Disney are known for many things: unforgettable characters, toe-tapping tunes, and of course those devastating, tear-jerking moments.
The studio’s next big remake is The Lion King, and promises to hit us in the nostalgic feels when it’s released in July. The Jungle Book director Jon Favreau marshals photo-realistic CGI animation and an all-star voice cast including Donald Glover, Beyonce, Chiwetel Ejiofor and James Earl Jones.
And, as those who grew up with the 1994 original will know, the story is an emotional rollercoaster that promises its fair share of heart-wrenching moments in the rebooted movie. Yes, you know very well what scene we're referring to...
In preparation, we’re taking a look back at seven powerful scenes from Disney’s beloved back-catalogue that have us all reaching for the tissues every time...
1. Bambi’s mother dies – Bambi (1942)
If there is one thing that is guaranteed to make us cry in a Disney film, it is the death of a parent, and this is something the animated classics do with frightening regularity.
First released in 1942, Bambi remains one of the saddest Disney movies, and even now some 77 years later, the moment Bambi’s mother is killed by a hunter is still devastating. Bambi’s mother urges Bambi to keep running and to not look back, and just when you think they may have reached safety, the hunter’s gun-shot rings out and Bambi calls out to his mother before realising that he is all alone.
Even thinking about it has us welling up, and if Disney ever decide to update this beloved classic, it is sure to have the same emotional impact.
2. Tweed and Tod’s farewell – The Fox and The Hound (1981)
Here's an underrated Disney classic, and one that is absolutely packed with emotional moments. The forbidden friendship between the fox Tod and hound Copper (Kurt Russell) is a thing of bittersweet beauty, but it is the farewell between kindly widow Tweed and her adopted pet Tod (Mickey Rooney) that is easily the most devastating.
The joy on Tod’s face as he thinks he and Tweed are going off on an adventure, followed by the realisation that this is where they must say goodbye, is absolutely heartbreaking, and worsened by the song that plays over the scene as he watches her drive away.
3. Pocahontas’s farewell – Pocahontas (1995)
In this 1995 classic, Disney gives us one of the most beautiful and poignant screen romances, and then just as quickly, it is all taken away. Pocahontas tells the story of a chief’s daughter who falls in love with soldier John Smith.
As they hide their love from both Pocahontas’s tribe and Smith’s band of 16th century colonists, there is always the sense that these star-crossed lovers are surely destined to be together. And then just as we think we’re going to get the happy ending we all want, suddenly we’re left in pieces as John is seriously wounded, and must return home to England immediately.
Knowing her duty is to stay with her people, Pocahontas makes the hard decision to let him go and their incredibly emotional farewell gets us every single time.
4. Mufasa’s death – The Lion King (1994)
The moment that single-handedly ruined the childhood of an entire generation, this scene is set to break our hearts all over again in the new Lion King adaptation. Even now, proud Mufasa’s (James Earl Jones) death following a terrifying wildebeest stampede remains one of the most devastating Disney moments ever. Orchestrated by his evil brother Scar (Jeremy Irons), Mufasa meets his untimely end and the whole event is tragically witnessed by his young son Simba.
Whether it is the horror on Simba’s face, or the moment he sadly urges his father “you gotta get up”, even the hardest of hearts would be softened by this moment. Tissues at the ready, you’re about to feel the feels all over again with the latest version of this classic story, not least because composer Hans Zimmer will be back to revisit his heart-wrenching, Oscar-winning soundtrack.
5. Mulan reunites with her father – Mulan (1998)
Arguably the Disney film with the best songs (see 'I’ll Make a Man Out of You' for reference), Mulan is also one of their most gorgeously animated films, telling the story of a fearless woman who takes her father’s place in the war that is threatening her country.
Emerging victorious and saving all of China, the moment Mulan stands in front of the crowds is stirring, but it is the moment she is reunited with her beloved father that really gets the tears flowing. He tells her “the greatest gift and honor... is having you for a daughter” as they embrace.
With Mulan poised to receive the live-action treatment in 2020, we can’t wait to see this moment given a fresh new approach.
6. Carl & Ellie – Up (2009)
There are no shortage of tears-jerking moments in this Disney-Pixar gem – and most of them come within the first 10 minutes.
In the exquisite, wordless opening sequence, set to Michael Giacchino’s Oscar-winning score, we see the relationship of Carl & Ellie unfold, childhood pals who later marry and live a happy life together. The sequence effortlessly takes us through the entirety of their relationship in a way that is heartfelt, funny, and crushingly real as well.
Where it goes feels entirely inevitable but it still hits us with monumental force. Perfectly encapsulating love, loss, grief, laughter and all of the other things life can throw at you, this is a beautiful way to start off a beautiful film.
7. Ray’s Sacrifice – The Princess & The Frog (2009)
Another underrated one, this modern fairytale brings us one of the all-time best Disney princesses in the form of hard-working waitress Tiana, and of course it also gives us one of the most heart-wrenching moments as well.
Loveable firefly Ray spends most of the film singing the praises of, and declaring his love for, his beloved Evangeline, who just happens to be a shining star in the sky. When the evil voodoo Doctor Facilier threatens his friends, Ray makes the ultimate sacrifice and lays down his life to save them.
The real heartbreak comes when they hold a funeral for the brave bug, and we see Ray join Evangeline, shining bright in the sky. Don’t mind us, there must be some dust in our eyes…
Sarah Buddery is a writer who blogs for Cineworld as part of our news team.