Childhood Studies Walt Disney
by
Brenda Ayres
  • LAST REVIEWED: 28 April 2017
  • LAST MODIFIED: 22 April 2013
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199791231-0093

Introduction

Walt Disney was born in Chicago on 5 December 1901, the youngest of four sons, with a sister to follow. In 1906 the family relocated to a forty-acre farm in Marceline, Missouri. Disney’s father, Elias, was a strict Congregationalist who neither drank nor smoked, and was a relentless disciplinarian to his children. After four years of proving unsuccessful as a farmer and then being stricken with typhoid, Elias had to auction the farm and eventually move the family to Kansas City, Missouri. Walt would always speak of life in Marceline with a great sense of nostalgia. To him the small town represented what was best about America. In Kansas City, Walt and his brother Roy helped their father deliver papers every morning and evening. A few years later they returned to Chicago, and while working several jobs, Walt took classes at the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts, the only art training that he would ever get. At the age of twenty-two he moved to Los Angeles, where his uncle Robert lived, and with his brother Roy as manager, he began creating cartoons with people in them, the first of many technological innovations that would make Walt a pioneer in the industry. In 1924 the brothers hired Lillian Bounds as a cel painter, and on 13July 1925 Walt married her. Disney’s first Mickey Mouse cartoon, Plane Crazy, previewed 15 May 1928. In November, Steamboat Willie premiered and was called by the New York Times the “first and only synchronized-sound animated cartoon comedy.” On 19 December 1933 Diane Marie Disney was born, and three years later the Disneys adopted six-week old Sharon Mae. The full-length animation film that would make Disney a household word was Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, which premiered on 21 December, 1937 and became the highest-grossing American film up to that date. It ran in forty-nine countries and spawned over 2,183 different products. Thus, the Disney empire—a global marketing of “American” ideology—was born. When Disney received the George Washington Award in 1963, former president Dwight D. Eisenhower praised him for “communicating the hope and aspirations of our free society to the far corners of the planet.” The following year, President Lyndon B. Johnson presented him with the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Disney died of lung cancer on 14 December 1966. He was the recipient of fifty-nine Academy Award nominations and twenty-two Oscars, and he created a multibillion-dollar, multinational entertainment empire.

General Overviews

It is often impossible to separate any person from his or her works. In fact, when we refer to “Disney,” we often mean the man’s values represented in his works, even those produced after his death. The overviews listed in this section each address a number of films by Disney, and they allude to his life at the same time. Most scholarship on Disney’s film animations takes the position, as does Giroux and Pollock 2010, that Disney’s films are not innocuous, that they do provide or reinforce cultural images to children that inculcate hierarchical systems of gender and race. Bryne and McQuillan 1999 identifies unhealthy sexual stereotypes being taught to children. Forgacs 1992 is more analytical, with less bias about the films’ messages on children’s sexual growth. Smoodin 1994 approves of Disney’s more recent messages of inclusivity. Wasko 2001 offers an overview of many of the controversial issues. Other works serve as reference tools: Grant 1993 describes Disney’s characters, and Sinyard 1988 provides a brief history of the making of Disney films up to 1985.

Biographies

Not all biographies tell the same story about the same man, and with those about Disney, one has to wonder if they are about the same man. This section is not comprehensive; it presents a cross sampling of myriad views, including the obviously biased biography by Disney’s daughter, Miller 1957, which portrays him as a saint. On the other hand, Schickel 1968 and Eliot 1993 seem to be interested primarily in the seedy side of Disney, with some valid and substantiated evidence, but also with much speculation, some of it convincing and some of it not. Barrier 2007 is more interested in the work Disney created than in what created the man. Susanin 2011 deals with only the first decade of Disney’s experience in studios. The most balanced biography that addresses all of these facets is Watts 1997. By situating Disney’s life in cultural history, Krasniewicz 2010 offers some fresh perspectives.

  • Barrier, Michael. The Animated Man: A Life of Walt Disney. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2007.

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    Avoids the extremes of former Disney biographies that pitched Disney as either the son of Snow White or the son of Satan. From meticulous research in public and private archives, plus two and a half years of interviews with more than 150 people, Barrier’s account furnishes insight into Disney’s work, but very little commentary on his private life.

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  • Eliot, Marc. Walt Disney: Hollywood’s Dark Prince. Secaucus, NJ: Carol, 1993.

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    Driven by a lifelong conviction that he was illegitimate, Disney colluded with the FBI as a Communist informer in exchange for information about his parentage. Induced by that anxiety, most of his movies are about orphans in search of homes. Like Schickel 1968, Eliot spotlights the “dark side” of the man: his neuroses, conflicts, paranoia, and erratic behavior.

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  • Gabler, Neal. Walt Disney: The Triumph of the American Imagination. New York: Knopf, 2006.

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    Addresses some of Disney’s quirks, but concentrates on what it took for Disney to achieve his amazing successes. Gabler was the first biographer to have access to the Disney archives, which accounts for his nearly day-by-day rendering of Disney’s work history, but he gives very little attention to the man’s personal life.

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  • Krasniewicz, Louise. Walt Disney: A Biography. Westport, CT: Greenwood, 2010.

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    Supported by substantial historical context, this biography distills the culture that produced Disney, and in turn, the culture that was created by Disney’s works. With emphasis on culture and good documentation, instead of a psychological inquiry into Disney’s life, this book gives a unique perspective on his life and works.

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  • Miller, Diane Disney. The Story of Walt Disney, as Told to Pete Martin. New York: Holt, 1957.

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    Penned by one of Disney’s daughters, who obviously whitewashed his image, omitting significant dubious details of his life. For example, there is no mention of Disney’s work with the FBI or of the adoption of her sister.

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  • Schickel, Richard. The Disney Version; the Life, Times, Art, and Commerce of Walt Disney. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1968.

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    The first unauthorized Disney biography that exposes Disney’s shortcomings and his emergence from a corrupt popular culture. Schickel explores the assumptions behind the perceptions of Disney as Uncle Walt and Horatio Alger. Disney’s version of himself was a white, middle-class, midwestern American who infused right-wing values in all of his films and products. Schickel narrates sordid details about Disney eschewed by earlier biographers.

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  • Susanin, Timothy S. Walt before Mickey: Disney’s Early Years, 1919–1928. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2011.

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    Drawing from company documents, private correspondence between the two brothers, newspaper clippings, and interviews with people who worked with and for Disney, Susanin recounts Disney’s early work in various studios prior to his creation of Steamboat Willie. This decade, which has received only slight attention in other biographies, afforded him the opportunity to develop his style and hone his skills.

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  • Watts, Steven. The Magic Kingdom: Walt Disney and the American Way of Life. Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1997.

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    Arguably the most balanced biography; Watts examines Disney as a husband, father, brother, and boss, without sensationalism or speculation. He does explore Disney’s prejudices, but he stops short of judgments made by other biographers. Written by an academic, and fastidiously documented, the biography is nevertheless readily accessible.

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Collections

Ayres 2003, Bell, et al. 2008, and Smoodin 1994 are significant collections of axiologies using diverse theoretical literary approaches to Disney’s works, all of them expressing a warning regarding Disney’s sway on children in fostering intolerance. Whereas the other collections deal mostly with the film animations, the essays in Van Riper 2011 examine the films meant for education, those in Budd and Kirsch 2005 discuss the Disney Company, and those in Wasko, et al. 2001 analyze the global influence of and reaction to the theme parks.

  • Ayres, Brenda, ed. The Emperor’s Old Groove: Decolonizing Disney’s Magic Kingdom. New York: Peter Lang, 2003.

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    Primarily a deconstruction of colonizing effects of racial, cultural, and gender stereotypes on children.

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  • Bell, Elizabeth, Lynda Haas, and Laura Sells, eds. From Mouse to Mermaid: The Politics of Film, Gender, and Culture. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2008.

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    Cross-disciplinary criticisms of Disney’s films from feminist, Marxist, poststructuralist, and cultural studies approaches. First published 1995.

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  • Budd, Mike, and Max H. Kirsch, eds. Rethinking Disney: Private Control, Public Dimensions. Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 2005.

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    Although the articles cover a lot of topics, of interest to childhood studies is Maruya Wickstrom’s look at the Lion King and capitalism, as well as Radha Jhappan and Daiva Stasiulis’s identification of Anglophilia in the Pocahontas films.

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  • Smoodin, Eric, ed. Disney Discourse: Producing the Magic Kingdom. New York: Routledge, 1994.

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    Interdisciplinary investigation of the global impact of Disney at the time of expansion, including mall stores, theme parks, films, and television.

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  • Van Riper, A. Bowdoin, ed. Learning from Mickey, Donald and Walt: Essays on Disney’s Edutainment Films. Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2011.

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    Albeit famous for fantasy, Disney also has long produced films meant not only to entertain but also to educate. This collection includes essays on topics rarely found in other Disney publications, such as those dealing with war propaganda cartoons and Disney’s documentaries designed for public schools

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  • Wasko, Janet, Eileen R. Meehan, and Mark Phillips, eds. Dazzled by Disney? The Global Disney Audiences Project. London: Leicester University Press, 2001.

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    Reactions to Disney products—films, theme parks, toys, etc.—in eighteen different countries are examined, with analysis of their impact. Authors draw from statistics compiled from surveys conducted by and according to sociocultural perspectives by researchers in their home countries, instead of American academic theorists. The articles explore the national and cultural contexts of each country’s reception of Disney.

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Films

As of 2011, Walt Disney Productions and its successor, Walt Disney Pictures, had produced 349 theatrical feature films of four types: Cartoon Shorts, Full-Length Feature Animation, LiveAction with Animation, and LiveAction without Animation. This number does not include the films produced by Disneynature, Touchstone Pictures, Hollywood Pictures, Miramax Films, or Studio Ghibli, which would bring the total of Disney movies to over 600. The films listed below are only those that have received critical attention through published articles and books, excluding reviews, chosen for their relevance to childhood studies.

Cartoon Shorts

Disney’s first company, Laugh-O-Gram, put out six short features, beginning with Alice’s Wonderland, in which the child actress Virginia Davis interacted with animated characters. After a series of Alice Comedies, Disney produced twenty-six shorts featuring Oswald the Lucky Rabbit before creating Mickey Mouse. The articles in this section address primarily 1923–1928, or “the silent era” of Disney, and then 1928–1934, or the emergence of Mickey Mouse and synchronized sound and Technicolor. Mickey made his debut in November 1928 in Disney’s animated cartoon Steamboat Willie. He appeared in over 130 films, has his very own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and is the official mascot for Disney. Susanin 2011 studies Disney’s animation prior to Steamboat Willie. Merritt and Kaufman 2000 (cited under Technology) explores the ethnic stereotypes in the silent films. Smooden 1993 analyzes the political messages of shorts made from 1930 to 1960. Bell, et al. 2008 investigates the metonymic power of Mickey Mouse to represent American politics, Benjamin 2008 discusses his enduring legacy, and Gould 1992 gives a fifty-year history of his evolution and transformation. Stephenson 1998 offers a unique perspective of Mickey Mouse, the author having played him at Disney World.

  • Bell, Elizabeth, Lynda Haas, and Laura Sells. “Introduction: Walt’s in the Movies.” In From Mouse to Mermaid: The Politics of Film, Gender, and Culture. Edited by Elizabeth Bell, Lynda Haas, and Laura Sells, 1–20. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2008.

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    Mickey Mouse has become a metonym for America, which ought to concern every American. This essay introduces the book’s project as an exploration of the cultural production of Disney, critically deconstructing the hegemony and capitalism invested in Disney’s economics, politics, and pedagogy. Volume first published in 1995.

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  • Benjamin, Walter. “Mickey Mouse.” In The Work of Art in the Age of Its Technological Reproductibility, and Other Writings on Media. By Walter Benjamin. Edited by Michael William Jennings, Brigid Doherty, and Thomas Y. Levin, 338–339. Cambridge, MA: Belknap, 2008.

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    Curiously, Benjamin’s observations about Mickey Mouse is that he is proof “that a creature can still survive even when it has thrown off all resemblance to a human being” (p. 338), and that the film demonstrates “preparations” for man to “survive civilization” (p. 338). Hansen 1993 (cited under Marxist) sheds some light on it.

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  • Gould, Stephen Jay. “A Biological Homage to Mickey Mouse.” In The Panda’s Thumb: More Reflections in Natural History. By Stephen Jay Gould, 95–107. New York: Norton, 1992.

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    Traces the evolution of Disney’s famous mouse over fifty years, theorizing about the reason for each transformation from the perspective of a biologist. First published 1980.

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  • Smooden, Eric. Animating Culture: Hollywood Cartoons from the Sound Era. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1993.

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    Investigates the cultural and political context of short cartoons (those that ran seven or eight minutes) from 1930 through the 1960s. Although Smooden covers more than Disney, his primary focus is on Disney’s films and the Disney Studio, including its relationship to the US government.

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  • Stephenson, Tracy. “My Silence Speaks Volumes: Mickey Mouse and the Ideology of an Icon.” Theatre Annual 51 (Fall 1998): 54–70.

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    Gives the inside scoop of what it’s like to be Mickey. Stephenson recounts and analyzes her experiences of performing as Mickey Mouse at Disney World, and discusses what Mickey represents in positive and negative terms.

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  • Susanin, Timothy S. Walt before Mickey: Disney’s Early Years, 1919–1928. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2011.

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    Discusses Disney’s animated work prior to Steamboat Willie.

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Full-Length Feature Animation

Between 1937 and 2013, Walt Disney Productions and the Walt Disney Company produced fifty-three full-length animated films. The critical response to these films has been copious, with very few agreeing on any single perspective. The sections below cover those films that have received substantial criticism relevant to childhood studies.

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937)

Released on 21 December 1937 and based on the 1812 fairy tale by the Brothers Grimm, this film was an instant hit, drawing $19,000 in the first week. When shown at Radio City Music Hall, with lines that went for blocks, it grossed over $500,000. By May 1939 it had earned $6.7 million, making it the highest-grossing American film to date and ushering in a new form of entertainment. Ten-year-old Shirley Temple presented Disney with an honorary Oscar for the film’s innovation (as well as seven miniature Oscar statues). Allan 1998, Stone 1988, Wright 1997, Yahn 1990, and Zipes 2008 discuss the process of adaption from the Grimms’ tale; Ayres 2003, Cohen 1986, and Merritt 1988 address gender issues; and Wright 1997 analyzes the film’s popularity.

  • Allan, Robin. “50 Years of Snow White.” Journal of Popular Film and Television 15.4 (Winter 1998): 157–163.

    DOI: 10.1080/01956051.1988.9944097Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Influences on the creation of Disney’s Snow White were Victorian melodrama, Pre-Raphaelite art, operettas in movies from the late 1920s and early 1930s, silent films, and horror films. In turn, Snow White influenced the making of The Wizard of Oz (1939) and later fantasy films like Star Wars (1977), all with an emphasis on good versus evil.

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  • Ayres, Brenda. “The Poisonous Apple in Snow White: Disney’s Kingdom of Gender.” In The Emperor’s Old Groove: Decolonizing Disney’s Magic Kingdom. Edited by Brenda Ayres, 39–50. New York: Peter Lang, 2003.

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    Two types of women are portrayed in this film, according to Ayres. The first is the kind of woman one should never be, namely the stepmother, who, among some admittedly bad traits (like being homicidally jealous), is also ambitious, nondomestic, and aggressive as she defies gender constraints. The other kind is exemplary; like the Victorian ideal that predates her, she is submissive, docile, self-denying, domestic, and angelic.

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  • Cohen, Betsy. The Snow White Syndrome: All about Envy. New York: Macmillan, 1986.

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    Snow White is a stereotypical passive woman who can come to life only through the kiss of a prince. Further, the prince is Snow White’s inner male self, which has to be realized in order for her to be fulfilled. Cohen also gives a somewhat sympathetic treatment of the stepmother by reading the mirrors as reflectors of women’s emotional needs.

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  • Merritt, Karen. “The Little Girl/Little Mother Transformation: The American Evolution of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.” In Storytelling in Animation: The Art of the Animated Image. Edited by John Canemaker, 105–121. Los Angeles: American Film Institute, 1988.

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    Observes that Disney removed sexuality from the fairy tale, and identifies ways that the Disney version has successfully created only a child’s world with a childlike point of view. Snow White’s dwarfs are like a child’s dolls, and the animals around her are her pets, and Snow White plays at being a mother.

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  • Stone, Kay F. “Three Transformations of Snow White.” In The Brothers Grimm and Folktale. Edited by James McGlathery, 52–65. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1988.

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    Stone explains why certain alterations were made to Snow White, necessitated by the Grimms converting the tale from oral to written form, and by Disney’s converting the tale from the written to film, with its inherent assets of visualization and sound.

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  • Wright, Terri Martin. “Romancing the Tale: Walt Disney’s Adaptation of the Grimms’ ‘Snow White.’” Journal of Popular Film & Television 25.3 (Fall 1997): 98–108.

    DOI: 10.1080/01956059709602756Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Looks at why Disney chose Snow White, how he adapted it to a romantic comedy typical of American movies in the 1930s, and why it was so popular.

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  • Yahn, Jessica. “The Other 50th Anniversary.” Mythlore 16.3 (Spring 1990): 47–50.

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    Analysis of where and why Disney altered Snow White from the original folktale.

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  • Zipes, Jack. “Breaking the Disney Spell.” In From Mouse to Mermaid: The Politics of Film, Gender, and Culture. Edited by Elizabeth Bell, Lynda Haas, and Laura Sells, 21–42. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2008.

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    Argues that Disney retained the Victorian patriarchal strictures found in the work of the Grimms. Snow White is a good girl because she is domestic. Volume first published in 1995.

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Pinocchio (1940)

Released 7 February 1940 and based on The Adventures of Pinocchio (1883), a novel by Carlo Collodi, Pinocchio won two Academy Awards and made famous the character of Jiminy Cricket as the boy’s conscience. Card 2008 and Wunderlich and Morrissey 2002 give excellent comparisons of Collodi with Disney, with preference to the moral and psychological teachings in the former. Street 1983 similarly contrasts Collodi with Disney and prefers the former. Richard Wunderlich and Thomas Morrissey have published several articles on this subject and have consolidated and expanded their ideas in Pinocchio Goes Postmodern (Wunderlich and Morrissey 2002). Allan 1999 alludes to Collodi but renders a full description of the evolution of the film. Card 2008 is also interested in what the Disney version says about gender. Roth 1996 also makes observations about gender—both heterosexual and homosexual constructs—but Roth’s regard of Pinocchio as an anti-Semitic work is fascinating.

  • Allan, Robin. “The Dark World of Pinocchio.” In Walt Disney and Europe: European Influences on the Animated Feature Films of Walt Disney. By Robin Allan, 67–90. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1999.

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    Seventy-six of the film’s eighty-eight minutes occur at night or under water (p. 67), representing the world through which an innocent child must travel. Besides giving a history of Pinocchio’s adaptation, Allan interprets the Disney tale as an allegory of life in Europe during its darkest hour.

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  • Card, Claudia. “Pinocchio.” In From Mouse to Mermaid: The Politics of Film, Gender, and Culture. Edited by Elizabeth Bell, Lynda Haas, and Laura Sells, 62–71. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2008.

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    One of the major themes of Collodi’s story is being true to one’s conscience, but Disney’s version teaches children absolute obedience without critical thinking, for the purpose of pleasing others, avoiding humiliation, and proving “macho heroism.” Volume first published in 1995.

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  • Roth, Matt. “The Lion King: A Short History of Disney-Fascism.” Jump Cut 40 (March 1996): 15–20.

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    Roth reminds us that during 1938, when Pinocchio was in production, Walt Disney “regularly attended meetings of the American Nazi Party in Hollywood,” and he sees evidence of anti-Semitism in Pinocchio, with the Fox portrayed as a greedy and evil Jew. Roth identifies Mein Kampf as the source of many of the characters and their actions.

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  • Street, Douglas. “Pinocchio—From Picaro to Pipsqueak.” In Children’s Novels and the Movies. Edited by Douglas Street, 47–57. New York: Frederick Ungar, 1983.

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    Analysis of the differences between Collodio’s and Disney’s Pinocchios, with a decided preference for the former.

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  • Wunderlich, Richard, and Thomas J. Morrissey. Pinocchio Goes Postmodern: Perils of a Puppet in the United States. New York: Routledge, 2002.

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    Traces the changes in America in the retelling of Collodi’s original story, and is dismayed that Collodi has been converted into adult fiction when it has important lessons to teach children, and that Disney’s version sanitized Collodi’s tale.

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Fantasia (1940)

Released on 13 November 1940, Fantasia received two Academy Honorary Awards, and it continues to receive critical acclaim. The American Film Institute features it in three lists of the greatest American films. Allan 1999 foregrounds the presence of European musical classics in the film, but Willis 1987 argues that Mickey, as a metonym for America, reflects a historical supplanting of Americana as mass culture following the decline of European power. Luckett 1994 looks at the film’s effort to promote and represent fine art.

  • Allan, Robin. Walt Disney and Europe: European Influences on the Animated Feature Films of Walt Disney. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1999.

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    Includes three chapters on Fantasia, identifying European influences in its making, including such composers as Bach, Tchaikovsky, Dukas, Stravinsky, Beethoven, Pinchielli, Moussorgsky, Schubert, Debussy, Wagner, Sibelius, Carpenter, and Weber.

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  • Luckett, Moya. “Fantasia: Cultural Constructions of Disney’s ‘Masterpiece.’” In Disney Discourse: Producing the Magic Kingdom. Edited by Eric Smoodin, 214–236. New York: Routledge, 1994.

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    Examines the film’s critical reception and Disney’s promotional strategies to sell it nationwide as a form of popular culture, all the while touting it as great art.

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  • Willis, Susan. “Fantasia: Walt Disney’s Los Angeles Suite.” Diacritics 17.2 (Summer 1987): 83–96.

    DOI: 10.2307/i219969Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    In exploring the production of mass culture in the film, Willis identifies a displacement of European elitism for American popular culture, as allegorically depicted in Mickey Mouse. She also notes that animation makes its animators invisible, an indicator that the increase in technology is negating the laborer.

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Dumbo (1941)

Released on 23 October 1941 and based on Dumbo, the Flying Elephant (1939) by Helen Aberson and illustrated by Harold Pearl, Dumbo won one Oscar and was nominated for another. Reising 1996 explicitly states that children should not watch Dumbo, but Booker 2010 believes it can educate children in positive ways. Sammond 2011 argues that the film does teach children to accept the marginalized self or Other (the flying elephant), but that one’s unique gifts have to be used for the good of the masses.

  • Booker, M. Keith. Disney, Pixar, and the Hidden Messages of Children’s Films. Santa Barbara, CA: Praeger, 2010.

