So Many Dead Parents: Why Lucasfilm and Disney Keep Killing Off the Protagonists’ Parents

October 6, 2017 – After watching your umpteenth Disney movie and yet another Star Wars sequel, the realization hits you like a ton of bricks: What happened to all the main characters’ parents? Why are Disney and Lucasfilm so fixated on parental slaughter as a storytelling device?

Disney Movies: A Parental Bodycount


Prior to Disney’s acquisition of Lucasfilm in 2012, Walt Disney Animation had a decades-long tradition of killing off the protagonists’ parents early in each character’s story.

For a child-focused form of entertainment, Disney’s films feature a startlingly long list of dead or missing parents. Before we delve into the Why’s of Disney-cide, let’s recap all the dead or missing bodies:

Snow White & the Seven Dwarfs (1937) Lives with evil stepmother, the Queen
Pinocchio (1940) No mother; Blue Fairy acts as surrogate mother
Bambi (1942) Bambi’s mother is killed by a hunter
Cinderella (1950) Both parents deceased; raised by cruel stepmother
Peter Pan (1953) No mother; Wendy acts as surrogate mother
The Jungle Book (1967) Mowgli’s mother is killed by the evil tiger Shere Khan
The Fox and the Hound (1981) The red fox Tod’s mother is killed by a hunter
The Little Mermaid (1989) Ariel’s mother is killed by pirates
Beauty & the Beast (1991 & 2017) Belle’s mother dies from the plague
The Lion King (1994) Simba’s father Mufasa dies in a stampede
The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996) Quasimodo’s mother is killed by Frollo
Tarzan (1999) Tarzan’s parents are killed by Sabor, a leopardess
Atlantis: The Lost Empire (2001) A crystal consumes Princess Kida’s mother
Lilo & Stitch (2002) Lilo’s parents die in a car accident
Finding Nemo (2003) Nemo’s mother & siblings are eaten by a barracuda
Brother Bear (2003) Koda’s mother is killed by Kenai
Frozen (2013) Anna and Elsa’s parents perish at sea
Big Hero 6 (2014) 3-year-old Hiro’s parents die prior to the movie

Dumbo (1941) does not fit neatly into the above list of dead or missing parents. Instead, Dumbo’s mother, Mrs. Jumbo, is held in captivity for most of the movie.

So why all the dead or missing parents, especially deceased mothers, in Disney movies? In a 2014 interview with Glamour magazine, veteran Disney producer Don Hahn provided two theories.

“One reason is practical because the movies are 80 or 90 minutes long, and Disney films are about growing up. They’re about that day in your life when you have to accept responsibility. In shorthand, it’s much quicker to have characters grow up when you bump off their parents,” says Mr Hahn. “Bambi’s mother gets killed, so he has to grow up. Belle only has a father, but he gets lost, so she has to step into that position. It’s a story shorthand.”

A second controversial explanation – which some commentators and snopes.com dispute – deals with the psychological impact of Walt Disney’s mother’s death.

Don Hahn opines that, “The other reason — and this is really odd — Walt Disney, in the early 1940s, when he was still living at this house, also bought a house for his mom and dad to move into. He had the studio guys come over and fix the furnace, but when his mom and dad moved in, the furnace leaked and his mother died. The housekeeper came in the next morning and pulled his mother and father out on the front lawn. His father was sick and went to the hospital, but his mother died. He never would talk about it, nobody ever does. He never spoke about that time because he personally felt responsible because he had become so successful that he said, ‘Let me buy you a house.’ It’s every kid’s dream to buy their parents a house and just through a strange freak of nature — through no fault of his own — the studio workers didn’t know what they were doing.”

Mr. Hahn added that Walt Disney “had just made Fantasia, Dumbo, Pinocchio, Bambi, and Snow White in a five-year span. He buys a house for his mom and dad, they move down from Oregon, and his mom dies. Again, I’m not a psychologist to know it all, but it’s a really interesting story.”

While an interesting hypothesis, there is no evidence that Walt Disney (the man) ever ordered his writers and animators to kill off all the protagonists’ parents or mothers following the death of his own mother in 1938.

As Snopes.com points out: “The pattern of ‘motherless’ Disney films was established well before the death of Flora Disney in 1938. Snow White had been completed and released, and Bambi and Pinocchio were already in production.”

Snopes.com also points out that “The animated feature films produced by Disney during Walt’s lifetime were not original creations which he deliberately fashioned to include characters without mothers; they were adaptations of traditional fairy tales and works of children’s literature in which the ‘motherless child’ aspect was already present.”

Star Wars and the Hero’s Journey


If Disney has been able to successfully use the centuries-old formula of a young orphan finding his or her way in the world, then it should come as no surprise that Star Wars might borrow this storytelling device as well.

“The Hero with a Thousand Faces” was first released in 1949. This book cover re-release shows Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker.


George Lucas admitted as much in an article we published nearly four years ago: Joseph Campbell, George Lucas and the Power of Myth.

In short, Lucas stated that he was influenced by the works of author and lecturer Joseph Campbell (1904-1987), who had written The Hero with a Thousand Faces (1949). The book discusses Campbell’s theory of the journey of the archetypal hero found in many world mythologies.

Lucas said, “It was very eerie because in reading The Hero with a Thousand Faces I began to realize that my first draft of Star Wars was following classic motifs … so I modified my next draft [of Star Wars] according to what I’d been learning about classical motifs and made it a little bit more consistent….”

Lucas refers to the Hero’s Journey, a narrative pattern that follows 12 stages. The Journey begins with the Hero in “an ordinary world”, followed by a “call to adventure”, the Hero’s refusal of the call, meeting a mentor, and so on. A full discussion exceeds the scope of this article, but you can read more about the 12 stages here and here.

Similar to Disney’s movies, Lucasfilm has adopted the “dead or absent parent” setup with great success beginning with Star Wars: A New Hope (1977). The tragedy of Luke Skywalker is especially painful in that he loses three sets of “parents” in the first film: First, he grows up never knowing his biological parents. Second, his caretakers (Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru) are slaughtered. And third, his mentor (Obi-wan Kenobi) perishes before his eyes.

Luke, like all the Disney protagonists before and after him, experiences a coming-of-age test in which he is thrust into a larger world and forced to deal with adversity. In the absence of parental guidance, his failures and successes are mile markers on the Hero’s Journey.

In 1999, George Lucas turned the story upside-down in The Phantom Menace. Once again, we witness a fatherless child, but this time with an enslaved mother (echoes of Dumbo) who is physically and spiritually unable to help guide her son. The twist is that an enraged young Anakin will morph into an Anti-Hero.

The torture and death of Anakin’s mother in Attack of the Clones (2002), rather than propel young Skywalker toward a Hero’s Journey for good, helps to push Anakin emotionally and psychologically over the edge and down a very dark path.

Predictably, Lucasfilm has used the parent-less formula again and again:

Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens (2015): Rey, a young female, is abandoned by her parents at an early age on the desert planet Jakku.

Following the Anti-Hero’s Journey, Kylo Ren loses his father, Han Solo – albeit by Kylo’s own hands – in his descent to the dark side.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016): Jyn Erso, who becomes a petty criminal with a rebellious streak, is orphaned on the agrarian planet Lah’mu, where her mother is killed and her father is kidnapped by the First Order.

Just before Jyn and Cassian Andor’s deaths on the beaches of Scarif, Cassian tenderly tells Jyn she has fulfilled her purpose: “Your father would have been proud of you, Jyn.” He then hugs her as they both complete their journey.

Star Wars Rebels (2014-2017): In Season Two, Ep. 9, the orphaned Ezra Bridger finally learns of the demise of his parents. Under the guidance of his mentor, Kanan Jarrus, Ezra’s journey will lead him back to his home planet in Season Three.


So Who Are Rey’s Parents?


