"For every laugh, there should be a tear"
— Walt Disney's personal opinion on how tearjerking and heartwarming moments should be equally balanced
Chances are, if Disney movies don't warm your heart
, make you jump up and cheer
, or make you hide under the covers
, they brought tears to your eyes
. With films such as Bambi
, every Winnie-the-Pooh
film, and Tangled
, Disney animation, as well as that of Pixar, still manages to tug at our heartstrings. ——
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Disney Animated Canon and its sequels, prequels, midquels, etc.
- The song "Very Good Advice" from Alice in Wonderland.
- Also a bit of an in-universe example; while Alice is singing in despair at the possibility that she'll be trapped in the Tulgey Wood for the rest of her life—not to mention blaming herself, out of the belief that her own lack of good judgement is what got her into this whole mess to begin with—all of the Ugly Cute birds she encountered crowd around her and start crying in sympathy. And as the song ends, Alice just completely breaks down sobbing while all the birds (and the Tulgey Wood itself) vanish leaving her completely alone. Then Cheshire Cat shows up, and the following exchange occurs:
Alice: Oh Cheshire Cat it's you!
Alice: Oh no, no no, I'm through with rabbits. I want to go home! (starts crying again and blows her nose) But I can't find my way.
- The Emperor's New Groove, despite being more of an offbeat comedy devoid of the dramatic elements other Disney films have, fits in a truly sad part when Kuzco - whose own ego has got him turned into a llama, ruined his life and lost him his only reliable friend, Pacha - is briefly resigned to being stuck as a llama for life after finding out Yzma never liked him at all, leading to his realizing that Pacha was right. He even starts to eat grass like other llamas - despite clearly not fitting in. It then seamlessly becomes a Crowning Moment of Heartwarming when he hears Pacha talking to the other llamas about how he appreciates the one good thing Kuzco did, and from this one thing, he's prepared to forgive him and help him get changed back. Needless to say, Kuzco is permanently changed for the better. Just to put this in perspective, Pacha was going have his home destroyed, be locked up forever, left hanging over a cliff, and called winy peasant by Kuzco. He had every right to just leave him for good, but just because Kuzco saves his life once, from something that Kuzco fiercely tried to swear off, He still finds it in himself to forgive Kuzco again. That feels more like a Crowning Moment of Heartwarming, and one of the most beautifully amazing moments in a movie more about making you laugh. At least, until The Emperor's New School comes along and the Aesop Amnesia kicks in, and he's right back to his Jerk Ass self every episode.
- Chicken Little wishing to follow in his father Buck's footsteps as a baseball star, but Buck tells him not to set his hopes so high. Trust me, it's sadder than it sounds.
- Chicken looking at father dog playing with his son. He just wants his father to be proud of him and he feels he will never be good enough to him. This is pretty much awful to any kid... The song of the scene doesn't help...
- And then there's after C.L. rings the bell to alert the whole town about the aliens invading. Unfortunately, the ship goes back to camouflage mode, and no one believes him, not even Buck, who finally appreciated his son after the Acorns baseball team won.
- Oliver & Company starts with one. The opening sequence, set to a fittingly bittersweet song about pursuing your dreams, details Oliver's origin story of sorts. It starts with him being the only kitten in a litter to not get adopted, and goes downhill from there when he gets flooded out of his cardboard box (while mewing pitifully at an oblivious passerby for help,) nearly swept down a storm drain, soaked by a passing car, chased by a pack of vicious mongrels (including one with a missing eye,) and finally curls up in the underside of a pickup, frightened, lonely and exhausted. This is why you don't leave kittens and puppies in boxes on a street corner and hope some kind strangers will take care of them!
- Robin Hood
- Not In Nottingham.
- Robin's Disney Death, with Little John and Skippy crying.
- When Friar Tuck is in prison, if you look closely, you can see the words "FORGIVE THEM ALL" carved into a stone on the wall. It's subtle, but so excruciatingly painful.
- Similarity, the cell where the rest of the villagers are kept has "God forgive Prince John" carved by the door. Tearjerker combined with Heartwarming Moment, as whether or not you are religious, it shows suffering people banding together and finding comfort in their faith.
