Animated Motherhood: Top Ten Cartoon Moms of TV and Film

 

As a girl with only one parent of the Dad variety, my ideas of motherhood were often shaped by what I saw on TV. As a kid, most of what I wanted to see on TV was animated and, though cartoons might give you some bad ideas of stepmotherhood, moms were fairly solid. They were loving, wise, often strict, but fair, with endearing quirks or flaws that often let us kids know not to take those grown-ups too seriously. 

[img_assist|nid=288|title=|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=180|height=150]10. Wilma Flintstone (The Flintstones, voiced by Jan Vander Pyl, now Tress MacNeille), the stone-age counterpart of Alice Kramden of Honeymooners fame, shared her predecessor's biting wit, strong will, and tendency to be the voice of reason when everyone else has gone Neanderthal. She was feisty, level-headed, and savvy (just try to drag her, hair-first, back to your cave). Though middle class stay-at-home motherhood is kind of a thing of the... stone age, really, you have to hand it to Wilma for keeping house, raising a daughter, and a husband at times, in a world where they barely invented the wheel. 

 

 

[img_assist|nid=289|title=|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=110|height=159]9. I heavily suspect Dexter's mom (Dexter's Laboratory, voiced by Kath Soucie)  has a name, but really didn't want anyone to know it. We suspect this unnamed, twinkle-toed, yellow-gloved enigma gave Dexter, along with his red hair, a healthy fear of the world around. After all, Dexter is seen without his trademark purple gloves almost as much as his mother is seen without her trademark yellow ones... meaning pretty much never.  Whatever her name is, we suspect Dexter's superior intelligence came from her side of the family. He certainly didn't get it from his hyper-active Daddy. 

 

 

[img_assist|nid=290|title=|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=140|height=161]8. Diane, AKA Didi Pickles (Rugrats, voiced by Melanie Chartoff) is not just pulling double duty as the mother of Tommy and Dil while teaching, she's also based on Rugrats creator Arlene Klasky herself. Besides her well-known red hair and green-framed glasses, she's often seen armed with tips from Dr. Lipschitz whenever her little ones act up.  She's a very loving and attentive mother who endeavors to bring her sons up with both her own Jewish and her husband's Christian traditions and she often ends up being the disciplinarian in the family while her husband feels less inclined to be practical.

 

 

[img_assist|nid=291|title=|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=175|height=131]7. Mary Darling (Disney's Peter Pan, originally voiced by Heather Angel) was not a practical mother, but in a good way. She seemed to encourage her children to use their imaginations, thinking that believing in Peter Pan was tantamount with  keeping the "spirit of youth." She's content to let her children be nannied by a dog (again, in a good way) and rather shocked when her more pragmatic husband wishes Wendy to move into her own room and grow up. In Edwardian England, his will would have prevailed, but, no matter what, Mary Darling's gentle efforts were immortalized in the song "Your Mother and Mine" as Wendy brings most of Neverland (even Mr. Smee) to tears extolling a mother's virtues. 

 

[img_assist|nid=292|title=|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=175|height=117]6. Though Bambi's Mom (Bambi, voiced by Paula Winslowe) only lived through half the fim, she will never be forgotten. There's barely a child that has seen Bambi that didn't cry when Bambi's mother, after teaching her son the ways of the forest and to avoid the traps of Man, sacrificed her own life to save her child. Such a small presence, yet such a large impact. I personally have never been able to eat venison and wouldn't dare try since.

 

[img_assist|nid=293|title=|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=190|height=159]5. More of an adoptive mother, Slappy Squirrel (voiced by Sherri Stoner) was a carmudgeonly hold-out from the old days (or so Animaniacs would have us believe) of Warner Brothers. Those by-gone days when giant mallets, anvils, and bombs were just initiation pranks. She might have peacefully recovered from her concussions in blissful retirement if she hadn't been saddled with raising her often idealistic  nephew, Skippy (parents MIA). Aside from an iconic (and extremely clever) variation of "Who's On First," these two also dealt with Bambi's Mom -- okay, Bumbie's mom -- healing Skippy's grief by meeting the doe that played her. I suspect a lot of parents wish they could have pulled the same feat off after their kids saw Bambi. Either way, Slappy Squirrel remains a no-nonsense dame, able to be both sensitive and completely honest as  a part-time mother.

 

[img_assist|nid=294|title=|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=130|height=103]4. We assume the Mrs. in Mrs. Jumbo (Dumbo) was a showbiz name as she was a single mother from the moment Mr. Stork gave her his last bundle. And she was a fiercely protective one. She wouldn't let anyone make fun of her son. He is precious to her, no matter the size of his ears. She even risks being [img_assist|nid=295|title=|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=100|height=76]locked up as a mad and dangerous elephant to defend her child.  By the time Dumbo finally gets to visit his mother in the clink to the now classic lullabye "Baby Mine," there's not a dry eye in the house. The picture that stayed with me was Dumbo, able to see and feel only her trunk as she cradled and rocked him in their short, secret visit.

 

[img_assist|nid=296|title=|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=175|height=135]3. Nanny (The Muppet Babies, voiced by Mrs. June Cleaver herself, Barbara Billingsley) wasn't technically a mother. We're never told how a human woman came to take in this rag-tag group of Muppet tykes. We never actually see her face, just her iconic green-striped socks and purple and pink ensemble. But she's a great mom, nonetheless. In a show where the message is to let your imagination run wild, Nanny lets the Muppet Babies dream away, but is always in ear's reach in case things get out of hand.

 

[img_assist|nid=297|title=|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=75|height=153]2. There's no question that Marge Simpson (The Simpsons, voiced by Julie Kavner) is too good for Homer. Her similarly gravel-voiced sisters definitely think so. She's not just an uber-competent home maker. When she's occasionally stepped out of that role, she's proved to be hard-working and inventive in whatever she does. So what makes Marge content to be Mrs. Homer Simpson? That's her other great quality. She's big-hearted enough to always forgive and has always shown faith in the goodness of her crazy family and off-beat town. While I sometimes wish Marge had more freedom and control (she might be the only sane person in Springfield), I can't fault her spirit.

 

[img_assist|nid=298|title=|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=200|height=133]1. There's a reason Mrs. Brisby (The Secret of Nimh, voiced by Elizabeth Hartman) is my number one. It's rare to see a movie where the mother is the hero and the focus. The fact that she's a mouse doesn't diminish this film in the least for me. I just love it and her to pieces. She doesn't have any great skills, except maybe a little reading learned from her late, genetically-altered husband, Jonathon. She doesn't crave adventure, just a safe home for her children. She's not extremely strong or brave to start with, but grows stronger and braver every time she faces her fears. Moving the cinderblock holding her children to a location safe from a plow might seem a small thing. But it's huge to mouse. And it leads Mrs. Brisby on a journey that has her facing an owl, a plow, flying with a helpful, but overwhelming crow, a cat, captivity, a rat coup, and it ends up showing her she has a heart courageous enough to awaken magic. 

 

Obviously, there are more than ten legendary moms in cartoon world, but these are the animated ladies that really personified all the different things a mother could be for me. What about you? Feel free to make your case below for any ink and cell moms that deserve a place in posterity.

You may also like:

 

PASSING THE BECHDEL TEST - AN INTERVIEW WITH THE BITCH PACK

 

PLUS-SIZED AND PROUD: CELEBRATING THE BIG, BEAUTIFUL WOMEN OF FILM AND TELEVISION

 

 

Categories: