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. – Dimitri2 months ago
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! – Thenoshman2 months ago
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
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. – jesschaudhry2 months ago
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. – EllyB2 months ago
In my opinion hitting these tooics in a big company like Disney isn’t that bad. You have to think about the kids today and of course they grow up to fast. We live in a progressive era where technology exists and social media controls society. Of course the old disney had shows where they talked about topics like this. Our life wont always be a fairytale and I think thats is what Disney is trying to capture in their new movies and shows. They want to have a theme. A real theme and formulate it into a kid friendly way even though the adults will notice it. – 2klonewolf1 day ago
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. – Dimitri2 months ago
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 Dawson2 months ago
When Disney announced their intent to acquire a large chunk of 21st Century Fox on December 14, cinephiles and television enthusiasts alike released a harmonious d’oh! Although the deal could take more than a year to close (if regulators approve), I think we are all left wondering what this merger could mean for the future of media consumption. Domestic box office attendance in 2017 is reported to have been the lowest in 25 years. With Disney simultaneously planning their own streaming service, could this merger signal the death of theatre going as we know it?
The death of cinema has long been predicted. Perhaps with digital media, the demise of movies can be expected. This topic is timely. – Munjeera7 months ago
Definitely interested to see what the writer comes up with, not only in terms of how the merger will affect cinema, but how it will affect both companies and their fans. I'm already seeing memes, comments, and so forth rejoicing over the fact that Anastasia could be considered an official Disney princess, for one. I see some potential new fandoms and fan culture popping up here. – Stephanie M.6 months ago
If Anastasia becomes a Disney princess, so should Esmerelda from Hunchback. But I digress... – Munjeera6 months ago
Digress all you want; she is my favorite honorary princess and I agree, she should be made official. – Stephanie M.6 months ago
Perhaps also talk about the Murdoch empire and their recent run in with regulatory authorities in England. – derBruderspielt6 months ago
What are your thoughts on the prevalence of live action remakes of animated classics on Disney’s upcoming release schedule? How do you feel about the ones already released e.g. this years The Jungle Book. Is it cheap of Disney to invest only in the cost of CGI for these animal tales, knowing they have a sure thing on their hands financially, rather than in innovation and creativity to produce new stories? Finally, are you looking forward to your favourite animated classics being retold, live action, with your favourite actors, or would you rather these remain untouched?
How bout also the positive outcomes of seeing from cartoon to live-action? Beauty and the beast as one of them along with the little mermaid and mulan. Which ones deserve to have live-action remakes? – cjeacat2 years ago
Another consideration are whether these live-action versions improve on the original or not. For instance, I would say the live-action Cinderella improves on the cartoon, but The Jungle Book, while not bad, is still too indebted to the original to really work on its own, and, in my opinion, a live-actin version of Beauty and the Beast is absolutely unnecessary. – Allie Dawson2 years ago
With live-action versions of Cinderella, Maleficent, Alice in Wonderland, The Lion King, etc., it seems that every animated Disney film is likely to be re-imagined. Discuss why filmmakers are drawn to recreate these classics and the consequences. Have the most recent Disney animations, such as Moana, been influenced by the sudden live-action interest?
Don't forget to talk about Beauty and the Beast! – albee2 years ago
Also The Jungle Book and how this particular reimagining may be superior to the original film. – DallasLash172 years ago
Maybe one of the reasons is that they needed more original ideas and they thought the concept was good enough to keep the economy going. – RadosianStar2 years ago
Over the past several years Disney has churned out Live Action remakes of many of their beloved animated films. Cinderella, Alice in Wonderland, and most recently The Jungle Book and Pete’s Dragon have all been rebooted/remade. Beauty and the Beast, Mulan, Dumbo,The Sword in the Stone and Winnie the Pooh are being remade as we speak or will be in the future. Even an Aladdin Prequel is in the works. Does this slew of live action/future live action films show that Disney is running out of ideas? Would it make more sense to remake/reboot some of their films more than others (such as their lesser known animated films)? Also include how Disney compares to Pixar (which is part of their company), and other animation studios today, and to other companies in general in terms of creativity.