- There's a horrifying Mood Whiplash right at the end of the mostly wacky and lighthearted Make Mine Music. We speak, of course, of The Whale Who Wanted To Sing At The Met, the story of Willie, an opera-singing whale who dreams of being a star despite the species barrier, and a crazed sailor Tetti-Tatti who is convinced that the singing is a result of Willie having swallowed opera singers. The majority of the short is light-hearted wacky cartoon gags, as Willie sings a repertoire of his best songs and Tetti-Tatti is foiled in his every attempt to harpoon Willie (as his own crew love the singing so much they don't allow him). And then, just as the short winds to a close, suddenly Tetti-Tatti takes the harpoon gun and does the deed. The music stops as we see the absolute heartbreaking silhouette of a harpooned Willie leaping from the water one last time before sinking beneath the sea. Just to drive the point home, we see Willie's seagull friend sitting by the sea, sobbing uncontrollably as the narrator tries to soothe him. The sadness is mitigated only slightly by the reveal that Willie now plays sold-out shows in heaven. Disney dealt with some deep issues here - some of us won't realize our dreams before we die, and that this world is full of people who "aren't used to miracles" and will destroy them.
- Sure, Home on the Range may not have been Disney's best...but "Will The Sun Ever Shine Again?" is one of the most heartbreaking things Disney has ever made.
Other Disney TV
- The New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh episode "Find Her, Keep Her". In it, Rabbit cares for Kessie, a baby bluebird that grows up to be a surrogate daughter. Sooner or later, Kessie has to fly south for the winter, much to Rabbit's dismay.
- What hits hardest is just the sheer amount of Does This Remind You of Anything? in this episode when it comes to parent-child relationships. Winnie The Pooh actually told a story of someone becoming a parent, raising a child, and then having to let that child go with a great deal of emotion and maturity.
- Kessie's last night with Rabbit. She asks him for a final bedtime story, which he angrily refuses on the grounds that she doesn't need him to read her a story — she doesn't need him for anything. Then he takes her stuffed rabbit into the other room and hugs it while Kessie sits by the fire and just sobs.
- What leads into that scene is the Mood Whiplash inducing line of "Don't you think I know?", said by Rabbit in response to Tigger happily telling Kessie, who just learned to fly, that "there's nothing holding you back now!" Ken Sansom just hit it out of the park with the delivery of that line and the lines in the scene that followed.
- "Stripes", in the New Adventures Of Winnie the Pooh. In a nutshell, Tigger loses his stripes after everyone forces him to have a bath...they then insist that he can't be a tigger, since tiggers have stripes. He sings a song toward the end of the episode, tearfully, about being "nothin' but stuffin'" and not having a name.
I know I've changed, on the outside
But on the inside, I feel the same
Maybe someday, I'll know who I am
But as of right now... somehow
I don't have a name
- In "Winnie the Pooh and Christmas Too" when Pooh has lost the letter to Santa in a gust of wind. His cries of "Please come back! I'm supposed to take you to Santa!" are for naught. His face falls into an expression of pure despair. He's failed in his mission; and now has to trudge back home and tell everyone that they're not getting anything for Christmas. It all works out in the end, but you can't help but feel his pain.
- Then we cut back to his friends, who are all anticipating their gifts from Santa, except Piglet, who acknowledges that Pooh won't make it back home in time for Christmas due to sending their letter. He spent the whole episode confused as to what he actually wanted for Christmas, now he knows, he wants Pooh.
- Chip 'n Dale Rescue Rangers
- The third part of "To The Rescue" has a moment: Gadget has just met the chipmunks and seen Monty for the first time since she was a little girl, and Monty asks for her father. She says he's gone, in a tone that tells everyone that he's gone permanently... everyone, that is, except Dale, who asks when he'll be back. She reveals that he won't be coming back; she had lost him about a year prior. To compound this, when Monty says he'll be missed, she tells him, "He already is." Then she cheerfully offers to make them a chair. That's right, make them a chair.
- "The Case of the Cola Cult" when Gadget decides it's better for the Rescue Rangers if she leaves them. She packs her tools and walks out in the rain, crying. Not only is this a sad scene, it's also hard to see Gadget cry.
- In A Sitch In Time right at the start where Kim and Ron are saying their goodbye's as his family is moving to Norway and the two of them are standing on the top of a hill desperately trying not to cry and in proper teen fashion completely unable to tell the other how much this separation hurts.
- Also, in So The Drama, when Kim ends up betrayed by Eric/Synthodrone 901 and is on the verge of the Despair Event Horizon, bitterly declaring, "Drakken's won. I should have stuck to babysitting," until Ron talks her out of it.
