Disney’s Loss of Innocence: language, race and gender in children’s animated movies

Some people may say the Disney Problem is a matter of unconscious bias, or even cultural blindness. However, it’s more likely a lack of intercultural competence. The writers and producers of these Disney movies (some of them wonderfully powerful) may not be “bad” people but they may want to reflect on how they are interacting or navigating cultural differences.

Cultural Life

1024px-Disney_Orlando_castle_at_night Disney Orlando castle at night. By Veryhuman (Own work) CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Most of my peers grew up with Disney animated movies. They watched the classics — The Lion KingPocahontasBeauty and the Beast… I didn’t. To this day, I’ve seen a grand total of two Disney animations: Dumbo and The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh.

Yes, yes, I know. I haven’t seen The Lion King, or Bambi, which is sometimes marked out as an oddity if it comes up in conversations with friends, as though I’m confessing an eccentric habit.

Disney’s movies are a fond presence in millions of childhoods throughout the world, and beyond (last year, a friend asked me if I wanted to go and see Cinderella with her. I suggested Far from the Madding Crowd instead). But these movies aren’t as child-friendly and full of innocent wonder…

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