Disney has the uncanny ability to elicit a huge range of emotions from its audience. We can laugh, sing along, get mad or angry, and of course, cry. If you think about it, it’s kinda unbelievable. In 90 minutes or less, we attach ourselves to these characters and the story that Disney has chosen to tell enough to cry or want to throw something at the screen. That’s an unbelievable feat in storytelling.
side note: I cry ridiculously easily in movies these days. Apparently I was a tough-as-nails kid who didn’t cry at any movie until I was about 15. Now, waterworks come at the drop of a hat. So to make my list below, I am, of course, being personal but trying my hardest to pull out moments that might have had more people than me crying.
*These are presented in no particular order (honest it’s as I remembered them) and do NOT include Pixar. That will be a whole other list in itself…*
1. The “Baby Mine” Scene, Dumbo
Ok, we all know how I feel about Dumbo. It’s probably my least favorite Disney movie (and now Tim Burton is going to do a live action version? ugh….), but it does have its moments. As a kid I thought this scene was so incredibly boring I wanted to shoot myself. I still think the song is boring, but that’s not what gets me, or a lot of other people. It’s the moments before and after the scene. Dumbo has spent his time away from the mother that was only trying to protect him, and like every child, misses her. Timothy arranges a short meeting, and in that few moments we can see not only the happiness but the sadness and the love that radiates from these two elephants for each other. The reaching of the trunks, the sappiness of the song. He sees her, but he doesn’t really see her. He can’t be with her. He only gets this one moment.
2. The fallout of Bambi’s mother getting shot, Bambi
I feel like if I didn’t include this in here people would get upset. I’m not traumatized by Bambi’s mother getting shot. You hear a gunshot, that’s it. What gets ME is what happens AFTER. Bambi wanders around looking for his mother and calling out, only to suddenly be blind-sided by the great prince (aka his dad) who has to explain what happened. The music is drab, the voices are sullen and monotone, and you just get this sense of horribleness that goes along with this scene. This poor little baby deer has to come to terms with the fact he will never see his mother again.
3. Those two scenes, The Fox and the Hound
I bet I don’t even have to tell you what scenes I’m talking about, do I? If you’ve seen this movie, you know. The first is when the widow is dropping Tod off at the game preserve. The combination of the song (oh god that song!) and the emotions just kill me. We as an audience know how happy Tod has made her, and we know she’s doing it for his own good, but at the same time Tod can’t for the life of him understand why she’s doing this. It’s an extremely well done scene that is made for racking up the tears.
The second one is the moment when Tod is going to get shot, and Copper blocks his master by standing over him. They walk away and come to an understanding with each other, proving that they will be friends forever, even though they are different. If you don’t at least feel something during this scene, you might be dead inside.
4. Mufasa’s Death, The Lion King
Again, if I didn’t put this one on here, people would have flipped out. But this is one of the THE saddest scenes in any Disney movie. Cool, tough guy Simba just watched his dad plummet to the ground and doesn’t understand why he won’t get up. seriously, how many of us DON’T tear up when he jumps and tugs on Mufasa’s ear and says “Dad, you gotta get up! We gotta go home!” Add in the beautifully haunting score during the scene, and this one is bound to make you tear up.
5. Tarzan says goodbye to Kala, Tarzan
“No matter where I go, you will always be my mother.” “And you will always be in my heart.” GAH!!! I don’t know what it is, this one always gets me, and I hope it gets other people too. Tarzan has spent his whole life trying to fit in and has chosen to give up his gorilla family to join where he “should” be – with people and with Jane. But he still knows to a point who he is and why he’s that way. Kala has always been there for him and has loved him regardless of what has happened. It’s a goodbye that makes me want to hurt myself.
6. Penny and Bolt are stuck in the burning studio, Bolt
This one might be a personal one that no one else reacts to, but I can’t help but tear up when Bolt and Penny are stuck in the studio. Bolt finds a way out but Penny is too weak, so he stays with her. I love this moment so much in this movie because we know how loyal Bolt is to Penny. We’ve spent an entire movie dealing with it. But there’s something about staying with your human even though you think you’re going to die. He’s selfless, and that’s just how a dog should be. It brings up memories of every dog I’ve ever owned that would probably do the same for me.
7. Flynn dies, Tangled
I bawled like a baby the first time I saw this movie because I honestly didn’t know how it was going to end and I seriously thought they had killed off this character. As I talked about in my review, Flynn was a great Disney character and the connection he had with Rapunzel was at the center of the movie and done extremely well. It doesn’t surprise me in the least that people would cry at this moment in the movie, watching everything Rapunzel loved get taken away from her, the subsequent bargaining she goes through with Mother Gothel to save his life, and his need for her to be free of her. He gave his own life to save hers, and it’s a moment that is extremely well done.
8. Anna is turned to ice, Frozen
Ok, maybe you weren’t flat out crying during this, but I bet you were in shock, tearing up, or something. With the way they did this scene, how could you not be? One of the most amazing parts of this scene was the fact that after Anna stands in front of Elsa and Hans’ sword comes down on her frozen hand, all the background noise just STOPS. There is NOTHING. it’s raw emotion right there coming from Elsa and that’s all we hear. It’s an incredibly effective tool that makes you realize what this movie was all about.
9. Hiro says goodbye to Baymax, Big Hero 6
Disney is getting to be as bad as Pixar. It makes us care about it’s characters on a crazy level where just anything can set you off into the waterworks. To be fair, Hiro is by far the most tragic Disney protagonist ever to live. He lost his parents, he lost his brother, and at the end of this movie, he has to lose his best friend – a friend that is giving his life to save his. We feel for this kid and we know how happy Baymax has made him. But we also understand that Baymax has and always will be selfless. He can’t be talked out of it, especially when it’s the only way. But we too are sad to see him go.
I’m sure I missed some. As I said, I cry at the drop of a hat, so I still will tear up in movies like Brother Bear, Meet the Robinsons, and others. I just tried to pull out some of the more “general” ones that I could see making more than just me cry.
*The Pixar list is going to be every single movie. Maybe more than one scene in each movie. Be prepared.