If Lucasfilm follows the old formula, Rey will likely learn that her parents have either died or that one has turned to evil, thereby sealing their parental abandonment. But as many have speculated, couldn’t Luke Skywalker be Rey’s father? Perhaps. But parental reunification is unlikely.

The trailers indicate it is more probable that Luke fills the role of mentor in Rey’s journey. And if Luke unexpectedly descends into darkness, it may well be Rey’s Hero Story that she save him from himself.

So be prepared for any number of twists in Episodes VIII and IX. This is Star Wars, after all, the galaxy of a thousand heroes.

RELATED ARTICLES

Joseph Campbell, George Lucas and the Power of Myth (posted January 29, 2014)

Star Wars as Allegory for the Vietnam War … or How Not to Offend Anyone (posted August 23, 2013)

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“Star Wars Rebels” Season 4 Trailer: Tying Up the Strings

Click to enlarge


October 5, 2017 – The final season of Star Wars Rebels, Season 4, begins October 16th. How will all the storyline threads come together and how will Rebels end?

In the Season Four trailer, Ezra asks, “All the paths are coming together, right?” Kanan answers darkly, “I’m just not sure we’re going to like where they lead.”

As if to emphasize the dark pall that hangs over the fate of the Ghost crew, the official Season Four key art (above left) features Grand Admiral Thrawn (full name: Mitth’raw’nuruodo), a Lothal wolf, and Governor Arihnda Pryce staring menancingly above our heroes.

Chronologically, the events of Rebels occur five years prior to A New Hope (1977), which itself was preceded immediately by Rogue One (2016). No surprise, then, when the Season Four trailer includes references to Project Star Dust, the at-that-time ultra-secret Death Star.

Star Wars Canon Media Timeline (Graphic Credit: Explosive_Ewok@Reddit)

The trailer is intriguing in other ways, leaving us to wonder how the producers will finish other storylines: Will Ezra and his companions be able to save Lothal, his occupied homeplanet? What is the significance of the giant Lothal wolves and where do these creatures’ sympathies lie? What’s to become of the romantic friendship between Hera and Kanan?

And where, oh where, is Ahsoka – altogether missing in the trailer? Has she transformed into a Loth-wolf, as many fan sites have speculated? Partial Answer: No, Rebels director Dave Filoni helpfully quashed that rumor in a birthday tweet:

Ahsoka has not become the Loth-wolf you are looking for.

Watch the Season Four trailer again:

REVIEW: Imperial Probe Droid with Darth Vader Set

October 3, 2017 – Released on Force Friday II (Sept. 1, 2017), an all-new boxed set featuring the Imperial Probe Droid and a 3.75-inch Darth Vader figure hit store shelves and, for the most part, met with fan approval.

Priced at $19.99 USD, the star of the show is the Imperial Probe Droid. Its sleek black finish, streaks of battle-damage gray, and film-realistic molding make this version of the Probe Droid one of the best releases to date.

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The Empire’s spider-like droid was featured prominently in an opening scene of The Empire Strikes Back (1980). To a lesser degree, you can also spot the droid lurking in the background on the planet Jedha in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016).

The Imperial Probe Droid has been released perhaps a half-dozen times (including two Battle Packs such as the “Hoth Recon Patrol”) by Kenner/Hasbro.

At front is the vintage Turret and Probot playset (1980) with additional figures. At left rear is the Hoth Recon Patrol battle pack (2008). Right rear is the newest Imperial Probe Droid in “The Last Jedi” packaging (2017).

This latest sculpt, with its highly accurate rendering, fine details and darker coloring, will likely make this version a collectors’ favorite. The high-gloss black paint on the droid’s several eyes really stand out and add to the creepy I’m-watching-you effect.


The five arms are each unique and each one is articulated, either at the lower “hand” end or toward the middle “elbow” area, as well as at the “shoulder” attachment area to the main body. The head rotates 360° and the twin antenna snap up and down.

The entire ensemble comes with a translucent stand, allowing the Probe Droid to appear to float in the air. The base of the stand is moulded with the Imperial logo, a subtle but nice touch.

