At first it is disturbing: Cinderella, Snow White, Beauty and the Beast, Finding Nemo, The Little Mermaid...no mothers. Most people notice the trend of parents (especially mothers) dying in children's movies when they introduce the classics to their children.
But then, you do some research and you remember that most of those fairy tales were based off older Germanic tales, which are actually much more disturbing then their modern-day counterparts. Also, in most cases, it is imperative to the plot to have the protagonist lose a parent (otherwise, they wouldn't have had to figure out life on their own.)
A recent study suggests that onscreen deaths of parents in children's movies far outstrip those in adult films. The study looked at popular children's flicks and compared them to the most popular adult movies that came out in the same year. And, basically, if you are a parent in a children's movie, you are probably not going to make it to the final scene.
But, overall, I'm OK with deaths (even parental ones) in children's movies. I'd much rather my son learn about loss from a movie than from a traumatic event in real life. We watch the movies together and talk about what it means to be an orphan or that families sometimes look different and not every family has a mommy and a daddy.
Granted, I still monitor it. My son has never seen the first five minutes of Finding Nemo, for example. We start the movie at the scene where Nemo is waking up Marlin. This is because I find that onscreen death particularly traumatic and it can easily be removed and the plot still works: Marlin is a single, overprotective Dad. Movie ensues. No one has to watch the Mom die.
Do you censor the movies your children watch because of parental on-screen deaths? Let me know in the comments.