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    Beginning with Snow White, Booker does not share the concern expressed by many academics that Disney movies teach unacceptable ideology to children. He identifies many positive messages as more relevant today than what they might have been during their creation, such as the need to accept those who are different, a major theme in Dumbo.

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  • Reising, Russell. “‘The Easiest Room in Hell’: The Political Work of Disney’s Dumbo.” In Loose Ends: Closure and Crisis in the American Social Text. By Russell Reising, 279–330. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1996.

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    Argues that, like Twain’s Huckleberry Finn, Disney’s Dumbo is not for children, in that it centralizes violence and exploitation. Whereas most of Disney’s animation has evil reside in supernatural forms like witches and demonic animals and end in eradication, Dumbo’s evil resides in the very world in which children live, and it holds out very little protection against that evil.

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  • Sammond, Nicholas. “Dumbo, Disney, and Difference: Walt Disney Productions and Film as Children’s Literature.” In The Oxford Handbook of Children’s Literature. Edited by Julia L. Mickenberg and Lynne Vallone, 147–166. Oxford University Press, 2011.

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    The film, according to Sammond, has a cautionary message for children: they will be happy only when the find their “proper place in society” (p. 155). In light of the Great Depression and pending war, the film prepared children to think of how they can serve the nation before serving themselves, and taught parents that they had been overly indulgent in the rearing of their children.

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Bambi (1942)

Released on 13 August 1942 and based on a 1923 novel, Bambi, A Life in the Woods, by Austrian writer Felix Salten, this film is considered a classic; in 2008 the American Film Institute ranked it as the third best film in the animation genre. At the same time, ironically, it continues to be listed by Time magazine (2007–2012) as one of the “Top 25 Horror Movies of All Time.” Its release was met with strident protest by American hunters. The critics cited in this section reflect three diverse readings: Whitley 2008, Booker 2010, and Bruckner 2010 find positive lessons in the film, especially in regard to ecology, but Booker identifies additional useful instruction to children, and Bruckner points to ecological representations that were misguided in the movie. Besides addressing gender issues, Payne 2008 historicizes the film.

  • Booker, M. Keith. Disney, Pixar, and the Hidden Messages of Children’s Films. Santa Barbara, CA: Praeger, 2010.

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    Booker appreciates that Bambi teaches children the danger of guns and the pain and loss that result from violence.

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  • Bruckner, Lynne Dickson. “Bambi and Finding Nemo: A Sense of Wonder in the Wonderful World of Disney?” In Framing the World: Explorations in Ecocriticism and Film. Edited by Paula Willoquet-Maricondi, 187–205. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2010.

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    In Bambi, hunting and forest fires are considered evil, but there is no mention of what to do about excessive deer populations. Bruckner looks at what the film does not tell children about forestry conservation.

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  • Payne, David. “Bambi.” In From Mouse to Mermaid: The Politics of Film, Gender, and Culture. Edited by Elizabeth Bell, Lynda Haas, and Laura Sells, 137–147. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2008.

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    With America’s entrance into World War II, Payne identifies in the film symbolism of disruption of natural order due to war. He also discusses the representation of male patriarchy as wielding absolute domination over social order. Volume first published in 1995.

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  • Whitley, David S. “Bambi and the Idea of Conservation.” In The Idea of Nature in Disney’s Animation. By David S. Whitley, 61–77. Aldershot, UK: Ashgate, 2008.

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    Sees Bambi as a pastoral and a prelapsarian Eden until human hunters destroy the pristine environment and kill animals. Besides an implied lesson on conservation, what is invaluable about the film for children is its ability to “take us into a special realm where we can see what is normally secret and unobserved within the lives of the animals” (p. 63).

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Saludos Amigos (1942) and The Three Caballeros (1944)

In 1941 the US Department of State asked Disney to tour South America and then produce an animated feature that would promote goodwill to weaken the close ties that Latin American had with Nazi Germany. Nelson Rockefeller, then director of the Office of the Coordinator of Inter-American Affairs, hired Disney to produce a movie that would reassure the South American government that the United States had only friendly interests and no plans of aggression. The result was Saludos Amigos and The Three Caballeros. Although Brode 2005 argues for the positive portrayals of Latinos in these films, Burton 1992, Burton-Carvajal 1994 and Piedra 1994 voice their strident objections to Disney’s negative cultural stereotypes.

  • Brode, Douglas. “Disney and Latin American Culture.” In Multiculturalism and the Mouse: Race and Sex in Disney Entertainment. By Douglas Brode, 90–100. Austin: University of Texas Press, 2005.

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    Gives a brief history of US derogatory stereotypes of Latinos, and then points out that Mickey’s second cartoon features him as a Latin American in an affirmative light, and argues that Donald Duck’s portrayal of a Spanish caballero is also positive. Brode reminds us that the cast of The Three Caballeros included three Latin American stars who had never before appeared in a Hollywood movie: Aurora Miranda, Dora Luz, and Carmen Molina.

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  • Burton, Julianne. “Don (Juanito) Duck and the Imperial-Patriarchal Unconscious: Disney Studios, the Good Neighbor Policy, and the Packaging of Latin America.” In Nationalisms and Sexualities. Edited by Andrew Parker, Mary Russo, Doris Sommer and Patricia Yaeger, 21–41. New York: Routledge, 1992.

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    Burton views both Saludos Amigos and The Three Caballeros as imperialistic and aggressive in asserting the superiority of the culture of the United States over the culture of South America.

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  • Burton-Carvajal, Julianne. “‘Surprise Package’: Looking Southward with Disney.” In Disney Discourse: Producing the Magic Kingdom. Edited by Eric Smoodin, 131–147. New York: Routledge, 1994.

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    Argues that The Three Caballeros depicts Latin American culture as rife with moral deprivation.

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  • Piedra, José. “Pato Donald’s Gender Ducking.” In Disney Discourse: Producing the Magic Kingdom. Edited by Eric Smoodin, 148–168. New York: Routledge, 1994.

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    Identifies libidinal messages in Saludos Amigos and The Three Caballeros that define the films’ bidding for a Pan-American union in sexual terms. The United States would have Latin American as a child bride, Piedra argues, and one that is sexually provocative but is to be eternally infantilized. Gives the historical context for the ideological messages in the two films.

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Cinderella (1950)

Released on 15 February 1950 and based on the 1697 tale by Charles Perrault, Cinderella was nominated for three Academy Awards and won several other awards. Bell 2008 includes this film in a group that objectifies women. Although Bell 2008 and O’Brien 1996 are in agreement that the film reiterates domestic roles for women, Bell identifies some pockets of power for women. Regardless, Yolen 1982 and Simonelli 1999 argue that the pre-Disney Cinderellas were portrayed as strong women. Perry 1999 highlights the negative images of ageism.

  • Bell, Elizabeth. “Somatexts at the Disney Shop: Constructing the Pentimentos of Women’s Animated Bodies.” In From Mouse to Mermaid: The Politics of Film, Gender, and Culture. Edited by Elizabeth Bell, Lynda Haas, and Laura Sells, 107–124. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2008.

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    Analyzes the dance sequences in Cinderella and concludes that even if Disney’s heroine is passive, her body on the dance floor exhibits “strength, discipline, and control” (p. 112), qualities befitting a princess. Volume first published in 1995.

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  • O’Brien, Pamela Colby. “The Happiest Films on Earth: A Textual and Contextual Analysis of Walt Disney’s Cinderella and The Little Mermaid.” Women’s Studies in Communication 19.2 (1996): 155–183.

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    Through contrasts with stepchildren, Cinderella teaches little girls how not to behave if they want to grow up to marry and find happiness, and that they should want this. O’Brien reminds us that, at the government’s request, Disney produced stories that would get women to leave the job force after World War II and become housewives and mothers.

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  • Perry, Merry G. “Animated Gerontophobia: Ageism, Sexism, and the Disney Villainess.” In Aging and Identity: A Humanities Perspective. Edited by Sara Munson Deats and Lagretta Tallent Lenker, 201–213. Westport, CT: Praeger, 1999.

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    Challenges the depiction of stepmothers as being neurotic about growing old and homicidally jealous of their young daughters and stepdaughters.

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  • Simonelli, Marie Claire. “A Facelift for Timeworn Tales: Walt Disney’s Vision in Snow White and Cinderella.” Creative Screenwriting 6.3 (1999): 63–69.

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    Analyzes the changes made from Grimm and Perrault.

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  • Yolen, Jane. “America’s Cinderella.” In Cinderella: A Casebook. Edited by Alan Dundes, 294–308. Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin Press, 1982.

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    Understands why feminists have attacked Cinderella as a terrible role model for children in that she is an insipid, feeble female with no real state of existence or identity prior to being rescued by a prince. However, Yolen argues that the mass-market version of Cinderella is drastically unfaithful to the resilient and resourceful Cinderella that first appeared in 9th-century China.

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Alice in Wonderland (1951)

Based on Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, published in 1865, and its sequel, Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There, Disney’s animated version was released in New York City and London on 26 July 1951. The film came under much attack for Americanizing a much beloved English tale, and although it was nominated for an Oscar for Best Scoring of a Musical Picture, it won no awards. Alan 1985 places the film within the Disney canon in terms of originality, and Hernández Avila 2007 historicizes it in Cold War politics. Ross 2000 and Ross 2004 argue similar themes about the threat of female imagination, but Ross 2004 extends the investigation to Beauty and the Beast (1991) and The Little Mermaid (1989).

  • Alan, Robin. “Alice in Disneyland.” Sight and Sound 54.2 (Spring 1985): 136–138.

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    Identifies the originality to Disney’s Alice that was the outcome of experimentation, and has not been repeated since. The film is “idiosyncratic, combining a kaleidoscopic jumble of images” (p. 137). Alan compares Disney with Carroll and explains how and why Disney’s Alice turned out to be a technical masterpiece.

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  • Hernández Avila, José Bernardo. “Disney’s Alice in Wonderland: A Cold War Parody?Applied Semiotics 19 (September 2007): 29–42.

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    Places Disney’s movie in its political context of the Cold War, and affixes signs to each character accordingly: Alice represents America; the Mad Hatter, the British empire; the White Rabbit, time and stress, Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum, East and West Germany; the Walrus, the USSR; the Caterpillar, Arabia; the deck of cards; the Red Army, and so on.

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  • Ross, Deborah. “Home by Tea-Time: Fear of Imagination in Disney’s Alice in Wonderland.” In Classics in Film and Fiction. Edited by Deborah Cartmell, 207–227. London: Pluto, 2000.

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    Disney’s version is more stereotypically repressive than the Victorian original. After a brief history of the literary treatment of the female imagination, Ross settles on Charlotte Lennox’s 1752 The Female Quixote, with its conclusion, according to Ross, that “a woman cannot be trusted to formulate her own desires” (p. 212). Disney’s Alice learns that she must be afraid of her own imagination.

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  • Ross, Deborah. “Escape from Wonderland: Disney and the Female Imagination.” Marvels & Tales: Journal of Fairy-Tale Studies 18.1 (2004): 53–66.

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    Besides the dialogue, plot, and images in Alice in Wonderland, Ross investigates those in The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast for their ambivalence in gender ideologies. The films do seem to warn little girls about the dangers of letting themselves imagine a life that is more exciting and free than what females should expect.

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Peter Pan (1953)

Based on the 1904 play Peter Pan; or, The Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up by J. M. Barrie, Disney’s Peter Pan was the final film released through RKO Pictures before Disney began operating Buena Vista Distribution. It was the highest-grossing film of 1953. In 2002 a sequel, Return to Never Land, was released. The beloved fairy Tinker Bell is the unofficial mascot of the Disney Company, and a computer-animated film was made of her in 2008. The edited collection Kavey and Friedman 2009 would be a good starting place, with its multiple theoretical approaches to Peter Pan. Deane 2011 provides a postcolonial reading with historical context. Ohmer 2009 identifies the historical politics that produced the film. Cartmell and Whelehan 2010 focuses on gender stereotypes, as does Munns 2009, but with added attention to homoeroticism. McQuade 1994 is concerned that Disney transformed Peter Pan from a child’s to an adult’s story.

  • Cartmell, Deborah, and Imelda Whelehan. “Authorial Suicide: Adaptation as Appropriation in Peter Pan.” In Screen Adaptation: Impure Cinema. By Deborah Cartmell and Imelda Whelehan, 57–72. London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010.

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    Points out Disney’s women are defined by their functional roles, while the boys get to have adventures. Disney’s ending affirms patriarchal structures, whereas Barrie’s “flirts with a matriarchal conclusion” (p. 64).

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  • Deane, Bradley. “Imperial Boyhood: Piracy and the Play Ethic.” Victorian Studies 53.4 (Summer 2011): 689–714.

    DOI: 10.2979/victorianstudies.53.4.689Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Providing a historical context and a postcolonial reading, Deane argues that Peter Pan gave a “moral legitimacy of colonialism” (p. 689) and rendered British imperialism as natural, innocent, competitive play and an international venture.

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  • Kavey, Allison B., and Lester D. Friedman, eds. Second Star to the Right: Peter Pan in the Popular Imagination. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2009.

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    Nine scholarly essays (plus an interesting introduction) that take multiple approaches to Peter Pan, though they are all focused on the story as its various versions have been received by adult audiences.

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  • McQuade, Brett T. “Peter Pan: Disney’s Adaptation of J.M. Barrie’s Original Work.” Mythlore 20.1 (Winter 1994): 5–9.

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    Identifies differences between Disney’s film and Barrie’s play, differences that are drastic and counter to major themes that Barrie painstakingly developed. The overarching departure is that Disney took a child’s story and rewrote it for adults, removing the humor and the charm in the process.

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  • Munns, David P. D. “‘Gay, Innocent, and Heartless’: Peter Pan and the Queering of Popular Culture.” In Second Star to the Right: Peter Pan in the Popular Imagination. Edited by Allison B. Kavey and Lester D. Friedman, 219–242. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2009.

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    Studies the gender dynamics of nascent sexuality among the youth in the film as well as the resistance to aging illustrated by the ephebic Pan and Hook’s own struggle with mortality. Also considers the sexual tensions between and Peter (boy) versus Wendy (girl), and then Peter (more masculine boy) and Tink (sexually feminine fairy).

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  • Ohmer, Susan. “Disney’s Peter Pan: Gender, Fantasy, and Industrial Production.” In Second Star to the Right: Peter Pan in the Popular Imagination. Edited by Allison B. Kavey and Lester D. Friedman, 151–187. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2009.

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    Analyzes the production processes and politics within the Disney studio in its ideological work in Peter Pan regarding gender, childhood, and sexuality. Ohmer’s theoretical framework includes historicizing the industrial, economic, social, and political changes in America.

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Lady and the Tramp (1955)

Released on 22 June 1955, Lady and the Tramp was the first animation filmed in CinemaScope. In 2011, Time magazine listed it as one of the “25 All-Time Best Animated Films.” Ma 2000 does not care for its stereotypical, essentialist portrayal of Asians in the Siamese cats.

  • Ma, Sheng-mei. “The Chinese Siamese Cat: Chinoiserie and Ethnic Stereotypes.” In The Deathly Embrace: Orientalism and Asian American Identity. By Sheng-mei Ma, 95–111. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2000.

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    Finds the two Siamese cats in the film odiously racist. They replicate early American stereotypes of Asians as being crafty and duplicitous, speaking in high-pitch Pidgin English with smiling buck teeth, and having cross and slit eyes. The representation of Asians “posits genetically traceable physical, linguistic, and personality traits” (p. 110).

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Sleeping Beauty (1959)

Released on 29 January 1959 and based on Sleeping Beauty (1697) by Charles Perrault, as well as Tchaikovsky’s 1890 ballet, Sleeping Beauty was nominated for an Academy Award and Grammy, but it lost to Porgy and Bess for both awards; however, it did garner several other awards. This is another film that Bell 2008 takes issue with because of its objectification of women. Perry 1999 attacks the film’s hostility toward aging. Lipscomb 2004 compares the film to Perrault’s version and Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale.

  • Bell, Elizabeth. “Somatexts at the Disney Shop: Constructing the Pentimentos of Women’s Animated Bodies.” In From Mouse to Mermaid: The Politics of Film, Gender, and Culture. Edited by Elizabeth Bell, Lynda Haas, and Laura Sells, 107–124. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2008.

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    Contrasts the pear-shaped physiques of the aunts to the sexy shapeliness of the femme fatale, pointing out the difference between nurturing motherhood and villainous, self-serving women. Bell cites other antitheses between the two female types. Volume first published in 1995.

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  • Lipscomb, Lan. “The Winter’s Tale: Folktale, Romance, and the Disney Film Formula.” Journal of the Wooden O Symposium 4 (2004): 81–90.

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    Compares the Disney’s Sleeping Beauty with Perralt’s and Shakepeare’s The Winter’s Tale.

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  • Perry, Merry G. “Animated Gerontophobia: Ageism, Sexism, and the Disney Villainess.” In Aging and Identity: A Humanities Perspective. Edited by Sara Munson Deats and Lagretta Tallent Lenker, 201–213. Westport, CT: Praeger, 1999.

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    Perry challenges Disney to offer children a more positive perspective of the aging process and suggest its values and strengths, since children will inevitably grow old themselves. When Maleficent threatens to imprison the prince for one hundred years and then free him to kiss the still youthful princess, the film assumes that children will recoil at such an image.

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101 Dalmatians (1961)

Released on 25 January 1961 and based on The Hundred and One Dalmatians, or the Great Dog Robbery, a 1956 children’s novel by Dodie Smith, this film found a place on several American Film Institute lists, but it failed to win any other awards. Murphy 2008 is interested in women and landscape in the film; whereas Perry 1999 expresses concerns about the film’s disparagement of aging.

  • Murphy, Patrick D. “‘The Whole Wide World was Scrubbed Clean’: The Androcentric Animation of Denatured Disney.” In From Mouse to Mermaid: The Politics of Film, Gender, and Culture. Edited by Elizabeth Bell, Lynda Haas, and Laura Sells, 125–136. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2008.

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    Highlights two aspects of the film 101 Dalmatians as unique to Disney’s animation. The first is that, instead of being rescued, the characters resolve their own crises. The second is the depiction of a healthy heterosexual family. The main message is that “animals are most noble when most nearly ‘human,’ while the human is most ignoble when mostly nearly ‘inhuman’” (p. 128). Volume first published in 1995.

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  • Perry, Merry G. “Animated Gerontophobia: Ageism, Sexism, and the Disney Villainess.” In Aging and Identity: A Humanities Perspective. Edited by Sara Munson Deats and Lagretta Tallent Lenker, 201–213. Westport, CT: Praeger, 1999.

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    Obviously Cruella de Vil is to be considered the “cruel devil,” but much of her physicality does not represent the devil, it simply represents an elderly woman. Just one example is her stereotype as a “crazy woman driver,” when Horace and Jasper are no better but are not mocked for the same thing.

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The Jungle Book (1967)

Adaptation of Rudyard Kipling’s 1894 collection of stories released as an animated film on 18 October 1967 (and a live-action film on December 25, 1994). Although nominated for numerous awards, it won none. A sequel, The Jungle Book 2, premiered in 2003. The critical articles in this section deal with a variety of issues: Miller and Rode 2008 on race and class, Murphy 2008 on race and gender, Whitley 2008 on nature, and Wirtén 2008 on copyright issues.

  • Miller, Susan, and Greg Rode. “The Movie You See, the Movie You Don’t: How Disney Do’s That Old Time Derision.” In From Mouse to Mermaid: The Politics of Film, Gender, and Culture. Edited by Elizabeth Bell, Lynda Haas, and Laura Sells, 86–103. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2008.

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    Argues that the racial stereotyping is worse than the two-dimensional characters in Song of the South. For example, King Louie is an ape who wants to become human. In an obvious black voice, he sings “I wanna be like you,” meaning “white.” The other African anthropomorphisms portray blacks as primitives who can’t help themselves but sing jazz and swing. Volume first published in 1995.

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  • Murphy, Patrick D. “‘The Whole Wide World was Scrubbed Clean’: The Androcentric Animation of Denatured Disney.” In From Mouse to Mermaid: The Politics of Film, Gender, and Culture. Edited by Elizabeth Bell, Lynda Haas, and Laura Sells, 125–136. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2008.

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    Identifies the racism and androcentrism in the movie. The Jungle Book projects the jungle as a “man’s world” where women are not considered useful after they are finished being mothers. Volume first published in 1995.

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  • Whitley, David S. “The Jungle Book: Nature and the Politics of Identity.” In The Idea of Nature in Disney’s Animation. By David S. Whitley, 99–115. Aldershot, UK: Ashgate, 2008.

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    Identifies ways that Disney credibly and incredibly portrays a feral child, seeing an obfuscation of a line drawn between the human and natural worlds, which he believes is healthy for children to learn.

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  • Wirtén, Eva Hemmungs. “I am Two Mowglis”: Kipling, Disney, and a Lesson in How to Use (and Abuse) the Public Domain.” In Terms of Use: Negotiating the Jungle of the Intellectual Commons. Edited by Eva Hemmungs Wirtén, 109–140. University of Toronto Press, 2008.

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    Although Disney has profited from “fair use” and from the public domain of literature due to expired copyrights, as with Kipling’s The Jungle Book, the Disney Corporation does not reciprocate. Its works carry parallel protection as a trademark, and the copyrights are continually renewed through the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act.

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The Aristocats (1970)

Released on 24 December 1970, this was the last film approved for production before Walt Disney died. Although a box office hit, it did not receive any notable awards. Ma 2000 criticizes the stereotypical portrayal of Asians in the cats.

  • Ma, Sheng-mei. “The Chinese Siamese Cat: Chinoiserie and Ethnic Stereotypes.” In The Deathly Embrace: Orientalism and Asian American Identity. Edited by Sheng-mei Ma, 95–111. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2000.

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    In addition to a long-standing stereotyping of Asians as having buck teeth, the Siamese cat in The Aristocats sings “Ev’rybody Wants to Be a Cat,” which is ironic in that the cat iterates banal characterization of a stereotyped Asian. The cat sings about Egg Fu Yung and fortune cookies, which are Western concoctions, just as the Asian stereotypes are (p. 109).

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The Rescuers (1977)

Released on 22 June 1977, The Rescuers was nominated for one Academy Award. A sequel, The Rescuers Down Under, was released in 1990. Both Murphy 2008 and Perry 1999 comment on the negative portrayal of Medusa as a Cruella type, but Murphy has more to say about scenes and animals that reinforce the idea of male domination.

  • Murphy, Patrick D. “‘The Whole Wide World was Scrubbed Clean’: The Androcentric Animation of Denatured Disney.” In From Mouse to Mermaid: The Politics of Film, Gender, and Culture. Edited by Elizabeth Bell, Lynda Haas, and Laura Sells, 125–136. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2008.