- TaleSpin has the episode "Her Chance to Dream", where Rebecca falls in love with Captain Stansbury, who is really a ghost that haunts the island where Louie's business now resides. She is so enamored by the ghost that she believes that she's dreaming when the ghost summons up his old ship and tries to spirit her away so that they can be together. The scene where Baloo and Louie try to get her to summon the ghost back to the afterlife becomes downright tear-extracting when Rebecca screams "I just want to be happy!" and when Baloo makes her snap out of her dream state by telling her to think of her daughter Molly.
- Witch in "H is for Hunted". Nerissa turns a soulless clone of Will into an actual living optimistic girl with a huge passion for life, with the plan to drive her to such desperation she'll kill the real Will Vandom to take her place. The plan itself fails when both Will and her altamere realize they aren't actually enemies. Nerissa uses the distraction to try to kill Will more directly with a lightning bolt ... which the altamere jumps in front of. Fading rapidly she manages to say "that's what sisters do... right?"
- Even Playhouse Disney has crossed this territory. In PB&J Otter, there's the song Nothing Lasts Forever from the episode "Hope Castle".
- The Timmy Time episode "Timmy's Snowball". In it, Timmy makes a snowball which he cherishes deeply and wants to take everywhere with him. He then tucks it into his lunchbox with a handkerchief, and (predictably) it melts and Timmy becomes understandably upset and confused. Anyone who has ever lost something they loved dearly as a small child can definitely relate.
- The finale of Pepper Ann as well, it reminds you to never let go of your friends.
- Walt Disney Presents has the episode "The Goofy Success Story", as Goofy becomes a huge movie star, but then becomes depressed when he doesn't win a single Oscar, to the point he nearly commits suicide. He gets better, thankfully. (For those wondering why it takes this dark a turn, it's a parody of the climax of the Judy Garland version of A Star Is Born, which was released the year prior.)
Other Animated Films
- The Nightmare Before Christmas had some really sad moments. Let's see, there's Jack's Lament, which the lead character laments that he is tired of being the Pumpkin King and wishes that he could give it all up. I.E. Jack's depressed. Then there's Sally's Song, singing about her unrequited love for Jack and wondering "what his actions lead us then". THEN there's when Jack is shot down and we see everyone in Halloweentown grieving for Jack. Then we see all the kids in the Real World crying as the police tells them that there is no sign of Santa. And then there's the first half of "Poor Jack" with Jack regretting the harm that he's done. DAMN. Luckily, Jack and Sally getting together at the end brings more positive tears.
- James and the Giant Peach. "My Name Is James." 'nuff said.
- Mickey, Donald, Goofy: The Three Musketeers where Mickey is chained in the dungeon and left to die and realizes that all of his friends have either been killed or abandoned him, his supposed greatness was all just a setup by the Big Bad, and he's utterly failed in everything, including protecting his charge and love interest. The look of utter hopelessness on his face is heartbreaking, and he tosses aside his Musketeer hat and just cries.
- Mickey's Christmas Carol starring Scrooge McDuck as Ebeneezer Scrooge and Mickey Mouse as Bob Cratchit. The Ghost of Christmas 'Yet To Come' takes Scrooge to the future where Tiny Tim, Bob Cratchit's youngest son dies. The scene where Mickey as Bob places Tim's crutch by his tombstone with tears in his eyes is tear jerking.
- The Disney story book version features Scrooge's reaction to his own fate, which beautifully shows the real lesson about the future ghost. Scrooge shouts "No! I didn't want my life to end this way!" The "this way" part is a small but effective method of showing the true reason why Scrooge was afraid of this future. He wasn't afraid of dying, it was the way he dies that scares him; as a bitter, greedy, hateful old man who nobody loved and nobody mourned.
- Released on the same DVD is Don Bluth's Disney Swan Song, The Small One: after an unsuccessful day of Small One's owner trying to find someone who will love him as much as he did, Small One leads them back to the Tanner, prepared to give up his life, until Joseph buys him, and then the title song plays as the star appears over the manger.
- ''The Little Matchgirl. The music, the atmosphere, everything about it will make even the most bitter man cry. And a little hint: they didn't change the ending; somebody dies.
Classic Disney Shorts
- The Partners statue in the Magic Kingdom - the one with Walt and Mickey holding hands. Especially for those who still see Walt as Mickey's father.
- Just walking through the train station gate into the park sets a lot of people off. Many of them have been saving up their whole lives to be able to come to Disneyland/Walt Disney World and the realization that they finally made it just hits them.
- Seeing the Castle will do it too, a lot of the time.
