Tag: Walt Disney

Maleficent may not be a communist, but she is the devil by Angie Indik

hnsnnWhen choosing a Disney movie to examine for historical context, Pocahontas or Davy Crockett, King of the Wild Frontier, may appear to be the obvious option. I chose to view and analyze Sleeping Beauty instead. I did not do it for the challenge, I did it, truth be told, because it is the only Disney movie I own! It is also one of my favorites. This film was released in 1959, but the story is much older. It is a fairytale that Charles Perrault has been credited with writing back in the seventeenth-century. Historians believe there are even earlier versions dating back to the fourteenth-century. No matter how old the story is, the Disney interpretation of the tale would no doubt reflect the time period of the 1950s. My goal in watching this film was to try and decipher the less obvious historical messages in the movie.

For those unacquainted with the story of Sleeping Beauty, it is about a princess who was put under a curse by the villainess Maleficent. The Princess Aurora was to prick her finger on a spinning wheel and ultimately die before her sixteenth birthday. The curse did not work as intended as Aurora ended up falling into an eternal sleep, but would awaken with true love’s kiss.

Knowing this movie was made during the Cold War, I automatically felt I should see Maleficent as a communist. It must be there somewhere, right? Nope. She was not spreading a message of anti-capitalism. She was not against individuality. Perhaps she was against free speech as Princess Aurora could not speak during her deep sleep, but I think that’s stretching it a bit. I mostly saw a jealous woman hurt because she was not invited to a party celebrating Aurora’s birth.

adhahWhile the movie did not strike me as having a particular anti-communist message, it did have religious undertones to it. The 1950s brought about a religious revival. This was a result of the anti-communist, anti-atheist feelings on the 1950s. Maleficent is presented as having big devil horns on her head. She breathes fire as she is transformed into a dragon. The villainess is seen as evil as the devil himself. On the opposing side, there are the three fairies, Meriwether, Flora and Fauna. They represent the good. They look like nuns. The trio wear dresses and habits; the only difference is they do not wear black and white, but rather blue, pink and green. They adopt and raise the princess Aurora just as nuns would in an orphanage.

The movie Sleeping Beauty also shows how the 1950s valued motherhood and the female being the homemaker. The three fairies were thrilled at the chance to raise Princess Aurora. Motherhood was something that was denied to them. Now they had a chance to take on the “sole important role” for a woman and be a mother. When it came to doing domestic work such as baking, sewing and cleaning, the film pokes fun at them as they could not tackle these projects without using magic.

While Sleeping Beauty is not inspired by a particular historical figure or event, history can be found in unlikely places such as this Disney cartoon.

 

Der Fuehrer’s Face by Daniel Cannon

Both of the readings discussed in class this week have had to do with how Disney treats history. Their tendency to only want to show the good parts of history along with their frequent conflicts with historians about their desire to do this are both chronicled in Mike Wallace’s essays. The question is, how does Disney treat contemporary events? We have read two different articles discussing their treatment of history but how did they handle things that would one day become history?

Years ago, I came across an image of Donald Duck as a Nazi. At the time, I Ducknazithought that this was just some clever play on the fact that Walt Disney was an Anti-Semite and did not put any more thought into it. I had not really thought about it again until this week. I was researching Disney and trying to figure out what their response was during World War II when I came across Nazi Donald Duck again. This time I read into it and it turns out that this is from Der Fuehrer’s Face, an Oscar winning short made by Disney in 1943 that was used as propaganda (see below). Disney, even though its leader hated Jews, seemed to hate anything that was anti-Capitalist even more.

The short animated feature opens with an excerpt of a Wagner piece and then transitions into a performance of “Der Fuehrer’s Face” done by a German oom-pah band consisting of Goebbels, Himmler, Mussolini, Tojo, and Goering. They march onto Donald’s house and force him awake so he can eat his rations and then go to work screwing on the tops of artillery shells and saluting pictures of the Axis leaders. The machine speeds up to the point that Donald cannot keep up and he draws the ire of the Nazi leaders. He wakes up in his bed at the end and he realizes this has all been a nightmare. He is wearing American flag pants and he kisses the Statue of Liberty while he praises his home country.

This is propaganda at its finest. It provides caricatures of famous leaders of the opposition and everything, while truthful, is driven up to the extreme as to scare the viewer at home. By casting Donald Duck in the title role, Disney makes the audience connect emotionally as they watch one of their icons being forced to live under Nazi rule. The very pro-America image at the conclusion of this cartoon along with the tomato in the face of Hitler at the end drives home the pro-American point very well. Disney entered the propaganda game to protect their own interests and to show the American people that they supported what the boys overseas were doing. This seems like a PR move and a good one at that.

 

Disney and The Truman Show by Sarah Butler

I have always been a fan of the Disney brand. It is something that I grew up with and because it is such an integral part of American culture it is hard to escape from. I went to Disney World as a child but don’t remember a lot of it because I was so young, but I went back twice during high school for spring training for my high school lacrosse team. While there we go to explore all of the parks and have an amazing and “magical” time.Epcot-Concept

One thing that stuck out in my memory from these trips was being in Magic Kingdom and wondering if there was anything in the houses along main street besides the store fronts. I wanted to live there and never leave Disney but, I have learned that it is all a facade. Learning that EPCOT was originally meant to be simulated community made me rethink what Disney is all about. The “Mickey Mouse History” by Mike Wallace described EPCOT as, “Disney dreamed of “a planned, controlled community, a showcase for American industry and research,” a permanent testing ground for new ideas in urban planning. Under its gigantic bubble dome, American know-how, ingenuity, and enterprise would overcome the ills of urban life”(142).

This to me did not sound like the kind of place that anyone should want to live. It sounds to me like you would be a test rat for Disney and is frankly creepy from the pictures. You wouldn’t be living a free life you would always be monitored which feels morally wrong and corrupt.

1353349429-screen-shot-2011-03-29-at-5-09-52-pm-2This planned community sounded a lot like The Truman Show film starring Jim Carrey who plays Truman. In the film Truman’s life is staged and being filmed for the enjoyment of the public. Truman has no idea this is happening and is actually living inside of a bubble and make-believe world. Things start to fall apart and he realizes that his whole life has been a lie and he has just been a product of entertainment. If EPCOT turned into what it was meant to be, I feel that all of its residents would be like Truman and become products of entertainment and consumerism. The inhabitants of this city would all be products of Disney and Disney ideals. This presents a fundamental problem with Disney. Disney is meant for entertainment and when they try to create places like EPCOT and Disney’s America they are creating a false consumer reality. Disney would be controlling the thoughts of the public in an inhumane and immoral way. The fact that EPCOT did not become what it was planned to be is a blessing and shows that the public does not want to be controlled by a conglomerate just like Truman didn’t want to be controlled by a TV show.