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Sensitive topics made appropriate for kids by Disney

Lately, Disney and Pixar films have been touching on some deep themes and subject matter that normal children’s films wouldn’t dare approach. Disability as a strength in "Finding Dory," loss and overcoming grief in "Big Hero 6," and self acceptance in "Frozen" to name a few. Why is it beneficial to present such weighty topics to children? How can this positively impact the younger generation?

  • I think by normalizing these tough subjects through the use of fun/beloved characters children can come to their own understanding of mental illness/disability/trauma. Like instead of being a movie about a character who hates herself and who she is doesn't matter, Disney created a character out of Elsa that people (kids and adults alike) can connect to. This humanizes these real-world issues in a way that kids can at least kind of understand, even if the movies don't go too intense on these serious issues. Like, by knowing Dory and how her memory loss impacts her, kids can get to to know the character and love her - with the disability included as just a part of who she is. It doesn't detract from who she is, it's just a part of her and who she is. – Dimitri 2 months ago
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  • I agree with what Dimitri has written. The truth is that children these days are becoming more and more accustomed to social media- which means the risk of them seeing these adult topics in an adult fashion is only increasing. Showing it to them in a kid-friendly way- with heroes that they can be inspired by and look up to- is a great way of broaching the topic and perhaps even starting a discussion about it. It also helps that more and more female heroes are being introduced into these movies- now both boys and girls have someone they can look up to! – Thenoshman 2 months ago
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  • Love this topic! Children are a lot smarter than we give them credit for, and I think Disney has made some great choices in the topics they choose to present, as well as the way they are presented. I just might grab this one... :) – Stephanie M. 2 months ago
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  • This is a great topic, Disney have done some really great things in helping children understand topics that are quite difficult to express to them. As an adult, I find some of the films heartbreaking but an important lesson for all the children watching while their minds are still developing. – jesschaudhry 2 months ago
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  • Really interesting topic and worth exploring. To add a new slant/get the most out of this discussion, I would suggest contrasting the newer 'deep' themes with Disney's original intentions. When he established the company, Walt Disney stated that his films appealed to "that fine, clean, unspoiled spot down deep in every one of us." This aim is evident in a lot of his early, sanitised adaptions of fairy tales, where traditional ideas of female maturity are eschewed in favour of idealising childlike innocence. There's also been a tendency for Disney films to omit darker themes, such as the original endings of Snow White and The Little Mermaid, even though these stories have been told to children to centuries. This newer tendency to depict more emotionally hard-hitting themes is a far cry from Disney's appeal to the "unspoiled spot", but it shows how far the company has come in its time. Now, Disney is willing to adapt to a new age that recognises and explores the difficulties that children are likely to encounter in their lives, instead of just covering them up. – EllyB 2 months ago
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Telling A Story Through Animation

Animation has always amazed me. Everything from the artist who created the objects to the story blows my mind. For this specific topic, I think it would be interesting to examine how the absence of human actors changes the way a story or theme is perceived. For example, Zootopia is told from the point of view of animated animals. Yet, the film discusses heavy themes of preconceived judgment against specific groups. Most animated films are geared towards children. Why is this? What about those that are meant for adults?
How does animation affect a film’s narrative?

