With Mother's Day peeking around the corner (and today itself being Mother's Day in Mexico), I think it's only fair we take a look at the top ten mothers in animation. Mothers are a very powerful type of character, they can serve as motivation for a character to overcome adversity, an obstacle for a protagonist or antagonist to overcome, a powerful and wise mentor, a source of embarrassment or great fear for protagonists and antagonists alike, or even just simply a guiding hand or someone who sets a plot into motion. And today, we're gonna look at the ten best mothers ever brought to life through animation.
Let's lay down the ground rules, shall we? They are as follows:
1. Only official mother characters can qualify, though adoption can be counted. Characters who act motherly towards other characters or are seen as mother figures, but are not officially mothers through either birth or adoption, will not be counted (so no characters like Katara from Avatar: The Last Airbender
2. Step mothers and god mothers, as well as grandmothers, will not be included. They are in a different league compared to normal mothers.
3. We will only be looking at mother characters from Western Animation, Anime mothers are in a league of their own.
4. Pictures of the characters will be used, but I do not own or endorse them, and therefore they are protected under "Fair Use".
Now then, let's begin.
10. Mrs. Jumbo (Dumbo
Back before Disney had a reputation for killing off the mother (or father, or both parents), Mrs. Jumbo was a surprising early example of what mothers in animation could accomplish. Protective and loving of her son, Dumbo, despite his big ears, Mrs. Jumbo doesn't take kindly to anyone making fun of her son. Be it her fellow elephants, or even a human being. But when she takes action against the snot nosed human who made fun of her son, Mrs. Jumbo ends up locked away by the Ring Master, unable to perform in the circus anymore and unable to see her only son, except for the occasions where he is able to visit her with help from Timothy. It isn't until Dumbo proves himself as a flying elephant, that his mother is freed, and she and her son are reunited and live happily ever after.
9. Sharon Kimble Marsh (South Park
The mother of Shelly and Stanly "Stan", as well as the wife of Randy, Sharon is noticeable for, much like her son, being the more stable figure in her family, the voice of reason. A bit tempermental, and like all the parents of South Park
prone to overreacting to a situation, Sharon never the less cares about her family, and tries her best to provide for them. Most noticeably, of the main cast's mothers, she seems to be the most clean and straightward (Cartman's Mother is soft spoken and supposedly has slept around with a lot of people, Kyle's Mother tends to be the first to blow up about a crisis and bend others to her will, and Kenny's Mother is poor and a smoker, and sometimes that gets her into trouble).
8. Mrs. Dinkley (Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated
Early on, Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated
established itself as a darker and more serious take on the Scooby-Doo
franchise, and one of its biggest establishing acts, was the revelation of the gang's parents and how much they disapproved of their kids getting involved in mysteries. Mrs. Dinkley, however, grew out of that a little, as time went on. Though fascinated with monsters and the super natural, she never the less evolved to become a supporting member of the group, even helping them to uncover the secret the original Mystery Incorporated was trying to find. She was also the most supportive of the gang, even if at times she sided with the other parents when it came to keeping the kids out of the mysteries.
7. Ma Meerkat (The Lion King 1 1/2
Supportive but overprotective, Ma Meerkat tries her hardest to help her son fit in with the rest of the Meerkats and find a way to satisfy his curiousity and desire to go into the outside world. Frustrated and frightened when she learns her son went off into the outside world on a metaphor from Rafeki, she is nevertheless impressed when she finds out how well her son has managed on his own. She rallies to help her son help Simba fight off Scar and the Hyneas to save Pride Rock, and surprisingly like all the meerkats, she's actually quite capable of holding her own if need be. If her voice sounds familiar to you, well that's because her voice actress is none other than Julie Kavner, the voice of Marge Simpson. She wasn't always planned for the role though, rough drafts and deleted scenes reveal that a different voice was intended to be used (it can be heard in the deleted scene involving Timon's father, who was cut from the movie). Julie delivers a fine performance, even if it's easy to hear her Marge Simpson voice slip through the cracks.
6. Sarabi (The Lion King
Simba's mother and Mufasa's beautiful wife (not to mention Scar's sister in law), Sarabi has a limited role in Simba's childhood from what is shown. She is good friends with Nala's mother and does her best to keep Simba clean with daily groomings. She is quite insistent that when the lion cubs go off to what they say is the watering hole, Zazu accompany them. After the death of Mufasa, Sarabi is not seen again until Simba's return to Pride Rock as an adult, where we learn that she is in charge of the lions and lionesses that hunt for food, and she informs Scar that there is no food left and they must leave Pride Rock if they are to survive. In the Broadway play adaptation, Scar apparently desires for Sarabi to become his queen, and this is the subject of a brief musical number in which he tries to make advances towards Sarabi, but she rejects him.
