Disney & Pixar Animated Films Without A Traditional Love Story
February 14th is Valentine’s Day. It’s a day where people around the world celebrate the love of their significant other. But it’s not the only type of love out there. For those who don’t have a significant other to share, there are several Disney animated films you can watch that don’t have a traditional love story. Many still tackle love but not in the traditional sense.
The second feature length film made by the Walt Disney Animated Studios was released in 1940. It tells the story of a puppet who is brought to life and wants to become a real boy. With Jiminy Cricket as his conscience, he heads to school but ends up as an actor. He ends up on his way to Pleasure Island where he’s almost turned into a donkey. And he goes to sea and sacrifices himself to save his father Gepetto. That leads to him becoming a real boy. There’s no traditional love story, but there is a story of love between a father and his soon to be real son.
Dumbo is the fourth feature length animated film made by the Walt Disney Animation Studios. Released in 1941, it tells the story of a young elephant with big ears who is an unpopular member of the circus. The other elephants look down on him. The Ringmaster just wants a new circus act. Many of the customers make fun of his ears leading his mother to attack the children and get locked up. Eventually, Dumbo becomes popular when he learns he can use his big ears to fly. There’s no romantic partner. But there is a story about the love a mother has for her son.
ALICE IN WONDERLAND
This episodic adventure from 1951 tells the story of Alice and her adventures in Wonderland with the White Rabbit, the March Hare, the Mad Hatter, Tweedle-Dee, Tweedle-Dum and the Queen of Hearts. It’s a wild adventure, but Alice never has a love interest throughout the story. Coming on the heels of “Cinderella” and it’s very popular love story, it was a bold but inspired choice to choose a property that wouldn’t have one as the next project.
THE JUNGLE BOOK
This 1967 film is the final one that Walt Disney personally worked on. Released a year after his death, it tells the story of Mowgli and his adventures in the jungle before being returned to his village. While it does end with Mowgli seeing a girl around his age and wanting to follow her to the village, there’s no real love story for the two humans. You do see a panther and a bear serve as surrogate parents for Mowgli while he’s in the jungle, though.
THE MANY ADVENTURES OF WINNIE THE POOH
One of the most popular intellectual properties from Disney has never had a love interest. Winnie the Pooh has some amazing friendships with Tigger, Piglet, Eeyore, Kanga, Roo and Owl. Rabbit is there too, but he’s not always friendly. He also has the best friendship of all with Christopher Robin.
THE GREAT MOUSE DETECTIVE
Disney mixes Sherlock Holmes with mice in “The Great Mouse Detective.” The film follows Basil of Baker Street as he tries to take down the evil Professor Ratigan who has kidnapped a girl’s father. The movie plays out like a fun mystery. But neither Basil, newly acquired sidekick Dawson, end up in a love story.
There is a love story that is incredibly central to the plot of “Toy Story,” but it’s a friendship love story rather than a traditional love story. Woody is the kind of the toys in Andy’s room until Buzz Lightyear shows up. Buzz thinks he’s a real space ranger while Woody is jealous that the other toys are fawning over Buzz. Eventually, Buzz learns that he’s a toy, Woody learns to be friends with Buzz and all of the toys learn to grow together.
THE EMPEROR’S NEW GROOVE
Disney took a bold step with this film by giving it a protagonist who was extremely selfish. Kuzco is looking to take over to build a place special to him, but his advisor, Yzma, is plotting to kill him. Hijinks happen and Kuzco is turned into a llama. There is the love of friendship that grows between Kuzco and Pacha. But there is no traditional love story.
LILO & STITCH
While there is a side love story for Nani, the focus of this film is about the love between sisters rather than a traditional love story. Lilo is the type of girl who can find trouble anywhere. Nani is doing everything she can to keep her sister. They’ve lost their parents, so they only thing they have is each other.
Disney’s futuristic take on “Treasure Island” features a wildly different look for Jim Hawkins, Long John Silver and Captain Smollett. Jim meets great friends and ends up in an unusual friendship with Long John Silver who is fond of him even though they are on opposing sides. Much like the other films on this list, it tackles love, just not in the traditional sense.
Two years after making a film about sisterly love, Disney tackled brotherly love with “Brother Bear.” Three brothers are impacted by a bear. One is killed by the bear. One kills the bear then transforms into a bear himself to help the bear’s cub. The middle brother believes he has already lost both of his brothers due to the bear when he realizes the bear is his brother. Disney would revisit the concept of love between siblings again, but this is one of the strongest examples of brotherly love.
MEET THE ROBINSONS
The love story in “Meet the Robinsons” is all about found family. Lewis is an orphan who loves science and wants to be adopted. He ends up meeting Wilbur, a boy from the future who needs his help. We learn through the future that Lewis was adopted, changed his name to Cornelius, and he is Wilbur’s father. The film focuses on believing in oneself. Even though there is a love between Lewis and his family, and Lewis does meet his future wife, there’s very little tradition to it.
How often does Disney have a film where the main protagonist is a princess and not have a true love interest? Pixar did it with “Brave.” In the film, she is set to be courted and is expected to choose a suitor but finds a way to choose herself over any of the suitors. Then, it becomes about the love and frustration between a mother and daughter.
BIG HERO 6
“Big Hero 6” tackles brotherly love and the grief of losing a loved one. Hiro doesn’t know how to handle his emotions after losing his brother Tadashi. But, with the help of Tadashi’s friends and his science project Baymax, Hiro learns the importance of processing his emotions. It’s a deeper love than just man loves a woman.
“Zootopia” tackles racism, classism and the underdog story in a unique way. The main character, Judy Hopps, and the sly fox thought to be the villain, Nick Wilde, end up in a very platonic relationship that helps both of them grow. They are great friends but never pursue anything beyond that, and it’s for the best. This film only works without the traditional love story.
“Moana” is the first film from Disney’s main studio featuring a princess in the lead role that doesn’t have a traditional love story. Moana’s love is her home. She wants to save it by returning the heart of Ta Fiti. Her entire interaction with Maui is about helping both of them grow without them falling in love.
RAYA AND THE LAST DRAGON
A warrior princess looking to unite her home, that’s the plot of the 2021 Disney film “Raya and the Last Dragon.” This film tackles the journey of the young princess who is trying to save her country and her family. It has limited possible options for a traditional love story, but instead puts a focus on working together.
Those are some of my picks. If you are looking for a Disney film without the traditional love story, what are you watching?