A father is the backbone that holds a family up. His role cannot be filled by anyone else. He provides the feeling of security, safety and strength to his family. A father not only influences who we are, but also how we form relationships with others as we grow.
He is strong and brave, and never short on both wisdom and cheesy quips, and gives us advice on pretty much everything, from career choices to budgeting money. But inside of him, he is very cautious, he is scared that we might fall and hurt ourselves, making him possessive and weary of us stepping out into the wild world. But he also keeps a soft and sombre facade while keeping his cool.
The world will celebrate Father’s Day tomorrow, so I am taking the opportunity to remind ourselves about the power, skills, attributes and various other qualities of fathers by recalling some of the fathers shown in Disney and Pixar movies.
We see Geppetto as an elderly, impoverished woodcarver and the creator (thus the father) of Pinocchio. Geppetto differs from all other fathers on this list and also from any other fathers in Disney and Pixar movies, because he is not a biological father — he creates Pinocchio from wood.
In the movie, he is shown sad, lonely and desperately wanting to have a son of his own, who could look after him and call him father. Out of desperation, he carved a puppet from wood in shape of a boy and named it Pinocchio. Then he wishes upon a star that comes true when Pinocchio comes to life.
Like any father, Geppetto takes joy in the role of a father and wants Pinocchio to live like any normal human boy, so he sends him off to school.
Geppetto’s fatherly love becomes intense when Pinocchio makes some bad decisions and goes missing, as he is tricked into working for Stromboli, a showman, who held him as prisoner. Like any father, Geppetto became restless, and he relentlessly searches for his beloved son and in doing, so he faces difficulties like torrential rainstorm and ending up inside the belly of Monstro, the whale. Later they make their way out.
But here, we see a heart-warming father who can go to any length to save his children from danger. Geppetto is wholly devoted and selfless in his love and does not reprimand Pinocchio for his bad actions.
Mufasa: The Lion King
Mufasa set an example of a father who is the pride of his family, his tribe and the whole animal kingdom. Mufasa has a majestic exterior, he is kind-hearted and playful, showing respect for all the creatures, even those who are perceived as lower than him.
As a king and a father, Mufasa is instructive and wise. His rule over the ‘Pride Lands’ lead to prosperity, reflecting his reasonable and responsible approach to kingship. His lessons leave a deep imprint on Simba (his son), who learns from his father that every creature must be respected for the balance to be maintained.
Mufasa is a father who plays with his child, but he keeps pushing Simba to believe in himself and act accordingly in life. Even when Simba makes mistakes, he doesn’t scold or gets angry, instead he provides lessons that bring out a positive attitude.
Poppa Henry: The Good Dinosaur
Just like Mufasa, in The Lion King, The Good Dinosaur also shows Henry, the father who is killed early in the story, and then the movie is filmed on the survival of the child.
Henry is a brachiosaurus — a large herbivorous dinosaur who knows all the good and the bad in his children and treats them accordingly. He loves his kids immensely and raises them to be good and disciplined ones.
What makes Henry a great example of a father is his relationship with Arlo — the timid and awkward, compared to his other siblings Buck and Libby.
Henry treats Arlo exactly in the same way as he does Libby and Buck. Sometimes, as a father, Henry goes out of his way to make sure Arlo doesn’t feel overpowered by his siblings.
At one point, Henry pushes Arlo too far, and he realises his mistake at the very instant, and is truly sorry for it. He learns from his mistakes. It also shows that no parent is perfect, everyone makes mistakes, but one should learn from it.
Later in the movie, Henry makes the ultimate sacrifice as he dies while saving his son, Arlo, from flash-flood in a heart-breaking moment which shows paternal love at its peak.
Chief Tui: Moana
Like Marlin in Finding Nemo, Chief Tui in Moana also goes through a mishap, leaving him possessive about his only child. He cannot overcome his fears thus holds back his daughter from venturing out.
Chief Tui is a well respected and caring village leader of Motunui, and the father of Moana, but after losing his best friend one night while venturing out in the sea, Tui developed aquaphobia. He thus forbade his people from journeying beyond Motunui’s reef. Such strict laws created conflict with his daughter, who dreamt of becoming a voyager.
Although the relationship he has with Moana is a really fun, all the while teaching her moral lessons, he eventually changes himself to “make way” for his daughter’s sea voyaging spirit. This shows that parents also need to accept the new ways of living life.