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    Analyzes both The Rescuers and The Rescuers Down Under. However, in The Rescuers Down Under, the little boy resists domestication and is elated with his freedom. Volume first published in 1995.

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  • Perry, Merry G. “Animated Gerontophobia: Ageism, Sexism, and the Disney Villainess.” In Aging and Identity: A Humanities Perspective. Edited by Sara Munson Deats and Lagretta Tallent Lenker, 201–213. Westport, CT: Praeger, 1999.

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    Criticizes the ageism and sexism in the portrayal of the greedy hag, Madame Medusa. She wears an appallingly hideous halter dress that emphasizes her sagging breasts. Children are taught that women who look like her hate children and have only one motive regarding them, and that is to abuse them.

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The Little Mermaid (1989)

Growing out of an early dream of Walt Disney to animate Hans Christian Andersen’s 1837 tale, work began on this film shortly after Snow White and became a reality on 17 November 1989. It won two of the three Academy Awardsit was nominated for, two of four Golden Globes, and two Grammys. Although Walt Disney was cremated, a mausoleum commemorates his life in Forest Lawn in Glendale, California, in a little garden with a statue of the Little Mermaid. The critics in this section mostly focus on gender dynamics in the movie, but Murphy 2008 adds postcolonialism to his reading, and Sells 2008 adds Marxism. Hastings 1993 criticizes Disney’s propensity to oversimplify original children’s stories and erase their moral themes. Bendix 1993 and White 1993 fault the film for its prurient reduction of the female body. Finkelstein 2003, Perry 1999, Murphy 2008, and Sells 2008 have much to say, both positive and negative, about the portrayal of the sensual and older woman, Ursula. Matthew and Greenberg 2009 offers a pedagogical treatment.

  • Bendix, Regina. “Seashell Bra and Happy End: Disney’s Transformations of ‘The Little Mermaid.’” Fabula 34 (1993): 280–290.

    DOI: 10.1515/fabl.1993.34.3-4.280Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Analyzes the differences between the Andersen and Disney versions, highlighting the removal of positive female role models in the latter, with these conclusions: the Disney version indicates struggles with sexuality, favors patriarchy, and iterates sexual stereotypes by defining female beauty as a tiny waist and well-endowed bust.

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  • Finkelstein, Richard. “Disney’s Tempest: Colonizing Desire in the Little Mermaid.” In The Emperor’s Old Groove: Decolonizing Disney’s Magic Kingdom. Edited by Brenda Ayres, 131–147. New York: Peter Lang, 2003.

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    Covers several topics, including gender dynamics. Finkelstein infers that Ariel succeeds in overthrowing her patriarchally demanding father by winning her own marriage choice and in rescuing the man of her dreams. However, Finkelstein cautions against perceiving this as feminist victory, in that Ursula is the feminist and sexual transgressor that must be subdued.

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  • Hastings, A. Waller. “Moral Simplification in Disney’s The Little Mermaid.” The Lion and the Unicorn 17.1 (June 1993): 83–92.

    DOI: 10.1353/uni.0.0281Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Hastings’ complaint is that the “Disney version accentuates the most sentimental and romantic aspects of the story at the expense of its moral and psychological complexity” (p. 85). In reprocessing texts through animation for children’s consumption, he argues, Disney is notorious for stripping original texts of their complexities, especially their moral messages.

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  • Matthew, Patricia A., and Jonathan Greenberg. “The Ideology of the Mermaid: Children’s Literature in the Intro to Theory Course.” Pedagogy 9.2 (2009): 217–233.

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    To demonstrate the value of teaching children’s literature alongside literary criticism, Matthew and Greenberg created a series of lessons and assignments for a course in literary theory. By focusing theory on The Little Mermaid, a movie familiar to most students, it helps students understand literary criticism as a way to derive multiples meanings from texts.

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  • Murphy, Patrick D. “‘The Whole Wide World was Scrubbed Clean’: The Androcentric Animation of Denatured Disney.” In From Mouse to Mermaid: The Politics of Film, Gender, and Culture. Edited by Elizabeth Bell, Lynda Haas, and Laura Sells, 125–136. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2008.

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    In The Little Mermaid, Murphy argues, the people of the Caribbean are represented by those who live in nature under the sea and who never do any work, in contrast to a superior culture of the industrialized world, whose inhabitants control nature and live above the sea. Ursula’s impalement and Ariel’s transformation signify their deculturation and denaturalization. Volume first published in 1995.

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  • Perry, Merry G. “Animated Gerontophobia: Ageism, Sexism, and the Disney Villainess.” In Aging and Identity: A Humanities Perspective. Edited by Sara Munson Deats and Lagretta Tallent Lenker, 201–213. Westport, CT: Praeger, 1999.

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    This film presents “one of Disney’s most hideous aging female villainesses” (p. 206) as she physically contrasts with the beautiful Ariel. Even if portrayed as malicious in her pursuit of power, she does represent a very real problem, and that is the lack of power that the elderly experience in America.

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  • Sells, Laura. “‘Where Do the Mermaids Stand?’ Voice and Body in The Little Mermaid.” In From Mouse to Mermaid: The Politics of Film, Gender, and Culture. Edited by Elizabeth Bell, Lynda Haas, and Laura Sells, 175–192. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2008.

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    The rite of passage for the female is simply the age-old practice of transfer from father to husband. The exception in the movie is Ursula, whose representation sends mixed messages as to both the desirability and danger of being a woman who pleasures herself. Volume first published in 1995.

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  • White, Susan. “Split Skins: Female Agency and Bodily Mutilation in The Little Mermaid.” In Film Theory Goes to the Movies. Edited by Jim Collins, Hilary Radner, and Ava Preacher Collins, 182–195. New York: Routledge, 1993.

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    Traces the history of mermaids in films, finding them desexed or with their tails used as phallic organs signifying sexual aggression or an eroticism dangerous to men. Disney’s mermaid is a masochistic fantasy of what a beautiful woman is supposed to look like, and she demonstrates how a woman is supposed to be willing to renounce her world of freedom under the sea for patriarchal marriage and family.

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Beauty and the Beast (1991)

Released on 22 November 1991 as an animated musical-fantasy, This film is based on Jeanne-Marie Le Prince de Beaumont’s 1756 abridgment of the 1740 fairy tale by Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve. With six Academy Award nominations (winning two), it set a record for the most nominations for an animated film, and it was the first animated film to be nominated for Best Picture. It was also nominated for eight Grammys, and won five, and for four Golden Globes, winning three. The stage musical premiered on Broadway in 1994, followed by 5,461 performances. The film unleashed a score of critical articles that offer an assortment of perspectives. Cummins 1995 and Manley 2003 show disdain for the film’s androcentrism. However, Gray 1992, Downey 1996, Swan 1999, and DiPaolo 2010 credit the film for its empowerment of women, with Swan giving a unique treatment by identifying its Gothic conventions. Jeffords 2008 and Manley 2003 are also concerned with the reductive stereotyping of men in this film. Hearne 1989, meanwhile, is more focused on the universal themes that Disney retained from the original tales.

  • Cummins, June. “Romancing the Plot: The Real Beast of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast.” Children’s Literature Association Quarterly 20.1 (Spring 1995): 22–28.

    DOI: 10.1353/chq.0.0872Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Beauty and the Beast favors the romantic plot to the exclusion of important themes in the original tale, and it is only about romance for the men. Although, ostensibly, Belle is a more substantial female than characters in Disney’s previous films, her validation is not in her independence and intellectual curiosity but in her ability to nurture.

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  • DiPaolo, Marc. “Mass-Marketing ‘Beauty’: How a Feminist Heroine Became an Insipid Disney Princess.” In Beyond Adaptation: Essays on Radical Transformations of Original Works. Edited by Phyllis Frus and Christy Williams, 168–180. Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2010.

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    Considers Woolverton’s screenplay as a feminist success in creating a strong female character who is rewarded in the end with a loving relationship between equals. DiPaolo also notes that Gaston is killed by his own machismo. The merchandised Belle, however, is different: Disney turned her into an “insipid princess.”

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  • Downey, Sharon D. “Feminine Empowerment in Disney’s Beauty and the Beast.” Women’s Studies in Communication 19.2 (1996): 185–212.

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    Identifies two contrasting narratives (male and female), discursive and nondiscursive, that give power to the female as spectator.

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  • Gray, Elizabeth Dodson. “Beauty and the Beast: A Parable for Our Time.” In Women Respond to the Men’s Movement: A Feminist Collection. Edited by Kay Leigh Hagan, 159–168. New York: HarperCollins, 1992.

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    Identifies positive heterosexual models and believes that the film conveys that women have the power to “‘break the enchantment’ of patriarchy,” and that the Beast had to come to a realization as how to truly love a woman.

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  • Hearne, Betsy. Beauty and the Beast: Visions and Revisions of an Old Tale. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1989.

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    After an analysis of all of the versions of Beauty and the Beast, Hearne sees its alterations as appropriate to the rise of each generation, but she also identifies universalities that have not changed in the retelling of the tale.

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  • Jeffords, Susan. “The Curse of Masculinity: Disney’s Beauty and the Beast.” In From Mouse to Mermaid: The Politics of Film, Gender, and Culture. Edited by Elizabeth Bell, Lynda Haas, and Laura Sells, 161–172. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2008.

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    Disney’s film, in contrast to its prototypes, is Beast’s story and not the woman’s. He is also a victim: it is not his fault he was so privileged and pampered as a boy child. The original Beast needs someone to see beyond his hideousness and respond to something beautiful within. Disney’s Beast must learn to love someone beyond himself. Volume first published in 1995.

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  • Manley, Kathleen E. B. “Disney, the Beast, and Woman as Civilizing Force.” In The Emperor’s Old Groove: Decolonizing Disney’s Magic Kingdom. Edited by Brenda Ayres, 79–89. New York: Peter Lang, 2003.

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    The “tale as old as time” is the stereotypical belief that a woman’s job is to tame the beast in a man. After tracing the history of this tale, Manley addresses the problems with the stereotype.

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  • Swan, Susan Z. “Gothic Drama in Disney’s Beauty and the Beast: Subverting Traditional Romance by Transcending the Animal-Human Paradox.” Critical Studies in Mass Communication 16.3 (September 1999): 350–369.

    DOI: 10.1080/15295039909367100Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Swan identifies the Gothic characteristics in the film, such as the animal inside the man that is evoked when sexually aroused by the female, but notes that Belle has the inner strength to resist domination by Gaston and help the Beast transform into a human. However, Belle also has to be transformed from an intellectual to a sensitive, intuitive human who can love the Beast.

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Aladdin (1992)

Released on 25 November 1992, Aladdin grossed $504 million worldwide. The story was taken from “Aladdin” by Antoine Galland (1710), who claimed that he translated it from a story in a 14th-century Syrian manuscript titled The Thousand and One Nights, but most scholars believe that “Aladdin” was Galland’s own invention. Many critics deplored Disney’s racist portrayal of Arabs in the film. The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee protested some of the lyrics and succeeded in getting them changed. Aladdin won two Academy Awards, a Golden Globe Award, and four Grammys, plus a number of other awards for its music. The entries in this section are all concerned with the defamatory representation of the Middle East in the film. In addition to this concern, Kelly 2009 provides an interesting history of the adaptation of Galland’s tale, while Macleod 2003 is intent on arguing its historical relevance to Operation Desert Storm. Nadel 1997, Staninger 2003, and Wise 2003 counter the misinformation and misrepresentation of Middle Eastern culture in the film. Borthaiser 2008 sees the backdrop of Aladdin as the Gulf War and offers insights of Western values in the film that are unique compared to the other readings.

  • Borthaiser, Nóra. “‘A Whole New World(?)’: Rereading Disney Animations of the Early 1990s.” Americana: E-Journal of American Studies in Hungary 4.1 (Spring 2008).

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    Offers an interesting interpretation of the significance of the binary colors of red and blue, and argues that their symbolic value is unique to Americans. Jarfar and Iago are in red and Jafar’s hypnotization turns everything red, which Borthaiser roots in Judeo-Christian culture to represent evil. Aladdin, Jasmine, and Genie are primarily blue, which represents goodness.

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  • Kelly, Kathleen Coyne. “Medieval Times: Bodily Temporalities in The Thief of Bagdad (1924), The Thief of Bagdad (1940), and Aladdin (1992).” In Hollywood in the Holy Land: Essays on Film Depictions of the Crusades and Christian-Muslim Clashes. Edited by Nickolas Haydock and E. L. Risden, 200–224. Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2009.

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    Cites the sources, according to Disney, that gave him models for creating his characters. Also argues that the film privileges white heterosexual masculinity. Discusses the Aladdin movies not made by Disney as well.

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  • Macleod, Dianne Sachko. “The Politics of Vision: Disney, Aladdin, and the Gulf War.” In The Emperor’s Old Groove: Decolonizing Disney’s Magic Kingdom. Edited by Brenda Ayres, 179–192. New York: Peter Lang, 2003.

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    In her postcolonial treatment of Aladdin, which observes American stereotypes of the Middle East, Macleod identifies many of these racial images as appearing in the works of French and English Orientalist paintings.

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  • Nadel, Alan. “A Whole New (Disney) World Order: Aladdin, Atomic Power, and the Muslim Middle East.” In Visions of the East: Orientalism in Film. Edited by Matthew Berstein and Gaylyn Studlar, 184–204. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers, 1997.

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    The film “participates in a series of clichéd—often self-contradictory—narratives informing popular American assumptions about the Muslim Middle East” (p. 184). Gives a brief history of the US involvement in Iran during the Cold War, and then in the Middle East during the Gulf War, followed by an investigation of the film as Western discourse.

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  • Staninger, Christiane. “Disney’s Magic Carpet Ride: Aladdin and Women in Islam.” In The Emperor’s Old Groove: Decolonizing Disney’s Magic Kingdom. Edited by Brenda Ayres, 65–77. New York: Peter Lang, 2003.

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    Argues that the attraction of Jasmine for American teenagers is due to her representation as a “pseudo-feminist, pseudo-cross-cultural model” (p. 65). Staninger challenges the film’s gender stereotypes. Even more fervent is her challenge to preconceived notions in the West that Muslim women are oppressed.

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  • Wise, Christopher. “Notes from the Aladdin Industry: Or, Middle Eastern Folklore in the Era of Multinational Capitalism.” In The Emperor’s Old Groove: Decolonizing Disney’s Magic Kingdom. Edited by Brenda Ayres, 105–114. New York: Peter Lang, 2003.

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    Demonstrates in detail the threat that Islamic fundamentalism posed to America’s economic policies—as it is presented in Aladdin. Detects the efforts throughout the movie to demonize the religious and cultural values of the Middle East and lionize the religious, cultural, and political values of the West.

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The Lion King (1994)

The Lion King was released on 24 June 1994, and the closing credits include Shakespeare. Indeed, the film draws loosely from Shakespeare’s Hamlet, as well as the Sundiata Keita (Epic of Sundiata), a poem that has been transmitted from generation to generation orally and tells the legend of the Lion King (1217–1255), the founder of the Mali Empire in West Africa and hero of the Mandika people. Disney’s film has grossed more than any other hand-drawn film in history, and it won two Academy Awards, the Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture, and a plethora of other awards. Its stage adaptation, which opened on Broadway in 1997, garnered six Tony Awards, including Best Musical. Between 1995 and 1999, eighty-five episodes of The Lion King’s Timon and Pumbaa aired on TV, and in 1998, The Lion King 2: Simba’s Pride was produced on video, followed by The Lion King 1-1/2, a prequel, in 2004. Gooding-Williams 1995 is cautiously pleased with its multiculturalism, a position that came under attack in Butler 1998 and Kateb 1998. Buhler 2003 criticizes the negative stereotypes and the misappropriation of Hamlet. Ward 1996 gives a fresh perspective by identifying biblical sources in the film, and Whitley 2008 focuses on ecology, adding another angle. Ward 1996 esteems the movie for the values and morals it teaches children, but Roth 1996 takes the opposite position. Borthaiser 2008 offers another unique treatment, interpreting the function of the individual characters.

  • Borthaiser, Nóra. “‘A Whole New World(?)’: Rereading Disney Animations of the Early 1990s.” Americana: E-Journal of American Studies in Hungary 4.1 (Spring 2008).

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    Draws similarities between The Lion King, Pocahontas, and Aladdin. All three have what Borthaiser terms “synthesizing characters.” In The Lion King it is Rafiki who is able to synthesize nature and culture, which have had opposing champions among the lions. Rafiki represents the philosopher whose age and wisdom is able to bring about reconciliation.

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  • Buhler, Stephen M. “Shakespeare and Company: The Lion King and the Disneyfication of Hamlet.” In The Emperor’s Old Groove: Decolonizing Disney’s Magic Kingdom. Edited by Brenda Ayres, 117–129. New York: Peter Lang, 2003.

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    Examines Disney’s adaptation of Hamlet, as well as the racial and cultural simulacra.

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  • Butler, Judith. “Reply to Robert Gooding-Williams.” Constellations 5.1 (1998): 42.

    DOI: 10.1111/1467-8675.00072Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Butler responds to Gooding-Williams 1995 and questions his definition of pluralism. She suggests that his urging that mainstream American celebrate the representation of “blackness” in the film is a reinforcement of “putative ‘alterity.’” She resists the we/they mentality and the idea of racial classification altogether.

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  • Gooding-Williams, Robert. “Disney in Africa and the Inner City: On Race and Space in The Lion King.” Social Identities 1.2 (August 1995): 373–379.

    DOI: 10.1080/13504630.1995.9959442Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    On the surface, The Lion King seems to embrace multiculturalism with its music and setting. But, Gooding-Williams argues, its ideological content is stereotypical in its depiction of class and race.

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  • Kateb, George. “Response to Robert Gooding-Williams.” Constellations 5.1 (March 1998): 49–51.

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    Criticizes Gooding-Williams 1995 for its further essentializing “blackness.” Kateb perceives any attempt to categorize people by race—evident in Disney’s movie as well as in Gooding-Williams’ argument—as an act of hostility. He opposes teaching social pluralism; instead, students should be taught to see individuals instead of race or culture.

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  • Roth, Matt. “The Lion King: A Short History of Disney-Fascism.” Jump Cut 40 (March 1996): 15–20.

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    Extremely critical of the negative messages of the movie. The jungle in the film “really expounds the Law of the Schoolyard: only the strong and the beautiful triumph, and the powerless survive only serving the strong” (p. 15). The message to adults is “end the welfare state, barricade the suburbs against the inner city, and replace liberal politicians with true authoritarian leaders.”

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  • Ward, Annalee R. “The Lion King’s Mythic Narrative: Disney as Moral Educator.” Journal of Popular Film and Television 23.4 (Winter 1996): 171–178.

    DOI: 10.1080/01956051.1996.9943703Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Ward addresses the charges of racism and sexism in the movie by suggesting that children must not be prevented from seeing the dark side of humanity, that there are values that can be taught only by dealing with unpleasant realities and tragedies. The film is redeemed by its teaching ethnic sensitivity and a host of values.

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  • Whitley, David S. “Tropical Discourse: Unstable Ecologies in Tarzan, The Lion King, and Finding Nemo.” In The Idea of Nature in Disney’s Animation. By David S. Whitley, 117–137. Aldershot, UK: Ashgate, 2008.

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    Although Whitley credits The Lion King for teaching children that ecological imbalance will result in an environmental apocalypse, he does point out several biological errors in the film. For one, why should the predation of hyenas result in a destabilization of the environment any more than would the predation of lions?

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Pocahontas (1995)

Released on 23 June 1995 and based on the historical Pocahontas (1595–1617), a native of Virginia, the film won two Academy Awards, a Golden Globe, a Grammy, and a host of other awards. In 1998, Pocahontas II: Journey to a New World, was released as a straight-to-video sequel. Parekh 2003 and Borthaiser 2008 give the film a postcolonial reading. Kilpatrick 1995 and Jhappan and Stasiulis 2005 are interested in its racial stereotypes of both Native Americans and Western colonizers, and the latter work has much to say about the sequel. Edgerton and Jackson 1996 compares and contrasts the Native American stereotypes of the film with other portrayals in cinematic history. Whitley 2008 and Parekh 2003 correct the cultural misinformation of the Powhatans.

  • Borthaiser, Nóra. “‘A Whole New World(?)’: Rereading Disney Animations of the Early 1990s.” Americana: E-Journal of American Studies in Hungary 4.1 (Spring 2008).

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    Although attempts were made in Pocahontas to render faithfully one Native American culture, the representation is still filtered through Western perceptions. Borthaiser identifies Grandmother Willow as a “synthesizing character,” one who brings together two warring cultures. She also labels Pocahontas and John Smith as “interstitial characters” who are brought together by the willow tree in a prelapsarian Garden of Eden.

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  • Edgerton, Gary, and Kathy Merlock Jackson. “Redesigning Pocahontas: Disney, the ‘White Man’s Indian,’ and the Marketing of Dreams.” Journal of Popular Film & Television 24.2 (Summer 1996): 90–99.

    DOI: 10.1080/01956051.1996.9943718Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Provides a history of the “Hollywood Indian,” or the stereotypical image that has appeared in cinema. Notes that the animation creation of Pocahontas is a “multicultural pastiche” (p. 95) created by white male artists. Aside from the racial and gender stereotypes, the authors are grateful that the film’s historical inaccuracies have generated a plethora of material to set the record straight.

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  • Jhappan, Radha, and Daiva Stasiulis. “Anglophilia and the Discreet Charm of the English Voice in Disney’s Pocahontas Films.” In Rethinking Disney: Private Control, Public Dimensions. Edited by Mike Budd and Max H. Kirsch, 151–177. Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 2005.

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    Focuses on “whiteness” in not only the first film but also the sequel. However, the “savagery” of the whites is not fully depicted but only embodied in Ratcliffe. Even so, the colonizers are not depicted in a positive light, and yet both movies end with implications of the superiority of English culture.

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  • Kilpatrick, Jacquelyn. “Disney’s ‘Politically Correct’ Pocahontas.” Cineaste 21.4 (1995): 36–37.

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    Examines the historical inaccuracies of the film and remarks upon racial stereotypes of both Native Americans and white colonizers perpetuated by the film. Identifies Anglophilia in other Disney films.

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  • Parekh, Pushpa Naidu. “Pocahontas: The Disney Imaginary.” In The Emperor’s Old Groove: Decolonizing Disney’s Magic Kingdom. Edited by Brenda Ayres, 167–178. New York: Peter Lang, 2003.

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    Both Pocahontas and its sequel are described here as instruments of “historical forgetting” (p. 175). Considers gender, racial, cultural, and historical problems with the films, but goes into detail about the misrepresentation of women in Powhatan culture.

