A Note of Recognition for….the Top 5 Mothers in Animation
In honor of Mother’s Day, the staff of Toon Zone News decided to put together a list of the top 5 animated mothers. This turned out to be a surprisingly challenging task. Single-parent families and orphans appear with great regularity in animation, and those parental figures that do make it into the final products are lucky to be relegated to comic relief. Additionally, it seems that the great majority of animated parents (or step-parents) are the direct antagonists to their offspring.
Still, there are plenty of great mother figures in animation. For your enjoyment, we present a list of the top 5 animated moms for you to peruse and argue over, along with a smattering of candidates that didn’t quite make the cut. In no particular order:
The Flintstones (Hanna-Barbera)
Voiced by Bea Benaderet
Why: Hanna-Barbera is one of the most friendly studios for parents, since their works provide a number of potential candidates, including Wilma Flintstone and Jane Jetson. Betty Rubble ends up getting the title from the other H-B animated moms largely because she has to raise Bamm-Bamm. Being a mother is hard enough without having to deal with an inordinately strong kid who likes breaking things for fun. Pebbles Flintstone is a perfectly darling little angel, unlikely to give Wilma and Fred any trouble for anything until she starts dating, and anybody can be a perfect mother with the help of a robot maid. The fact that the Rubble household hasn’t been reduced to, well, rubble by Bamm-Bamm must be due to Betty’s influence.
If it will console the Wilma partisans, I always felt she won the “Hot Mom” contest between the two, but that’s not the only thing we’re looking at here.
Superman the Animated Series (Warner Bros./DC Comics)
Voiced by Shelley Fabares
Why: If Betty Rubble had it rough with Bamm-Bamm, just consider what Martha Kent had to deal with. With his extra-terrestrial gifts, it would have been so easy for Clark Kent to grow up into Super-Bully, if not Super-Despot. It takes a firm moral grounding and a powerfully rooted sense of Right and Wrong to keep Superman on the side of the angels, and that value system can be credited largely to the Kents. Besides, it’s a very a special kind of lady who can watch a baby literally fall out of the sky and react by saying, “I’m going to raise that kid right.”
Martha Kent is also living proof that being a top mom isn’t all about biology. She may not be Superman’s biological mother, but she passed on plenty to him in the end and the DC Universe was all the better for it. Mother is as Mother does, and no matter how much DNA separates the two, Martha Kent has more than earned the right to call herself Superman’s Mom.
Voiced by Verna Felton
The Incredibles (Disney/Pixar)
Voiced by Holly Hunter
Why: She cooks, she cleans, she tends house, she keeps the peace (or at least an uneasy truce) between her 3 kids, and she shuttles them to and from school. She’s every stereotypical suburban stay-at-home mom. She can also fly a plane, infiltrate heavily-defended super-secret villain hideouts mostly undetected, and has one mean and stretchy right cross. Way back in the Stone Ages, superhero women like Susan Storm of the Fantastic Four were mostly eye candy hostage bait making goo-goo eyes at one of the heroes, but not our Mrs. Parr. As as a superhero, she’s at least as good, if not better, than her higher-profile husband, and she still takes on the lion’s share of child-rearing duties, up to and including saving her kids from a surface-to-air missile attack. In her review of Flightplan, Manohla Dargis said, “In my next life, I want Jodie Foster to be my mother,” but Jodie has got nothing on Helen Parr.
Rumor has it that she can only go by Elasti-Girl in the movie, since DC Comics owns a character in the Doom Patrol with the same name, but the alternate name is probably more fitting. Helen Parr is truly Mrs. Incredible.
Mrs. Dr. Possible
Kim Possible (Disney)
Voiced by Jean Smart
Why: Like Helen Parr, Mrs. Dr. Possible is one of those super-moms that seems to do it all. She’s a brain surgeon (who says science isn’t for girls?) and still manages to feed and clothe her world-saving daughter and her brilliant-but-destructive younger twin boys, along with their brilliant but absent-minded father. She’s also the emotional core of the Possible household, keeping her wits while everybody else is angsting, panicking, or both. OK, so maybe she has a nasty habit of putting her daughter on speakerphone at highly inappropriate times, but what are parents good for if not for embarrassing their kids? With her as a role model, no wonder her daughter Kim grew up believing she could do anything.
On top of all that, if you’re a straight guy past the age when girls are yucky, its OK to admit that you were secretly hoping she’d don the black belly shirt in that episode when she tagged along with Kim on a mission for Mother’s Day.
Marge Simpson (The Simpsons): It was a real heartbreaker to drop her from the top 5. On the one hand, she may be one of the most recognizable animated moms ever, and she has an even more challenging household to keep together than any of the winners. On the other hand, she did raise Bart.
Samurai Jack’s Mom (Samurai Jack): There is nothing harder for a mother than letting your kids go. It must be even worse when you have to do it because the ancient evil your husband imprisoned is loose and has just captured Dad. But when the chips were down, that’s when Jack’s Mom cowboys up, grabs the necessary magic goods, and sends her son on the path that will turn him into an unparallelled warrior. She ultimately doesn’t make the top list because she only appears in the one episode and is mostly never seen again. It’s a completely kick-ass appearance, but not enough to build with. The same may be said for Ursa, Prince Zuko’s mother, from Avatar the Last Airbender.
Hana (Tokyo Godfathers): Like Martha Kent, Hana from Tokyo Godfathers is proof that Mother is as Mother does, and biology shouldn’t be an obstacle to being called someone’s mother. The fact that Hana happens to be a transvestite drag queen is less damaging to her position on this list than the fact that she really doesn’t do a very good job as mother to the baby that drives the plot of this movie, even with the help of her homeless friends Gin and Miyuki. Still, she makes up what she may lack in skill with enthusiasm, and that’s got to count for something.
Kiki’s Mom/Ash’s Mom Delia (Kiki’s Delivery Service/Pokémon): Both Kiki’s mother and Ash’s mother Delia are wonderfully understanding role models. Both are willing to let their kids go so they to grow up and find their way in the world. Unfortunately, both of them are also notable for their absence. Their major purpose is to not be there when their kids happen to really need them. Delia at least gets some more character development in the earlier Pokémon movies, but she’s still mostly relegated to a minor supporting role.
From all of us to all of you: Happy Mother’s Day! Don’t forget to check out Alex Weitzman’s list of the Worst Sons and Daughters of Animation!