In the golden age of animation, Walt Disney was one of the famous animators in the industry who founded The Walt Disney Corporation. He was an American film director, producer, screenwriter, entertainer and entrepreneur. Most of Disney’s work represents characters that embody racial, ethnic, and gender stereotypes, middle-class perspective and royalist ideology while focusing on themes like innocence, friendship, magic and fairytale. As Teresa de Lauretis point out “the technology of cinema constructs gender, controlling the field of social meaning, creating representations that we negotiate and inhabit”. Disney’s representation of gender requires an understanding of the cultural hegemony conceptualization of “real” and “ideal” because it created subtle messages of acceptable social construct of men and women. Disney’s trademark of innocence operates on a systematic sanitization of violence, sexuality, and political struggle concomitant with an erasure or repression of difference. Disney also used the “anthropomorphism” to satirize society or politics.
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Disney’s ideology of fairy tale appeared in the first animated feature length film released in 1937, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. It was well-known as the first to use Technicolor cel animation, about 250,000 celluloid frames for each animated film. The film was allows some parts of each frame to be repeated from frame to frame, as layers upon layers of retelling, and in particular, a retelling of woman’s body. The exceptional woman treated in Elizabeth Bell’s essay locates the construction of gender within the material of production because they used live-action models for the characters and cinematic conventions of representing women. Each individual “cel” of film was hand-painted by women who creating indelible images of the feminine. A female character in Disney’s film is the inherent expectation to find happiness by falling in love and getting married with the prince. Snow White character allows girls to have fairy-tales to dream of and hope for. Representations of women in Disney films are ultimately “defined by male standards and goals” without displaying their own independent desires separated from romantic relationships. This is due to the personal belief and attitude Walt Disney has towards how the family life is shaped and what roles women should play in society.
During that time, the standards of contemporary beauty in Hollywood were young, pretty, white, graceful and slender. Disney’s main female character moved along with these standards except for old female character and middle-aged women. Middle-aged women represented as femme fatales, dark, independent, treacherous and dressed on extravagant costumes. They usually played the roles of an evil stepmother who envied the younger heroine for her looks and ended up being defeated or killed. For old female characters are depicted as gray and wrinkled, clumsy, and frumpily dressed. Disney’s representation of women is the treatments of the feminine life-cycle in hegemonic social disclose and stereotypes about women’s bodies.
Disney production films showed the ideals of nature conflict through their female protagonists where women are fully dependent on men and female characters are often shown as happy housewives. They set the standards for girls on how to grow up in order to find their prince; women are supposed to be skinny, beautiful, acquiescent, and perform duties of a housewife. They will not disobey direct orders and do not hold jobs of their own. Contemporary society believes that women need to be more independent through the film because it has a huge impact on young audience on how they see the world. They want Disney to show that women can take care of themselves, more independent, be leaders, have jobs and do not rely on men. They also want Disney to transform into equality of gender because most of their films show a male dominated outlook. Feminists concerned about perception of the world and values about the point of view on young children especially girls to watch for unhealthy look of the physical attributes along with the values supporting male dominance.
As gender is a prevalent topic amongst Disney films, representation of nature can also be illustrated within these films In Bambi’s film, released during World War II, the film still used Technicolor cel animation but the goal was to obtain a highly realistic look than the previous productions. Bambi is one of the most acclaimed classics productions of the history of traditional animation. Each individual shows detail of nature; for instance, in the open scene we saw the shadow of sunlight which represents the morning hours.
There was a scene involving two autumn leaves conversing and eventually dying by falling to the ground, but the artist found that talking flora didn’t work in the context of the film and instead used a visual metaphor of two realistic leaves falling to the ground. There was a scene of Bambi stepping on an ant’s nest and showing all the devastation that he caused, but it was cut for pacing reason. Walt Disney attempted to achieve realistic detail in this animated film. He had Rico LeBrun, a painter of animals, come and lecture to the animators on the structure and movement of animals. A small zoo was also established at the studio so animators could study other animals, like rabbits, ducks, owls, and skunks, at close range. The animators learned a lot about animals during the film’s production that they would utilize in future projects. Animators now had a broader spectrum of animation styles, from the wider stylization of Mickey Mouse to the naturalistic look and realistic movement of the characters in Bambi.
Disney used “Anthropomorphism” to represent anti-hunter and politics by using non-human characteristics to display an object or abstract concepts. Anthropomorphism ascribes human motivation, characteristics or behavior to things not human, such as inanimate objects, animals or natural phenomena. The whole movie dealt with nature that was interrupted by human but the film did not show any human in the entire film. David Payne also sees a script written in this film which represents the realism of nature. Bambi is a story about the birth and maturation of a young male; the son of the stag who rules the forest and his mother who was killed by “man”.
Disney uses animals to attract children because they are innocence and authentic. Also have the ability to retreat to a world of their own by using their imagination where human can be evil and dangerous to nature. In the scene that Bambi mother gets shot and forest burn down represent the evil side of human.
Disney’s films maintain power of relation between hegemony and ideology in our culture to justify social groups based on race, gender, age, and ethnicity. “Other uses of the concept grasp ideology as justifying the actions of all groups of people so that marginal and subordinate groups also have ideologies in the sense of organizing and justifying ideas about themselves and the world”, Barker Chris stated about understanding of ideology.
The narratives of media culture offer patterns of proper and improper behavior, moral messages, and ideological conditioning, sugar-coating social and political ideas with pleasurable and seductive forms of popular entertainment.
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