Walt Disney, the dude, was an interesting and resourceful fella. I have respect for the man behind the mouse. I also have tons of respect for the digital artists and computer whizzes who make Disney’s visually breathtaking animated movies. Having known a few, I even respect those poor saps that have to spend their summers wearing giant costume heads at the Disney branded theme park experience. The rest of Disney, however, can get bent.
Fear or distaste for the real Grimm fairy tales is as ubiquitous as it is hoary. There may be no more systematic case of bowdlerization than Disney’s treatment of them.
Elyse at Skepchick, while wondering why men feel that they’re not welcome at conferences with ‘women’ in the title, thinks it starts in childhood and brings up Disney’s movie marketing as an example:
…there still seems to be an idea that white and male is a default, neutral thing that appeals to everyone, and straying from that is somehow focusing on special demographics. For example, Disney’s Tangled is an adaptation of the Rapunzel story. But Disney had to work very hard to make sure that boys weren’t turned off by watching a movie about a girl. For one, they didn’t call the movie “Rapunzel”. The story is narrated by the male lead, despite the movie being about Rapunzel’s journey. Or if you pay attention to Pixar’s marketing of Brave, coming out this summer, you’ll notice, for example, that they advertised during the NFL draft… but that preview shows the female lead for maybe 2 of the almost 60 seconds, and gives the very distinct impression that the movie is about tough men… especially bothersome since this is the very first Pixar movie about a girl.
So that’s marketing. What about the stories themselves?
The lecture Disneyfication by David Beagley, at La Trobe University (available on iTunes U) is about the formulaic structure of Disney story-telling, and how they change classic fairytales. I highly recommend it. It’s important to acknowledge that while Disney is only one (albeit huge) company, that one company has influenced the way children’s literature looks, as an entirety, today.
Disney TV Is Poisoning Your Daughters from LA Weekly is a scathing summary of the Disney Channel, which we don’t get in this house because we don’t get pay TV. This doesn’t make me want it, either.
I love these: Disney Posters Get ‘Honestly Remixed’ from Visual News
I also totally relate to this article: I Regret The Day I Let My Daughter Watch The Little Mermaid, from Mommyish. Movies absolutely have an impact on the world view of children. I have yet to learn how lasting this is, and it’s possible the least girl-friendly films will have the effect of turning our daughters into feminists under their very own steam. My own preschooler hasn’t seen that particular film, but I have made sure to lose a few others I don’t want her watching over and over again. I should note that the worst of those aren’t coming out of Disney right now. Disney is actually coming up smelling of roses compared to other animated films coming from similar studios.
The Disney Characters You Never Saw from io9