The other great playability feature is the embedded sound chip, which allows your droid to activate various sounds as heard in The Empire Strikes Back. The actual audio, of course, comes from the wearable Force Link unit, sold separately.

Regrettably, our boxed set was missing the firing projectile. You can either call, email or have an online chat with Hasbro’s Customer Service representatives to discuss defective or missing pieces. Curiously, the agent said they could not ship us the missing projectile – even though it’s just a slim, lightweight, plastic piece. Instead, Hasbro has emailed a prepaid return label, and the entire boxed set will have to be shipped back to them at their expense. So off to the post office we go. Once a replacement arrives, we will let you know the results.

Another regret is the 3.75-inch Darth Vader figure. Visually, he is fine and comes with a removable hard-plastic cape and a red lightsaber. As numerous other reviewers have pointed out, however, the 5POA Vader is nearly impossible to stand upright. Even if you remove the heavy cape (which would be silly), Vader’s center of gravity and the position of his boots (the ankles are not articulated) make it near-impossible to stand him for long.

Drunk Vader refuses to stand upright. Here he is propped up against the box. A pegged stand would also work.

Vader is embedded with a sound chip, which activates various lightsaber sounds on your Force Link unit as well as the voice of James Earl Jones: “If you only knew the power of the dark side”; “Search the asteroid field until they are found”; “Don’t underestimate the Force”; and other phrases.

Our final regret has to do with excess or wasted packaging. As the photo below reveals, there is a lot of unnecessary air space in the box. For the consumer, the larger box size is somewhat deceptive. Hasbro could likely have reduced the packaging by a third or even half.

Unlike a box of cereal or potato chips, there is no consumer label that “Contents may shrink and settle during shipping”. But then again, couldn’t Hasbro have used a smaller box?

Despite the foregoing problems, the Imperial Probe Droid with Darth Vader boxed set will likely sell well. Distributors are also discovering a case assortment of three Rathtars to one Probe Droid per shipped box, making the Probe Droid a bit more difficult to locate.

Earlier Versions of the Probot


A video review of earlier versions of the Probot (a portmanteau of “probe” + “robot”) or Imperial Probe Droid can be seen here:

Star Wars Land at Disney’s Hollywood Studios: Tunnel Entrance Developing

October 1, 2017 – What a difference four months make at Disney’s Hollywood Studios: On May 28, 2017, here is what the future main entrance to Star Wars Land looked like:

In this May 28, 2017 photo, the main entry way to Star Wars Land was slowly taking form with vertical concrete slabs (lower middle). Meanwhile, the last standing façade (upper left) of the former Streets of America was being remodeled to mark one boundary of a future Grand Avenue. (Photo Credit: bioreconstruct@twitter.com)

Four months later, a main entrance tunnel is now discernible as overhead planks (yellow arrow) are added to the concrete walls in this photo taken September 30, 2017.

A tunnel takes shape at the future main entrance to Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge in this Sept. 30, 2017, photo by bioreconstruct@twitter. Also note the tons of dirt beginning to form a rising slope along the top edge of the wall perimeter.

Over the summer, we also learned that:

● Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge is the official name of what has informally been called Star Wars land.

● Disneyland’s version in Anaheim will open first in the summer of 2019, followed by Walt Disney World’s version sometime later in 2019.

● The last standing remnant of the former Streets of America has now been rethemed to resemble Downtown Los Angeles. Now called “Grand Avenue”, the thoroughfare will become a busy corridor leading to the main entrance to Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge.

Grand Avenue Is Now Open


The ever-expanding construction walls at Disney’s Hollywood Studios were pushed back, for the first time, on September 29th to reveal the all-new Grand Avenue.

Disney opened Grand Avenue on Sept. 29th, including BaseLine Tap House (a pub or bar at right) with indoor and outdoor seating (Photo Credit: EasyWDW.com)

BaseLine Tap House (formerly the Writer’s Stop) serves a variety of California-based beers, wines, cocktails and cider as well as light bites (cheese & charcuterie; Bavarian pretzels; spiced almonds). You can read a full review at EasyWDW.com.

