If anything has been missing from Disney cartoons of say, the last thirty to forty years, it's those tearjerker scenes that only Disney could pull off. Such scenes were (I'm thinking of my own experiences) aimed squarely and primarily at small children. And those scenes tapped into small children's greatest fear--the fear of separation from a parent. Disney no doubt planted that seed of thought in the impressionable minds of many generations. For example, to this day, I am unable to hunt due to one film--Bambi (1942).
While I'm sure there have been a couple of Disney cartoons to include scenes such as those in the last couple of decades, the only one I'm personally aware of is The Lion King (1994). Perhaps being a sign of the times, the separation in that one is from the father, and not the mother. It is beautiful and a bit sad (just a bit...):
Only Disney could do them like that! And because it is Disney, we accept it. A lot of credit for the power of the "mad elephant sequence" is due to Ned Washington (lyricist on "When You Wish Upon a Star," "I'm Getting Sentimental Over You," "A Ghost of a Chance," "Stella by Starlight," "The Nearness of You" [my second favorite Sinatra tune]) and Frank Churchill ("Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?," "Some Day My Prince Will Come," "I'm Wishing," "Whistle While You Work," "Heigh Ho") for that great song (it won the Oscar for Best Song in 1941):
I keep repeating that only Disney could get away with something like that, but then again, there's this scene from South Park's "Woodland Critter Christmas" episode: