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Top 10 Saddest Animated Disney Character Backstories

VO: Emily Brayton WRITTEN BY: Mersini Karkoulas
Disney gets us right in the feels. For this list we’re only looking at backstories that happen before the start of the movie’s narrative, or which are told through flashbacks. This means that Bambi’s backstory for example won’t be included. Our list includes Dory, Lilo, Nick Wilde, Cinderella, Bing Bong, and more! Join MsMojo as we count down our picks for the Top 10 Saddest Animated Disney Character Backstories.
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Top 10 Saddest Animated Disney Character Backstories


Disney gets us right in the feels. Welcome to MsMojo and today we’re counting down our picks for the top 10 Saddest Animated Disney Character Backstories.

For this list we’re only looking at backstories that happen before the start of the movie’s narrative, or which are told through flashbacks. This means that “Bambi’s” backstory for example won’t be included.

#10: Cinderella
“Cinderella” (1950)


This one might have a fairytale ending, but Cinderella’s origins are heartbreaking. After the death of her mother, her doting father remarried. This might have been all well and good if he hadn’t died shortly after, leaving poor Cinderella an orphan. His death left her in the care of her new stepmother and in the company of two stepsisters. Well all know how the story goes, but it bears saying that the way these three treated Cinderella is nothing short of child abuse. It’s a good thing a fairy godmother comes along, or this movie would be too depressing to watch.

#9: Lewis
“Meet the Robinsons” (2007)


Disney has often dealt with stories about kids without parents, and this one stands out as one of the saddest. Lewis is a child inventor with an active imagination. The only downside is that his inventions don’t always work out quite how he plans and seem to ruin his chances of being adopted. After deciding that he has to find the mother who left him at the orphanage as a baby, he invents a device to aide him on his quest. It’s a rollercoaster of a ride that involves time travel, and it breaks our heart when Lewis doesn’t take his opportunity to change the past.

#8: Nick Wilde
“Zootopia” (2016)


“Zootopia” seemed like a fun movie from the trailers, so we were not prepared when it came at us with some insightful stories about what it’s like to be stereotyped and ostracized for something you can’t control. When we meet Nick, he is a conman, but as the movie progresses we find out that there is much more to him than meets the eye. As he and Judy bond we learn that he was bullied as a child by other kids because he was a fox, and a predator, meaning that they could not trust him. Disney doesn’t shy away from teaching its audience a lesson, and this one really made us reflect on the prejudices of the world.

#7: Bing Bong
“Inside Out” (2015)


There are few things sadder than the melancholic nostalgia of realizing you no longer love something from your childhood. “Inside Out” takes a look into the mind of Riley, a young girl dealing with life’s issues, and the journey leads us to meet Bing Bong, Riley’s old imaginary friend. Long forgotten by her, he wanders around her mind, collecting his favourite happy memories. Until he meets Joy and Sadness and finds a new mission in helping them getting back to Headquarters, he is lonely, made obsolete by time and Riley growing up. He’s a fantastic character who makes us reminisce about our own long lost imaginary friends.

#6: Lilo
“Lilo and Stitch” (2002)


“Lilo and Stitch” promised us a fun alien-filled romp through Hawaii. We didn’t expect to cry. Lilo lives with her older sister, and it’s obvious that there is some tragedy in their past. We have no idea what happened until a sad Lilo, empathising with the destructive Stitch, mentions that her parents were out driving on a rainy night. It’s a blink and you miss it moment, but for those of us who can put two and two together, it’s a moment that has us reaching for a box of tissues every time. And there were even more tears when we realised that’s why Lilo feeds Pudge, the fish she thinks can control the weather.

#5: Tod
“The Fox and the Hound” (1981)


Tod, a young fox, and the star of this 1981 movie, has one hell of a backstory. Orphaned as a baby, the other forest animals rally and organise for him to be adopted by Widow Tweed, a sweet old lady with a heart of gold. But as Tod grows older, Widow, tearful and sad, is forced to release him back into the wild. “The Fox and the Hound” is widely regarded as one of the most heartbreaking movies Disney has ever released, and when you’re already crying at the beginning, you should probably be able to guess that you’ll need to hold on to that box of tissues for the rest of the movie.


#4: Carl Fredricksen
“Up” (2009)


How Disney managed to fit one of the most absolutely heartbreaking backstories into a movie about a house being lifted up by balloons is a credit to its team of writers. The first five minutes of “Up” are notorious for making even the most stoic among us shed a tear. Carl meets Ellie when they are young and the two grow up together and end up married. Their marriage is beset by difficulties, like learning that they are unable to have children. They have a long and happy life together until Ellie’s death. Without this backstory, we would never know what makes Carl so determined to get his house up to the top of that waterfall.

#3: Dory
“Finding Dory” (2016)


When we met her in “Finding Nemo”, Dory was a funny (albeit forgetful) companion to Marlin, serving as someone to offset all the tragedy in his life with some levity. We don’t learn much about her until the sequel where the story focuses on who she is and where she came from. Spoiler alert: it’s a tearjerker. It’s an adventure that takes us down Dory’s fragile memory lane, and we learn about her past and who her parents are. In typical Disney fashion, it gives us the tough stuff before it gives us the happy ending, and despite sobbing our way through, it was definitely worth it.

#2: Jessie
“Toy Story 2” (1999)


It might seem strange that a toy wants to spend the rest of its days locked up in a museum, but the more we learn about Jessie, the more her motivations make sense. In a song that we can’t listen to without getting choked up, we learn that she was once abandoned by her owner. When you consider that being an exhibit means people will always be coming to see you, it makes sense that Jessie has a one track mind about getting herself to Japan. And unlike Lotso, whom we feel sorry for till we learn more about him, Jessie’s backstory makes her one of our favorite characters.

Before we unveil our top pick, here are some honourable mentions:

Wreck-It-Ralph
"Wreck it Ralph" (2012)

Kida
“Atlantis: The Lost Empire” (2001)

Tarzan
“Tarzan” (1999)

#1: Quasimodo
“The Hunchback of Notre Dame” (1996)


This one is known as one of Disney’s more serious movies, and Quasimodo is regarded as one of the most overlooked characters in Disney’s repertoire. A deformed man forced into ringing the bells at the famed Notre Dame cathedral, he longs to be outside, mingling with other people. When we find out that the evil Frollo only adopted him because he killed Quasimodo’s mother, we can’t help but feel even more sorry for him. To make matters worse, in un-Disney-like fashion, Quasimodo doesn’t even get a fairy tale ending, so it’s a tale we tend not to revisit unless we’re prepared to be depressed for the rest of the day.
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