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  • Whitley, David S. “Wilderness and Power: Conflicts and Contested Values from Pocahontas to Brother Bear.” In The Idea of Nature in Disney’s Animation. By David S. Whitley, 79–95. Aldershot, UK: Ashgate, 2008.

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    Whitley highlights the film’s contested cultural perspectives between the Native Americans and the European colonizers regarding the natural world. His discussion of the unrealistic portrayal of the Powhatan Indian culture is illuminating.

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Toy Story (1995)

The first feature film by Pixar, Toy Story is a computer-animated comedy that came out 22 November 1995. It was followed by two sequels, in 1999 and 2010, and a spin-off, Buzz Lightyear of Star Command: The Adventure Beings (2000), which was the pilot of a television series, Buzz Lightyear of Star Command. Toy Story won a long list of awards, including an Academy Special Achievement Award in 1996, three other Academy Award nominations, and two Golden Globes. Bateman 1999 and Burningham 2000 are intertextual studies, contrasting the film with Wallace Stegner and Cervantes, respectively. Byrne and McQuillan 2000 identifies some negative messages for children, whereas Telotte 2008 argues for the film’s constructive qualities. Rose 2005 situates the films within the American western genre.

  • Bateman, Eric. “Walt Disney vs. Wallace Stegner: Community Leadership and Masculine Myths.” In Community in the American West. Edited by Stephen Tchudi, 81–92. Reno, NV: Nevada Humanities Committee, 1999.

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    Uses Toy Story to challenge the views of western community depicted by Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Wallce Stegner. Batemen identifies eastern stereotypes in Stegner’s Where the Bluebird Sings to the Lemonade Springs, and discloses them through Toy Story, a story about “a struggle for community leadership that takes its cues from real struggles in the modern West” (p. 83).

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  • Burningham, Bruce R. “Walt Disney’s Toy Story as Postmodern Don Quixote.” Cervantes: Bulletin of the Cervantes Society of America 20.1 (2000): 157–174.

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    Don Quixote in the 21st century has become Buzz Lightyear, and his Sancho Panza foil is Woody. Sometimes the evil enchanter Frestón is the relentless Sid, and other times Ginés de Pasamonte plays the part. Burningham draws parallels of additional characters, plots, and themes between Cervantes’s tales and the Disney films. He derives metaphysical statements from the first two stories.

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  • Byrne, Eleanor, and Martin McQuillan. “King of the Swingers: Queering Disney.” In Deconstructing Disney. By Eleanor Byrne and Martin McQuillan, 133–150. London: Pluto, 2000.

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    Teaches children that they must have respect for commodity. Byrne’s reaction is that it negates the value of child play, which gives free reign to the imagination and experimentation with alternate use of commodities.

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  • Rose, Sarah. “Traditional Western Values in Disney & Pixar’s Toy Story and Toy Story 2.” Kentucky Philological Review 20.4–5 (March 2005): 63–67.

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    Argues that the major theme of the two films is that amid technological innovations (illustrated by the films being computer generated), the values of the old American western still prevail. Rose provides a history of the western hero who is the prototype for Woody.

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  • Telotte, J. P. “Better than Real”: Digital Disney, Pixar, and Beyond.” In The Mouse Machine: Disney and Technology. By J. P. Telotte, 159–178. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2008.

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    Discusses the techniques of reproducing reality in the first two films, as well as the animators’ rationale and strategies for evoking exaggerated reality and a stylistic world of wonderment. Within a postmodern framework, Telotte suggests what the films teach children about coping with their own experiences as they negotiate between life’s harsh realities and play.

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The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996)

Released on 21 June 1996 and based on Victor Hugo’s 1831 classic, this film was not as successful at the box office as Disney’s previous animations. It did win the BMI Film Music Award and several other prestigious awards, and it was nominated for an Oscar and Golden Globe. In 2002 The Hunchback of Notre Dame II was made for VHS and DVD release. The characters also appear often on the television series, House of Mouse. Bean 2003 and Byrne and McQuillan 2000 focus on the phallogocentrism in the film, with the latter identifying historical context. Grossman 2001 investigates the differences between Hugo’s novel and the film.

  • Bean, Kellie. “Stripping Beauty: Disney’s ‘Feminist’ Seduction.” In The Emperor’s Old Groove: Decolonizing Disney’s Magic Kingdom. Edited by Brenda Ayres, 53–64. New York: Peter Lang, 2003.

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    Overtly, Esmeralda (in The Hunchback of Notre Dame) appears to be the modern woman: self-assured, self-defining, assertive, independent, and defiant of authoritative control. Bean argues, however, that the film’s erotic portrayal of Esmeralda is no different than the age-old sexual objectification of women to satisfy male fantasy.

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  • Byrne, Eleanor, and Martin McQuillan. “King of the Swingers: Queering Disney.” In Deconstructing Disney. By Eleanor Byrne and Martin McQuillan, 133–150. London: Pluto, 2000.

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    Regards Frollo as either a Hitler or a Serb committed to ethnic cleansing. Also argues the phallogocentrism in the film.

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  • Grossman, Kathryn M. “From Classic to Pop Icon: Popularizing Hugo.” French Review 74.3 (2001): 482–495.

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    Analyzes the reprocessing of Hugo’s famous novel for popular consumption. Also considers other fiction of Hugo and how it has been appropriated for other media.

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Hercules (1997)

Disney’s Hercules was released on 27 June 1997, with a prequel, Hercules: Zero to Hero, released in 1998, followed by a syndicated TV series, Hercules: The Animated Series. It was nominated for one Acadamy Award and a Golden Globe, plus several other awards. Byrne and McQuillan 2000 historicizes the depiction of African Americans in the film during the Clinton era.

  • Byrne, Eleanor, and Martin McQuillan. “Democracy Limited: Impeaching Disney.” In Deconstructing Disney. By Eleanor Byrne and Martin McQuillan, 151–165. London: Pluto, 2000.

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    Claims that, for the first time in a Disney feature-length animation, African Americans are represented as African Americans. The chapter identifies multiple allusions to the Clinton presidency, including his impeachment.

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Mulan (1998)

Released on 19 June 1998, Mulan was based on the legend of Hua Mulan from the Northern Wei dynasty (386–534), which was recounted in the Ballad of Mulan, a poem from the 6th century. Most likely the story became familiar to most American audiences first through Maxine Hong Kingston’s novel The Woman Warrior (1976). The film was nominated for a Golden Globe and an Academy Award, and it won several Annie Awards. However, Ma 2003 criticizes its American rewrite of Asian culture. Dong 2006 and Dong 2010 identify positive values in the movie. Tang 2008 takes an innovative approach, analyzing the movie’s cultural messages in its Chinese subtitles.

  • Dong, Lan. “Writing Chinese America into Words and Images: Storytelling and Retelling of The Song of Mu Lan.” Lion and the Unicorn: A Critical Journal of Children’s Literature 30.2 (2006): 218–233.

    DOI: 10.1353/uni.2006.0020Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Credits Disney’s version for its rendition of the cultural heritage of ancient China. Dong also esteems its message of female empowerment as encouraging to Asian Americans.

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  • Dong, Lan. “Mulan: Disney’s Hybrid Heroine.” In Beyond Adaptations: Essays on Radical Transformations of Original Works. Edited by Phyllis Frus and Christy Williams, 156–167. Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2010.

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    Mulan is neither purely Chinese nor American, nor a combination of both. Instead the film is transnational and transcultural, drawing from a myriad of cultures to produce an adolescent fantasy not uncommon for Disney. This teenage girl wants adventure and defies familial and cultural restrictions in order to get it, and in the process, transforms into a woman.

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  • Ma, Sheng-mei. “Mulan Disney, It’s Like, Re-Orients: Consuming China and Animating Teen Dreams.” In The Emperor’s Old Groove: Decolonizing Disney’s Magic Kingdom. Edited by Brenda Ayres, 149–164. New York: Peter Lang, 2003.

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    In addition to cultural slights and racism, Ma analyzes Mulan as an American teen fantasy of gaining autonomy from family, which is contrary to Asian values.

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  • Tang, Jun. “A Cross-Cultural Perspective on Production and Reception of Disney’s Mulan Through Its Chinese Subtitles.” European Journal of English Studies 12.2 (August 2008): 149–162.

    DOI: 10.1080/1382557080215143Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Analyzes the Chinese subtitles for Mulan, considering the source of the subtitles as well as their reception.

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Tarzan (1999)

An animated musical adventure film based on the novel Tarzan of the Apes (1912) by Edgar Rice Burroughs, Disney released the film on 18 June 1999. It won an Academy Award and Golden Globe Award for best song, and a Grammy for best soundtrack. The Legend of Tarzan was a television spin-off that aired from 2001 to 2003, and Tarzan, a Broadway musical, opened on 24 March 2006 but ran for barely over a year. Mayer 2002 compares the various depictions of Tarzan. Whitley 2008 is interested in the film’s accuracy in depicting nature in the jungle. Byrne and McQuillan 2001 discusses all of the Tarzan movies made by Disney and finds a perception of black masculinity as threat.

  • Byrne, Eleanor, and Martin McQuillan. “Walt Disney’s Ape-Man: Race, Writing, Humanism.” New Formations 43 (2001): 103–116.

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    Notes that Disney never depicted a male African American in animation after Snow White, and continues to link the black male to animality. However, as long the anthropomorphized apes act like a real middle-class, American family, then the “phallic threat of black masculinity is effaced” (p. 114). Historicizes the racial dynamics in this film in terms of Clintonian politics.

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  • Mayer, Ruth. Artificial Africas: Colonial Images in the Times of Globalization. Lebanon, NH: University Press of New England, 2002.

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    Compares Burroughs’s Tarzan with the film Greystoke, with Disney’s film animation, and with the Canadian television show that ran from 1991 to 1993. Explores the “junglization” of Disney’s Tarzan, who is mostly in harmony with the jungle yet demonstrates superiority of whiteness and masculinity. And even if there are no American imperialists, Tarzan is American nevertheless.

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  • Whitley, David S. “Tropical Discourse: Unstable Ecologies in Tarzan, The Lion King, and Finding Nemo.” In The Idea of Nature in Disney’s Animation. By David S. Whitley, 117–137. Aldershot, UK: Ashgate, 2008.

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    Disney’s Tarzan is a fantasy of being in perfect harmony with animal nature. Whitley judges the jungle details in Tarzan to be more reliable and accurate than those in The Jungle Book, and he describes how the animators accomplished this.

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Finding Nemo (2003)

Released on 30 May 2003, Finding Nemo won the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature. The three articles in this section extol the film: Brydon 2009 for its non-stereotypical depiction of gender, and Whitley 2008 and Bruckner 2010 for its respect for nature, though Bruckner does point out the inaccuracies that children ought to know about concerning marine biology.

  • Bruckner, Lynne Dickson. “Bambi and Finding Nemo: A Sense of Wonder in the Wonderful World of Disney?” In Framing the World: Explorations in Ecocriticism and Film. Edited by Paula Willoquet-Maricondi, 187–205. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2010.

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    In Finding Nemo, the coral reef is “Edenic,” without the reality of pollution and realistic predation (beyond human), or the true behavior of aquatic life. Bruckner points out the distortions but appreciates that the movie has initiated dialogue in schools and increased social awareness about marine life.

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  • Brydon, Suzan G. “Men at the Heart of Mothering: Finding Mother in Finding Nemo.” Journal of Gender Studies 18.2 (June 2009): 131–146.

    DOI: 10.1080/09589230902812448Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Defines “mothering” in this film and discusses the impact on viewers of portraying a positive mother image in a male character.

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  • Whitley, David S. “Tropical Discourse: Unstable Ecologies in Tarzan, The Lion King, and Finding Nemo.” In The Idea of Nature in Disney’s Animation. By David S. Whitley, 117–137. Aldershot, UK: Ashgate, 2008.

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    Fascinating explanation of the film from the perspective of marine biology. Whitley discusses how the film educates children about the ocean environment and to appreciate its beauty.

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Brother Bear (2003)

Released on 1 November 2003, Brother Bear was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Animated Feature, but it lost to Finding Nemo. Lally 2003 gives a light overview of the making of the film. Whitley 2008 values it for its advocacy of wild nature.

  • Lally, Kevin. “Bear’s Eye View: Disney Animates Musical Tale of Brotherhood.” Film Journal International 106.11 (2003): 10–12.

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    This article is not academically critical. Instead, it tells the genesis of the project, the cast, the animation techniques, and its themes. The message of this film, Lally states, is the importance of walking a mile in another person’s moccasins. It is a story about “loss and transformation” (p. 12).

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  • Whitley, David S. “Wilderness and Power: Conflicts and Contested Values from Pocahontas to Brother Bear.” In The Idea of Nature in Disney’s Animation. By David S. Whitley, 79–95. Aldershot, UK: Ashgate, 2008.

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    The ending of this film is similar to Pocahontas, with the protagonist choosing to remain with nature instead of a society that fails to hold empathy with animals. The plot invests a new fantasy for children that prioritizes nature, which Whitley esteems to be of important value in teaching children show respect for animals.

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The Incredibles (2004)

Released on 5 November 2004, The Incredibles won several Oscars and the Annie Award for Best Animated Feature, was nominated for a Golden Globe, and won several other awards. The works in this section address global politics in the film, with Giroux and Pollock 2010 examining the film in light of American imperialism, and Dunn 2006 addressing the film’s promotion of America as the world’s champion for right.

  • Dunn, David Hastings. “The Incredibles: An Ordinary Day Tale of a Superpower in the Post 9/11 World.” Millenium 34.2 (February 2006): 559–562.

    DOI: 10.1177/03058298060340021001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    The superheroes represent an America that must stop focusing on its domestic crises and come to the rescue of the world, which is being overrun by bad guys. Another fundamental theme, however, is “the need to be true to oneself and the dangerous consequences for both one’s own identity and the wider world of not being so” (p. 559).

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  • Giroux, Henry A., and Grace Pollock. The Mouse that Roared: Disney and the End of Innocence, 2001. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2010.

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    Although there are other books on this same subject, Giroux and Pollock uniquely draw attention to Disney’s efforts to target teens, as well as its production of The Incredibles and The Path to 9/11, a 2006 TV miniseries, which defend America’s imperialism and cloak sexist and racist nationalism.

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WALL-E (2008)

Released on 27 June 2008, WALL-E won the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature, and IT was nominated for three other Academy Awards. It also won a Golden Globe and several other awards. Booker 2010 favors the film for its ecological message. Booker 2010 and Murray and Heumann 2011 discuss the ecological lessons of the animation.

  • Booker, M. Keith. Disney, Pixar, and the Hidden Messages of Children’s Films. Santa Barbara, CA: Praeger, 2010.

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    Booker applauds Pixar’s WALL-E for what it teaches children about protecting the environment.

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  • Murray, Robin L., and Joseph K. Heumann. “Pixar and the Case of WALL-E: Moving between Environmental Adaptation and Sentimental Nostalgia.” In That’s All Folks? Ecocritical Readings of American Animated Features. By Robin L. Murray and Joseph K. Heumann, 201–228. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2011.

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    WALL-E begins as a human tragedy with a desolate earth, but the two comic humanoid robots teach us to value our biotic world and be more sensitive to ecology.

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The Princess and the Frog (2009)

Based on E. D. Baker’s children’s novel, The Frog Princess (2002), which was based on Grimms’ “The Frog Prince,” The Princess and the Frog opened on 11 December 2009. Set in New Orleans during the height of the Gilded Age, it was nominated for (but did not win) three Academy Awards, a Grammy, and a Golden Globe Award. It did win three Annie Awards and several other awards. The movie provoked much negative criticism for what was perceived as racism in the movie. Lester 2010 responds to the charges.

  • Lester, Neal A. “Disney’s The Princess and the Frog: The Pride, the Pressure, and the Politics of Being a First.” The Journal of American Culture 33.4 (December 2010). 294–308.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1542-734X.2010.00753.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Mentions the long line of black stereotypes in Disney films, and then discusses the negative critical reaction the film received for its portrayal of the first “African-American Princess,” Tiana, within the context of the Obama administration. Questions the validity of an interracial union during the 1920s in Louisiana, and of Disney’s construction of African American maleness (or the lack thereof).

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Live Action with Animation

Between 1941 and 2007, Disney produced six live-action films with scenes that included animation. The bibliographic entries in this category pertain only to the children’s films produced by Disney’s film studios.

Song of the South (1946)

Released on 12 November 1946 and based on the 1881 Uncle Remus stories by Joel Chandler Harris, Song of the South is a film full of music—in fact, there are only five minutes in the film without music. Although it won two Academy Awards, it also came under immediate attack for what was perceived as a glorified version of slavery. Miller and Rode 2008 looks at these and other problems within the film, as does Russo 1992, which also charts the history of the adaptation of the Uncle Remus tale. Sperb 2010 indicates that the social climate has changed and fans want the film made available on DVD.

  • Miller, Susan, and Greg Rode. “The Movie You See, the Movie You Don’t.” In From Mouse to Mermaid: The Politics of Film, Gender, and Culture. Edited by Elizabeth Bell, Lynda Haas, and Laura Sells, 86–103. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2008.

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    Identifies racial stereotypes in Song of the South. The African Americans are presented as happy subordinates who are happy because they get to serve the white folk, specifically a dysfunctional family. Also discusses distortions of the Uncle Remus stories. Volume first published in 1995.

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  • Russo, Peggy. “Uncle Walt’s Uncle Remus: Disney’s Distortion of Harris’s Hero.” Southern Literary Journal 24.1 (Fall 1992): 19–32.

    DOI: 10.2307/i20078050Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Overview of the reproduction of Uncle Remus in literature, with particular attention to the Disney script, including its diversion from the original, its critical reception, and its impact.

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  • Sperb, Jason. “Reassuring Convergence: Online Fandom, Race, and Disney’s Notorious Song of the South.” Cinema Journal 49.4 (2010): 25–45.

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    Despite the apparent racism in the movie, recent fans indicate that they want the movie to be released on DVD. Sperb speculates why.

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Mary Poppins (1964)

Released on 29 August 1964 as a combined animation, live-action musical film, starring Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke, Mary Poppins was based on a series of books by P. L. Travers (the first published in 1934), and it became one of Disney’s best-loved films around the world. To accommodate the crowds in Moscow, it had to be shown in the city’s Sports Palace. The film was nominated for thirteen Oscars, including for Best Picture, and it won five. Cuomo 2008 interprets the theme of the film as restoring gender constrictions in the Banks household, while Coats 2004 claims just the opposite. Szumsky 2003, meanwhile, looks at the film’s historical contexts from a Marxist point of view. Kenschaft 1999 and McLeer 2002 examines the anxieties of the 1960s in the film. Levin 2007 interprets the film as a statement of the positioning of the United States a world power.

  • Coats, Karen. “‘I Never Explain Anything’: Children’s Literature and Sexuation.” In Looking Glasses and Neverlands: Lacan, Desire, and Subjectivity in Children’s Literature. By Karen Coats, 97–120. Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 2004.

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    Provides psychoanalytical, Marxist, and structural theoretical perspectives of Mary Poppins, and a queer reading of Pippi Longstocking. Sees Mary Poppins as a woman who attempts to free children in her charge from traditional gender reification.

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  • Cuomo, Chris. “Spinsters in Sensible Shoes: Mary Poppins and Bedknobs and Broomsticks.” In From Mouse to Mermaid: The Politics of Film, Gender, and Culture. Edited by Elizabeth Bell, Lynda Haas, and Laura Sells, 212–223. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2008.

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    Sees the movie as saying that women must be put in their place for the sake of the survival of the heterosexual family. Even if Mary Poppins seems to be able to evade domestication, she teaches that Mrs. Banks must not. Once the family is reunited, with mother and father fulfilling their traditional gender roles, then all is well not only for the family but also for the empire of Britain. Volume first published in 1995.

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  • Kenschaft, Lori. “Just a Spoonful of Sugar? Anxieties of Gender and Class in Mary Poppins.” In Girls, Boys, Books, Toys: Gender in Children’s Literature and Culture. Edited by Beverly Lyon Clark, and Margaret R. Higonnet, 227–242. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1999.

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    Suggests that the film allays a range of anxieties that were peaking during the 1960s relating to gender, class, age, family, work, race, and nationhood, but also uniquely attempts to see Mary Poppins through the eyes of children with its efforts to defuse anxieties about being unloved and abandoned.

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  • Levin, Donald. “The Americanization of Mary: Contesting Cultural Narratives in Disney’s Mary Poppins.” In Fantasy Fiction into Film: Essays. Edited by Leslie Stratyner and James R. Keller, 115–123. Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2007.

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    Levin disagrees with a number of critics that Mary Poppins advocates for Edwardian values. Instead he sees its conclusion as a displacement of American ideologies after the fall of the British empire.

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  • McLeer, Anne. “Practical Perfection? The Nanny Negotiates Gender, Class, and Family Contradictions in 1960s Popular Culture.” NWSA Journal 14.2 (2002): 80–101.

    DOI: 10.2979/NWS.2002.14.2.80Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Historicizes the social and political anxieties of the 1960s apparent in Mary Poppins. These include masculine identity, motherhood, domesticity, and family dysfunction. By restoring patriarchal control to the father, a family once in crisis because of the women’s movement is once again intact.

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  • Szumsky, Brian E. “‘All That Is Solid Melts into the Air’: ‘The Winds of Change’ and Other Analogues of Colonialism in Disney’s Mary Poppins.” In The Emperor’s Old Groove: Decolonizing Disney’s Magic Kingdom. Edited by Brenda Ayres, 93–104. New York: Peter Lang, 2003.

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    The dysfunctional Banks family is an analogue for England. By the end of the movie, the family is reunited; however, Szumsky questions whether the film resolves the tensions any more than the political issues then facing England were resolved (or those facing England during Travers’s writing of Mary Poppins in the 1930s, or those facing America in the 1960s when Disney’s film was made.

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Enchanted (2007)

A fantasy-musical film, Enchanted premiered at the London Film Festival on 20 October 2007, before its release in America on 21 November. It garnered three Academy Award nominations, two Golden Globe Award nominations, and the 2007 Saturn Award for Best Fantasy Motion Picture. Pershing and Gablehouse 2010 analyzes the film’s tired replications of gender, class, and race.

  • Pershing, Linda, with Lisa Gablehouse. “Disney’s Enchanted: Patriarchal Backlash and Nostalgia in a Fairy Tale Film.” In Fairy Tale Films: Visions of Ambiguity. Edited by Pauline Greenhill and Sidney Eve Matrix, 137–156. Logan: University of Utah Press, 2010.

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    Enchanted was billed as a parody of Disney’s former damsels-needing-rescue films like Snow White, Cinderella, and Sleeping Beauty, but Pershing and Gablehouse argue that the film reinforces the same patriarchal ideologies that predominated in those films, stating that it “offers a worldview built on patriarchal, capitalistic, heterosexist, and racist assumptions” (p. 138).