I believe it's less so a case of "running out of ideas" than it is "easy money." Familiarity has been one of Disney's most valuable resources since the very beginning, making it require less effort to market recognizably-titled classics with preexisting positive intertextual connotations. Pair that with the less effort required in writer's room, and you arrive at a cost effective formula for successful filmmaking and distribution. As the animated Disney films from the past decade have indicated, there is currently no lack of original and/or previously unused content to be made. – ProtoCanon2 years ago
I saw a video where the creators said that they wanted to redo a lot of the old cartoons because the "technology is better." That "people want to see it all come to life." Something to think about. – Jaye Freeland2 years ago
I do agree with ProtoCanon's "easy money," comment, but I also think it's a move of trying to stay relevant. Those movies mentioned are outdated and do not really have an audience to speak to any longer. Even when trying to show the films to your children, kids do not respond to the films, no matter how good the story telling may be, due to their having grown accustomed to the graphics of today. Disney is basically attempting to reboot its brand. – danielle5772 years ago
Jaye Freeland, excellent point. Music's the same way. The accurate protestations of Neil Young and Bob Dylan, etc., aside, the "cleanness" of digital recording technology is a boon. If they could clean up Vocalion Records' catalogue - which recorded less lucrative "race records" on bowling ball-quality vinyl - I'd be happy. – Tigey2 years ago
Discuss what was going on behind the signs in older Disney movies, and analyze both the time period some of the movies were released in, and how the happenings of those times affected certain characters in the film. For example, discuss the portrayal of the ‘Indians’ in Peter Pan, or Aladdin, and his white American-sounding self in an Arabic community. Then, consider how Disney is changing its views on culture and race, and including new characters of different races and culture such as Tiana in The Princess and the Frog
I think it's less a matter of what was going on "behind the sighs" (did you mean "scenes"?) than it has to do with the ignorance of the times. I don't think anything in particular was happening in 1953 to influence the derogatory manner in which Peter Pan depicts native people; they simply didn't know better. They didn't understand what so-called "Indians" really were and knew nothing of their culture, which led to such horrible depictions. With regards to Aladdin (and the same is true of Pocahontas and Mulan), that's simply a matter of whitewashing, caused by white North American producers, screenwriters, and animators having trouble relating to a character who does not fit into their own cultural mould - and consequently believing that their audience (presumably comprised of other white North Americans) feels the same way. The Princess and the Frog was Disney's way of acknowledging the mistakes of their past and trying to make amends. Whether that was a genuine attempt at reparations or a mere token gesture remains to be seen. It has been nearly seven years since it came out, and we've yet to see another Disney film with the same representation of POC since. – ProtoCanon2 years ago
Not that those crows in Dumbo were built on racial stereotypes... – Tigey2 years ago
I think racial stereotypes also came from what Disney believed *kids* thought Indians were, or black people were, or whatever. If you were a kid growing up in the '40s and '50s, you might believe the crows in Dumbo talked the way real black people did, for instance. That, of course, brings up a whole other issue of what we've taught kids throughout the generations and how we can do better. If The Princess and the Frog is Disney's way of atoning for mistakes, it's a good start, even a great one. Personally though, I think they have more work to do, not only in representing people of color but representing all people groups. – Stephanie M.1 year ago
The Grimm’s Fairytales are a collection of stories aimed at children with the intention of teaching them right from wrong. Disney took its own creative liberties with the stories, turning them into perhaps more-child-suited stories, a lot of which targeted young girls. To this day the cartoons are re-watched, musicals attended with fervor, and now there are increasing numbers of live-action re-makes and spin-offs. As these stories continue to teach children, especially girls, what are the messages being received? To consider: 1) To what extent are the characters (male and female) developed? How does this change in different versions (from Grimm’s to today)? 2) The appearance of the characters, especially the actresses chosen for the upcoming remakes (race, body physique etc? 3) The impact of these stories on young children (both boys and girls) – are these characters good or bad role models? 4) What do these stories teach us about behavior, social expectations, and even romance?