  • I feel there has been more of a push to deliver important social messages to humans at younger, more vulnerable ages. We can, I think, see the effects of this on the generational political opinions, especially as younger voters start to stretch the elastic of the bipartisan system. Companies that embrace open-mindedness and project these ideas through their marketing are often praised for their messages. When Coca-Cola featured a gay couple in their Super Bowl ad, for example. As far as your point about animation goes, it seems like a vehicle for these same messages to more accessible. Not just for kids, but for everyone. Social change, equality, and similar ideas don't always have to be discussed in stuffy rooms by well-dressed politicians. They can be accessed and discussed by the common person, even if not everyone may agree on the particular topics. Brightly-colored, animated bunnies with cartoon eyes simply serve as a friendly, introductory face for these conversations. – Analot 4 months ago
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  • A really interesting topic, and I feel like it could get into some real nitty-gritty stuff regarding animation as a visual medium. While I'm not nearly as versed in Western animation, there are several studies on anime that can be very useful. First and foremost I recommend checking out Thomas LaMarre's book "The Anime Machine", which particularly discusses the cell animation stand as anime's equivalent to the film camera, and how its technical qualities has shaped the visual and perceptual language of the medium in a wide variety of aspects. I also know that Christopher Bolton has written about the split between signifying form and signified content in anime in his essay "From Wooden Cyborgs to Celluloid Souls" - although I'm only familiar with it second-hand through Carl Silvio's essay "Animated Bodies and Cybernetic Selves" which relates Bolton's ideas to theories of posthumanism (a read that I also highly recommend). – blautoothdmand 4 months ago
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  • This is a really interesting topic! And it is quite palpable how kid-oriented animation is, particularly when you come across animated films that are not geared toward children. There is a jarring, unsettling juxtaposition in animated films like Plague Dogs, Felidae, Watership Down and Animal Farm that deal with mature themes without the sugar coating we've been conditioned to expect with animation. Granted, these are older films so animation wasn't quite as established for children the way it is now in the west. I think taking a look at Animal Farm in particular might help with this topic, considering it follows similar concepts as Zootopia but with far more negativity on the matter (considering the environment Orwell was writing in). – caffeine 3 months ago
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Why do finished films deviate so much from the concept art?

While many films, particularly those with fanciful settings, are visually spectacular, sometimes, when concept art is released, I personally find that the rejected concepts are much more spectacular than the final product. What are some deciding factors for what makes it to the final film and what remains an illustration?

  • I would talk about what things can set concept art from making it into the final film, such as with budget constraints. – BMartin43 1 month ago
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The Failed Steampunk Era of Disney

Treasure Planet and Atlantis are both two early 2000s Disney movies that both had a steampunk/sci-fi vibe going for them. However, besides their few loyal followers, they are largely unpopular compared with the more mainstream movies such as The Lion King, The Little Mermaid, and Frozen. Why did Disney’s era of "steampunk" animations seem to fail with their audience?

  • I'd highly recommend the video essay "Disney's Biggest Mistake" as it goes in-depth as to why Disney's own marketing, mismanagement, and meddling went to to destroy Treasure Planet's own chances at success. It's such a shame too, as I think both these movies are pretty good. Treasure Planet is genuinely so well-written and well-animated that it's really saddening to see it fail commercially. – Dimitri 2 months ago
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  • They did suffer from poor marketing and behind the scenes politics, true, but I think, while enjoyable, they also suffer from significant issues in content. I'd also look at Atlantis's "scandalous" PG rating, and how it effected box-office performance (similar to The Black Cauldron in the 80's). In general, the early 2000's was a rough time for Disney--maybe look at how the politics led to their problems, and whether the steampunk genre was something worth pursuing for Disney, and executives blamed the genre for their failure rather than the execution. – Allie Dawson 2 months ago
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Taken by M K Keane (PM) 2 months ago.
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Steven Universe and colonialism

Steven Universe is often praised for its diverse cast of characters and positive depictions of LGBT rights and issues. However, I feel one central theme has been mostly been ignored throughout analysis of the show, aspects of colonialism present via the Gem Homeworld’s invasion of various planets, including Earth. The characters on the show often mention Earth as a Gem colony yet I feel that there is a lack in addressing the ramifications of what this means. Historically there are many examples of cultural influence and knowledge imparted by colonists to the inhabitants of their colonies, (The French and Haiti, England and India, and others for example). Yet, there seems to be little impact of Gem colonialization on the Earth or the human inhabitants, most of which seem to be totally unaware of Gems. I think there is some interesting stuff to explore in this unexamined theme.

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    Fillers in Anime - Good for development or Waste of Time?

    The one common debate among anime fans is the quality and importance of filler. Most of the time filler is used in anime not to surpass its ongoing manga that came first so it is used to pad the story out so the manga is further ahead of development than the anime. But when it comes to stories that doesn’t have an original source, filler is often used to slow the pace down to let audiences get familiar with the characters and even build up its own lore. But these days audiences want a faster paced story at the cost of character development and world building. So should filler be excluded from all stories if it has no purpose? Or when done right, should it be allowed to stay?