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Live Action without Animation

Disney produced his first full live-action film, Treasure Island, in 1950. When The Shaggy Dog appeared in 1959, no one could predict that it would be such a box office hit, grossing $8 million in its initial release. It was followed by a series of medium-budget films, such as The Absent-Minded Professor (1961), Moon Pilot (1962), Bon Voyage! (1962), Son of Flubber (1963), The Misadventures of Merlin Jones (1964), That Darn Cat! (1965), and The Monkey’s Uncle (1965), but that was just the beginning. In addition, Disney (and its subsidiary Touchstone Pictures) has produced at least twenty-four films that fall into the genre of science fiction, beginning with 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1954). However, elements of science fiction, in the form of futuristic technology, are apparent in many of Disney’s moves, such as the shrinking machine in Babes in Toyland (1961) and in Tomorrowland. Listed here are critical articles that pertain to childhood studies. Bonzel 2011 studies the purpose of American athleticism in Remember the Titans (2000) and Miracle (2004). Lynda Haas 2008 searches for positive portrayals of motherhood. Robert Haas 2008 explores the gangster genre. Ma 2000 criticizes Western imperialism in Swiss Family Robinson (1960). Geer 2007 defends Disney’s adaptations from a business angle. Attebery 2008 looks at masculinities in several science fiction films.

  • Attebery, Brian. “Beyond Captain Nemo: Disney’s Science Fiction.” In From Mouse to Mermaid: The Politics of Film, Gender, and Culture. Edited by Elizabeth Bell, Lynda Haas, and Laura Sells, 148–160. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2008.

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    Disney’s science fiction falls into two camps: the miraculous machines that get a hero into trouble, such as The Misadventures of Merlin Jones (1964), Son of Flubber (1963), and others. The second paradigm is that an alien comes to the rescue, as in Moon Pilot (1962), The Cat from Outer Space (1978), and Flight of the Navigator (1986). Volume first published in 1995.

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  • Bonzel, Katharina. “Reviving the American Dream: The World of Sports.” In Learning from Mickey, Donald and Walt: Essays on Disney’s Edutainment Films. Edited by A. Bowdoin Van Riper, 201–208. Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2011.

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    Discusses films about American success stories about athletes who struggled against odds to come out on top, like Remember the Titans (2000) and Miracle (2004).

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  • Geer, Jennifer. “J.M. Barrie Gets the Miramax Treatment: Finding (and Marketing) Neverland.” Children’s Literature Association Quarterly 32.3 (Fall 2007): 193–212.

    DOI: 10.1353/chq.2007.0039Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Justifies Disney’s alteration of Barrie’s story in Finding Neverland (2004) in order to appeal to children as wish fulfillment. Geer suggests that scholars factor in business and marketing strategies that often direct Disney’s adaptations.

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  • Haas, Lynda. “‘Eighty-Six the Mother’: Murder, Matricide, and Good Mothers.” In From Mouse to Mermaid: The Politics of Film, Gender, and Culture. Edited by Elizabeth Bell, Lynda Haas, and Laura Sells, 193–211. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2008.

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    The politics of motherhood in Disney’s films are explored in three Touchstone films: The Good Mother (1988), Stella (1990), and The Joy Luck Club (1993). Whereas the first two portray mothers negatively, continuing the legacy of Disney to malign especially independent women, The Joy Luck Club offers an alternative model of bonding between daughter and mother. Volume first published in 1995.

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  • Haas, Robert. “Disney Does Dutch: Billy Bathgate and the Disneyfication of the Gangster Genre.” In From Mouse to Mermaid: The Politics of Film, Gender, and Culture. Edited by Elizabeth Bell, Lynda Haas, and Laura Sells, 72–85. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2008.

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    Examines the 1991 Touchstone film that revises E.L. Doctorow’s 1989 novel about a fifteen-year-old boy who becomes the surrogate son to the gangster Dutch Schulz. Haas provides a brief history of the gangster movie genre and then discounts Billy Bathgate (1992) as having a place in it. The Disney version erases the darkness of crime, violence, and sexuality. Volume first published in 1995.

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  • Ma, Sheng-mei. “Walt Disney’s Swiss Family Robinson: Imperialist Ideology in Family Entertainment.” In The Deathly Embrace: Orientalism and Asian American Identity. By Sheng-mei Ma, 38–50. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2000.

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    Asians are depicted as malicious, barbaric, and animalistic, but they are the natives, and the Swiss are the interlopers. Also stereotypical are the rites of passage of Bertie’s maturation into womanhood, and Fritz’s and Ernst’s becoming men, only Ma interprets the sexual contest of dominating the female as a parallel to the imperialistic Swiss dominating the Asians.

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Documentaries

Best known today are Disney’s nature films. First titled “True-Life Adventures,” a series of documentaries on nature were aired between 1948 and 1960, winning a number of Oscars. These documentaries are divided into three areas: Nature, War, and Health.

Nature

Disney’s nature documentaries have only increased in quality, and they continue to be produced through Disneynature, an independent film label of the Walt Disney Company formed in 2008. Berkowitz 2010 provides a history of these films, and Von Mueller 2011a and Von Mueller 2011b explore them. Tobias 2011 examines films without narrators.

  • Berkowitz, Edward D. “Putting It Together: Walt Disney Introduces the Baby Boom to Television.” In Mass Appeal: The Formative Age of the Movies, Radio, and TV. By Edward D. Berkowitz, 131–152. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2010.

    DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511781735.009Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Discusses the nature documentaries.

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  • Tobias, Ronald. “Sex, Love, and Death: True-Life Fantasies.” In Learning from Mickey, Donald and Walt: Essays on Disney’s Edutainment Films. Edited by A. Bowdoin Van Riper, 164–172. Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2011.

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    Describes the dramatization of animal life stories without people in Disney films with a narrator.

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  • von Mueller, Eddy. “It Is a Small World After All: Earth and the Disneyfication of Planet Earth.” In Learning from Mickey, Donald and Walt: Essays on Disney’s Edutainment Films. Edited by A. Bowdoin Van Riper, 173–182. Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2011a.

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    Details the technological transformation of nature documentaries into cinematic spectacle.

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  • von Mueller, Eddy. “Nature Is the Dramatist: Documentary, Entertainment, and the World According to the True-Life Adventures.” In Learning from Mickey, Donald and Walt: Essays on Disney’s Edutainment Films. Edited by A. Bowdoin Van Riper, 145–163. Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2011b.

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    Positive appreciation for Disney’s nature documentaries.

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War

Walt Disney believed that film should not only entertain, it should also educate, and he produced a number of films that were ostensibly educational. He was asked by the government to produce several instructional films to be used by the military during World War II, as well as propaganda films directed to civilians. The first section of Van Riper’s Learning from Mickey, Donald, and Walt (Van Riper 2011, cited under Collections), titled “War and Propaganda” features several articles on this topic, including Cunningham 2011, Leskosky 2011, Roe 2011, and Thomas 2011. Miller 2011, also from Van Riper’s collection, addresses some of the post–World War II propaganda devices in Disney’s documentaries.

  • Cunningham, Douglas A. “Desiring the Disney Technique: Chronicle of a Contracted Military Training Film.” In Learning from Mickey, Donald and Walt: Essays on Disney’s Edutainment Films. Edited by A. Bowdoin Van Riper, 27–39. Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2011.

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    Pedagogical exploration of Disney’s films that effectively taught military strategies and weaponry.

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  • Leskosky, Richard J. “Cartoons Will Win the War: World War II Propaganda Shorts.” In Learning from Mickey, Donald and Walt: Essays on Disney’s Edutainment Films. Edited by A. Bowdoin Van Riper, 40–62. Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2011.

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    Historical survey of Disney’s propaganda films commissioned by the government in the 1940s. Leskosky analyzes not only their political and psychological intentions, but also their technical innovations.

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  • Miller, Cynthia J. “Locating the Magic Kingdom: Spectacle and Similarity in People and Places.” In Learning from Mickey, Donald and Walt: Essays on Disney’s Edutainment Films. Edited by A. Bowdoin Van Riper, 221–236. Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2011.

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    The Circarama films, presenting 360-degree images of America, were first created for the world fairs during the Cold War as pro-American propaganda, and then they were added to the theme parks.

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  • Roe, Bella Honess. “The Canadian Shorts : Establishing Disney’s Wartime Style.” In Learning from Mickey, Donald and Walt: Essays on Disney’s Edutainment Films. Edited by A. Bowdoin Van Riper, 15–26. Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2011.

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    Explores the wartime training films made by Disney for the US Army Air Forces.

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  • Thomas, John D. “Cartoon Combat: World War II, Alexander de Seversky, and Victory Through Air Power.” In Learning from Mickey, Donald and Walt: Essays on Disney’s Edutainment Films. Edited by A. Bowdoin Van Riper, 63–83. Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2011.

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    Disney’s Victory Through Air Power (1943) was “possibly the most influential, wartime production released by the studio” (p. 64) convincing America that it needed to form an autonomous air force. The film proposed that the war could be quickly won by long-range bombing of industrial and military sites in Tokyo and Japanese-held territories.

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Health

Disney produced films to be shown in Latin American countries, as well as some on hygiene and sex education for American public schools, as discussed in several articles in Section 2 of Van Riper’s Learning from Mickey, Donald, and Walt (Van Riper 2011, cited under Collections), titled “Science, Technology, Mathematics and Medicine.” Although there are several articles on this subject in that collection, only Norden 2011 was selected for this bibliography. Some documentaries on hygiene with political innuendos were made for Latin America, a subject explored in Cartwright and Goldfarb 1994.

  • Cartwright, Lisa, and Brian Goldfarb. “Cultural Contagion: On Disney’s Health Education Films for Latin America.” In Disney Discourse: Producing the Magic Kingdom. Edited by Eric Smoodin, 169–180. New York: Routledge, 1994.

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    In the 1940s, Disney produced fifteen health films directed specifically to South and Central American countries, in order to teach them hygiene and prevent the spread of contagious disease. However, since some of the films were shown in North America, the subtext was that Latin Americans were vectors of contagion threatening to cross the border.

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  • Norden, Martin F. “‘A Journey Through the Wonderland of Mathematics’: Donald in Mathmagic Land.” In Learning from Mickey, Donald and Walt: Essays on Disney’s Edutainment Films. Edited by A. Bowdoin Van Riper, 113–126. Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2011.

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    Disney created films for K-12 schools that dealt with some sensitive matters in a socially acceptable manner, such as the one discussed here, Donald in Mathmagic Land (1959), and others, such as The Story of Menstruation (1946) and VD Attack Plan (1973).

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Television

In the 1950s, Disney embraced television and launched the innovative True-Life Adventure stories, followed by Davy Crockett, the Mickey Mouse Club, and Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color. King 1985 discusses the Davy Crockett episodes. Cotter 1997 is an excellent reference source, with its catalogue of Disney shows on television. Griffin 1999 suggests that Disney’s venture into television was prompted by its opportunity to promote his theme park, but Berkowitz 2010 describes a more complex history. Barr 2000 discusses the version of Cinderella made for television. King 1985 and Telotte 2004 investigate the cultural impact of these shows, and Van Riper 2011 identifies some of Disney’s conflicted issues about progress. Masters 2000 gives a good overview of Disney’s involvement with television.

  • Barr, Marleen S. “Biology Is Not Destiny, Biology Is Fantasy: Cinderella, or to Dream Disney’s ‘Impossible’/Possible Race Relations Dream.” In Fantasy Girls: Gender in the New Universe of Science Fiction and Fantasy. Edited by Elyce Rae Helford, 187–200. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2000.

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    Argues that the 1997 Cinderella produced by Walt Disney Television is “assimilationist”; race is as colorless as Cinderella’s glass slipper. In this version a black Cinderella marries a Filipino prince. The interracial marriage was acceptable in America because the movie obviously depicted fantasy instead of reality, erasing all reproductive biological issues and traits. Further, this Cinderella is “devoid of Otherness” (p. 187).

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  • Berkowitz, Edward D. “Putting It Together: Walt Disney Introduces the Baby Boom to Television.” In Mass Appeal: The Formative Age of the Movies, Radio, and TV. By Edward D. Berkowitz, 131–152. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2010.

    DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511781735.009Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Brief overview of Disney’s life, explaining how he became involved with television. One of the few books on Disney that discusses Disney’s television enterprises, such as nature documentaries, True-Life Adventures, Davy Crockett, the Mickey Mouse Club, and other ventures.

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  • Cotter, Bill. The Wonderful World of Disney Television: A Complete History. New York: Hyperion Press (Disney), 1997.

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    Comprehensive listing and description of all of Disney’s television programs, along with schedules, episode-by-episode synopses and behind-the-scene stories. It covers twenty-nine years of Disney’s involvement with television.

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  • Griffin, Sean. “Kings of the Wild Backyard: Davy Crockett and Children’s Space.” In Kid’s Media Culture. Edited by Marsha Kinder, 102–121. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1999.

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    Griffin is interested in the conflicting messages of the popular Davy Crockett episodes: Davy was the feisty, fun-loving “King of the Wild Frontier,” at a time when suburbia kids were supposed to be taught a strong work ethic and be tamed and confined. Although geared toward boys, girls, who were being taught to be domestic and feminine, were donning coonskin hats.

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  • King, Margaret J. “The Recycled Hero: Walt Disney’s Davy Crockett.” In Davy Crockett: The Man, the Legend, the Legacy, 1786–1986. Edited by Michael A. Lofaro, 137–158. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1985.

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    Seventy-six million children were born in America between 1946 and 1964, many of whom had television for a babysitter and were fed on the “Davy Crockett Craze” begun by Disney.

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  • Masters, Kim. The Keys to the Kingdom: How Michael Eisner Lost His Grip. New York: William Morrow, 2000.

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    Among other topics, Masters recounts the history of Disney’s involvement with television, how the company came up with different programs, its operations, its successes, and its failures.

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  • Telotte, J. P. Disney TV. Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 2004.

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    Comprehensive overview of Disney Television history, addressing cultural contexts, economics, themes, and impact.

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  • Van Riper, A. Bowdon. “A Nation on Wheels: Films about Cars and Driving, 1948–1970.” In Learning from Mickey, Donald and Walt: Essays on Disney’s Edutainment Films. Edited by A. Bowdoin Van Riper, 103–112. Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2011.

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    Disney was conflicted about the automobile, as his films demonstrate. On one hand, he saw it progress, and on the other hand, as a threat to small-town life and its values.

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The Walt Disney Company

Walt and his brother Roy founded the Disney Brothers Cartoon Studio in 1932. To date, the Walt Disney Company consists of four divisions: The Walt Disney Studios, Parks and Resorts, Disney Consumer Products, and Media Networks. Touchstone Pictures was formed to produce adult movies, with its first release, Splash, in 1984. There are many books and articles on the company, but presented here are only those that relate directly to childhood studies. Budd and Kirsch 2005 is a collection of essays that address a multitude of issues about the Disney business. Capodagli and Jackson 2007 discuss best business practices. Also addressing business methods are Gomery 1994 and Schweizer and Schweizer 1998, with the latter accusing Disney of some unethical and illegal practices. Histories of the company can be found in Taylor 1987, Lewis 1994, and Peri 2008. Masters 2000 studies the fluctuating economic history of the films and parks.

  • Budd, Mike, and Max H. Kirsch, eds. Rethinking Disney: Private Control, Public Dimensions. Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 2005.

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    Eleven interdisciplinary essays that examine internal conflicts of the Disney Company, as well as conflicts in its physical multinational spread.

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  • Capodagli, Bill, and Lynn Jackson. The Disney Way: Harnessing the Management Secrets of Disney in Your Company. Rev ed. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2007.

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    When this book was first published in 1999, it was named a Best Business Book of the Year by Fortune magazine. With the credo of “dream, believe, dare, do,” the authors identified ten concepts they formulated from Disney’s methodology of conducting business, and each concept forms a chapter.

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  • Gomery, Douglas. “Disney’s Business History: A Reinterpretation.” In Disney Discourse: Producing the Magic Kingdom. Edited by Eric Smoodin, 71–86. New York: Routledge, 1994.

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    Examines the conflicts between Disney’s public image over eight decades, and its stock market portfolio. Argues that neither Disney nor Eisner were business geniuses, and that to understand the economic success of the company is to understand the changing economics of America.

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  • Lewis, Jon. “Disney after Disney: Family Business and the Business of Family.” In Disney Discourse: Producing the Magic Kingdom. Edited by Eric Smoodin, 87–105. New York: Routledge, 1994.

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    Lewis addresses troubling policies at the company after Disney’s death that did not value the family. He focuses on the hard-nose business practices of the 1980s, when the company was in financial crisis.

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  • Masters, Kim. The Keys to the Kingdom: How Michael Eisner Lost His Grip. New York: William Morrow, 2000.

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    A history of the slumps and great successes of the Walt Disney Company. Studies films primarily since the 1980s, and also considers the television and amusement park ventures.

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  • Peri, Don. Working with Walt: Interviews with Disney Artists. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2008.

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    Contains fifteen interviews conducted in the 1970s with animators, voice actors, and designers whose careers were at Disney Studios, especially during the Golden Age of Animation from the late 1920s through the early 1940s. Reveals much about working for the man, but also deals with working on creating the actual animation.

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  • Schweizer, Peter, and Rochelle Schweizer. Disney: The Mouse Betrayed; Greed Corruption, and Children at Risk. Washington, DC: Regnery, 1998.

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    Ever since Michael Eisner took the helm of the Walt Disney Company, according to the Schweizers, the company has been fueled by greed and has abdicated its responsibility of providing morally, uplifting films and music for the young. They also accuse the company of unethical and illegal activities.

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  • Taylor, John. Storming the Magic Kingdom: Wall Street, the Raiders and the Battle for Disney. New York: Knopf, 1987.

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    In January 1984, the stock of Walt Disney Productions plummeted, and what ensued was a frantic jostling of power among the “insiders”: Disney family, corporate executives, bankers, lawyers, speculators, and investors. A possible takeover was aborted, and two years later the stock for the newly formed Walt Disney Company rose to the highest level in Disney’s history.

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Merchandise

Although not a Disney creation, Felix the Cat made his debut on the silent screen in 1923, and his image began a merchandizing bonanza that led the way for Disney. Mickey Mouse followed on the screen in 1928, and then appeared as comic strip character in newspapers and comic books. The Mickey Mouse Club aired as a television series between 1955 and 1996. In the 1930s, Kay Kamen was put in charge of Disney merchandizing, and the rest is history. From t-shirts and watches to board games and video games, and to anything imaginable, really, Disney consumer products gross over three billion dollars a year (as of 2011). Dorfman and Mattelart 1984 is a must-read article on the imperialistic intentions and effects of Disney’s merchandising. Edgerton and Jackson 1996 discusses the commodities created to promote Pocahontas. Disney products greatly influence children’s behavior and identity, or so Linn 2009 argues.

  • Dorfman, Ariel, and Armand Mattelart. How to Read Donald Duck: Imperialist Ideology in the Disney Comic. Translation and Introduction by David Kunzle. New York: International General, 1984.

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    The Disney machine promotes imperial ideology through its comic books throughout the world, according to the authors. It demeans people of underdeveloped countries as if they were children that need to be parented by the United States, and it packages bourgeois American culture as normative, under the guise that the United States really cares about other people and is a benign liberator.

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  • Edgerton, Gary, and Kathy Merlock Jackson. “Redesigning Pocahontas: Disney, the ‘White Man’s Indian,’ and the Marketing of Dreams.” Journal of Popular Film & Television 24.2 (Summer 1996): 90–99.

    DOI: 10.1080/01956051.1996.9943718Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Discusses the commodities that were created from the Pocahontas film, such as a line of moccasins sold through Payless Shoes, and a Barbie-like Pocahontas doll sold through Mattel.

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  • Linn, Susan. “A Royal Juggernaut: The Disney Princesses and Other Commericalized Threats to Creative Play and the Path to Self-Realization for Young Girls.” In The Sexualization of Childhood. Edited by Sharna Olfman, 33–50. Westport, CT: Praeger, 2009.

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    Recounts that Disney Princess retail sales in 2006 were $3.4 billion, which included over 40,000 different items. Disney is one of three multinational corporations that have commercially monopolized children’s culture.

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Theme Parks

As Walt’s sister Ruth used to tell it, when they were both kids, they were fascinated with an amusement park called Fairmont Park in Kansas City, but they could not afford a ticket. In the 1940s, Walt had several ideas of recreating American history through mechanical characters, and eventually he envisioned an amusement park that would replicate his ideal American town. The gala opening of Disneyland in Anaheim, California, on 17 July 1955 was a landmark in global events: it pronounced to the world that postwar America would take the leadership in technology, the cultural dissemination of “American values,” permissible fantasy and affordable leisure in prosperous peacetime, and the predominance of television and cinema as effective mythmakers. Walt Disney World Resort opened in Orlando in 1971, and as of 2011 it averages about 17 million visitors each year. Tokyo Disney Resort opened in 1983; Disneyland Paris in 1992, Hong Kong Disneyland Resort in 2005, and Shanghai Disney Resort is scheduled to open in 2016. There are so many articles on Disney’s theme parks that they are broken down here into four categories: Attractions, Employment, History, and Ideology. Besides the titles cited in this article, there are hundreds of books on the theme parks, most of them of the coffee table variety, or those that appeal primarily to tourists.

Attractions

These articles recount the history, explore the technology, or account for the success of the attractions at the theme parks. Veness 2009 and Yee 2010 offer a lot of information about the attractions. Rahn 2000 tells the history of the Snow White ride; Brode 2005, “It’s a Small World”; Neuman 2008, Main Street; Miller 2011, the Circarama films; and Fernandez 2008 focuses on the life-action figures in Epcot Center.

  • Brode, Douglas. Multiculturalism and the Mouse: Race and Sex in Disney Entertainment. Austin: University of Texas Press, 2005.

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    Decades before cultural diversity became mainstream ideology, Disney created a very popular ride that would be replicated in all of his theme parks. “It’s a Small World” first opened at the 1964-1965 New York World’s Fair. The theme of the fair was “Peace Through Understanding,” and Disney’s animated dolls, in honor of UNICEF, represented children from around the world.

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  • Fernandez, Ramona. “Pachuco Mickey.” In From Mouse to Mermaid: The Politics of Film, Gender, and Culture. Edited by Elizabeth Bell, Lynda Haas, and Laura Sells, 236–253. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2008.

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    EPCOT Center enfolds us into the cinematic experience in which we become the live-action figures in Disney’s films. Fernandez finds it interesting, however, that Michael Jackson’s 3D film, Captain E/O, is a part of that experience, where Jackson is a Mickey trickster in a portrayal that conflates both race and gender. Volume first published in 1995.

