Is Disney Really So Bad?: Disney and the Evolution of the Traditional American Fairy Tale

analytical Essay
1565 words
1565 words

According to Clarese James, fairy tales, or fairy stories, are compiled of a “series of cultural layers” (336). These layers were built over time, with each age adding to and taking from the tales in order to make them relevant. The first layer is that of a “primitive period” which is evidenced by the allusions to archaic “customs and beliefs” that are found in most fairy tales (James 336). The second layer consists medieval elements that were added to the tales by a traveling storyteller during the Middle Ages. Later, the tales were sanitized by Christianity. This layering has continued through time, with “each age contributing something of its own,” until we are left with the modern variations (James 336). In the 20s and 30s, Disney began adding new layers to traditional European fairy tales. These layers create tales that are relevant and able to successfully communicate with American audiences. By doing this, Disney’s fairy tale films have become traditional American fairy tales. Before being able to understand Disney’s ability to create “new” traditional tales for his viewing audience, it is important to have a general understanding of the early evolution of the fairy tale genre. Initially, fairy tales were oral tales. From the time people became capable of speech, they began to tell tales, and through these oral narratives they were able to “learn about themselves and the worlds that they inhabited” (Zipes, “The Cultural Evolution of Storytelling 2). The oral nature of tales helped to bring people together. As a result, the sharing of tales was a communal experience. As such, the tales were used for “initiation, worship, warning, and indoctrination” (Zipes, “Breaking the Disney Spell 334). They also worked ... ... middle of paper ... ...h his other early fairy tale films, including Pinocchio, Cinderella, and Sleeping Beauty, Disney continued to inspire the American people and to perpetuate the American Dream. He also continues to give hope and encourage people to behave appropriately in the face of adversity. This time, however, the adversity is war and not the Depression. In each of these tales, the protagonist is able to achieve their happily-ever-after through their own means. Pinocchio unselfishly rescues Geppetto and is rewarded with becoming a real, little boy. Cinderella is able to escape from her cruel stepfamily as a reward being hardworking, unselfish and kind. Aurora is rewarded with true love and happiness as a reward for being a kind, caring, and obedient to the fairies who have raised her. Each of these protagonists is rewarded with a happy life for being caring and unselfish.

In this essay, the author

  • Explains that fairy tales are compiled of a series of cultural layers, with each age adding to and taking from them to make them relevant.
  • Opines that disney's ability to create "new" traditional tales for his viewing audience is important before understanding the early evolution of the fairy tale genre.
  • Explains the oral nature of fairy tales helped to bring people together. they were used for initiation, worship, warning, and indoctrination.
  • Explains that fairy tales "underwent an immense revolution" after the invention of the printing press.
  • Explains that by recording fairy tales in written form, they were taken out of the oral realm and people were able to read them in privacy.
  • Analyzes how the advent of the moving picture affected the fairy tale genre. by filming fairytales, the images used to illustrate the tales created a text of their own with their meanings.
  • Analyzes how the popularity of disney's fairy tales has hampered the process of understanding its impact. many critics praise his work, while others consider it to be "vulgar...tasteless"
  • Analyzes how jack zipes' "breaking the disney spell" asks if disney cast his mass-mediated spell on the fairy tales through his lens.
  • Explains that disney began making animated variations of fairy tales, including little red riding hood, puss in boot, jack and the beanstalk, and cinderella, with ub iwerks.
  • Analyzes how disney's true americanization of traditional european fairy tales began with the three little pigs and snow white and the seven dwarfs.
  • Analyzes how disney's three little pigs is about more than three pigs, the homes they built, and the defeat of a wolf.
  • Analyzes how disney's first full-length animated film, snow white and the seven dwarfs, encompassed the "rags to riches story of the american dream."
  • Analyzes how disney focuses on snow white's strong desire for and eventual attainment of happily-ever-after rather than the jealousy of the stepmother. disney encourages the american people to "never give up hop[e]" for a better life
  • Analyzes how disney glorifies the common man in the form of the dwarfs, which exemplifies the community spirit roused by roosevelt's new deal.
  • Analyzes how disney continued to inspire the american people through his early fairy tale films, including pinocchio, cinderella, and sleeping beauty.
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