    • The only time I've had/heard complaints is when the filler is a stretch for time, in which they can't provide character development without the manga's insight. Filler made for that reason, inherently can't have purpose. So it kind of answers it's own question: anything without actual content/progression can be categorized as unwanted. But at the same time, I'm not someone willing to sacrifice character development or world building for fast pacing. They're both undesirable. The handling of character development is most important and should always be present in order to remain engaging. – Slaidey 5 months ago
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    • Fillers can add depth to the characters and the setting if they are used right. A filler that does nothing to further develop characters would not please the audiences, so it would be important to make sure that it does have some point about characters etc. It can also be used to smooth out few points that were barely touched in the original works, such as characters that were "forgotten" or provide explanation to some plot elements. In short, the filler needs to "fill" the gaps in the original work. – idleric 5 months ago
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    • I feel that Fillers (although some are underdeveloped) can be used efficiently by making the series more in-depth. Not only can the audience see the daily events that impact the protagonist, yet also highlight moments in a Filler's life that affect the happenings of the whole plot. – AnnaliseAtua 2 months ago
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    Disney Remakes Cinema Needs

    Disney has already remade several of its animated classics for the live-action medium, and there is no end in sight. This trend birthed plenty of controversy, since some people love the remakes and others despise the idea of changing animated classics in any way. Whether you’re a remake-lover or a naysayer, the question remains: which remakes have made the best and smoothest transitions? Which have positively influenced cinema and Disney, and which will continue to do so for years after their releases?

    Along with this, consider the reams of Disney animated films that are slated for remakes or haven’t been touched yet. Of these, which are the ones we truly need, and why? Are there any that should never be remade, and again, why?

    • Why are remakes necessary at all? Disney's appear to slavishly recreate their source material. – BallardianGorse 6 months ago
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    Mulan - What sets the 1998 classic apart from its fellows?

    Analyse and discuss what makes Mulan different from (and arguably better/richer than) other Disney movies. Factors to discuss include the incredible historical story (based off a real Chinese legend), the fantastic music and most importantly, the heroine. Mulan is brave, smart and selfless. This is a girl who risks her life to save her father, serves her country and even saves her male love interest (rather than the other way around). She fights well physically but combines this stereotypically male approach with creative smarts and subtle tactics which represent a more feminine approach. Her character is not reduced to a basic caricature such as tomboy, sassy cynic, ladylike woman, or silly gushing girl. Mulan is a fantastic, multifaceted personality and the movie celebrates this by showing that Mulan succeeds ultimately because she embraces her whole self and brings a unique perspective and approach situations. It is arguable that no other Disney movie has quite lived up to quality of Mulan, whether by story, music or heroine standards.

    • Love the topic! It might also be beneficial to compare/contrast Mulan to other Disney women. For example, Ariel saves Eric's life--but she's also whiny, headstrong, and spoiled, unlike Mulan. Belle selflessly sacrifices her freedom for her dad, but doesn't stand up to the Beast or fight physically, the way Mulan does in serving/saving her country. Esmeralda also saves her male love interest but is arguably "reduced to...a sassy cynic" in a lot of her scenes. Additionally, discuss the facets of Mulan's personality--compare when she's more traditionally feminine vs. when she's trying to pass herself off as a man, and how/if her personality changes. – Stephanie M. 1 year ago
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    • Interesting, but for the person who picks this up, just remember that there are A LOT of articles on this site about Disney women. I suggest you read all of them and figure out how this one stands out from the rest. – Christen Mandracchia 1 year ago
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    • The fact that it's a war movie makes her character stand out most. She's socially awkward and clumsy, but she still joins the army to save her father. That takes sacrifice and courage on its own, but she later grows more confidant and takes more risks. She even taking leadership in the final battle. Like you said, her character isn't based on some trope, she's just doing what needs to be done. Her humility is another admirable trait, as seen when she turns down a position in the palace to return home. What makes her realistic is how she reflects real-life soldiers. They know the sacrifice they're making, but they would give anything to see their families again. We didn't have a character arc like Mulan's until Moana came out eighteen years later. – MaryJane 10 months ago
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