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  • Miller, Cynthia J. “Locating the Magic Kingdom: Spectacle and Similarity in People and Places.” In Learning from Mickey, Donald and Walt: Essays on Disney’s Edutainment Films. Edited by A. Bowdoin Van Riper, 221–236. Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2011.

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    The Circarama films, featuring 360-degree images of America, were first created for the world fairs during the Cold War as pro-American propaganda, and then they were added to the theme parks.

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  • Neuman, Robert. “Disneyland’s Main Street, USA, and Its Sources in Hollywood, USA.” Journal of American Culture 31.1 (March 2008): 83–97.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1542-734X.2008.00665.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Well-documented and insightful history of the design of Main Street. Neuman identifies sets from Hollywood movies that inspired the construction, as well as the impulses that finally resulted in what was to represent Main Street, USA.

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  • Rahn, Suzanne. “Snow White’s Dark Ride: Narrative Strategies at Disneyland.” Bookbird 38.1 (2000): 19–24.

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    Evaluation of the Snow White ride at Disneyland: how it retells and reinterprets the story through technological animation, with the theme of making wrong choices that results in appropriate consequences.

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  • Veness, Susan. The Hidden Magic of Walt Disney World: Over 600 Secrets of the Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and Animal Kingdom. Avon, MA: Adams Media, 2009.

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    Tells the stories behind the creation of the attractions, and points out the significance of things at the parks that are not so obvious.

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  • Yee, Kevin. Walt Disney World Hidden History: Remnants of Former Attractions and Other Tributes. Orlando, FL: Ultimate Orlando Press, 2010.

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    Fascinating anecdotes and details about attractions at Walt Disney World, with pictures on every page. This is not a scholarly work.

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Employment

According to a number of websites, Disney World alone employs over 60,000 people. Kuenz, et al. 1995 and Stephenson 1998 recount employment experiences and details at the parks.

  • Kuenz, Jane, Susan Willis, and Shelton Waldrep, and Karen Klugman. Inside the Mouse: Work and Play at Disney World. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1995.

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    Behind-the-scenes employment at the amusement part reveals that it is not a fun place to work. The book also analyzes the cult of leisure and consumer practices, theorizing why Disney’s amusements parks are the supposedly ideal family vacation.

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  • Stephenson, Tracy. “My Silence Speaks Volumes: Mickey Mouse and the Ideology of an Icon.” Theatre Annual 51 (Fall 1998): 54–70.

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    A revealing and dark account of what it is like to work at a Disney theme park.

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History

Fjellman 1992 relates the history of Disney’s theme parks. Yoshimoto 1994 tells about the making and success of Tokyo Disneyland. Silberman 1994 discusses the loss of Disney’s America, a theme park about the Civil War that was to be built in Virginia. Emerson 2010 is not academic either, but it gives a detailed historical account of the development of Walt Disney World Resort. Sorkin 1992 provides the historical and cultural contexts for the creation of the parks, and Kurtii 2008 similarly discusses the creation of Disneyland, The Imagineers 2010 (written by Disney developers that combine imagination with engineering) highlight successful business practices.

  • Emerson, Chad Denver. Project Future: The Inside Story Behind the Creation of Disney World. Charleston, SC: Ayefour Publishing, 2010.

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    Project Future was the code name given to Disney’s project to create a theme park in Florida. Although not academic and with little documentation, Emerson details the business events that resulted in Walt Disney World Resort.

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  • Fjellman, Stephen M. Vinyl Leaves: Walt Disney World and America. Boulder, CO: Westview, 1992.

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    History of the creation of Disney’s theme parks and their promotion of American ideals. By 1988 Disney World had become the most visited tourist site in the world. The five theme parks ensure that Disney’s films become known and loved from generation to generation.

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  • The Imagineers. Imagineering: A Behind the Dreams Look at Making the Magic Real. Introduction by Marty Sklar. New York: Hyperion, 2010.

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    Not academic, but more than a coffee table book, it tells the theories and methods of Disney’s Imagineers in designing Disney’s theme parks. The visuals are stunning, and the narrative gives some very practical ideas for creating theme entertainment and perhaps for running any business.

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  • Kurtii, Jeff. Walt Disney’s Imagineering Legends and the Genesis of the Disney Theme Park. New York: Disney, 2008.

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    More or less a coffee table version of the originators of Disneyland. With the focus on the individuals who created Disneyland, instead of on only Disney, this book does offer some information not published elsewhere.

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  • Silberman, Neil Asher. “The Battle Disney Should Have Won.” Lingua Franca 5.1 (November/December 1994): 24–28.

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    The Walt Disney Company planned to build a history theme park called Disney’s America, in Haymarket, Virginia, in the early 1990s, but because of outspoken citizen’s groups who opposed it, the project was aborted in 1994. Silberman covers that battle and points out what was lost as a result.

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  • Sorkin, Michael. “See You in Disneyland.” In Variations on a Theme Park: The New American City and the End of Public Space. Edited by Michael Sorkin, 205–232. New York: Hill and Wang, 1992.

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    EPCOT so convincingly simulates other countries that most visitors believe themselves to be world travelers. Sorkin explores how make believe in the parks has become a satisfactory authentic experience for most visitors. He also provides a cultural and historical context for the evolution of theme parks.

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  • Yoshimoto, Mitsuhiro. “Images of Empire: Tokyo Disneyland and Japanese Cultural Imperialism.” In Disney Discourse: Producing the Magic Kingdom. Edited by Eric Smoodin, 181–202. New York: Routledge, 1994.

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    Theorizes why a Disney theme park, with its propensity for cleanliness and order, was so well received in Tokyo, and argues that the park perpetuates Japanese colonialist fantasies instead of American ones. However, Yoshimoto is concerned that the theme park has also opened the door for an influx of foreign workers who are changing what had been previously a homogenous culture.

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Ideology

These articles also offer history and focus on specific attractions, but they also highlight the ideologies that the parks market. Pinsky 2004 dwells on what the author perceives as positive moral lessons in the parks, and Mazur and Koda 2010 takes the same view, but also suggest that the parks are some sort of religious surrogate. As with his films, Disney has had his theme park detractors, too. Fjellman 1992 (cited under History), Schaffer 1996, and Miller 2011 (cited under Attractions) rail against colonizing efforts of the Disney machine to promote “American ideals.” Fernandez 2008 (cited under Attractions) has similar cultural concerns but attacks the stereotypes of race and gender perpetuated in the parks. Wilson 1994 directs the reader’s attention to the deceptive implications in the parks’ exaltation of technology

  • Mazur, Eric Michael, and Tara K. Koda. “The Happiest Place on Earth: Disney’s America and the Commodificaiton of Religion.” In God in the Details: American Religion in Popular Culture. 2d ed. Edited by Eric Michael Mazur and Kate McCarthy, 307–321. New York: Routledge, 2010.

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    Theorizes that Disney products, including films and theme parks, satisfy the religious needs of many who are searching for alternatives to traditional religion.

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  • Pinsky, Mark I. The Gospel According to Disney: Faith, Trust, and Pixie Dust. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox, 2004.

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    Finds evidence throughout the theme parks of “Disney’s gospel,” a belief that good will triumph over evil and that one should believe in oneself and never give up, that one should turn to friends for help, and that one must trust in supernatural intervention.

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  • Schaffer, Scott. “Disney and the Imagineering of Histories.” Postmodern Culture 6.3 (May 1996): 1–18.

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    Examines the Americanization of cultural others that are in turn placed in ahistorical, ageographical theme parks.

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  • Wilson, Alexander. “The Betrayal of the Future: Walt Disney’s EPCOT Center.” In Disney Discourse: Producing the Magic Kingdom. Edited by Eric Smoodin, 118–130. New York: Routledge, 1994.

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    Disney’s rewrite of history in EPCOT in Florida is not just American propaganda, Wilson argues, it is business and an eradication of history, projecting a future of technology that is to save us, with total disregard for the destructive consequences that we have already experienced from technology.

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Technology

Disney has always been a leader in technology in the entertainment business. Although there are not many titles listed in this section, there are hundreds of them available through Amazon, most of them of the coffee table variety. John Canemaker has published a number of works in this area, but Canemaker 1988 in particular is noted for its substance and analysis. Telotte 2008 also covers a wide range of information on Disney technology, including the parks. Maltin 1987 has a lengthy chapter on Disney’s technological innovations. Finch 2011 is interesting for its information about the animation that was never aired. Merritt and Kaufman 2000 is restricted to Disney’s films before sound, and Neupert 1994 recounts the breakthrough of using Technicolor. Wells 2002 analyzes the nature of animation to bring about cultural change. The most thorough history of Disney’s animation is provided by Pallant 2011.

  • Canemaker, John, ed. Storytelling in Animation. Los Angeles: American Film Institute, 1988.

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    Interviews with animators, or stories about them, many of whom have worked on Disney projects. Gives a variety of observations of techniques and the decisions made in creating characters and molding and changing stories.

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  • Finch, Christopher. The Art of Walt Disney: From Mickey Mouse to the Magic Kingdoms and Beyond. New York: Abrams, 2011.

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    Originally published in 1973, this book gives the history and evolution of the animation processes in Disney’s studios. Also reveals several Disney-animated features that were never released. One chapter covers the deliberate production of propaganda in Disney’s films during World War II.

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  • Maltin, Leonard. “Walt Disney.” In Of Mice and Magic: A History of American Animated Cartoons. By Leonard Maltin, 29–83. New York: Plume, 1987.

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    History of the technology behind the animation, with interesting anecdotes about the process of producing the films, gathered from interviews of principal cartoonists. At the back of the book is a list of all movies by Disney, as well as lists of Oscar nominations and awards.

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  • Merritt, Russell, and J. B. Kaufman. Walt in Wonderland: The Silent Films of Walt Disney. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2000.

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    Well-researched critical history of the evolution of Disney’s cartoons before sound, which prepared the way for later animation processes. Also identifies Disney’s ethnic values in the films.

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  • Neupert, Richard. “Painting a Plausible World: Disney’s Color Prototypes.” In Disney Discourse: Producing the Magic Kingdom. Edited by Eric Smoodin, 106–117. New York: Routledge, 1994.

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    When other studios were leery of the exorbitant cost of producing in Technicolor, Disney was the first to apply the three-color process and prove its viability. Neupert describes the process and effects.

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  • Pallant, Chris. Demystifying Disney: A History of Disney Feature Animation. New York: Continuum, 2011.

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    Comprehensive history of Disney’s development of animation technology and practice. Pallant also introduces the concept of “Disney-Formalism” with an innovative framework to reconsider feature animation.

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  • Telotte, J. P. The Mouse Machine: Disney and Technology. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2008.

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    History of the technological breakthroughs, not only with animation, but with sound, wide-screen cinema, Technicolor, and digital special effects. Telotte discusses technology not only in film but also in the theme parks.

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  • Wells, Paul. Animation and America. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2002.

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    Analyzes Disney’s animation as a reflection of and instigation of social and political change. Also chronicles the history of animation as an art form, and observes that society has rarely taken cartoons seriously. Wells explains how the very nature of animation sends social messages to child audiences that must be taken seriously.

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Marketing

With film, television, Broadway musicals, theme parks, merchandise, planned communities, resort hotels, and other enterprises, it is no wonder that the Walt Disney Company is a leader in the marketing industry, especially with its aggressive in-house cross-promotion. Walt Disney developed this idea of synergy in the 1950s when he envisioned how a theme park could promote his films, and vice versa. The Disney trademark is now the most recognized and respected in the world. As a result, a plethora of articles have been written that analyze Disney’s marketing techniques. Insofar as Disney marketing also equates to a method of colonizing, there is an overlap of articles in both categories, as well as in The Walt Disney Company itself. The articles that highlight marketing over any other concept are highlighted here. Budd and Kirsch 2005 is a collection of articles that express a number of ideological concerns, but every one of them touches on marketing techniques that succeeded in diffusing Disney’s ideologies. Forgacs 1992 identifies the marketing strategies that have made the theme parks so lucrative. DeCordova 1994 centers on Disney’s turning children into Disney consumers. Edgerton and Jackson 1996 gives an example of what Disney does to promote a film when it is up against heavy competition—even with itself.

  • Budd, Mike, and Max H. Kirsch, eds. Rethinking Disney: Private Control, Public Dimensions. Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 2005.

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    All eleven essays in this collection address the marketing of Disney. How important is marketing to Disney’s success? When Disney released Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day (1968), his marketing campaign with product tie-ins earned an estimated $4 billion. Pooh became more popular than Mickey Mouse (p. 23).

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  • deCordova, Richard: “The Mickey in Macy’s Window: Childhood, Consumerism, and Disney Animation.” In Disney Discourse: Producing the Magic Kingdom. Edited by Eric Smoodin, 203–213. New York: Routledge, 1994.

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    Analyzes how Disney cartoons turned children into consumers of cartoon-related merchandize and created a leisure class of children during the 1920s and 1930s. By creating animal toys and images of the past, like cowboys and Indians, Disney positively helped children to escape the evils of modernity and remain protected in a traditional form of childhood.

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  • Edgerton, Gary, and Kathy Merlock Jackson. “Redesigning Pocahontas: Disney, the ‘White Man’s Indian,’ and the Marketing of Dreams.” Journal of Popular Film & Television 24.2 (Summer 1996): 90–99.

    DOI: 10.1080/01956051.1996.9943718Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Gives the marketing history of Pocahontas, a film that could not compete with The Lion King, but still generated over $1 billion in revenues. One strategy was to tie a trailer to The Lion King for Pocahontas.

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  • Forgacs, David. “Disney Animation and the Business of Childhood.” Screen 33.4 (Winter 1992): 361–374.

    DOI: 10.1093/screen/33.4.361Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Looks at the financial success of individual Disney films, the theme parks, and other Disney enterprises; and attributes it to marketing baby-like characters that appeal to both children and nostalgic parents.

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Theoretical Approaches

Very few articles and books on Disney address only one issue or take only one theoretical approach, so there is much overlap. Many of the titles below are listed in the section dealing with the theory they focus on. On the other hand, some of the treatments are too specific to be categorized as broadly as pertaining to a single theory. Thus, even if “intertextuality” is often of interest to structuralists, there is a separate section on Intertextual approaches. There is a fine line—and sometimes no line at all—between “Cultural,” “Racial,” and “Postcolonial,” but the division into these criteria more accurately defines the focus of the titles relating to them. And then it is difficult to differentiate between deconstruction and postcolonialism and other theories, when one must deconstruct in order to isolate the subsumed political messages that perpetuate stereotypes and inculcate superiority in one culture/gender/race over another.

Archetypal

Archetypal refers to a critical theory that identifies recurring myths and archetypes (like the femme fatale) in texts. Stone 2008 studies the Disney femme fatale, and Bowman 2011 focuses mostly on good and bad mother types

  • Bowman, Sarah Lynne. “The Dichotomy of the Great Mother Archetype in Disney Heroines and Villainesses.” In Vader, Voldemort and Other Villains: Essays on Evil in Popular Media. Edited by Jamey Heit, 80–96. Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2011.

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    On the surface, Snow White, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, and The Little Mermaid seem intent upon normalizing little girls into becoming women who fulfill traditional gender roles, but Bowman perceives the ideology to be more complicated than that. She examines the “archetypal feminine” in these films, split into the princess and the witch, with particular emphasis on types of mothers.

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  • Stone, Kay F. “Fairy Tales for Adults: Walt Disney’s Americanization of the Märchen.” 1980. In Some Day Your Witch Will Come. Edited by Kay F. Stone, 24–35. Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 2008.

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    Recycle of the femme fatale, except that Disney defined her as a woman with ambition.

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Cultural

Cultural theory considers factors that inform race. These factors may include ethnicity, race, gender, worldview, politics, age, and any identifying element that forms a group. Thus, an article that focuses on culture may be interested in low versus high culture. Or it may look at Disney’s depiction of individual ethnic or national cultures. In the latter case, the theory will differ from multicultural theory in that multiculturalism advocates tolerance and appreciation of plural cultures. Although all articles on Disney have something to say about some culture, those presented in this section highlight cultural information. Spector 1998 theorizes that there is such a thing as positive ethnic stereotyping. Luckett 1994 discusses Fantasia interms of high versus popular culture. Allan 1999 looks at the influence of Europe in Disney’s films and parks. Ma 2000 and Ma 2003 challenge the negative stereotypes of Asians in Disney films. Brode 2004 presents a fascinating thesis, arguing that Disney’s films helped create the “hippie” movement of the 1960s. Leslie 2004 champions mass culture as avant-garde, and Finkelstein 2003 suggests that Disney’s infusion of Shakespeare is an indication that popular culture is owning high culture.

  • Allan, Robin. Walt Disney and Europe: European Influences on the Animated Feature Films of Walt Disney. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1999.

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    Examines the European sources that inspired the making of fourteen of the seventeen fully animated feature films generated during Disney’s lifetime. Also identifies the European influences in creating Disneyland.

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  • Brode, Douglas. From Walt to Woodstock: How Disney Created the Counterculture. Austin: University of Texas Press, 2004.

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    Argues that Disney’s film during the Eisenhower era helped create the counterculture or “hippie” movement of the 1960s. Brode credits early Disney films for being ahead of their time in encouraging feminism and revolt against the status quo, valuing multiculturalism and ecology, resisting authority, making love and not war, and other rally cries of antiestablishment baby boomers.

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  • Finkelstein, Richard. “Disney’s Tempest: Colonizing Desire in The Little Mermaid.” In The Emperor’s Old Groove: Decolonizing Disney’s Magic Kingdom. Edited by Brenda Ayres, 131–147. New York: Peter Lang, 2003.

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    Disney reconfigured Shakespeare’s The Tempest in order to rewrite Hans Christian Andersen’s tale, The Little Mermaid. Films by other studios have done likewise, thereby erasing the line between low and high culture during socioeconomic shifts. Shakespeare continues to be perceived as “an icon of value” (p. 144) who is highly esteemed by any culture that desires to enrich its prestige.

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  • Leslie, Esther. Hollywood Flatlands: Animation, Critical Theory and the Avant-Garde. New York: Verso, 2004.

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    Analyzes technological culture through the theoretical writings of critical theorists. Leslie challenges the ideas of Siegfried Kracauer, Theodor Adorno, and Walter Benjamin, and makes the argument that mass popular culture is avant-garde.

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  • Luckett, Moya. “Fantasia: Cultural Constructions of Disney’s ‘Masterpiece.’” In Disney Discourse: Producing the Magic Kingdom. Edited by Eric Smoodin, 214–236. New York: Routledge, 1994.

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    Explores whether Fantasia is popular or high culture.

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  • Ma, Sheng-mei. The Deathly Embrace: Orientalism and Asian American Identity. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2000.

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    Devotes an entire chapter each to the negative portrayals of Asians in Swiss Family Robinson and Mulan. In the other chapters Ma analyzes these stereotypes in The Aristocats, Lady and the Tramp, and The Lion King.

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  • Ma, Sheng-mei. “Mulan Disney, It’s Like, Re-Orients: Consuming China and Animating Teen Dreams.” In The Emperor’s Old Groove: Decolonizing Disney’s Magic Kingdom. Edited by Brenda Ayres, 149–164. New York: Peter Lang, 2003.

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    Censures the tired stereotypes of the Orient in the film, as well as its disregard for cultural authenticity, as demonstrated in Eddie Murphy’s voice of the dragon-lizard Muchu.

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  • Spector, Alan J. “Disney Does Diversity: The Social Context of Racial-Ethnic Imagery.” In Cultural Diversity and the U.S. Media. Edited by Yahya R. Kamalipour and Theresa Carilli, 39–50. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1998.

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    Clarifies the differences between ethnic stereotyping and denigrating ethnic stereotyping, and addresses these in some films not mentioned in other critical works. However, the article is not very comprehensive and ignores much criticism that should be integrated.

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Deconstruction

Deconstructing is an act of peeling away of text in order to extrapolate meanings that may not be otherwise apparent. What is exposed then needs to be recontextualized or put back together in a different manner, because, as Mrs. Potts puts it, “there may be something there that wasn’t there before.” Byrne and McQuillan 1999 and Ayres 2003 are collections of essays that deconstruct a number of Disney’s film for the purpose of ascertaining their ideological messages. Stephenson 1998 exposes a well-kept secret that the theme parks may not be the happiest places on earth, especially if you are an employee at one.

  • Ayres, Brenda. The Emperor’s Old Groove: Decolonizing Disney’s Magic Kingdom. New York: Peter Lang, 2003.

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    Contains thirteen essays and an introduction that strip bear the trimmings of Disney’s film animation that disguise the inculcation of ideologies of gender, culture, and politics on children, which may not be acceptable to parents once they realize what these films attempt to teach.

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  • Byrne, Eleanor, and Martin McQuillan. Deconstructing Disney. Sterling, VA: Pluto, 1999.

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    Deconstructs the following Disney films to expose their ideological underpinings: The Little Mermaid, The Lion King, Pocahontas, Snow White, Bedknobs and Broomsticks, Dumbo, Peter Pan, The Jungle Book, Hercules, and Mulan. The book’s project is to deconstruct the “political culture” of Disney as well as its “cultural politics.”

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  • Stephenson, Tracy. “My Silence Speaks Volumes: Mickey Mouse and the Ideology of an Icon.” Theatre Annual 51 (Fall 1998): 54–70.

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    Stephenson deconstructs her experience working for Disney World as Mickey Mouse. She not only learned that the park was not “the happiest place on earth,” she realized the commodification of herself when she performed Mickey. She also analyzes the gender dynamics involved in being a female impersonating a masculine mouse and, through forced silence, being forced into compulsory heterosexuality.

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Ecocritical

With rising awareness of what humans have done to destroy the planet, ecocritical theory studies literature for its ecological values, for its views on how to preserve nature and solve environmental problems. If Disney has suffered bad publicity for its racial, cultural, and gender slights, it has merited accolades for its efforts to make people want to preserve the environment and to value nature. Gould 1992 traces the evolution of Mickey Mouse from a biologist’s perspective. Whitley 2008 and Booker 2010 explore Disney’s success in this area throughout his films, especially in its teaching of children. Murray and Heumann 2011 focuses on Disney’s WALL-E. Bruckner 2010 has some critical concerns as to what Disney does not teach, or teaches in error, about ecology. Cypher and Higgs 2001 expresses similar concerns regarding Disney’s Wilderness Lodge in Florida. Murphy 2008 and Preda 2001 take a different approach to ecocriticism by examining women and landscape in several films, with Preda focusing only on Pocahontas.

  • Booker, M. Keith. Disney, Pixar, and the Hidden Messages of Children’s Films. Santa Barbara, CA: Praeger, 2010.