- The Characters. While some people may not like them, there is absolutely nothing more adorable than watching a four-year-old go up to Mickey - or Minnie, or Tigger, or their favorite Princess - for the first time and watching their face light up. The real Tear Jerkers, though, come when you watch kids on the Make a Wish program light up, because you know that it very well could be the last time they'll ever see the Characters, and many of the Make a Wish kids only have a limited time to live. And as a Cast Member, we're not supposed to cry...* sniff*
- I'm not a Cast Member or even work at Disney, but I felt like crying in that moment too. Just seeing small children run up to their characters in delight makes me want to go, "Awwwwww". The only thing that ruins the whole moment is the moms that constantly want to take pictures of their kids. Even the older kids that are at least twelve years old running up to the characters is relieving, especially since they're a kid at heart. The ones that actually care for Disney makes me want to cry.
- On the Kilimanjaro Safari ride at Animal Kingdom you chase down poachers that have captured Little Red, a baby elephant, after shooting Big Red, the mother. Unfortuntately, the ride is often unclear as to whether Big Red survived. I think so, but jeez...
- Word of God says she does, if that makes you feel better. It's in the radio broadcast at the end. Still, just the idea of the baby elephant, who can't survive away from Mommy, being forced away like that...
- According to Disney insider Jim Hill, in the original script Big Red didn't make it, and the riders saw her (simulated, of course) corpse in the climactic stretch of the ride. This drove so many kids to tears that it ruined the whole ride, so the script was changed and the prop removed before it formally opened. So it could have been a lot worse.
- For the bad kind of Tearjerker, leaving the Magic Kingdom, your favourite place on Earth, on the Ferry, seeing the castle all lit up and beautiful, and knowing that it's the last time you're going to see it.
- Most Disneyphiles know all too well about getting more than lumps in their throats going home from a vacation from the parks or disembarking off a Disney Cruise Line ship.
- Make that extra depressing if you ride on the Disney Magical Express on the way to the MCO (Orlando International Airport). That's especially true seeing the end of the onboard video.
- The end of Fantasmic! Just seeing Mickey steering the Mark Twain and knowing that, in Disneyland, good always conquers evil...
- The finales of Spectromagic and Wishes. They're just such a wonderful sight to see and it stays true to the Disney magic. Illuminations: Reflections of Earth always does it too during the We Go On finale.
- "So Close" from Enchanted already sounds melancholy by itself. The part of Beauty and the Beast when Belle says, "I love you", to a dying Beast feels wrenching enough in its original context. A scene in World of Color manages to bring you even closer to crying by putting them together!
- The ending of Mickey's Good Deed. Just earlier in the short, Mickey sold Pluto to a rich family just so he could buy presents for a poor widow and her large litter of kittens, and spends the time after, cold and alone, bemoaning how he'll never see Pluto again. Thankfully, Pluto escapes the family and rejoins his old companion in a very heartfelt scene.
- The ending of The Old Mill.
- Elmer Elephant, when the other animals are taunting Elmer for his nose and send him sulking away crying. Anyone who was bullied as a kid would remember how much that kind of treatment hurt.
- The second Silly Symphonies version of The Ugly Duckling (as if that story weren't depressing enough).
- Puppy Love in which Mickey and Minnie get into a huge fight when she thinks Mickey put a bone in her box of chocolates (it was really Pluto and Fifi) and they nearly break up.
- The ending to The Barn Dance.
- "The Moose Hunt". Mickey grieving after he thinks he shot Pluto (who is playing dead).
- The ending of "Donald's Happy Birthday". Donald, thinking the nephews bought a box of cigars for smoke, he forces'em to smoke the entire box in an almost sadistic manner. When he finds out that the box was actually a birthday present for him he feels so guilty he shrinks to the size of a bug.
- The featurette "Goliath II", where Goliath is spanked and branded a traitor for trying to run away.
Real Life Events
- The numerous deaths of veterans of the Disney Studios - including Walt Disney, Roy O. Disney, the Nine Old Men, Roy E. Disney, Eddie Carroll (Jiminy Cricket) and Wayne Allwine (Mickey Mouse).
- And Disney's two longest-performing stage actors, Wally Boag and Betty Taylor (as Pecos Bill and Slue Foot Sue) died within a day of each other.
- Similarly, the the deaths of two longtime Winnie-the-Pooh voices, Paul Winchell (Tigger) and John Fielder (Piglet), happened within a day of each other also.