I took a class in studying patterns in fairytales, and in terms of gender relations, heterosexual marriage features many times as an end reward for the (often poor) main character, either male or female, and the love interest is often not mentioned much and a member of royalty. This sort of crosses into class issues, but it is an aspect of the societal expectations and what is seen as desirable (wealth and romance that leads to marriage and likely children). – Emily Deibler2 years ago
Taking a cultural perspective on how the lessons in these stories have changed from the original Grimm's Fairytales to the contemporary re-makes would be especially enlightening, as it would illuminate the prevalent cultural priorities and values of our present day. – HeatherNicole2 years ago
As the average age of viewing goes up for films like Zootopia, Big Hero 6, Inside Out, one has to notice a pattern – the target audience is much broader than it once was, now branching out to the parents of the children as well as the children themselves. Is this due to the accurate representation of difficult themes, or simply the bright colours and chance to escape into childhood again.
Could you explain what you mean by pattern? – Munjeera2 years ago
Is that better Munjeera? Let me know if I've not been clear enough.
– Miles Smith2 years ago
I think film-makers have realised the way to offer a fuller plate to the audience is to offer a multi-layered experience which caters for all of them in one way or the other. The film that started all this, in my opinion, was 'Toy Story'. – J.P. Shiel2 years ago
One might also go into the history of children's programming and do a comparison of, say, classical Hollywood vs today. I would argue that in the censored days of yore there wasn't a need for child specific programming. However, I don't know enough about the topic to create a coherent article! I look forward to reading whoever writes this one. – sophiacatherine2 years ago
I believe that animated movies are trying to push out of the zone that is exclusively 'for kids.' Just as culture is constantly changing - interests, humor, lingo etc - I find that animated films such as the ones you've listed are interested in broadening themes to make older audiences reconsider the medium. The times are changing quickly thanks to technology - animation is a technology to be taken just as seriously and these films remind us that they can be appreciated by all audiences no matter what the content. – yeongjae2 years ago
I think it is probably due to the big changes that has occurred in the way films are made. But it would be nice to see if someone could explore a few particular movies. – ferozan2 years ago
This is an interesting topic, it would be interesting to consider the business point of making movies that appeal to larger audiences. For example, the Despicable Me movie started the whole Minion franchise, which not only helped with marketing the movie but also garnered enough attention to create a movie exclusively about them. This allowed for higher box office profits thus making it a business plan. So the question is whether or not these movies are being made for the enjoyment of larger audiences or is it just a business plan to garner more profits? – aakrutipatel2 years ago
Look at the changes in the Disney princesses throughout the decades. The princesses went from being all white, to finally adding in some other "races." However, most of the princesses even today are of white European appearance. There is a shift happening within the world of the Disney "princess" to where princesses of other persuasions are slowly joining the beloved originals like Cinderella and Snow White. With Tiana, there is finally an African American princess. There are other heroines such as Ariel, Megara, Esmerelda, Pocahontas, and Mulan. However most of these characters could be classified as ethnic whites. This group is a minority in the group of Disney heroines and princesses. Disney is coming out with new movies that are introducing characters from other places in the world besides the European region. Show the changes in the princesses’ culture and ethnicities and explain any patterns that have developed. By this I mean to look at the additions to the Disney princess grouping since the 1980s.
The "shift" happened in the mid-90's and it seems like another is happening "now." Is your topic asking to explore the different patterns that have occurred with ethnic princesses since Snow White or just recently? I think this needs clarification. Also does "appearance" also include animation style? Because that too has changed with technological advances. – Cmandra3 years ago
I'm not sure what you mean by "ethnic whites". It's an interesting term, but Mulan is Chinese (Asia) and Pocahontas is Native American (North America). Esmeralda is Romanian, Megana is Greek, Ariel is a fish. Do you mean how light-skinned they are in the films? – Katheryn2 years ago
Ethnic whites are those that look white but are not European. Merida would be an ethnic white. So would Rapunzel. – amandajarrell2 years ago