family, it represents a catalyst or a dramatic turning point that forces the character to grow up,” Hahn continued. “When Cinderella’s mother dies and her father re-marries a wicked stepmother, that’s a dramatic insert into an otherwise normal life. Everything was going fine until one day that stepmother shows up and it’s not fine anymore.
“Milo: Everything is going fine until his parents are killed somehow, we never talk about it, and now he’s faced with how is he going to live up to the legacy of his great grandfather? So it’s that crossroads where we all have to decide if we’re going to grow up or remain a kid forever; if we’re all going to mature and be a participant in life or a spectator in life.
“The thing that gets that going in many, not all, but many of our stories, is the absence of a parent, the death of a parent. In Lion King he had two parents and we ran over one with some wildebeests – and that’s the turning point. That’s what says life ain’t normal anymore, the drama of the story begins today. Go,” Hahn said. “That’s the kind of drama you need to catapult these stories and make them play.”
“If you want to go back to the old Joseph Campbell analysis of storytelling, it’s about the character that starts out in his hometown and gets pushed, sometimes reluctantly, into this journey to maturity,” Hahn continued.
“It’s interesting; I don’t know why we want to hear that story again and again but we certainly tell it again and again,” Hahn said. “It’s a life-affirming story that we will grow up and everything will work out OK.”