Newly opened, BaseLine Tap House might be the ideal place to seek refuge from the huge crowds expected for the opening of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge in 2019. (Photo Credit: BlogMickey.com)

The opening of Grand Avenue also brings us many steps closer – literally – to the main entrance to Galaxy’s Edge.

With the opening of Grand Avenue, construction walls have been pushed tantalyzingly closer to the main entrance to Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge in this photo dated Sept. 29, 2017. (Photo Credit: BlogMickey.com)

However, looks can be deceiving. As the following aerial photo reveals, the tunnel entrance is still quite some distance away from the construction fence.

This photo taken Sept. 30, 2017, shows construction walls placed closer to the entry tunnel. Roofing is now evident at the Battle Escape show building with the Millenium Falcon attraction close behind. (Photo Credit: bioreconstruct@twitter)

Another overhead view of Grand Avenue approaching the construction zone and entry tunnel to Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge. (Photo Credit: bioreconstruct@twitter)

Vertical construction in Orlando at Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge began in early March, 2017. While lagging behind its Anaheim, California, counterpart, immense building progress is still remarkable to see in this Sept. 28, 2017, aerial view:

Cleared land (top of photo) will become expanded parking and a new main entrance to Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Roller coaster tracks (bottom left) are part of the Slinky Dog Dash ride at the adjacent Toy Story Land (opening May, 2018). (Photo Credit: Colin Chardavoyne for WDWMagic.com)

In this Sept. 28, 2017, photo, the Battle Escape (middle) and Millenium Falcon show buildings (bottom) will be anchoring Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge. The pink building at top is the Muppets Vision attraction just outside Galaxy’s Edge. (Photo Credit: Colin Chardavoyne for WDWMagic.com).

Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge Progress in Anaheim


Galaxy’s Edge will open first at Disneyland in Anaheim sometime in the summer of 2019. A recent progress video shows how massive the Battle Escape building is.

Cue to 11:33 and you can see the beginning of other-worldly rock formations that will help define Galaxy’s Edge.

On August 21, 2017, construction teams installed the highest steel beam in the 14-acre themed section of Disneyland. The “topping out” ceremony marks the highest point at about 130 feet tall.

Pre-Orders for Wave 2 of TBS 6″ 40th Anniversary Figures Available Again

September 26, 2017 – Here we go again: The elusive and highly sought after Wave 2 of the Star Wars 40th Anniversary Black Series 6-inch figures is now available again online for pre-order.

Wave 2 of The Black Series 6-inch figures commemorating Star Wars’ 40th anniversary should ship out by January, 2018.

The six Wave 2 figures (Stormtrooper, Jawa, Tusken Raider/Sand People, C-3PO, Chewbacca and Death Star Commander) were rarely seen at brick-and-mortar stores, save for Jawa and the Death Star Commander which were produced in greater numbers.

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Moreover, if you had attempted to purchase Wave 2 online, numerous orders were never processed due to a stock shortage. Pre-orders that were placed as late as early May, with a promised delivery date of sometime in July, were either cancelled by online retailers during the summer or left in limbo with no concrete delivery date.

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But now is your second (and likely last) chance to purchase the lot. BigBadToystore.com and Dorksidetoys.com, among others, are publishing an estimated arrival date of January 2018.

The on-again, off-again, and now on-again availability of the popular Wave 2 has proven extremely frustrating for collectors. Secondary market prices reflect the huge demand for the six-inch figures on vintage-style Kenner cardbacks. Each figure typically might sell for $40-70 and higher, depending on the figure, on Ebay or other auction sites.

BBTS is currently offering the six-figure lot for $139.99 or a full case of eight (includes an additional Jawa and an additional Death Star Commander) for $159.99 plus $4.00 shipping in the U.S.

The first run of Wave 2 sold out extremely quickly earlier this year, so you should act fast if interested. BBTS and other retailers reportedly approached Hasbro to produce another run, allowing them to fulfill past customer orders and to accept new pre-orders.

