The Ten Most Tragic Cartoon Deaths

*There are spoilers in this Feature*

Brian Griffin, Family Guy (2013):

The most upsetting thing about this death was the sheer suddenness with which it happened: after 15 years on the show and numerous adventures with the Griffin family, Brian was hit by a car and less than two minutes later was dead. Forever. His final words “You’ve given me a wonderful life. I love you all” will haunt Family Guy fans for years to come. What is even scarier for many is the uncertainty that follows this death: who will replace Brian’s niche role in the Griffin household as the reason providing, sophisticated, witty intellectual needed to give the show its all round appeal?

Bambi’s Mother, Bambi (1942):

There’s no more traumatic moment in the entire history of Walt Disney films than the gunshot that signals the death of Bambi’s Mum. There’s a tear in my eye (tragic at 19…) just thinking about Bambi crying out, “Mother,” as the snow falls and you know Bambi’s never going to see her again. Frankly how Disney ever thought that was appropriate for children is beyond me. The film deserves at least a 21+ rating, if not higher. The innocence of the piece is lost after that, and while perhaps one of Disney’s most realistic films, it is still a bitter pill to swallow.

Ash Ketchum, Pokémon: The First Movie (1999):

Fair enough, Ash Ketchum doesn’t actually die, but when he got turned into stone by Mew and Mewtwo’s epic Pokémon battle we were all holding our breath to see whether our favourite franchise was going to come to an end. The selflessness of the sacrifice was staggering and Pikachu’s attempt to revive statue-Ash was quite devastating and still is. Misty murmuring ‘Please no,’ makes things all the harder to handle. By the point Pikachu is crying I defy anyone who has ever watched or cared about Pokémon not to be having a break-down.

Maude Flanders, The Simpsons (2000):

Maude Flanders dying is over very quickly and at first it wasn’t that upsetting because she wasn’t that much of a main character. Then through the course of the episode you get annoyed because Ned doesn’t grieve. It’s sorted too quickly and neatly, like the producers of The Simpsons couldn’t be bothered to deal with a weighty emotional storyline and were happy for Maude’s death just to be a throwaway moment. There wasn’t any meaning behind it, which was more upsetting than her actual death.

The Sailor Senshi, Sailor Moon (1995):

This may be a slightly obscure childhood reference, but to those who remember Sailor Moon was the supremely camp tale of Serena, a Japanese schoolgirl with magic-imparting jewellery that turned her into a celestial warrior of love and justice. The English dub was quite twee, but if you ever see the unedited Japanese episodes that closed the First Season there actually quite dark and devastating. All of the Sailor Senshi (Serena eventually got a few pals involved) sacrifice themselves one by one in a devastating display of the supreme bonds of friendship.

Mufasa, The Lion King (1994):

The moment that destroyed many a childhood, when our innocence and faith in the sugarcoated, glorious, happy world of Disney was rudely shattered and thrown under a stampede of Wildebeest. It might rip off Hamlet (even if Mufasa in that play was killed before it started…), but nobody was ever going to cry at Shakespeare. It took adorable lions and our attachment to all around awesome king Mufasa and hatred of all around villain-of-villains Scar to get the tear ducts going. It’s even worse that Simba sees it and, as in the wild, has to paw at his father’s inanimate corpse. It’s heartbreaking.

Coral, Finding Nemo (2004):

In what must be the darkest beginning to a children’s movie ever, Coral (Nemo’s mum) is eaten by a barracuda along with all of Nemo’s unborn siblings, before we’ve even met the hero of the movie. As if her maternal instinct driven sacrifice wasn’t heart rending enough, only moments before she had been happily discussing the joys of parenthood with Nemo’s Dad, Marlin, making the scene extremely upsetting. It’s hard to know who to feel for the most: her partner who has to raise their now only child alone or Nemo, who will never meet his mother. Even though the character was scarcely on screen for three minutes, her death sets an extremely serious tone for the start of a pixar movie.

Manny’s Family, Ice Age (2002):

This death scene portrayed in a flashback by animated cave paintings is just as thought provoking as it is tragic. Watchers of the movie up until this point could be forgiven for thinking that Manny the Mammoth was just a miserable, lonely, grumpy character, but once you learn his whole family were killed by hunters a whole new dimension is added to his character. Besides from finally understanding his commitment issues, you realise how much of a truly selfless person he is for wanting to return the abandoned human child to his tribe, even after his own baby was killed by them.

King Harold, Shrek the Third (2007):

The passing of everybody’s favourite John Cleese voiced Frog-King was somewhat comical as far as deaths go, but tragic nonetheless. I felt personally the most for Shrek, who after finally winning the respect and love of his father in law would never be able to spend time with him again and was consequently thrust unprepared and unwilling into the public eye of the kingdom as acting monarch as a result. A new level of sadness is added when it emerges that Fiona was pregnant at the time and that Harold will never know his grandchildren.

Planet Earth, WALL·E (2008):

This film predicts a grim future for all life on planet earth: less than 100 years in the future, all life will have simply ceased to exist thanks to mankind’s pollution of the planet and the only remotely sentient beings left are robots left behind to clean up our mess while the obese remnants of the human race have fled to hyperspace. A real eye opener to the dangers of pollution and climate change, if this movie didn’t get America to sign the Kyoto agreement, I don’t know what will.

One thought on “The Ten Most Tragic Cartoon Deaths

  1. I think that Pixar’s “UP!” trumps most of these.

    In the first five minutes the lead character meets the love of his life, marries her, they find they can’t have children, grow old and she dies, all without achieving their lifelong dream of visiting a South American waterfall. Absolutely heartbreaking.

    Even worse, it goes over the kids head’s, so you get a cinema of traumatised adults, surrounded by kids oblivious to the pathos and laughing at the overweight scout and lots of balloons.

    It gets funnier, mind you.

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