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Top 10 Animated Movie Deaths No One Saw Coming

VO: Emily Brayton WRITTEN BY: Nathan Sharp
We bet you didn’t expect these animated deaths! For this list, we’ll be looking at deaths from animated films that few if any people ever could have have predicted. We’re basing our choices on the importance of the character and the level of surprise or shock generated by their death. We’re only considering permanent deaths, so you won’t find characters that miraculously come back to life and we’re excluding deaths from animated shorts.
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Top 10 Animated Movie Deaths No One Saw Coming


Well, that was unexpected. Welcome to MsMojo, and today we’re counting down our picks for the top ten animated movie deaths no one saw coming.


For this list, we’ll be looking at deaths from animated films that few if any people ever could have have predicted. We’re basing our choices on the importance of the character and the level of surprise or shock generated by their death. We’re only considering permanent deaths, so you won’t find characters that miraculously come back to life and we’re excluding deaths from animated shorts.







#10: Optimus Prime

“The Transformers: The Movie” (1986)


“The Transformers” was one of the most popular cartoons of the ‘80s and Optimus Prime was one of its most beloved (and profitable) characters.The show also didn’t tend to kill off characters as it was, you know, a kids’ show. So moviegoers weren’t ready for the sheer shock of seeing the most popular character permanently killed off in the opening act of this feature-length film. Of course, his death was meant to clear the slate and make room for the next generation of Transformers, but it was nevertheless very traumatic and probably ruined the childhoods of an entire generation.



#9: Vitruvius

“The Lego Movie” (2014)


Not all surprising death scenes have to be dramatic. Sometimes movies find the humor in unexpectedly killing off a character. Vitruvius’s death comes in the middle of a typical “old guy surprisingly kicks a lot of ass” fight scene. After defeating the bad guys, Vitruvius turns to Emmett and begins a motivational speech, only to be decapitated by Lord Business mid-sentence. The scene gets even funnier by having Vitruvius die in the middle of a major, life-altering proclamation. The movie utilizes the audience’s awareness of action movie tropes to subvert expectations with surprising and hilarious results. And sure, he comes back as a ghost, but that doesn’t count!



#8: Kerchak

“Tarzan” (1999)


Kerchak gave Tarzan a lot of crap throughout the movie, but it was still unbelievably sad to see him go out in such a brutal and sudden manner. The bullet that grazes Tarzan comes from off-screen, and it initially catches us by surprise. Only seconds later, Kerchak is shot by Clayton, and while he doesn’t die right then and there, it does result in his eventual death. It all happens so quickly that it leaves us in a vulnerable and confused state of shock.





#7: Tadashi Hamada

“Big Hero 6” (2014)


Throughout the beginning of the movie, Hiro sees his older brother Tadashi as a sort of indestructible and heroic figure. So we, by proxy, think that nothing bad will happen to him. However, that is a false sense of security. Like Kerchak’s death, Tadashi’s is almost too quick to comprehend – one minute the brothers are having a thoughtful conversation, and the next Tadashi is running into a burning building. The rapid sequence of events, coupled with the shock of the explosion itself, leaves us in a weird headspace, and we almost can’t believe what we’ve just witnessed, especially because this is a Disney movie!



#6: Littlefoot’s Mother

“The Land Before Time” (1988)


Watching a child lose their mother is always tough, and when it happens in the first act of the movie, you know you’re in for some feels. Anyone who grew up in the ‘80s surely remembers this scene, mostly because it scarred them to their very cores. After the excitement of the Sharptooth attack and the earthquake, we watch as Littlefoot calls out for his missing mother. We received no indication that his mother was injured or affected until we suddenly see her laying on the rocks. It comes as a massive shock, and the sadness felt throughout the scene ensures that we all skip it when re-watching the movie.





#5: Stoick the Vast

“How to Train Your Dragon 2” (2014)


“How to Train Your Dragon 2” was much darker than the original, both in terms of visuals and tone. A major thing contributing to this was Stoick’s dramatic and very surprising death. And it really is a brilliant scene. Not only does it come out of nowhere and surprise the audience, but it also comes at the hand of Toothless, a dragon we have grown to love, respect, and adore throughout the story. We never expected Stoick to die, and we especially didn’t expect someone to die at the hands of Hiccup’s adorable dragon.





#4: Mufasa

“The Lion King” (1994)


Yes, Mufasa’s death was definitely foreshadowed. But, it’s not the death itself that is surprising, but the way it happened. Scar initially sets a trap and hopes that the wildebeests will take care of Mufasa and Simba. However, his plan doesn’t work, and the movie allows us to hold out hope when Mufasa dramatically emerges from the stampede. But then, Scar sinks his claws into Mufasa and pushes him off the cliff. We never expected Scar to make the death so personal, and we were left feeling just as shocked as Simba after the movie gave us a false sense of security regarding Mufasa’s safety.



#3: Bambi’s Mother

“Bambi” (1942)


This movie utilizes shock and surprise to great effect. At this point in the film, the mother-son relationship is firmly established. They have successfully escaped from Man (allowing us to feel as though the threat is over) and the scene begins rather innocently as Bambi and his mother are routinely looking for food. Our guards are down when the hunter suddenly appears again and kills Bambi’s mother. Not only is the form of the death expertly executed, but also audiences in 1942 would have never expected this cute little animated movie to actually kill off the protagonist’s mother. There’s a reason why this is the tentpole for upsetting deaths in kids’ movies!



#2: Ray

“The Princess and the Frog” (2009)


“The Princess and the Frog” is a criminally underappreciated Disney film, and it features one of the saddest and most surprising deaths in the Disney filmography – that of Ray, the Cajun firefly. Right before his death, Ray is kicking butt (complete with a heroic soundtrack), making us believe that everything will turn out OK. But then he is suddenly swatted from offscreen and stepped on just moments later. Not only does the attack catch us off-guard, but it is also extremely upsetting, as the visibly injured and distressed Ray tries crawling away before being flattened with an audible squish. It’s a double whammy of surprise, as the attack is both unforeseen and incredibly dark.





Before we unveil our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions.



Mama Bear

“Shrek” (2001)





Queen Tara

“Epic” (2013)



#1: Bing Bong

“Inside Out” (2015)


We know the movie only came out in 2015, but we’re confident that Bing Bong’s death will go down as one of the saddest scenes in animation history. As Joy and Bing Bong are attempting to escape the Memory Dump, we watch in excited anticipation and eventual disappointment as they continuously fail to reach the plateau. We truly wanted and expected them to get out, which is why Bing Bong’s sacrifice comes as such a surprise. It all happens so quickly, and the sight of Bing Bong disappearing from Riley’s memory is truly one of the most upsetting sights we can remember. We know growing up sucks, but did we really need this heart-wrenching reminder?

We bet you didn’t expect these animated deaths! For this list, we’ll be looking at deaths from animated films that few if any people ever could have have predicted. We’re basing our choices on the importance of the character and the level of surprise or shock generated by their death. We’re only considering permanent deaths, so you won’t find characters that miraculously come back to life and we’re excluding deaths from animated shorts.
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