Later in the movie, we see a lot of changes — Moana becomes the new Chief of Motunui and abolishes all the strict laws and takes the people of Motunui to the sea and teaches them sailing. Tui is among them, taking in his daughter’s wisdom as a new era for Motunui begins.
Bob Parr: The Incredibles I and II
Bob is a secret superhero and a dad who wants to keep things under his control whether it is his official duty as a superhero or his life as a family man. Bob’s role as a father comes to the spotlight in the movie’s sequel as both the lead characters, he and Elastic girl, perform their duties singlehandedly.
Elastic girl, as Bob’s wife, is assigned to perform her duties as a superhero and fighting the villains, while Bob is seen babysitting the kids and performing day-to-day heroics of ‘normal life’ at home.
The transition of the characters in different roles gets tougher for everyone to accept. Although frustrating at times, Bob shows how he as a secret superhero can manage fatherly duties with fun and understanding the needs of kids, thus proving himself a perfect super dad.
Maurice: The Beauty and the Beast
Maurice and his daughter Belle show the close bond of love and sacrifice between a parent and a child. Maurice is shown to be ready to do anything for his dear daughter, while Belle also cannot see her father in any danger.
Maurice is shocked to know that Belle is ready to sacrifice her life and choose his place as a prisoner at the Beast’s castle.
Despite poor health, Maurice doesn’t care and shows his selfless fatherly love when he leaves to save her as a ‘one-man army’. Maurice is a fantastic example of parents who hold their children dearer than anything else.
King Triton: The Little Mermaid
Like any father, King Triton is concerned about the safety of all his seven daughters (mermaids). But out of excessive love for his youngest daughter princess Ariel, he tries to be stricter. Instead of treating her softly, he scares her from humans so that she stays away from them and the shore.
The tough facade and strict discipline doesn’t help him much when Ariel goes missing. Those were the moments when a father feels helpless and scared for his children’s safety. King Triton is devastated when he realises that he had pushed his daughter too far. This was a realistic depiction of how parents get worried and realise a lot of things about their kids.
King Triton shows that family means more to him than anything when he gives up his crown and allows the sea witch Ursula to transform him into a polyp in exchange for Ariel’s freedom. After Ursula is defeated, Triton shows that he has grown as a father and also that he has learnt from his experiences when he lets Ariel go and live the life that she wishes to.
Marlin: Finding Nemo
Marlin is a parent who could go to any length to save his children from danger. No doubt, parents are always careful and cautious about their children’s safety, but in case of Marlin, he is shown as an overprotective parent to Nemo. But this is understandable as Nemo’s mother and siblings were killed in a barracuda attack before Nemo hatched. So Marlin’s love for Nemo is of the possessive kind.
The true spirit and courage of this father can be seen when Nemo is taken by the divers. Marlin, the little clown fish, sets out in the wide, deep ocean with such bravery that he overcomes his fears, and begins a relentless search, coming face-to-face with sharks, jellyfish and a whale along the way.
Like any parent, Marlin also realises that he cannot always shelter Nemo, and that he must let go of things and let things happen at their own pace. So when he reunites with Nemo, he becomes a father who offers but also gives room to his child to grow the way he wants to.
Fa Zhou: Mulan
Mulan is based on an ancient Chinese folk story. In the 1998 Disney animated movie, Mulan, Fa Mulan is shown as the titular protagonist. She is a strong-willed and stubborn daughter of a war veteran, who strives to uphold her family’s honour.
Fa Zhou served in the Chinese army and has protected his country and family. He gained honour in a traditional way and sacrificed his livelihood and body (he walks with a limp) for his country China.
Like Maurice and Belle in the Beauty and the Beast, Mulan and Fa Zhou are also ready to sacrifice their life for the other. So when Fa Zhou was called for serving again, which could probably cost his life, he walks proudly and courageously to do it all over again. At this time, Mulan’s love for her father doesn’t allow her to see him go since he might risk his life. So, in order to save her father, she decides to take his place.
This emotional and dramatic stance of both father and daughter is impressive as both want each other to live and are ready to sacrifice their lives. But Fa Zhou respects Mulan’s decision to take his place.
Mulan arrives home victorious with more honour in her hands than any family in China has ever amassed. But none of that matters to Fa Zhou, the only thing that matters is his daughter coming back to his arms. Fa Zhou evolves from a man worried about honour and dignity to a father just needing his daughter in his arms and accepting her for who she has become, a warrior, just like him.
Published in Dawn, Young World, June 18th, 2022