Rumors of another production run of R2-D2 and Han Solo from Wave 1 remain just that – rumors – at this point. Secondary market prices for R2-D2 (generally $60 and up) and Han Solo ($55 and up) indicate how heated the market has become.

Any production confirmations or updates will be posted here.

J.J. Abrams to Write and Direct “Star Wars: Episode IX”

September 12, 2017 – Lucasfilm announced today that J.J. Abrams will take over directing duties for Star Wars: Episode IX (no official title yet), following the dismissal of previous director Colin Trevorrow on Sept. 5th. In addition, J.J. Abrams will co-write the film with Chris Terrio.

The release date is now pushed back seven months. The new premiere date is December 20, 2019 (previously May 24, 2019).

Hurricane Irma Update: Status of “Yoda in the Caribbean: That Yoda Guy Museum”

September 7, 2017 – [NOTE: This is a repost of an article originally published 2 February 2014. The entire Franco-Dutch island of St. Martin/St. Maarten, where the “That Yoda Guy Museum” is located, has been devastated by Hurricane Irma. At least eight people died yesterday on the French side of the island, which was battered with Category 5 winds of up to 180 mph. If you have any information on the status of the museum, please comment below.]

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February 2, 2014 – Sometimes you will find Star Wars in the least expected places. If you find yourself on a cruise ship or flying, by chance, to the Eastern Caribbean island of St. Martin, be sure to visit “That Yoda Guy” Museum. (Address: 19a Front Street, Philipsburg, St Maarten-St Martin. TEL: 1 721 542 4009)

ThatYodaGuy-120814-D Founded by Nick Maley, who has adopted the nickname “thatYodaGuy”, That Yoda Guy Movie Exhibit is both a small non-profit museum on one side, and a Hollywood memorabilia store and art gallery on the other side.

The museum and store are easy to find. Located on the main shopping street called Front Street, you can ask any local (English is the primary language) or simply look for the bobbing General Grievous head sticking out from the second story and the yellow store sign. You have to climb a flight of stairs, but take your time: There are lots of posters, descriptions, and costumed props as you climb the stairs.

ThatYodaGuy-120814-NLocated on the second floor, the small museum charges a separate admission fee (about $10.00) and contains movie memorabilia from Star Wars, Superman, The Terminator, Alien and Highlander. If your time is limited, you can skip the museum and browse the merchandise and Star Wars memorabilia for sale. Nick Malley is very gracious and will take the time to chat with you and answer any questions you may have, including Star Wars history and production techniques.

ThatYodaGuy-120814-FFounder Nick Maley and another employee usually can be found in the store talking to customers and Star Wars fans. Nick Maley is one of the artists and contributors to the creation of Yoda and other Star Wars creatures. If you purchase an item (minimum $39.00) or visit the museum, he will autograph any item and pose for a photograph with you.

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Yoda is decked out in his Santa hat and Christmas booties, greeting visitors in December. Temperatures were warm (mid-80s F) and muggy even in December.

Yoda is decked out in his Santa hat and Christmas booties, greeting visitors in December. Temperatures were warm (mid-80s F) and muggy even in December.

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Take your time on the stairwell. There's lots to see and read.

Take your time on the stairwell. There’s lots to see and read.


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HISTORY: For over 350 years, St. Martin (the French side)/Sint Maarten (the Dutch side) have been jointly and harmoniously administered by France and the Dutch Republic. The Dutch harvested the island’s salt ponds in the 1620’s, and the French built small settlements on the island as well. In 1648, the Dutch Republic and France signed a treaty, agreeing to jointly administer the island. The border between the Dutch and French sides of the small island is practically invisible, and English is the dominant language. St Martin-MAP
St. Martin/Sint Maarten is located east of Puerto Rico in the eastern Caribbean. Over a dozen cruise ship lines stop for the day at the island. St. Maarten is also known for its airport and short runway, which are just yards from a popular beach. During some jet takeoffs, the exhaust from the jet engines has been known to blow tourists across the sandy beach.