Disney Animation And Child Development

1744 words (7 pages) Essay in Film Studies

18/05/17 Film Studies Reference this

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Disney animated films captivate the imagination of an abundance of people with mesmerizing music, charismatic characters, and vivid visuals. My grandmother, who had lived in poverty through most of her childhood, loved the Disney animated films as a child, because they were an escape from reality and gave her the hope of a better future. Because Disney animation played an important role in my grandmother’s childhood, she replicated these memories with her children and grandchildren through watching Walt Disney animated films.

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Although I was too young to remember my first experiences with the Disney animated films, the first experience Disney animated film that I can draw from memory is the, “The Little Mermaid”. As a child, I fell in love with the appealing characters and the enchanting music from the movie. The protagonist Ariel was engaging to me as a child because she was curious and yearned to learn about a world enigmatic to hers. The animation of “The Little Mermaid” is vibrant and displays captivating soundtrack. The plot consists of a mermaid who is fascinated with the human world and finds herself in love with Prince Eric whom she saves from shipwreck. Ariel’s father, King Triton, is very protective of his daughter and is concerned about her curiosity for the human world. In order to be with the one she loves, Ariel turns to the sea witch, Ursula, who casts a spell upon her to become human. The conditions for Ariel to remain a human are that she must get a true love’s kiss from Prince Eric within three days, and that if she does not, she will forever be unable to use her voice again. In the end, Prince Eric is tricked into falling in love with Ursula and Ariel must to fight off Ursula in order to save the kingdom and those she loves. King Triton apologizes for being too protective of Ariel and allows her to live happily ever after with Prince Eric. Disney’s “The Little Mermaid” plot contains friendships, curiosity, consequences from rashness, persistence, and the dangers of being overprotective.

Today, Disney animation plays an active role in my life because the movies are relative to loving one’s family, embracing creativity and curiosity, and an inspiration. Disney animated films have given me countless memories that I cherish with both friends and family. I want to pass on the same happy memories I had with my grandmother by making a special time to watch Disney’s movies with my younger family members. Recently, my three-year-old cousin Addy and I watched Disney-Pixar’s “Brave.” Towards end where the protagonist, Merida, hugs both of her parents, Addy asked me if the princess “loves her mommy and daddy?” I told her “yes, of course she does!” She replied “I love my mommy and daddy too!” Although my cousin may never remember that moment, it’s a moment that I will always remember.

Walt Disney Animated Studios embraces positive childhood development through their films. The Disney animated movies focus on a variety of topics that can inspire children to question, love and imagine. Although these films may be viewed only as entertainment to some people, to others it is a useful tool to educate children about supplemental life lessons through an engaging medium. Disney animated films focuses on inspiring children to be inquisitive, as questioning and wonder is essential in the learning process. Disney implements the idea of being analytical and curious through characters that are naturally inquisitive with a strong desire to learn. For example, Belle from “Beauty and the Beast,” is a girl with an investigative personality and whose hobby is reading. Another character is Alice from “Alice in Wonderland” who falls down a rabbit hole and lands in a world that only becomes “curious and curiouser” the longer she is in Wonderland. Examples of Disney’s implementation of creativity are through audio-visual effects in the 1940 film “Fantasia”. “Fantasia’s” core idea throughout the film is to encourage one to use their imagination to create simple music, shapes, and colors to then become a wonderfully complex story inspired by orchestrated music. Creativity plays a key role in the Disney movie “Meet the Robinson’s”. Lewis, young inventor, uses his imagination, creativity, curiosity, and dedication of achieving his goal of in becoming a successful inventor.

Another attribute Disney animated studios incorporates into their storylines is the importance of loving one another. Teaching young children the significant and diverse meanings of “love” is essential in a child’s development. Many Disney animated films teach the significance of loving ones friends, families, and community. Whether it is love for a friend, or love for one’s dreams and wishes, love plays an essential role in each of Disney’s animated movies. Examples of different forms of love include the 1940 film, “Pinocchio”. Pinocchio is puppet who is loved by his creator, Geppetto. A fairy magically turns Pinocchio into a real boy and Geppetto loves Pinocchio like his own son. In “The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh”, Winnie the Pooh loves all of his friends in the One-Hundred Acres Wood and they all work together with the challenges they face. In “Pocahontas”, the Native American princess makes the decision to be with her love John Smith, and tries to protect her community from fighting the English invaders and to come to peaceful terms. “The Princess and the Frog” is a story about loving and embracing one’s dreams in life. Tiana, the main character, wishes to fulfill her and her late father’s dream of owning a restaurant and works hard to make her dreams come true.