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    Identifies positive messages in Disney’s films that encourage children to be respectful of the environment and to value life—all life—including animals.

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  • Bruckner, Lynne Dickson. “Bambi and Finding Nemo: A Sense of Wonder in the Wonderful World of Disney?” In Framing the World: Explorations in Ecocriticism and Film. Edited by Paula Willoquet-Maricondi, 187–205. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2010.

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    Bambi and Finding Nemo encourage ecological sensitivity, but with an evasion of controversial issues.

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  • Cypher, Jennifer, and Eric Higgs. “Colonizing the Imagination: Disney’s Wilderness Lodge.” In From Virgin Land to Disney World: Nature and Its Discontents in the USA of Yesterday and Today. Edited by Bernd Herzogenrath, 403–424. Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2001.

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    Guests may stay in the Wilderness Lodge in Disney World and feel as if they are actually at a National Park lodge. Ironically, it is a “natural experience in an artificial setting” (p. 404). The writers are critical of this alternate, unrealistic setting that is no substitute for the true wilderness.

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  • Gould, Stephen Jay. “A Biological Homage to Mickey Mouse.” In The Panda’s Thumb: More Relections in Natural History. By Stephen Jay Gould, 95–107. New York: Norton, 1992.

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    Traces the evolution of Disney’s famous mouse over fifty years, theorizing about the reason for each transformation from the perspective of a biologist. First published 1980.

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  • Murphy, Patrick D. “‘The Whole Wide World was Scrubbed Clean’: The Androcentric Animation of Denatured Disney.” In From Mouse to Mermaid: The Politics of Film, Gender, and Culture. Edited by Elizabeth Bell, Lynda Haas, and Laura Sells, 125–136. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2008.

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    An ecofeminist examination of women and landscape in 101 Dalmatians, The Jungle Book, the two Rescuers films (1977, 1990), The Little Mermaid, and Beauty and the Beast. Volume first published in 1995.

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  • Murray, Robin L., and Joseph K. Heumann. “Pixar and the Case of WALL-E: Moving between Environmental Adaptation and Sentimental Nostalgia.” In That’s All Folks? Ecocritical Readings of American Animated Features. Edited by Robin L. Murray and Joseph K. Heumann, 201–228. Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press, 2011.

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    This ecocritical appreciation of what WALL-E warns about humanity’s careless destruction of the planet.

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  • Preda, Roxanna. “The Angel in the Ecosystem Revisited: Disney’s Pocahontas and Postmodern Ethics.” In From Virgin Land to Disney World: Nature and Its Discontents in the USA of Yesterday and Today. Edited by Bernd Herzogenrath, 317–340. Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2001.

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    Reads Disney’s Pocahontas as a representation of ecofeminism. Preda also reasons why Disney could not alter the story enough to satisfy postcolonialists. Disney’s Pocahontas is a heroine because she rejects cultural and racial prejudices in her love for the “Other,” and refuses to accept an “us versus them” perception.

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  • Whitley, David S. The Idea of Nature in Disney’s Animation. Aldershot, UK: Ashgate, 2008.

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    Appreciates Disney’s animated films for their value of wild nature. From Snow White to Finding Nemo and Brother Bear, with Bambi, The Jungle Book, and The Lion King in between, Whitley argues that these films teach children not only to be ecologically minded but also to develop a personal affinity with the natural world.

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Feminist

The most frequently expressed concerns regarding Disney’s animated films have to do with their stereotypical, reductive images of gender. There are separate sections below on Masculinities and Queer theory, while the sources cited in this section prioritize feminist readings of multiple films. Many of the citations throughout this article also include feminist responses, but if they focus on just one film or if they combine feminism with some other theoretical approach that is more pronounced, they will be listed elsewhere. Sayers 1965 was the first work to deal with the detrimental stereotypes of women in Disney. Stone 1975 and Stone 2008 also identified these stereotypes in several Disney films, but Stone also pointed out male stereotypes. Ayres 2003 is a collection of essays that address genderfication throughout the Disney canon of film animation. Axelrod 2003 and Haas 2008 focus on the image of the absent or negative mother, although Haas addresses it in live-action films. Bell 2008 shares similar concerns that Disney women are androcentric, but she does identify where the women do gain power in and because of the films. Hoerrner 1996 looks at eleven Disney film animations and exposes extremely gender-specific, negative behavior that is being taught to children.

  • Axelrod, Mark. “Beauties and Their Beasts & Other Motherless Tales from the Wonderful World of Walt Disney.” In The Emperor’s Old Groove: Decolonizing Disney’s Magic Kingdom. Edited by Brenda Ayres, 29–38. New York: Peter Lang, 2003.

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    Questions how Disney’s films can be billed as wholesome family entertainment when films like Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Pinocchio, Dumbo, Bambi, Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, and Aladdin either have no portrayals of mothers or convey mothers as abusive.

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  • Ayres, Brenda, ed. The Emperor’s Old Groove: Decolonizing Disney’s Magic Kingdom. New York: Peter Lang, 2003.

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    Contains thirteen essays and an introduction that analyze a number of colonizing issues in Disney films. All the entries have much to say about gender reification in Disney’s film animation, and why this is damaging to the formation of children’s perceptions.

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  • Bell, Elizabeth. “Somatexts at the Disney Shop: Constructing the Pentimentos of Women’s Animated Bodies.” In From Mouse to Mermaid: The Politics of Film, Gender, and Culture. Edited by Elizabeth Bell, Lynda Haas, and Laura Sells, 107–124. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2008.

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    Explores Disney’s iconography of women’s bodies in Snow White, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, The Little Mermaid, and Beauty and the Beast. Women’s physicality is framed only for masculine power and authority. However, the model for these female cartoons were professional dancers who earned their living from their dance, and thus the animated characters do demonstrate independence and strength. Volume first published in 1995.

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  • Haas, Lynda. “‘Eighty-Six the Mother’: Murder, Matricide, and Good Mothers.” In From Mouse to Mermaid: The Politics of Film, Gender, and Culture. Edited by Elizabeth Bell, Lynda Haas, and Laura Sells, 193–211. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2008.

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    Analyzes the negative images of mothers in several of Disney’s live-action films, but also identifies a constructive mother-daughter relationship in The Joy Luck Club. Volume first published in 1995.

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  • Hoerrner, Keisha L. “Gender Roles in Disney Films: Analyzing Behaviors from Snow White to Simba.” Women’s Studies in Communication 19.2 (Summer 1996): 213–228.

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    Examines gender stereotypes in 134 characters in eleven Disney films and concludes that they teach girls to be passive and encourage boys to be aggressive.

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  • Sayers, Frances Clarke. “Walt Disney Accused.” Horn Book 41.6 (December 1965): 602–611.

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    Sayers was the superintendent of the Department of Work with Children at the New York Public Library. She was also the writer of children’s books and a lecturer on children’s literature. Clarke decried Disney’s distortions that altered conflict and resolutions that made the original fairy tales so educational to children. She also attacked Disney’s sexual stereotyping. This article includes an interview with Sayers on these issues.

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  • Stone, Kay. “Things Walt Disney Never Told Us.” Journal of American Folklore 88.347 (1975): 42–50.

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    Criticizes Disney’s perversion of fairy tales to create polarized female stereotypes, namely the acceptable female who is pretty, passive, obedient, and docile, in contrast to the villainous female who lacks these qualities.

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  • Stone, Kay F. “Fairy Tales for Adults: Walt Disney’s Americanization of the Märchen.” 1980. In Some Day Your Witch Will Come. Edited by Kay F. Stone, 24–35. Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 2008.

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    Analysis of representation of women in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Sleeping Beauty, and Cinderella, especially identifying how Disney Americanized characters from fairy tales and/or invented others to form a romantic story that reinforced putative gender stereotypes of both men and women.

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Intertextual

In 1916 Joseph Jacobs added his “Cinderella” to the already existing 345 versions, as “an English version of an Italian adaptation of a Spanish translation of a Latin version of a Hebrew translation of an Arabic translation of an Indian original.” The listings in this section address not only multiple adaptations, but also other textual influences that went into the creation of Disney’s fairy tales. Frus and Williams 2010 compares and contrasts the film animations with their precursors, weighing the loss and gain. Buhler 2003 considers Disney’s appropriation of Hamlet in The Lion King, and Finkelstein 2003 does likewise with The Tempest and The Little Mermaid. Haas 2008 investigates Disney’s adaptation of E. L. Doctorow’s novel Billy Bathgate. Allan 1999 identifies European influences on Disney’s films and parks.

Marxist

The articles in this section address class struggle. Sells 2008 casts the widest net by considering the intersection of gender and class in a number of the animated films. Hansen 1993 negotiates between Adorno’s and Benjamin’s theoretical treatment of Mickey Mouse. Kunzle 1984 analyzes the creativity and business practices of Walt Disney as a bourgeois capitalist. Reising 1996 ascribes the violence in Dumbo to the oppressive working conditions of Disney’s animators. Willis 1987 finds similar evidence of Disney’s authoritative labor policies in Fantasia. Szumsky 2003, a study of Mary Popppins, offers a Marxist-historical context with an identification of what the major characters represent, and Levin 2007 interprets the musical as an advocacy of the laboring class over the middle and upper classes. Eulogizing the working man is also apparent in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, according to Zipes 2008.

  • Hansen, Miriam. “Of Mice and Ducks—Benjamin and Adorno.” South Atlantic Quarterly 92.1 (Winter 1993): 27–61.

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    In The Work of Art in the Age of Its Technological Reproductibility (Benjamin 2008, cited under Psychological), Walter Benjamin theorizes that Mickey Mouse allowed an audience to collectively release their fears through laughter. Theodor W. Adorno, who is quoted here, disagrees, stating that Mickey is “full of the worst bourgeois sadism” (p. 38). Hansen explains their theories within the context of the German National Socialists’ campaign to discredit the Mouse.

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  • Kunzle, David. “Introduction.” In How to Read Donald Duck: Imperialist Ideology in the Disney Comic. Edited by Ariel Dorfman and Armand Mattelart, 11–21. New York: International General, 1984.

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    Kunzle briefly investigates Walt Disney’s unhappy childhood and concludes that, as a result, he was never interested in children, but rather designed his films and parks for adults. In addition, perhaps because of a multitude of sexual angsts, he was an absolute authoritarian over his employees. Kunzle characterizes Disney as a bourgeois and a capitalistic imperialist.

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  • Levin, Donald. “The Americanization of Mary: Contesting Cultural Narratives in Disney’s Mary Poppins.” In Fantasy Fiction into Film: Essays. Edited by Leslie Stratyner and James R. Keller, 115–123. Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2007.

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    Mary Poppins posits the superiority of the British working class, represented by the nannie and Bert, over a morally bankrupt upper class.

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  • Reising, Russell. “‘The Easiest Room in Hell’: The Political Work of Disney’s Dumbo.” In Loose Ends: Closure and Crisis in the American Social Text. By Russell Reising, 279–330. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1996.

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    Theorizes that the oppressive labor conditions in the Disney Studio at this time are reflected in Dumbo.

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  • Sells, Laura. “‘Where Do the Mermaids Stand?’ Voice and Body in The Little Mermaid.” In From Mouse to Mermaid: The Politics of Film, Gender, and Culture. Edited by Elizabeth Bell, Lynda Haas, and Laura Sells, 175–192. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2008.

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    At the intersection of gender and class, the film warns about the cost and danger of becoming a woman and advancing socially upward as a white bourgeois woman into a world ruled by males. Volume first published in 1995.

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  • Szumsky, Brian E. “‘All That Is Solid Melts into the Air’: ‘The Winds of Change’ and Other Analogues of Colonialism in Disney’s Mary Poppins.” In The Emperor’s Old Groove: Decolonizing Disney’s Magic Kingdom. Edited by Brenda Ayres, 93–104. New York: Peter Lang, 2003.

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    Primarily a Marxist view that identifies the Bankses as the bourgeoisie and the chimney sweeps as the proletariats. At the cusp of change—with the agitation of suffragists, the resistance to imperialism struck by the Boer War, the rise of Germany and America as world powers—Edwardian England is under attack. Szumsky identifies evidence of these elements in the film.

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  • Willis, Susan. “Fantasia: Walt Disney’s Los Angeles Suite.” Diacritics 17.2 (Summer 1987): 83–96.

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    Argues that many of Fantasia’s themes reflect many of the practices of the Disney’s Burbank Studio. Even as the film illustrates the artistic process as one that is magical and creative but also needs authoritative control, so Disney’s animators as laborers were encouraged to be creative and original, but only within capitalistic parameters set by Disney.

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  • Zipes, Jack. “Breaking the Disney Spell.” In From Mouse to Mermaid: The Politics of Film, Gender, and Culture. Edited by Elizabeth Bell, Lynda Haas, and Laura Sells, 21–42. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2008.

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    Disney’s appropriation of fairy tales includes a cultural reformation to Americanize them, and present the dwarfs as the true heroes of Snow White in that they represent hard-working Americans who keep the world clean. Volume first published in 1995.

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Masculinities

The articles in this section address the images of the heterosexual male in Disney films. Discussions of films that challenge or undermine heterosexuality are listed under Queer below. Attebery 2008 explores masculinities in Disney’s live-action science fiction, and Bell 2008 investigates them in the animated films. Byrne and McQuillan 2000 notes Disney’s efforts to develop male homosocial relations, rather than homosexual and heterosexual relationships, in the animated films. The presence of masculine anxieties in Disney’s films is the focus of Stone 1975. Addressing Beauty and the Beast, Gray 1992 and Jeffords 2008 argue that the film presents an alternative to Gastonian machismo. Although Warner 1994 expresses feminist concerns, it has much to say about the representation of males in Beauty and the Beast.

  • Attebery, Brian. “Beyond Captain Nemo: Disney’s Science Fiction.” In From Mouse to Mermaid: The Politics of Film, Gender, and Culture. Edited by Elizabeth Bell, Lynda Haas, and Laura Sells, 148–160. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2008.

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    Explores the ideological constructions of masculinities in Disney’s live-action science fiction, and argues that although they seem to prescribe a normative heterosexual role model, they fail to do so. Volume first published in 1995.

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  • Bell, Elizabeth. “Somatexts at the Disney Shop: Constructing the Pentimentos of Women’s Animated Bodies.” In From Mouse to Mermaid: The Politics of Film, Gender, and Culture. Edited by Elizabeth Bell, Lynda Haas, and Laura Sells, 107–124. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2008.

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    In addition to criticism of female stereotypes in Snow White, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, The Little Mermaid, and Beauty and the Beast, this chapter analyzes male stereotypes. Volume first published in 1995.

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  • Byrne, Eleanor, and Martin McQuillan. “King of the Swingers: Queering Disney.” In Deconstructing Disney. By Eleanor Byrne and Martin McQuillan, 133–150. London: Pluto, 2000.

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    Discusses male friendships throughout a number of Disney’s feature animations, concluding that they are developed as homosocial with a deliberate avoidance of homosexuality as well as of heterosexuality in that women are excluded from these intimate male relationships. The male philia is also political, representing the fraternity of brotherhood championed during the creation of the French republic.

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  • Gray, Elizabeth Dodson. “Beauty and the Beast: A Parable for Our Time.” In Women Respond to the Men’s Movement: A Feminist Collection. Edited by Kay Leigh Hagan, 159–168. New York: HarperCollins, 1992.

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    Finds a positive lesson for men to avoid the old macho, patriarchal model in Gaston and to desire instead that the curse of enchanting patriarchy to be broken by the love of a good woman.

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  • Jeffords, Susan. “The Curse of Masculinity: Disney’s Beauty and the Beast.” In From Mouse to Mermaid: The Politics of Film, Gender, and Culture. Edited by Elizabeth Bell, Lynda Haas, and Laura Sells, 161–172. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2008.

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    Jeffords contextualizes Beauty and the Beast historically, in light of gender changes in America in the 1980s. The film’s message is that hypermasculinity in men like the Beast and Gaston must be tamed and reformed so men can become caring and gentle husbands and fathers. Volume first published in 1995.

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  • Stone, Kay. “Things Walt Disney Never Told Us.” Journal of American Folklore 88 (1975): 42–50.

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    Identifies masculine sexual anxiety in Disney’s films. The male has to overcome all obstacles including himself in order to win the girl.

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  • Warner, Marina. “‘Go! Be a Beast’: Beauty and the Beast II.” In From the Beast to the Blonde: On Fairy Tales and Their Tellers. Edited by Marina Warner, 298–318. New York: Noonday, 1994.

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    Agrees with Bruno Bettelheim that Beauty has to outgrow her Oedipal desire for her father, and is drawn into a sexual relationship with a pseudo-masculine male. Also in Disney’s tale, the father is no authority figure, which gives Beauty freedom to subvert patriarchal control over her present and future.

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Moral

Some critics are interested in the moral messages that Disney teaches. With Disney’s frequent clear-cut differentiation and polarization of good and evil, with appropriate awards and punishments to match, its films often elude or defy postmodern resistance to absolutes. Teaching children that there is a difference between good and evil and that one should desire to be good is applauded in Allan 1998, a study of Snow White, but Reising 1996, a study of evil in Dumbo, raises concerns as to how the graphic depiction of evil will adversely affect children. Pinsky 2004 also discusses the theme of good versus evil in Disney films, but it also adds to the list of positive moral teachings. Sammond 2007 explores this area in depth. Ward 1996 is more positive about Disney’s morality in The Lion King than Ward 2002, in which the author revisits the movie and views several others that came out later.

  • Allan, Robin. “50 Years of Snow White.” Journal of Popular Film and Television 15.4 (Winter 1998): 157–163.

    DOI: 10.1080/01956051.1988.9944097Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Study of the influences that created Disney’s Snow White and then of the film’s influence on other films in turn. Some of the sources Allan identifies are Victorian melodrama, Pre-Raphaelite art, operettas in movies from the late 1920s and early ’30s, silent films, and horror films, followed by the film’s influence on The Wizard of Oz (1939) and later fantasy films like Star Wars (1977), all with an emphasis on good versus evil.

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  • Pinsky, Mark I. The Gospel According to Disney: Faith, Trust, and Pixie Dust. Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 2004.

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    Examines 31 of the most popular Disney animations for their moral and religious teachings to children and discusses the impact of the theme parks on American culture. To summarize: Disney’s “gospel” is a belief that good will triumph over evil, one should believe in one’s self and never give up, one should turn to friends for help, and one must trust in supernatural intervention.

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  • Reising, Russell. “‘The Easiest Room in Hell’: The Political Work of Disney’s Dumbo.” In Loose Ends: Closure and Crisis in the American Social Text. By Russell Reising, 279–330. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1996.

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    Expresses concern that the evil that is depicted in Dumbo terrifies children and has a detrimental effect on them, because the movie does not teach children how to protect themselves from it.

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  • Sammond, Nicholas. Babes in Tomorrowland: Walt Disney and the Making of the American Child, 1930–1960. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2007.

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    The emergence and dissemination through popular mass (Disney) culture of the ideal American child. Sammond’s research, however, exceeds Disney’s films; he analyzes popular child-rearing books, periodicals, advertisements, television programs, public relation materials, and toys in conjunction with the Disney’s conscientious efforts to provide morals and models for children.

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  • Ward, Annalee R. “The Lion King’s Mythic Narrative: Disney as Moral Educator.” Journal of Popular Film and Television 23.4 (Winter 1996): 171–178.

    DOI: 10.1080/01956051.1996.9943703Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Identifies myths drawn from biblical stories and morals and values taught in The Lion King. Ward presents an impressive list of lessons that the movie teaches children that she thinks are very positive and constructive.

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  • Ward, Annalee R. Mouse Morality: The Rhetoric of Disney Animated Film. Austin: University of Texas Press, 2002.

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    Formulates a Disney worldview from the successive releases of The Lion King, Pocahontas, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Hercules, and Mulan. These films are overtly didactic, with moral messages, but they are often conflicted and riddled with ambiguity and inconsistency.

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Multicultural

This perspective is the opposite of Postcolonialism, in that scholars in this field recognize Disney for its undertakings to promote multicultural toleration, and even to celebrate a diversity of cultures. Brode 2005 credits Disney for educating its audience to the value of diversity. Gooding-Williams 1995 lists the pros and cons of multiculturalism in The Lion King.

New Historical

Rewriting history through literature is a popular postmodern activity, and arguably it does produce benefits toward a better understanding of history. One might argue that all telling of history is filtered through the teller’s lens of ideological biases, and this is certainly true throughout the process of producing Disney’s films. They are produced in a specific time in history, are shown during a specific time of history, and their fictive world takes place in a specific time in history. One might turn to history textbooks to better understand a film, but with New Historicism, one’s understanding of history is altered or clarified through paratexts, or films rather than history textbooks. Byrne and McQuillan 2000 discusses what can be learned about the political and social period during Clinton’s presidency through the film Hercules. Giroux 1993 analyzes Good Morning, Vietnam! in its revision of America’s history during the Vietnam War. Holdzkom 2011 examines films that evidence historical revision prompted by the Cold War. Parekh 2003 details Disney’s remake of what happened to Native Americans during Western colonization.

  • Byrne, Eleanor, and Martin McQuillan. “Democracy Limited: Impeaching Disney.” In Deconstructing Disney. By Eleanor Byrne and Martin McQuillan, 151–165. London: Pluto, 2000.

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    Detailed parallels between Hercules and history during Clinton’s presidency.

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  • Giroux, Henry. “Beyond the Politics of Innocence: Memory and Pedagogy in the ‘Wonderful World of Disney.’” Socialist Review 23 (1993): 79–107.

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    Focuses mostly on Good Morning, Vietnam! (1987), and discusses the film’s revision of military history to remove the shame and stigma of Vietnam and bolster American nationalism. Giroux also deconstructs Disney’s “politics of innocence” that parades as wholesomeness, happiness, and nostalgia for a simpler past, all the while portraying “normalcy” as white, middle-class, capitalistic, and heterosexual America.

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  • Holdzkom, Marianne. “A Past to Make Us Proud: U.S. History According to Disney.” In Learning from Mickey, Donald and Walt: Essays on Disney’s Edutainment Films. Edited by A. Bowdoin Van Riper, 183–200. Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2011.

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    Beginning with Johnny Tremain (1957), Disney rewrote American history to emphasize the importance of unity during the Cold War.

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  • Parekh, Pushpa Naidu. “Pocahontas: The Disney Imaginary.” In The Emperor’s Old Groove: Decolonizing Disney’s Magic Kingdom. Edited by Brenda Ayres, 167–178. New York: Peter Lang, 2003.

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    Much has been written on the historical inauthenticity of Pocahontas, but Parekh is interested in how the movie both accurately and inaccurately revisions the cultural life of Native Americans and the encounter with the European invaders in the age of political correctness. Addresses the sequel as well.

