Blog #10: Depiction of Race In Disney Movies

Last week I discussed the topic of how Latinos are depicted in cartoons in general.  I thought a little more about race in animation, and wanted to expand on that idea.  Disney movies have also been a topic I spoke on various times throughout the weeks.  But combining both ideas of race in Disney movies seemed interesting to me.  Disney movies are meant to be targeted to the younger generation and usually the same themes and topics of unity, love, and respect are represented.  However, there are different ways to depict the characters in these movies.  Most villains and heroes vary from culture and ethnicity.  The Disney animation eras span their interest in different regions, so that also can play into the factor on why different races and nationalities were presented.  Some of these representations were seen with positive light, but others were depicted in negative stereotypes.  However, Disney movies have historically depicted different cultures and races for the goal to better the story and let audiences understand the environment the characters are in.

aladdin and jasmine

“Aladdin” was a movie where the setting and characters were Arabian.  The main character, Aladdin, was male, young, poor, and a thief.  He wore a vest with no shirt under, and jumpsuit-like pants that seemed like the clothing style of the Arabian culture.  He also wore a “fez”, which was a hat that is represented by Islamic culture.  The woman he was after and the other main character, Jasmine, also wore a typical Arabian outfit.  She wore a matching blue outfit, with a head piece with a jewel, and a two piece suit, also similar to the Arabian culture.  These two main characters, much like various others in the movie, wore the culture’s typical clothing, but had various accents.  The more villainous characters had typical accents, but the main characters seemed to have a typical American accent.

mulan and characters

“Mulan” had the characters set in China during the Han Dynesty, and the main character, Mulan, was ready to defend her country.  This movie’s theme was all about the change of stereotypes, but in the perspective of gender.  The Chinese culture was used heavily in this movie.  “Mulan” started off with the audience seeing how Mulan lived in her family.  She wore the typical Chinese culture’s outfits, and the environment around her was set in a house with typical Chinese decorations.  Throughout the movie, many animated characters are presented, such as Mushu the dragon and Cri-Kee the cricket, all important figures in the Chinese culture.  These characters were very animated and colorful, especially Mushu.  The fighters also wore typical battle-like clothing in the Chinese culture, so audiences were able to see another perspective of this culture.

pocahontas and characters

“Pocahontas” was a fictional story of when the British settlers arrived in the New World and met with the Native American group.  This movie’s theme was all about the differences between cultures, and many stereotypes, positive and negative were depicted.  The way the settlers were represented, mostly light skin, most blond hair, and most aggressive, were supposed to be the villainous role, something that was new to animations.  Usually those that are of European decent are the ones that are the protagonists.  Pocahontas and the Powhatans were all seen as the victims, and they were mostly dark haired, tan skinned, and seemed to have few advanced tools.   The animation was great in this movie, having a very colorful environment, animals, and great actions scenes.  The animation was crisp, and even though it had both positive and negative stereotypes, the audiences got to see the good and the bad from both perspectives.

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2 responses to “Blog #10: Depiction of Race In Disney Movies

  1. I definitely think that race in Disney cartoons is an interesting topic to look at, and it is a complicated one as well. Now, there were some missteps, particularly in early films such as Dumbo (the Jim Crows, really?) but I do think that some strides have been made to show unity and that we are all the same. Yes, the outfits and words of some of these characters can be stereotypical, but just looking at how Disney has attempted to have a Princess of every ethnicity shows that they are at least making efforts to show all races as equal, and I give them credit for that.

  2. Pingback: My Comments (UPDATED 4/8) « jcampione

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