Arts Features / Features

What I’ve learned from Disney films


The Walt Disney Company or Disney has dominated the market for children’s entertainment for over eighty years. And quite right too.

The never-ending parade of cutesy talking mice/cats/rabbits/horses singing and dancing merrily have enchanted children for decades and many teenagers and adults have films fondly etched into their childhood memories. Lucky to have grown up in the crazy decade that was the ‘90s, The Lion King was the first film that I ever saw in the cinema and from then on, brightly coloured singing animated animals became my favourite things. Ever.

However Disney films aren’t all fun and games. The characters face hardships and disasters, all of which can be overcome by an energetic song and dance. There are life lessons here, and I’ve chosen some of my favourite childhood Disney films to educate and instruct with. To simplify matters I’ve restricted my choices to the classic drawn animation films, if we’re talking Pixar that would be a whole other article.

  • The Lion King (1994)

If you haven’t watched The Lion King, you haven’t lived. From the opening visual of the rising sun over the African savannah to the bouncy tune of Hakuna Matata, it’s a joy from start to finish. The moral of the story is a simple one – never trust your clearly evil-looking lion uncle with an English accent. In fact, this is a fairly universal rule of most Disney films – if a person has a posh English accent, they are either going to be bumbling or pure evil.

  • Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937)

The classic fairytale is rendered magical with the beautiful animation. (Note – even as an adult watching back, the scene with Snow White lost in the woods is still terrifying.) Sticking one finger up to feminists everywhere, Snow White isn’t happy unless she’s cleaning or cooking for her seven little men or singing sweetly about how someday her prince will come. A lesson for us all.

  • Aladdin (1992)

If you’ve ever had to sit through Jordan and Peter Andre’s version of ‘A Whole New World’, you’ll already know that this film is responsible for creating one of the sappiest songs in Disney history. Nevertheless, Aladdin is a frenetic ride through the bazaars of the fictional city of Agrabah and true to Disney form, the main characters have been as Westernised as possible. The life lesson here – no matter how many films you see Robin Williams in, he will always be the voice of the Genie.

  • Bambi (1942)

Another “old but good” one. Bambi is famous for its tear-jerking death (I won’t reveal who it is in case you’ve been living under a rock for most of your life) but the beautiful songs and quietly intriguing animation have made it a classic. However, don’t try and make friends who’ve not had Bambi in their life watch it when they’re older, chances are they’ll mock and point out silly things, thus ruining your entire set of childhood memories. And the life lesson? The effeminate skunk Flower makes it OK to be gender confused

Originally published on The Yorker 26th November 2010


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