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Political

One can easily argue that all literature and all theory are political. From the Greek, political means “relating to citizens.” Today it involves the citizens but also some entity exerting or attempting to exert power, authority, or influence over the citizens, which accounts for nearly every human action. The articles in this section recognize politically motivated efforts to influence other countries to achieve an American aim. Cartwright and Goldfarb 1994 indicates that this was so in the health education films Disney designed to be shown in Latin America in the 1940s. Piedra 1994 also investigates Disney’s political collusion with the government in producing films that pitched America as a protector of Latin American. Disney’s propaganda films during World War II are explored by Leskosky 2011. Likewise, Macleod 2003 understands Aladdin as a propaganda film for America’s involvement in the Gulf War. The Incredibles is an allegory of America’s policies in the Persian Gulf during the administration of George W. Bush, according to Dunn 2006.

  • Cartwright, Lisa, and Brian Goldfarb. “Cultural Contagion: On Disney’s Health Education Films for Latin America.” In Disney Discourse: Producing the Magic Kingdom. Edited by Eric Smoodin, 169–180. New York: Routledge, 1994.

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    Exploration of the Disney health films in the 1940s, which were prejudicial of Latino cultures and also tried to justify the presence of US corporations in countries south of the border.

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  • Dunn, David Hastings. “The Incredibles: An Ordinary Day Tale of a Superpower in the Post 9/11 World.” Millenium 34.2 (February 2006): 559–562.

    DOI: 10.1177/03058298060340021001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Sees the film as an allegorical tale that justifies US foreign policy under George W. Bush, arguing that America should not simply settle into domestic politics without taking “exceptional” responsibility to do good for the greater good when it can, especially when the bad guy has developed a “weapon of mass destruction.”

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  • Leskosky, Richard J. “Cartoons Will Win the War: World War II Propaganda Shorts.” In Learning from Mickey, Donald and Walt: Essays on Disney’s Edutainment Films. Edited by A. Bowdoin Van Riper, 40–62. Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2011.

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    Disney’s propaganda films during World War II warned against the evils of totalitarianism and encouraged people to conserve resources.

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  • Macleod, Dianne Sachko. “The Politics of Vision: Disney, Aladdin, and the Gulf War.” In The Emperor’s Old Groove: Decolonizing Disney’s Magic Kingdom. Edited by Brenda Ayres, 179–192. New York: Peter Lang, 2003.

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    Contends that the film is a propaganda piece to support American interests in the Persian Gulf, and that it mirrors the defamatory depiction of the Middle East in media during Operation Desert Storm. Also contextualizes Aladdin in a history of British and French stereotypes of Orientalism.

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  • Piedra, José. “Pato Donald’s Gender Ducking.” In Disney Discourse: Producing the Magic Kingdom. Edited by Eric Smoodin, 148–168. New York: Routledge, 1994.

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    Argues there are libidinal messages in Saludos Amigos (1942) and The Three Caballeros (1944) that define the films’ bidding for a Pan-American union in sexual terms. The United States would have Latin American as a child bride, and one that is sexually provocative but is to be eternally infantilized. Gives the historical context for the ideological messages in the two films.

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Postcolonial

Critical studies abound that identify Disney’s efforts to inculcate the superiority of white, middle-class, patriarchal, heterosexual, Protestant, “American” values. Inherent in that agenda is the devaluation of all cultures and a correction to behaviors that do not practice these values. Many of these studies imbricate other theories, such as feminism and Marxism, but the works presented in this section foreground postcolonialism. Hines and Ayres 2003, the introduction to a collection of postcolonial essays, gives a good overview. Evidence of Disney’s support of American imperialism in the Middle East and the subjugation of Middle Eastern culture and religions is the thesis of a number of studies, including Macleod 2003 (cited under Political), Staninger 2003, Wise 2003, Borthaiser 2008, and Kelly 2009. Burton 1992 and Burton-Carvajal 1994 address these themes in relation to Latin American countries. Parekh 2003 suggests that Pocahontas attempts to justify colonization.

  • Borthaiser, Nóra. “‘A Whole New World(?)’: Rereading Disney Animations of the Early 1990s.” Americana: E-Journal of American Studies in Hungary 4.1 (Spring 2008): n. pag.

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    Analysis of Aladdin, The Lion King, and Pocahontas through postcolonial theory, within the political context of the first Gulf War.

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  • Burton, Julianne. “Don (Juanito) Duck and the Imperial-Patriarchal Unconscious: Disney Studios, the Good Neighbor Policy, and the Packaging of Latin America.” In Nationalism and Sexualities. Edited by Andrew Parker, Mary Russo, Doris Sommer and Patricia Yaeger, 21–41. New York: Routledge, 1992.

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    Analysis of Saludos Amigos and The Three Caballeros, in which the Latinos are depicted as licentious and primitive.

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  • Burton-Carvajal, Julianne. “‘Surprise Package’: Looking Southward with Disney.” In Disney Discourse: Producing the Magic Kingdom. Edited by Eric Smoodin, 131–147. New York: Routledge, 1994.

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    Argues that The Three Caballeros (1944) is an allegory of New World imperialism. Burton-Carvajal, who has published several articles on this film and subject, lists ten perverse portrayals of Latin-American culture packaged by Disney for North American consumption.

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  • Hines, Susan, and Brenda Ayres. “Introduction: (He)gemony Cricket! Why in the World Are We Still Watching Disney?” In The Emperor’s Old Groove: Decolonizing Disney’s Magic Kingdom. Edited by Brenda Ayres, 1–12. New York: Peter Lang, 2003.

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    Introduces The Emperor’s Old Groove as a deconstruction of Disney’s film animation and, through postcolonial theory, as an identification of how Disney films colonize children into believing that only by subscribing to a white, middle-class, Protestant, patriarchal, American culture does one get to live happily ever after.

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  • Kelly, Kathleen Coyne. “Medieval Times: Bodily Temporalities in The Thief of Bagdad (1924), The Thief of Bagdad (1940), and Aladdin (1992).” In Hollywood in the Holy Land: Essays on Film Depictions of the Crusades and Christian-Muslim Clashes. Edited by Nickolas Haydock and E. L. Risden, 200–224. Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2009.

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    The Middle East is depicted through not only Western assumptions, but Western constructions of the past, thus denying the place that the Middle East has in its own history and present. Gives a brief history of white Europeans and Americans who played Africans, African Americans, Arabs, Asians, and Native Americans.

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  • Parekh, Pushpa Naidu. “Pocahontas: The Disney Imaginary.” In The Emperor’s Old Groove: Decolonizing Disney’s Magic Kingdom. Edited by Brenda Ayres, 167–178. New York: Peter Lang, 2003.

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    With the protagonist ahistorical and oversimplified, the Other is culturally subsumed. Although the songs and visuals attempt to faithfully reflect the cultural identity of the Native Americans, as well as faithfully vilify the colonizing British, the end result is that, as Parekh describes it, the film “not only domesticates and sanitizes the narrative of cultural conflict but also commodifies it” (p. 174).

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  • Staninger, Christiane. “Disney’s Magic Carpet Ride: Aladdin and Women in Islam.” In The Emperor’s Old Groove: Decolonizing Disney’s Magic Kingdom. Edited by Brenda Ayres, 65–77. New York: Peter Lang, 2003.

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    Staninger attributes the attraction of Jasmine for American teenagers to her representation as a “pseudo-feminist, pseudo-cross-cultural model” (p. 65). Because Jasmine is so Americanized, and because she is awarded by marrying an equally Americanized hero, Staninger—who is not alone—accuses Disney of having produced a propaganda movie for Western imperialism, demonstrating that Americans and the American way of doing things are superior to Middle Eastern culture.

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  • Wise, Christopher. “Notes from the Aladdin Industry: Or, Middle Eastern Folklore in the Era of Multinational Capitalism.” In The Emperor’s Old Groove: Decolonizing Disney’s Magic Kingdom. Edited by Brenda Ayres, 105–114. New York: Peter Lang, 2003.

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    In addition to its racism toward Arabs, Aladdin vilifies Islamic Sharia law (the law based upon the Qurʾan) and attempts to persuade viewers that America’s ideas of freedom are superior.

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Postmodern

Postmodernism is a term that eludes definition, just as it includes a perspective that there are no absolutes even in defining postmodernism. However, all attempts to comprehend any form of reality or to derive meaning from any text are invited as long as they are self-reflexive, decentered, and understood as provisional or relational rather than static. Willis 1987 and Telotte 2008, although two decades apart, identify the sites in Fantasia and Toy Story, respectively, where the animators reconnoiter with their own artistic process. Wunderlich and Morrissey 2002 takes a different postmodern approach, exploring the destabilization of texts that gives Disney the license to completely revamp an original tale.

  • Telotte, J. P. “Better than Real”: Digital Disney, Pixar, and Beyond.” In The Mouse Machine: Disney and Technology. By J. P. Telotte, 159–178. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2008.

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    The computer-generated characters in Toy Story and Toy Story 2 often meditate upon their own computerized existence as they interact with other characters or enter scenes from other films, or else elements from other films enter the toy world, for example, when Buzz falls out of the window and the theme song from Raiders of the Lost Ark is played.

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  • Willis, Susan. “Fantasia: Walt Disney’s Los Angeles Suite.” Diacritics 17.2 (Summer 1987): 83–96.

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    Interprets Fantasia as self-reflexive, an allegory by animators about the process of producing animation. It is postmodern, too, in its fragmented composition. Willis also argues that the film’s depiction of technology in the lecture on the film’s production “articulates the magical erasure of the work force” (p. 95).

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  • Wunderlich, Richard, and Thomas J. Morrissey. Pinocchio Goes Postmodern: Perils of a Puppet in the United States. New York: Routledge, 2002.

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    Traces the changes in America in the retelling of Collodi’s original story and is dismayed that it has been converted to adult fiction when the original taught children important lessons. Wunderlich and Morrissay argue that Disney’s version sanitized Collodi’s tale.

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Post-structural

After reviewing a bibliography on Disney such as this one, a reader would realize that the entire project is a practice in post-structuralism, meaning that there are multifaceted interpretations of texts, some that even contradict the others, all arising from an individual’s or group’s perspective of the text. Cartmell and Whelehan 2010 argues that this is the reason Disney altered Barrie’s Peter Pan—for the purpose of eliciting a calculated response from the audience.

  • Cartmell, Deborah, and Imelda Whelehan. “Authorial Suicide: Adaptation as Appropriation in Peter Pan.” In Screen Adaptation: Impure Cinema. By Deborah Cartmell and Imelda Whelehan, 57–72. London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010.

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    Analyzes the changes from Barrie’s text to Disney’s—including Disney’s sequel—and argues that the ideological alterations are due to audience expectations rather than authorial intent.

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Psychological

This is another huge umbrella. Nearly every theoretical approach assumes that language has the power to modify behavior and construct and reconstruct conscious and unconscious psyches. Chosen for this section are sources that emphasize some psychological perspective, though there are plenty of articles placed in other categories that are psychological in their focus. Benjamin 2008 analyzes the effect of kitsch on an audience, Cohen 1986 looks at the destructive power of envy in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs; and King 1985 examines the impact of the Davy Crockett episodes on forming the psyches of baby boomers. To Hoerrner 1996, a number of Disney films teach boys to be violent and unhealthily aggressive. Zornado 2006 is likewise concerned about violence in Disney’s films and attributes the aggression and hegemonic efforts to Walt Disney’s own childhood. Griswold 2004 poses a number of psychological readings of Beauty and the Beast. Swan 1999 also writes about Beauty and the Beast and analyzes its sexual dynamics. In contrast, Merritt 1988 finds Snow White to be sex free.

  • Benjamin, Walter. The Work of Art in the Age of Its Technological Reproductibility, and Other Writings on Media. Edited by Michael William Jennings, Brigid Doherty, and Thomas Y. Levin. Cambridge, MA: Belknap, 2008.

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    Argues that films like Disney’s animation that depict grotesque events give audiences a release from their repressed fears and psychoses, and that collective laughter heals mass psychoses.

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  • Cohen, Betsy. The Snow White Syndrome: All About Envy. New York: Macmillan, 1986.

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    Psychological study of envy, drawn from the Snow White film. The stepmother is every mother who, in dread of her own mortality, envies the daughter who will replace her. Further, she is responsible for reproducing acceptable womanly traits in her daughter, and failing that, she must be destroyed.

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  • Griswold, Jerry. The Meanings of “Beauty and the Beast”: A Handbook. Peterborough, ON: Broadview, 2004.

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    Presents a variety of psychological interpretations of a variety of adaptations of Beaumont’s tale.

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  • Hoerrner, Keisha L. “Gender Roles in Disney Films: Analyzing Behaviors from Snow White to Simba.” Women’s Studies in Communication 19.2 (Summer 1996): 213–228.

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    Analysis of 134 characters from eleven Disney films that identified 864 behaviors, of which 66 percent are deemed antisocial, such as acts of aggression, theft, and deceit. Concludes that these Disney movies depict women as less aggressive as men, as more likely to “suffer in silence,” and as more intent upon social approval. Hoerrner’s findings indicate that these films reinforce negative behavior in children.

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  • King, Margaret J. “The Recycled Hero: Walt Disney’s Davy Crockett.” In Davy Crockett: The Man, the Legend, the Legacy, 1786–1986. Edited by Michael A. Lofaro, 137–158. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1985.

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    Analyzes the impact of the show on regulating the behavior of baby boomers.

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  • Merritt, Karen. “The Little Girl/Little Mother Transformation: The American Evolution of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.” In Storytelling in Animation: The Art of the Animated Image. Edited by John Canemaker, 105–121. Los Angeles: American Film Institute, 1988.

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    Credits Disney for creating Snow White for children in terms that children can understand and enjoy. Merritt does state, but does not argue, that the film is free of gender politics and bourgeois didacticism. Her position is that the film is “safe” for children.

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  • Swan, Susan Z. “Gothic Drama in Disney’s Beauty and the Beast : Subverting Traditional Romance by Transcending the Animal-Human Paradox.” Critical Studies in Mass Communication 16.3 (September 1999): 350–369.

    DOI: 10.1080/15295039909367100Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Psychoanalyzes the transformation of the Beast (that is in all males) into a human, with a study of the sexual impetuses operating in the three major characters.

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  • Zornado, Joseph L. “Walt Disney, Ideological Transposition, and the Child.” In Inventing the Child: Culture, Ideology, and the Story of Childhood. By Joseph L. Zornado, 135–169. New York: Routledge, 2006.

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    Examines influences in Disney’s upbringing—primarily his father—that formed the ideologies perpetuated in his films and theme parks: to use violence is a religious and American imperative, to dominate is to civilize, and to consume is American. Disney’s dominant ideology is, firstly, adult hegemony over children; and secondly, white, middle-class, Protestant, and American hegemony over race, class, gender, ethnicity, and nationality.

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Queer

Queer theory contests normative gender and labeling of genders. “Queer” is not an identity like homosexual or any other sexual orientation; it is a criticism of sexual identity. This section lists articles that resist either the efforts of Disney to normalize heterosexuality or the ambivalence in Disney to prescribe heterosexuality as normal. In Cuomo 2008 concludes that Disney corrects “lesbian” proclivities in Bedknobs and Broomsticks (1971). Roth 1996 identifies gays in a variety of Disney’s films. Griffin 2000 is an in-depth study of Disney’s failed rejection of homosexuality and its “coming out of the closet” in the 1960s. Munns 2009 identifies homoeroticism in Peter Pan.

  • Cuomo, Chris. “Spinsters in Sensible Shoes: Mary Poppins and Bedknobs and Broomsticks.” In From Mouse to Mermaid: The Politics of Film, Gender, and Culture. Edited by Elizabeth Bell, Lynda Haas, and Laura Sells, 212–223. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2008.

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    Identifies lesbian traits in Eglantine Price that are dealt with as a threat to the family. She has to be domesticated, and her sexual orientation corrected to desire a heterosexual relationship as a wife and mother. Volume first published in 1995.

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  • Griffin, Sean. Tinker Belles and Evil Queens: The Walt Disney Company from the Inside Out. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2000.

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    Queer reading of Disney’s films and theme parks. The first section focuses on the texts and the experiences in the Disney Studio during Disney’s lifetime that, led by Walt Disney, intentionally naturalized heterosexuality as the norm, but Griffin deconstructs the studio’s projected regulation of sexuality. existence of homosexuality. The second section attends to the post-1960s visibility of lesbian/gay culture and its perception of Disney products.

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  • Munns, David P. D. “‘Gay, Innocent, and Heartless’: Peter Pan and the Queering of Popular Culture.” In Second Star to the Right: Peter Pan in the Popular Imagination. Edited by Allison B. Kavey and Lester D. Friedman, 219–242. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2009.

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    Queer reading of Disney’s adaptation as Peter (boy) versus Hook (man), and their duel as a “homerotic tango defined by mutual attraction and repulsion, with, importantly, a dramatic age difference” (p. 220).

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  • Roth, Matt. “The Lion King: A Short History of Disney-Fascism.” Jump Cut 40 (March 1996): 15–20.

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    Discusses the portrayal of gays in Pinocchio, Lion King, Aladdin, Beauty and the Beast, and The Little Mermaid.

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Racial

The majority of articles that have criticized Disney have done so for its efforts to exult a set of white, Protestant, heterosexual, American, and patriarchal values, while negating or demeaning values of other races, ethnicities, nationalities, religions, and gender orientations. Unfortunately, this is often the hegemonic impulse of many of Disney’s movies, but there are some that are stridently more racist than they are prejudicial with regard to other groups. Brode 2005 disagrees with these criticisms, and argues accordingly. Byrne and McQuillan 2000 historicizes Disney’s racism in individual films. The focus for Linn 2009 is how Disney products are racist, and Madison 2008 exposes racism in the 1990 film Pretty Woman, which was distributed by Touchstone Pictures, a subsidiary of Walt Disney Studios. Perhaps the two Disney films that have provoked the greatest outcry of racism are Song of the South and Jungle Book. Miller and Rode 2008 investigates these films.

  • Brode, Douglas. Multiculturalism and the Mouse: Race and Sex in Disney Entertainment. Austin: University of Texas Press, 2005.

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    Brode argues that, instead of the racist and sexist portrayals of which Disney is much accused, his works are actually replete with positive images of racial diversity, sexual difference, and global awareness.

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  • Byrne, Eleanor, and Martin McQuillan. “‘You Can’t Lionise the Lion’: Racing Disney.” In Deconstructing Disney. By Eleanor Byrne and Martin McQuillan, 94–110. London: Pluto, 2000.

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    Examines racism in Song of the South, Dumbo, The Lion King, Lady and the Tramp, Pocahontas, Mulan, Peter Pan, and The Hunchback of Notre Dame. The chapter also situates the racism in the historical context of each film.

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  • Linn, Susan. “A Royal Juggernaut: The Disney Princesses and Other Commericalized Threats to Creative Play and the Path to Self-realization for Young Girls.” In The Sexualization of Childhood. Edited by Sharna Olfman, 33–50. Westport, CT: Praeger, 2009.

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    The repetition of Caucasian features and ultrathin body types in Disney princesses and the promise of physical acquisitions like tiaras and castles indoctrinate children to this set of values.

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  • Madison, D. Soyini. “Pretty Woman through the Triple Lens of Black Feminist Spectatorship.” In From Mouse to Mermaid: The Politics of Film, Gender, and Culture. Editors Elizabeth Bell, Lynda Haas, and Laura Sells, 224–235. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2008.

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    Vivian’s sidekick, Kit, is a woman of color, but race is erased in the Touchstone movie Pretty Woman (1990), which is a retelling of Cinderella. As Kit watches, she sees that beauty is white and is highly marketable, but that it is also costly. Volume first published in 1995.

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  • Miller, Susan, and Greg Rode. “The Movie You See, the Movie You Don’t: How Disney Do’s That Old Time Derision.” In From Mouse to Mermaid: The Politics of Film, Gender, and Culture. Edited by Elizabeth Bell, Lynda Haas, and Laura Sells, 86–103. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2008.

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    Identifies stereotypes of gender, race, and class in both Song of the South and The Jungle Book. Vocal accents in these films establish or propagate racial and class stereotypes, including, in the latter, the use of British to signify villains. Volume first published in 1995.

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Reader-Response

Most of the articles in this bibliography are concerned with Disney’s effect on an audience, and many of them include a survey of critical reception. Clark 2003 specifically analyzes filmgoers and their reactions to Disney films through the 1980s, and Wasko, et al. 2001 offers illuminating responses from audiences in countries other than America.

  • Clark, Beverly Lyon. “The Case of the Disney Version.” In Kiddie Lit: The Cultural Construction of Children’s Literature in America. Edited by Beverly Lyon Clark, 168–183. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2003.

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    In this chapter, Clark provides a good history of the critical reception of Disney, beginning with his cartoon shorts; however, even though the book was published in 2003, it addresses secondary sources only through the 1980s, and therefore makes several outdated conclusions.

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  • Wasko, Janet, Eileen R. Meehan, and Mark Phillips, eds. Dazzled by Disney? The Global Disney Audiences Project. London: Leicester University Press, 2001.

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    Articles written by viewers who are not American, analyzing the impact of Disney’s films on audiences in their own countries.

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Structural

Although many structuralists are now considered post-structuralists who have extended their work beyond structural premises, presented in this section are samples of theoretical understanding of the culture that Disney promotes within larger frameworks. Following the ideas of Saussure, including language as a signifier, Dunn 2006, Coats 2004, and Willis 1987 focus their readings on allegory and other metaphorical implications of Disney’s films.

  • Coats, Karen. “‘I Never Explain Anything’: Children’s Literature and Sexuation.” In Looking Glasses and Neverlands: Lacan, Desire, and Subjectivity in Children’s Literature. By Karen Coats, 97–120. Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 2004.

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    Identifies Mr. Banks as the male signifier who rules his little domain until Mary Poppins, described as the “genuine female” (p. 97) enters as “a product of the signifier of the lack in the Other” (p. 110). Free from reality, she is not signified by the signifier, and therefore is able to signify others, like children in her care.

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  • Dunn, David Hastings. “The Incredibles: An Ordinary Day Tale of a Superpower in the Post 9/11 World.” Millenium 34.2 (February 2006): 559–562.

    DOI: 10.1177/03058298060340021001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Explores The Incredibles as an allegory of US foreign policy during George W. Bush’s presidency.

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  • Willis, Susan. “Fantasia: Walt Disney’s Los Angeles Suite.” Diacritics 17.2 (Summer 1987): 83–96.

    DOI: 10.2307/i219969Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Animation is inherently metaphorical, as cartoons are meant to signify humans and their concerns and activities. Beyond that basic, Fantasia has hundreds of metaphors, and Willis considers many of them contradictory. For example, some segments encourage artistic spontaneity, while others urge control.

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