- Ilene Woods of Cinderella fame contracted Alzheimer's in her final years. She reportedly spent that time sitting in a retirement home, unable to understand the events of her surroundings, while listening to "A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes", which made her feel happy for reasons she probably couldn't remember.
- The death of legendary song writer Robert B. Sherman, who (with his brother Richard), wrote many songs for "Mary Poppins", "The Jungle Book", and the Disney Theme Parks.
- Robert, before writing such happy and uplifting songs with Robert, witnessed the horrific results of the Holocaust while serving in the US Army, as he was one of the first soldiers to liberate the Dachau concentration camp.
- Howard Ashman's untimely death in 1991. He was just forty years old. Alan Menken was and still is deeply affected, as evidenced by the setup for "Proud of Your Boy" on the Disney/Aladdin DVD. As revealed in Waking Sleeping Beauty, the filmmakers of Beauty and the Beast held a press event in New York and received great praise, but when members of the animation department went to tell Howard of the news, they were shocked by his appearance in hospital - he was eighty pounds, lost his eyesight, and could barely speak. When it was time to leave, Don Hahn told Howard that the film would be a success and asked who would have thought it. Howard replied with "I would've."
- At Wayne Allwine's tribute service, after his friend and fellow voice actor Tony Anselmo (aka Donald Duck) said a few words before saying in Donald's voice "I'm sure gonna miss you, Mickey".
- Matthew Garber, who played Michael Banks in Mary Poppins, died of hepatitis at the age of twenty-one.
- Frank Wells' tragic death in a helicopter crash in 1994 shook Disney to the core, leading to the breakdown of the relationship between Michael Eisner and Jeffrey Katzenberg. Wells was honoured at the beginning of The Lion King.
- Richard Sherman once told a story from 2001 when the statue of Walt Disney and Mickey Mouse at Disneyland was being re-dedicated for Walt's 100th birthday. He performed "Feed the Birds" from Mary Poppins, which was his favorite song and Richard always played it for him upon request when he was alive. Right after he performed the song, he spotted a white dove land by the statue and then flew away, which he saw as Walt saying "Thanks".
- Many of the tragic incidents that have occurred in the Disney Theme Parks over the years. Perhaps the most devastating one is the death of Deborah Stone, who was an 18-year old Disneyland employee that was crushed to death on the former America Sings attraction in a horrible accident. What makes it even more tragic was that it was said that she was a wonderful and caring human being that had great ambitions for the future, only for it all to be cut short.
- One of the most tragic deaths of a Disney-related personality is that of actor Bobby Driscoll, star of Song of the South, Treasure Island, and Peter Pan. He had a history of drug abuse, went to prison for it, and he ran out of money. He was last seen wandering into the Manhattan underground. On March 30th, two young boys found a body, but the police and medical examiners could not identify it. Nineteen months later, Bobby's mother contacted Disney asking if they knew his whereabouts. It was discovered that the body belonged to Bobby, having died of heart failure from his drug abuse.
- Walt and Roy both suffered a heartbreaking loss when their mother Flora died from asphyxiation, due to a dodgy gas furnace built in a house the Disney Brothers built specifically for their parents to live in after the success of Snow White.
- Soon after Oswald the Lucky Rabbit was revealed to return to Disney, and appear as a main character in Epic Mickey, the internet quickly made him look like The Woobie, or an Eldritch Abomination. A comic appeared where a little girl, named Priscilla I believe, goes to hug Oswald, and tells him "My friends call me crazy, but you're my favorite". As she gets pulled away by her mother, she says "Good bye! I love you Mickey!" The last panel shows Oswald, crying, a forced smile on his face, waving to the girl.
- Here's the link◊.
- Seriously, if you can read these without breaking up, you have no soul...
- Speaking of Epic Mickey, during one of the cut-scenes, Mickey and Gus come across the iconic statue of Walt holding Mickey's hand—supposedly. Mickey looks absolutely overjoyed to see Walt's likeness again...and then looks down and notices it's Oswald's hand he's holding, not Mickey's. The look that comes over Mickey's face can only be described as "heartbreak."
- When you finally manage to enter at Walt's apartment at the Wasteland. Not only because Gus says "Mickey... you know what's this place, right? I can't say it. I'm going to start crying", but because the fact that it's Walt's apartment on the Wasteland, the place "where forgotten characters go". And the image of Walt Disney actually becoming depressed after losing Oswald, not creating Mickey Mouse and making us lose the best animation company in history just knocks me off.
- The Beast's self-hating monologue in Kingdom Hearts II.