Learning Themes from the Wonders of Disney

Disney films are wonderful. Honestly. 

I’m writing this after getting back from seeing Moana earlier today (with our brand new Cineworld cards, no less) and it was a truly beautiful film; I mean that aesthetically and thematically. If you haven’t seen it, I’d go see it now; it’s not out in cinemas for much longer.

As big budget animations, heavily marketed and pushed, Disney films are always going to make some kind of impact; for better or worse. Kids are always going to want to go see the colourful characters, and Disney are always going to hope they latch on just as they did back during the Frozen-phase. This makes these films powerful vehicles.

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A beautiful film!

Now, you can go back to Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs in 1937 and analyse upwards, there’s probably quite the number of questionable themes within the earlier entries, but if we consider the more recent examples we can clearly see Disney (or, at least their writers) using the weight to tackle some more important issues. Zootopia, which is fantastic again, clearly tackles racism, segregation, phobia, and prejudice. The previously mentioned Frozen, clearly mocks the age old love-at-first-sight cliche of the original Disney titles. Then there’s Moana, featuring a majority Polynesian cast, something I think deserves a mention to begin with, and about owning, not just mistakes, but identity. It’s a beautiful film about self worth in the face of social expectations; it’s about remaining true to yourself. I’m no parent, and hopefully wont be for at least another couple of years or so, but these are the kinds of films I want my children to see; I want to promote these kinds of values.

This makes me ask, as a writer, what is my work conveying? What do my characters represent? Of course, not all stories need a moral message, not all characters represent a theme, but it’s at the very least important to know that you’ve made that distinction on purpose; it’s good to have considered all the bases. By considering the themes of your book, by considering what people could learn from it, you consider whether you’re actually promoting something unintended that maybe you don’t want to show. You also create a far more coherent story! If you feel your book is missing something, that something is a little off or it feels a little shallow, perhaps it’s the lack of a coherent message.

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Zootopia; clear themes, clear messages, great film.

Regardless of what you think about Disney as a company, their story work is clearly well conceived, with strong female (and male!) rolemodels, upholding genuine and important values. What better for the young, and old, to learn from?

Have you seen the recent Disney films? What do you think of their messages?

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15 thoughts on “Learning Themes from the Wonders of Disney

  1. Great post! I have loads of respect for Disney and always get a little annoyed when people trash certain things. I know the “Disney princess” thing is something that not everyone agrees with but the modern “princesses” are getting far better nowadays and are perfectly good role models for young girls now. I think people need to remember that the oldest Disney films were made at a very different time. Disney’s heart has always been in the right place & the films promote great values. : )

    1. Exactly! The most recent works are truly great and I’d happily let my sons and daughters watch them (when that time comes, at least!). I think some people just use the whole work to trash it, when each film is a product of a different time.

  2. Oh my goodness! What a great post and a blog I have found today. And that question what my work is conveying is that always bother me after something that I have wrote. And I am big lover of Disney movies especially Cinderella how many times I have already seen it doesn’t matter and many more views to come. An amazing post. Glad connected

  3. The best part is that kids see these films and in an entertaining and fun way it’s instilled into them—these values and thoughts. Great post! Totally agree.

  4. I’m so glad I found this because it sums up why I love Disney movies so much, and I never could explain it so clearly myself. I already had planned to see Moana tomorrow night (I have to see every new pixar movie in the theater, my poor boyfriend hates it lol) but you made me 10x more stoked about it. Your writing is amazing 🙂

    1. Your boyfriend doesn’t know what he’s missing! Haha. I don’t know how anyone can hate Disney 🙂 You’re in for a treat with Moana, let me know what you think of it!

  5. I agree with this post. Actually, one close friend complained her that her mom let her little brother and sister watch the new Cinderella because it’s ‘feeding them crap values.’ I pointed out we grew up watching the originals and turned into competent, opinionated young woman.

    Saying that, I loved the messages in Zootopia and Frozen. I loved that they were accessible and non-preachy: great story first, message sneakily second. I dont believe every movie a kid watches has to teach them something (look at popular adult films…) but it is a huge bonus that we can share great values with them in a fun way.

    Long comment sorry 😅

    1. I think the more recent iterations definitely have better messages behind them, but there’s always something important you can take away! I agree, I like that they make an enjoyable tale but there’s some heart there, and something to learn; it’s much better than preaching at kids who, under most circumstances, just don’t want to be preached to. Great they can sneak something in there!

      P.S. Never apologise for a long comment, I’m glad something I wrote resonated with someone enough to inspire a long comment 😀

      1. Yes absolutely ☺ and I think teaching kids values such as kindness is equally important. But of course there is a difference between kindness and weakness, which I think is the issue with the early films.

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