Although Disney animation promotes healthy child development and essential skills required for learning and growing, there are some who believe the films may play a negative role in a child’s development. Those critics typically believe that Disney movies are too unrealistic and have plots which center on anti-feminism, promoting materialism and foster laziness. As Walt Disney had once said, “All cartoon characters and fables must be exaggeration, caricatures. It is the very nature of fantasy and fable.” For one to expect realism in a child’s story is unrealistic within itself. Many of the Disney animated films are adaptations of stories from folk tales and other forms of previous literature. The Grimm Brothers first written down the folk stories of “Snow White”, “Cinderella”, and “Sleeping Beauty”, and “The Little Mermaid” is an adaptation of the story by Hans Christian Anderson. Therefore, many of the plots behind popular Disney stories are not created by Disney, but are instead Disney animated studio’s own interpretations of these stories that are more family orientated than the original stories themselves. Some feminists argue that the Disney princesses set an unrealistic goal of how women should behave and look. They also believe that it teaches young girls that a “Prince Charming” figure exists. However, many Disney princesses do have character traits outside the traditional, stereotypical “female” role. In Disney’s animated film, “Mulan”, Mulan breaks away from the traditional customs of her culture of becoming a stereotypical Chinese wife that serves her husband, and instead disguises herself as a male soldier to protect her father and fight for her country. Mulan does fall in love in the movie with Captain Li Shang, who she originally detests. However, the film illustrates that Li Shang is not flawless. Although some soldiers joke around with Li Shang by calling him a “pretty boy,” Li Shang proves that he is inquisitive, a good leader, and logical. Some believe that the Disney princess films contain unrealistic expectations of beauty, and insists that the Disney princesses have a damaging impact on a girl’s expectations and self-esteem. However, they are not taking into consideration of the importance of the viewer’s age. Many toddlers and young children still do not have the cognitive ability to grasp the concept of an animated character to be “setting the standards of beauty”. Then once they are old enough to understand that society has already placed a standard for beauty, they are also old enough to understand that the princesses are animated characters and are not real expectations for living people. Some also argue that Disney animated films encourage children to be materialistic. However, while Disney does sell a multitude of products, it is not the corporation’s responsibility to parent children. It is instead the sole responsibility of a child’s parents to teach against materialism.

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Thirdly, the idea that Disney animated films promotes the unrealistic dream of life’s problems “magically” disappearing and that working hard can be avoided is untrue. Many of the Disney animated characters work hard in the stories. Although Cinderella had a Fairy Godmother assist her in escaping from her evil stepmother and step-sisters, one can translate that into a real world scenario that works hard in life, and had a lucky break with someone being able to help them achieve a better life. In the animated film, “The Princess and the Frog,” Tiana must works hard to make a living and saves money to open up a restaurant she has always wanted.

Disney animated films had inspired me during my childhood years to express my creativity and imagination. Disney animated films encourage children to be curious, imaginative and creative, as well as encourage children to love in a variety of ways to promote healthy childhood development. Many of the Disney animated films are adaptations from folk and fairy tales, as well as other novels throughout literary history. Although some may not support children viewing Disney animated films due to their own interpretations of the films and what they believe the films portray, it is ultimately the parent’s role to teach their children important life lessons and how to interpret the movies. It is only the Disney Animation Studio’s to entertain both children and adults; their films do promote a multitude of encouraging messages that can translate a child to incorporate being imaginative, curious, and loving into their own lives. In conclusion, Disney animated films promote healthy childhood development. Parents and educators should properly incorporate these films for home entertainment and for education through encouraging children to use their creativity and focusing on the morals of the story.

Work Cited

“Walt Disney Quotes.” Walt Disney Quotes. Just Disney, Web. 22 Jan. 2013.

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