Have you ever noticed this common theme in so many Disney movies? First, you meet the main character. Then, almost immediately, one of his/her parents die or you find out they already have passed away. Sound familiar? Here’s a few I could think of off the top of my head:
- Bambi (Mother)
- The Lion King (Father)
- Cinderella (Both Parents)
- The Little Mermaid (Mother)
- Finding Nemo (Mother)
I’ve always wondered why this tragic event is so common (in these cartoons made for children). There must be a specific purpose for creating such dire circumstances, especially so early in the storyline.
But is it a sign of great storytelling or just a cheap trick to pull on our heart strings?
Because these are fictional stories and not based on reality, one must question the common thread that weaves these characters’ lives together. When it’s a true story, it’s simply unavoidable. When it’s fabricated, there must be a reason, right?
What We Can Learn
There are a few things going on here that we can learn from. First, it gives the protagonist emotional baggage that can be used to explain why other problems come into their life.
For Simba, he refuses to return and claim his rightful place as king because he believes he is responsible for his father’s death.
Since it creates the conflict, it also helps to give him an obstacle to overcome.
Again, using the Lion King as an example, he ultimately decides to come back to his herd before finding out the truth. You are taken on a difficult journey, which creates an emotional attachment and where you find yourself rooting for him to succeed.
How It Applies To Songwriting
What can we take from this in songwriting? Do we have to kill someone off in every story? Certainly not, but it should give you an idea of where to draw some inspiration at times.
Almost any difficult circumstance can be used to write about the trials and tribulations of a certain character. Whether you tell it from first, second, or third-hand experience doesn’t matter, as long as it’s relate-able.