Tag Archives: Disney

The Idea of Nature in Disney Animation – Now Available in Paperback!

Ashgate is pleased to announce that David Whitley’s The Idea of Nature in Disney Animation: From Snow White to WALL-E is now available in an affordable paperback.

‘In this welcome new and expanded edition of his 2008 book, David Whitley makes a major contribution not only to Disney studies but to film/media studies and to studies of environmental representation. Packed with persuasive close readings, well-researched, and engagingly written, his book offers fresh perspectives on the Disney canon and its place in popular and academic culture.’    Kenneth Kidd, University of Florida

This second edition continues the work of the first in examining the messages conveyed to child viewers about the natural world. David Whitley updates his 2008 book to reflect recent developments in Disney and Disney-Pixar animation such as the apocalyptic tale of earth’s failed ecosystem, WALL-E.

As Whitley has shown, and Disney’s newest films continue to demonstrate, the messages animated films convey about the natural world are of crucial importance to their child viewers.

Beginning with Snow White, the book examines a wide range of Disney’s feature animations, in which images of wild nature are central to the narrative. David Whitley challenges the notion that the sentimentality of the Disney aesthetic necessarily prevents audiences from developing a critical awareness of contested environmental issues.

Contents: Introduction: wild sentiment: the theme of nature in Disney animation; Part 1 Fairy Tale Adaptations: Domesticating nature: Snow White and fairy tale adaptation; Healing the rift: human and animal nature in The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast. Part 2 The North American Wilderness: Bambi and the idea of conservation; Wilderness and power: conflicts and contested values from Pocahontas to Brother Bear. Part 3 Tropical Environments: The Jungle Book: nature and the politics of identity; Tropical discourse: unstable ecologies in Tarzan, The Lion King and Finding Nemo. Part 4 New Developments: WALL•E: nostalgia and the apocalypse of trash; Conclusion: new directions?; Bibliography; Index.

About the Author: David Whitley is Lecturer in English in the Faculty of Education, University of Cambridge, UK.

Walt Disney and Ashgate

Posted by Ann Donahue, Senior Editor, Literary Studies

According to a delicious urban legend, Walt Disney’s frozen body is buried under the Pirates of the Caribbean attraction at Disneyland, where it awaits a cure for the cancer that caused his death on December 15, 1966. Perhaps this is a morose twist on Sleeping Beauty or an instance of wish-fulfillment from the unconscious of someone traumatized by the death of Bambi’s mother. Whatever its origins, I like to think it speaks to Disney’s influence on the imaginations of twentieth-century children and their parents.

If you grew up in North America and are a person of a certain age, you probably watched the original incarnation of The Wonderful World of Disney.

Talking Animals in British Children's Fiction, 1786–1914

If you are a person whose favorite children’s books were about talking animals (Talking Animals in British Children’s Fiction, 1786–1914), Bambi may have been your favorite movie. As the judiciously spaced re-releases show, children continue to respond to the film’s brilliant animation and the opportunity it affords them to enjoy the pleasures of anthropomorphism. They are likely unaware that some groups disapprove of Bambi’s invitation to identify with forest creatures.

For evidence of ongoing adult worries about what they perceive to be the movie’s untoward “pro-animal” message, see Proposition 109, put forward this fall by Jerry Weiers of the Arizona legislature, who wants, according to the East Valley Tribune, “to protect the rights of hunters from people who watch too many Disney movies” (Prop 109 Would Protect Hunting Laws from Bambi Lovers). Anxiety about the film’s effect on children and adults is also in evidence in a 1998 address by then Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbitt, who found it necessary to counter the influence of Bambi by explaining that wildfires are a beneficial part of the “circle of life” (Fight Fire with Fire).

The Idea of Nature in Disney Animation

Even if you don’t share their particular concerns, Jerry Weiers and Bruce Babbitt may be onto something. The enduring power of Disney movies about “wild nature” to persuade and inspire is the topic of David Whitley’s The Idea of Nature in Disney Animation, published in Ashgate Studies in Childhood. Whitley suggests that Disney films about the natural world had such a strong effect on their child viewers that they played a role in the modern-day environmental movement that began in the 1960s. Years after Uncle Walt’s death, the Disney industry continues to produce films like Pocahontas and Finding Nemo that, regardless of their ideological bias, contribute to children’s awareness of contested environmental issues.

Walt Disney’s own unease with the problems of cities is treated in Steve Mannheim’s Disney and the Quest for Community, which examines Disney’s original conception of the “Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow” or EPCOT.

Walt Disney and the Quest for Community

When I volunteered at the first recycling center in my tiny Vermont town, I had no idea I was part of a generation inspired by the Disney Studio’s depictions of nature and community. I thought I just wanted to hang out with my friends and, well, save the environment.