Beginner’s Guide to… Disney

by Phosile Mashinkila
The pretty dresses,the handsome princes, the happy endings and the memorable Oscar winning songs. I know I’m not the only one that gets a warm, fuzzy feeling inside at the memory of those Disney films: that moment when you sat down at the cue of the fairytale castle and the magical opening music at the beginning of every film. Classic.
Okay, fair enough some of the oldies have some awfully racist stereotypes:
  1. The crows from Dumbo with their shamelessly Jim Crow connotations and the usual negative depiction of African Americans in the 1940s as poor, uneducated chain smokers with a white guy being hired to put on a ‘black’ voice. Oh dear.
  2. Then an upgrade from crows to monkeys in The Jungle Book and a whole song dedicated to how they want to be like real people. In case you’re still wondering what I’m going on about, it’s that one called I Wanna Be Like You…
  3. On top of a making a film based on the implications of a grown man writing a book about a boy who never grows up, my face also crinkles with cringe at the Native American characters in Peter Pan, with their song called What Made the Red Man Red. Eeek.
  4. Although not so bad, the fact that every great Disney villain- Jafar, Scar etc.- has an English accent, while all the other characters have friendly, welcoming American accents. Hhhmm…
Nevertheless, Disney films are like your great Uncle Fred, who makes those bigoted comments that you just forgive because he’s from another age and another more ignorant time.
And there are some valuable lessons to be learnt from Disney films that stay with you for life: The Hunchback of Notre Dame and Beauty and the Beast conveyed the importance of focusing on someone’s inner beauty rather than their outward appearance through the unfortunately ugly yet kind characters of the Beast and Quasimodo. Let’s not forget that The Lion King is based on Shakespeare’s Hamlet: the kingdom of Denmark being corrupted by the disruption of The Great Chain of Being is assimilated in the gradual degradation of Pride Rock by Scar killing his brother Mufasa. And who would ever have thought that Dickens’ classic Oliver Twist  could become an endearing story about a ginger cat that gets taken in by a gang of street dogs, with Billy Joel voicing one of the characters as well as singing on the soundtrack in Oliver and Company. Oh, the wonders of the imagination never cease to amaze and that’s what Disney has brought to millions of children worldwide and will continue to do so.
This was very hard, but my abbreviated list of Must See Movies:
Bambi (1942)
Oliver and Company (1988)
The Little Mermaid  (1989)
Beauty and the Beast (1991)
Aladdin (1992)
The Lion King (1994)
Toy Story (1995)
The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996)


Sign up for the newsletter!

Want to contribute? Join our contributors’ group here or email us – click here for contact details