5. Mrs. Cup Cake (My Little Pony Friendship is Magic
One of the few mother characters shown in the show over the years (it's taken until now for Rainbow Dash and Applejack's parents to be shown, seven seasons in, and if Lauren Faust had gotten her way, none of the main character's parents would have exisited in any way, shape, or form), Mrs. Cake is the proud mother of twin toddlers, Pound and Pumpkin Cake, a pegasus and a unicorn. Despite not always having all the answers and on more than a few occasions being caught off guard or taken by surprise, Mrs. Cake tends to be the more frequently seen between herself and her husband, who run Sugarcube Corner
. Perhaps most noticeably, Mrs. Cake and her husband have pet names for each other, at least in "Baby Cakes", where they call each other "Sugar Plum" and "Honey Bun" respectively. Another interesting little fact, Lauren Faust mentioned that The Cakes love Pinkie Pie like a daughter, though this has hasn't been mentioned in the show. Pinkie lives with them, but it's not known what sort of relationship they have. Mrs. Cake boasts one of the more uniquely used models for characters, though her voice actress, Tabitha St. Germain, voices a slew of other characters, so at times her Mrs. Cake voice ends up recycled. Oddly enough, Mrs. Cake's gasp in one episode was just a recycled clip of Pinkie Pie's gasp, which doesn't make sense when you consider Pinkie Pie is voiced by Andrea Libman and not Tabitha St. Germain.
4. Kala (Disney's Tarzan
Kala is the ape who finds the orphaned baby Tarzan, and having recently lost her own son to a leopardess named Sabor (who also killed Tarzan's parents), she decides to take the human child in and raise her as if he were her own son. This is despite how much her husband, Kerchack, disapproves, claiming "He won't replace the one we've lost.". Kala is the focus of the song "You'll Be In My Heart", though she also sees Tarzan just before the start of "Son of Man", when she learns how Tarzan wants Kerchack to accept him, and vows to become the best ape ever. Even when Tarzan grows up and meets his own kind, he never forgets about Kala, who never stops being a mother to him.
3. Littlefoot's Mother (The Land Before Time
You thought Bambi's Mom's death was sad? You ain't seen anything yet! Littlefoot's Mother is there from the day he is hatched, and raises him as best she can. She doesn't hesitate to come to her son's rescue when the vicious T-Rex known as Sharpteeth tries to kill her son. And she manages to fend off the predator, saving her son's life. Alas, it is at the cost of her own life, as she is mortally wounded, and her own son is there with her as she dies. Poor Littlefoot is unable to do anything, even as his mother reassures him that everything will be okay. Later on in the movie, Littlefoot sees what he thinks is his mother, but is saddened when it turns out to only be his own shadow.
2. Kanga (Winnie The Pooh
Roo's mother (when you combined them together you get Kangaroo, very clever), Kanga has appeared in every single adaptation and work involving Winnie The Pooh
, be it the original "Storybook Classics", The New Adventures
series, the various direct to video movies in the 90's and 2000's, and even the 2011 reboot film. An interesting and seldom seen fact, is that she's the only one who can make Tigger blush (it's whenever she calls him dear), and she has no quarrels letting Roo hang out with Tigger, Pooh, and the others. Also worth mentioning is that when Kanga first appeared in the Hundred Acre Wood, everyone was frightened of her, because they saw Roo jump into her pouch, and not knowing about how kangaroos care for their young, they thought she had eaten Roo. Kanga may not do anything particularly special, but she doesn't have to, she stands out for just being good at what she is, a mother. She doesn't have to risk her life or die, and she can be kind or stern when necessary, and of course she isn't immune from being swept up in the Hundred Acre Wood resident's fantasies and concerns. So, who could top a mother like Kanga for the number one spot? Well, before we find out, let's look at some honorable mentions, and even a dishonorable mention.
Honorable Mention 1 - Katara's Mother (Avatar: The Last Airbender
Only seen briefly in a flashback in the episode "The Southern Raiders", Katara's (and Soka's) mother lived in her little village near the South Pole, along with the rest of the Water Benders in that isolated colony (the Water Benders at the North Pole did not maintain contact with their South Pole members). One faithful day, the Fire Nation came to the village, looking for Water Benders to round up. Young Katara was unfortunate enough to stumble upon a Fire Nation solider intergating her mother for information about the last of the Water Benders, and in order to protect her daughter, Katara's mom lied and told the soldier she was the last remaining Water Bender. Rather than be taken into custody, however, Katara's mom was killed by the solider, leaving only her necklace behind. Though she went to great lengths to hide it, her mom's death weighed heavily on Katara, though she ultimately realized that revenge was not the answer. Katara's Mother is on the honorable mentions list, since she was only seen in a brief flashback. It was an effective one though.
