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Posts Tagged ‘Disney’

From a marketing perspective, Main Street at Disneyworld is an amazing success. It was established in 1955, a time of affluence for Americans, and when they were just starting to feel guilty for focusing their attention on consumerism. As Miles Orvell says in his chapter, “Constructing Main Street: Utopia and the Imagined Past” from his book about public space, Main Street, USA embodies the nostalgia of a simpler, safer, small town in America.

Walt Disney took advantage of this sentimentality for a past version of America to sell his blended, multiple theme park. Main Street, USA greets Disneyworld patrons immediately after walking through the main gates. Right from the start, visitors are made to feel comfortable and welcome, much like the feeling a product encapsulates as the consumer connects the positive qualities associated with the well-established brand to the product. For Disneyland, Disney wanted everything positive associated with the small town American Main Street to be connected with the park.

Main Street, USA is a place where Americans can go and subconsciously not feel guilty about our obsession with buying stuff. Disney made sure that the security and simplicity of Main Street would transport us back in time, and take us on an adventure of contradiction. Americans want to remember a time where freedom and democracy were at the forefront of thought instead of consumerism, and want to actively participate in consumerism at the same time. Disney sold Americans on the idea that Main Street, USA is the best good place, and Americans bought.

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new-disney-princess-lineup-rapunzel-disney-princess-18212648-1280-800For most people, the first thing that comes to mind when the subject of Walt Disney’s animated movies comes up is probably the studio’s ongoing emphasis on princesses. Since making their debut in 1937 with Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Disney has effectively cornered the market on princesses and their romantically-inclined exploits.

The studio has come a long way in terms of their treatment of these characters. Once submissive and overly feminine, today’s princesses are just as independent and strong as anyone else within the animated landscape – with the recent introduction of Disney’s first African-American princess, Tiana in The Princess and the Frog, marking a new chapter in the studio’s legacy.

The Original Princess

The various touchstones audiences have come to expect from the princess genre were laid out within Disney’s first stab at a full-length animated feature, as Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs contains such instantly-recognizable elements as the wicked stepmother, the comedic sidekicks, and the dashing prince. The rather sexist treatment of the title character – once she’s accepted by Doc, Grumpy, and the rest of the dwarfs, Snow White essentially becomes their housekeeper – is right in line with other releases from that era, and it’s worth noting that Snow White’s ultimate fate is left in the hands of a man.

After Snow white, Disney wouldn’t return to the princess genre until 1950 with Cinderella. The movie, which followed the formula established by Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs almost down to the letter, features a main character who is either unable or unwilling to stand up to her various oppressors, and, as was the case with Snow White, Cinderella isn’t able to achieve her happy ending until an outside force steps in to help (in this case it’s her fairy godmother).

The pattern of kind yet helpless princesses continued with 1959’s Sleeping Beauty, with the film’s protagonist, Princess Aurora, falling prey to an evil fairy’s curse on the eve of her 16th birthday. Sleeping Beauty’s success could be attributed to the familiarity of its storyline, as the film boasts many of the elements contained within both of its predecessors – including the revelation that Princess Aurora can only be awoken from her deep slumber by a kiss from her one true love (which is, of course, right out of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs).

The Lady Vanishes

It’s not surprising to note that princess-themed movies disappeared from Disney’s production. It wasn’t until the release of 1989’s The Little Mermaid that Disney was once again top of the box-office heap, with the movie’s success undoubtedly due in part to its reliance on the old-fashioned themes that originally defined the studio’s family-friendly brand.

The Little Mermaid, as well as 1991’s Beauty and the Beast and 1992’s Aladdin, effectively updated the princess formula for an entirely new generation, with the emphasis on old-school elements offset by the inclusion of distinctly contemporary attributes (including rapid-fire jokes and modern-sounding songs). The three films’ throwback-heavy storyline was especially noticeable in their treatment of the princess characters, as Ariel, Belle, and Jasmine, in the tradition of their royal predecessors, are forced to behave passively as others help them achieve their respective goals.

Warrior Princesses on the Rise

Young girls wouldn’t have to wait much longer for a strong role model, however, as Disney unleashed their most independent and downright fierce princess to date in 1995 with the release of Pocahontas. In addition to fighting side-by-side with her male counterparts, Pocahontas ultimately plays a pivotal role in saving the life of the man she loves – which is quite the turnaround from the princesses of yore, who were usually powerless to affect their own fate and would often wait around to be rescued by others.

Pocahontas was practically a pushover compared to Disney’s next princess, as the title character in 1998’s Mulan goes so far as to disguise herself as a boy in order to join her country’s army.  Mulan is an accomplished warrior who manages to come off as tough and independent without sacrificing her feminine qualities. With their most recent release, 2009’s The Princess and the Frog, Disney has struck an appropriate balance between the kind-hearted (yet helpless) princesses of yesteryear and the strong, girl-power-oriented heroes that today’s young women have come to expect.

Angèle SECHER, Danaé ROULT, Anais PUAU. L3 LLCE Anglais, ANGERS

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Disneyland

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So I was just browsing the Internet, not doing homework, when I saw this picture. The caption says that the picture was taken the first week Disneyland was opened. I think this picture really represents what we were talking about in class. Walt Disney is in the picture, surrounded by white, middle-class children. In the George Lipsitz article, the author says that when the park was opened, Disney himself was greeting people throughout the park , making sure everyone was having a good time. Even though children are in the forefront of this image, we can see many adults in the background, some with children, and some without. The ground is also super clean and everything looks really perfect and idealistic.

 

Here is the link to the image: http://imgur.com/gallery/ok5XGpb

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Mascot Mickey

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I can’t believe I didn’t think of this until after class, but my high school’s mascot is Mickey Mouse. The story goes that apparently somewhere in the archives (even though nobody seems to have seen it in person) we have a handwritten note from Walt Disney himself giving us permission to use Mickey. We’re the only school in the country (so they say) that’s allowed to use an official Disney character as a mascot. It’s the oldest all-girls catholic school in America, so I guess it makes sense that he would allow it based on his personal values that we discussed in class today.

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When Brian and Stewie get zapped into the “Disney” dimension, we get to witness Family Guy’s take on Disney’s animation style, musical style, and antisemitism (after the song).

Our discussion in class today reminded me of this clip.

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I didn’t get to bring it up in class, but as I read the articles, the one thing that really stood out to me was the Mark Twain river boat cruise.  I think all three of the articles talked about it, and two chose to include photos.  This interests me because, having studied Mark Twain, I’m certain he would have hated Disneyland.  Twain was a realist, and his writing (usually satirical) focused on exposing human follies and hypocrisies, which clashes with Disney’s heroic American success stories.  The Disney attraction focuses on Tom Sawyer, and seems present an idealized picture of the Missouri small-town-life setting.   Perhaps Disney identified this fictional Missouri town with the Missouri town where he grew up, and that’s what inspired him to design the river boat cruise.  The pictures show smiling child actors dressed as Tom and his “girlfriend” Becky Sharp posed with Walt “in a picture that presents Disney at the center of America’s storytelling traditions” (Lipsitz).  However, Huck Finn, the uneducated, unmannered, and impoverished son of the town drunk – and Tom’s best friend – is conspicuously missing from the promotional photo.  He leaves out the fact that Tom’s innocent boyhood hijinks are overshadowed by a murder, which Tom and Huck witness.  Not to mention the constant presence of slavery, crime, and alcoholism.  Twain deliberately sets out to illustrate the brutality in everyday life, and Disney deliberately ignores it.  In addition to rewriting American history, Disney is also rewriting American literature.

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