There are few things more unsettling than when an animated television show or film hopscotch over the whole feel-good nature of ‘toons and land squarely on The Big “D.” You shouldn’t be as attached or emotionally invested as you tend to get when it is done right. After all, these are only thousands of drawings flashing before your eyes. Nobody really dies in the movies and, definitely, nobody dies in cartoons because (spoiler alert) they never actually lived to begin with.
But sometimes you can’t help but be moved, jolted, even disturbed by the sudden departure of a character. Here are some clips of famous characters that bit the dust in our favorite animated entertainments.
Bambi’s Mother: The scene that traumatized a generation, there are few Disney films that provoke such a unanimous reaction from an audience, except for two other examples.
Mufasa: The Lion King is, in many ways, a remake of Bambi and so the point where the prince must confront tragedy is a given. The third example of unanimous reaction to a Disney movie comes from Condorman, and that reaction is, “Why does this suck so badly?”
Maude Flanders: The Simpsons is filled with a lot more death than one immediately considers, from Homer’s nemesis Frank Grimes, to Bleedin’ Gums Murphy, to Homer’s Mom, hippy radical Mona Simpson. However, the one character passing that had the most impact was that of Maude Flanders. It was initially a shock to see, especially considering Homer’s callous, jerk-ass response to events, but the producers managed to make good on the plot wrinkle, showing Ned Flanders’ grieving process in later episodes.
Kenny: Taking things right over the edge, South Park killed off main character Kenny in every episode until it got boring. Then Kenny stayed dead. Then Kenny came back and didn’t die anymore. Indecision is a terrible thing.
Diane Simmons: On the season opener of Family Guy, the family gets sent to James Woods’ mansion where murder ensues. Jillian’s husband gets his head bashed in, Mort Goldman’s wife Muriel gets stabbed, and Diane Simmons, reporter and murderer, gets shot by Stewie. Ah, comedy.
Buckley: On King of the Hill, Hank Hill and Luanne survive the explosion that destroys the Mega Lo-Mart, but eternal employee Buckley bites the sawdust. In another example of fate’s cruelty, no video of the explosion exists on YouTube, Hulu or any of the other on-line video sites. See, Buckley? Nobody cared about you then, and they don’t care about you now. Why, I don’t even know why I included you on this list, you make me so sick.
It’s just the immense grief talking. I’ll be fine.
Dinosaurs (all of ’em): While it wasn’t a cartoon, the Henson/Disney series Dinosaurs ended the series by, presumably, killing off all the characters. The reason for it was noble enough – in showing the drastic effects of ecological irresponsibility, Earl Sinclair brings about the end of the world via provoking the ice age. It was handled in a tasteful manner, but certainly made a lot of little kids ask tons of questions. That would be a good thing, so long as the parents were ready to talk back, but considering that television is used more like a babysitter than a conversation-starter, I wonder how effective the idea was ultimately.
And it occurs to me that Disney sure are a morbid bunch, aren’t they? Happiest place on Earth, my big fat butt!
Daffy Duck: Yes, Daffy Duck. Finito, muerte, ‘E’s not pinin’! ‘E’s passed on! This duck is no more! He has ceased to be! ‘E’s expired and gone to meet ‘is maker! ‘E’s a stiff! Bereft of life, ‘e rests in peace! If you hadn’t nailed ‘im to the perch ‘e’d be pushing up the daisies! ‘Is metabolic processes are now ‘istory! ‘E’s off the twig! ‘E’s kicked the bucket, ‘e’s shuffled off ‘is mortal coil, run down the curtain and joined the bleedin’ choir invisible!! THIS IS A DEAD DUCK!!