While a few Disney movies do have parental figures, a significant amount also do not. However, when it comes down to it, there are also far more father figures than mothers in Disney movies specifically.
Movies such as Snow White, The Jungle Book and Cinderella do not feature parent figures at all, but in The Little Mermaid, Aladdin and Beauty and the Beast, there are significant patriarch roles.
Now, a reason has emerged for this, and it is heartbreaking.
According to Don Hahn, a Disney producer, it has to do with Walt Disney losing his mother: “Walt Disney, in the early 1940s, when he was still living in this house, also bought a house for his mom and dad to move into. He had the studio guys come over and fix the furnace, but when his mom and dad moved in, the furnace leaked and his mother died. The housekeeper came in the next morning and pulled his mother and father out on the front lawn. His father was sick and went to hospital but his mother died. He would never talk about it.”
The other reason for the lack of parental figures, according to Don, is simply down to movie strategy: “One reason is practical because the movies are 80 or 90 minutes long, and Disney films are about growing up. They’re about that day in your life when you have to accept responsibility, In shorthand, it’s much quicker to have character grow up when you bump off their parents.”