Honorable Mention 2 - Bambi's Mom (Bambi
Ah yes, the original tearjerker that more or less started a trend Disney is still famous (or maybe infamous) for doing to this day, killing off one or both parents of the main character. We all know iconic her death scene is, and of course when you think of Bambi's Mom, her death is the first thing that probably springs to your mind. I mean yeah, we saw her before then, saw her caring for her young son on her own. And while her death isn't seen on-screen (they are in a snow covered forest with fresh snow falling, they are fleeing from a hunter and Bambi's Mom tells him to run. Bambi does so, and a gun-shot is heard, then Bambi's father appears and simply tells him "Your mother can't be with you anymore.", and that is that), it's still a tearjerker. Heck, it's such a heartbreaking scene that Animaniacs
had an episode devoted to this with Slappy the Squirrel and her nephew Skippy. The writer of that episode has even admitted it was her way of addressing the childhood trauma she experienced watching that scene for the first time. However, The Nostalgia Critic pointed out in his "Top 11 Cartoon Deaths" that there's a bit of mood whiplash that follows the death of Bambi's Mom. Shortly after her death, they just cut to Spring with cheerful music, and everyone's all happy. Yes, Bambi
was developed during World War II (it released in 1942 at a time when the war was still going badly for the Allies despite some crucial victories in the Pacific and North Africa), so they could only do so much, but in retrospect it probably would've helped if they'd maybe devoted a scene or two to Bambi coping with the death of his mother, before cutting to Spring. At least that way we could've gotten some closure.
Dishonorable Mention - Spoiled "Milk" Rich (My Little Pony Friendship is Magic
Not all mothers need to be nice and caring to be effective, a mean and nasty mother can work just as effectively in shaping a character. The problem with Spoiled Rich is, they go way too far with her, she is quite frankly a "Hate Sink" a character made to have no redeeming or likeable traits, a character created solely to be hated and despised. She basically consists of the same personality traits her daughter had prior to her reformation, except without any hints that fueled speculation and led at least some fans to consider that perhaps Diamond Tiara could be nice. I mean heck, Spoiled Rich is voiced by Chantel Strand, who also voices Diamond Tiara, though she does seem to do a good enough job of distinguishing Mother from Daughter. Spoiled is a verbally (and possibly physically) abusive parent, always seen as condescending and stuck up, often shouting at her daughter or anyone who she doesn't like. But when her daughter sees through her nastiness and isn't phased by her words, Spoiled folds, despite publicly heckling her daughter within earshot of at least one figure of authority. In real life, most abusive parents wouldn't be that stupid, and they certainly wouldn't just fold the first time their child stood up to them. More likely they would just double down, telling the child off for disobeying their parent, especially since kids are usually taught to respect their elders and that their parents have their best interests at heart. "Where The Apple Lies" did kind of make Spoiled a bit more believeable, as even the nastiest of people in real life at least try to pretend they can be nice. A better example of a bad parent serving as motivation for a character would be The High Priestess of the Daughters of Aku cult from Season 5 of Samurai Jack
, but there's speculation her character's story isn't done yet, and until we know for sure I didn't want to put her on the list. So, now that we have the honorable (and dishonorable) mentions out of the way, it's time to see who the number one Mother in Animation is!
1. Mrs. Brisby (The Secret of NIMH
While I haven't seen the film she appears in its enterity, I've read about it and even seen The Nostalgia Critic talk about her character. Mrs. Brisby risks her very life on multiple occasions to save her son, who is sick with pneumonia. The Secret of NIMH
is a very dark film, but one that has a very uplifting hero's journey. Mrs. Brisby is perhaps one of the strongest protagonists in any kind of film, because she puts herself in danger to protect others, even when she is afraid to do. She displays true courage, true bravery, and ultimately she is rewarded, as she not only saves the life of her son, but also helps a group of highly advanced rats to find a better life. True courage comes not from doing the right thing and doing heroic deeds without ever being afraid, it comes from doing what's right even when you're afraid to do it. Likewise, true bravery is not ever being afraid of anything and putting yourself in danger whenever possible (like say running into a burning building without fire fighting equipment to save someone's life, you're likely to get yourself injured or killed), but being afraid and doing the right thing anyway (as Mufasa famously put it "Being brave, doesn't mean you go looking for trouble."). The Secret of NIMH
was a critical but not commercial success that was ahead of its time and proved Don Bluth was a genius at telling stories that could rival that of Disney, and Mrs. Brisby is a huge part of that. Don Bluth's approach to story telling for children has always involved having darker stories with lots of sad elements and high stakes, but he's always had his characters earn their happy ending. And there's no denying Mrs. Brisby, with her tremendous display of bravery, more than earns her happy ending! And with everything she goes through, all the perils she faces, all the trails she overcomes, all just for the sake of healing her sick son, Mrs. Brisby easily takes the top spot on this list. She is the kind of mother who would move mountains to help those she cares about.
And there you have it, come back next week when we celebrate the launch of Injustice: Gods Among Us 2
with a look back at the first Injustice: Gods Among Us
released in 2013.