Disney's Medievalesque Sleeping Beauty

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Disney's Medievalesque Sleeping Beauty

"It was not once upon a time, but in a certain time in history, before anyone knew what was happening, Walt Disney cast a spell on the fairy tale. He did not use a magic wand or demonic powers. On the contrary, Disney employed the most up-to-date technological means and used his own American "grit" and ingenuity to appropriate European fairy tales. His technical skills and ideological proclivities were so consummate that his signature obfuscated the names of Charles Perrault, the Brothers Grimm, Hans Christian Andersen, and Collodi. If children or adults think of the great classical fairy tales today, be it Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, or Cinderella, they will think Walt Disney. "

--Jack Zipes, "Breaking the Disney Spell" (72)

Zipes, one of the foremost scholars on the "fairy tale" has published numerous commentaries on Disney's cinematic versions of fairy tales and critiques Disney for using them to perpetuate what Zipes sees as cultural ills. In the same essay he writes, "The manner in which he copied the musical films and plays of his time, and his close adaptation of fairy tales with patriarchal codes indicate that all the technical experiments would not be used to foster social change in America, but to keep power in the hands of individuals like himself, who felt empowered to design and create new worlds" (Zipes 93). Zipes ultimately sees Disney's egotism as guilty of failing to utilize the opportunity afforded within a medium such as the animated fairy tale to acknowledge and foster change within the social order.

Zipes, along with other scholars such as Eleanor Byrne and Martin McQuillan, authors of the book Deconstructing Disney, explore and catalogue the various ways in which Walt Disney-the man-and Disney-the corporation that is his legacy-perpetuate social figurations of race, gender and ethnocentrism through they films they produce. They furthermore critique Disney for reducing fairy tales to over-simplified, over-sanitized and over-sentimentalized banalities designed solely as a profit-generating products. Such analyses prove to be truly important work, as the socio-cultural ideas propagated by Disney, as well as the means by it executed such propagation prove key in unlocking the messages that are sent through seemingly harmless "entertainment". As Zipes keenly point out,

Yet, amus...

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