Why Disney is Better Now Than When We Were Kids

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Walt Disney Pictures, in the 90’s, presented us with unforgettable films such as The Little Mermaid (1989), Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, The Lion King, etc. These formidable and successful years for the Walt Disney Co. are also known as Disney’s renaissance years, following many, many years of mediocrity just barely creeping out of the once-vibrant studio.

But the century turned, and the Y2K scare was debunked as a myth. Not so much. The mythical bug seemed to make its home inside the mouse’s kingdom, and sucked all the magic and life off of the studio’s story boards. Thus the studio tried to convince its well-earned masses that movies like Dinosaur, Atlantis: The Lost Empire, and Home on the Range were just as worthy to be included on the shelf with such greats as Tarzan and Hercules.

Not to mention the overwhelming amount of straight-to-video sequels, in an attempt to remind fans and audiences of the glory days. (A book I would highly recommend on this topic and the reason behind Disney’s temporary downfall is Disney War by James B. Stewart.)

But as great as Disney was back in the ’30s, ’40s, and ’90s, I believe it has never been as on target with their films as they have been for the last several years (or at least since Robert Iger took over as chairman and chief executive officer, and placed Pixar’s John Lasseter as chief creative officer). You see, Disney’s mantra, since Uncle Walt himself breathed life into his creations, had always been to follow your dreams, and you can be anything you want to be. All you have to do is wish on a star, or follow your heart, or sing a merry tune. Follow these three easy steps, and all will be well with your life.

Perhaps due to influences from Pixar Studios, Disney has recently taken up another message to feed its impressionable audiences. And in a most critical time in our self-serving, egotistical, lazy history, to boot.

Nearly everywhere a child turns, he’s bombarded with messages of self-indulgence, take without any give, you’re number 1 for no reason at all… but it seems to me that Disney has been taking a more realistic turn in its messages. Somewhere beneath the storyline of magical princesses and arcade room battles, the messages of Disney have turned from the deflating cushion of fantasy to the hard truths of reality.

I haven’t seen Planes, nor do I know what sort of message the upcoming  Frozen will turn out. But if you look at Disney’s recent films, you’ll see that they are promoting hard work, above wishing on a star (The Princess and the Frog), and there are some things about your life you just can’t change and you must learnt to live with (Wreck-it-Ralph). 

Even the zany Meet the Robinsons, the first non-Pixar movie Lasseter produced, was filled with the hard-hitting message that just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. And some mysteries are meant to remain just that – mysteries for us to never know. (This film happens to be a favorite in our house because it surrounds the theme of adoption in a very appropriate, and sombre way, despite the fifty minutes of pure silliness in the middle of the movie.)

Pixar, also, has taken a bold turn in their recent films as well, daring to teach kids lessons that no other animated film has had the guts to do (just watch Monsters University and you’ll see what I mean).

Not everything that comes from Disney is great, but the great things that do come from them far surpass any other entertainment medium out there (with the exception of Pixar films, The Lord of the Rings movies, and maaaaybe Harry Potter – I’m a latecomer to that franchise and brand new convert). But one thing’s for sure: When we finally do get a kid, I’ll have no shame in indoctrinating him (or her) with the latest Disney has to offer.

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About adoptingjames
My lovely wife and I are foster parents, dog owners, home owners, and Christians. I am a blogger, book editor, and author. On my blog you'll read about adoption, faith topics, inspirational thoughts, and a whole lotta Disney/Pixar lovin'! For the most exciting read ever, check out my suspense/adventure novel, The Man in the Box. You. Will. Love it.

18 Responses to Why Disney is Better Now Than When We Were Kids

  1. How to Train Your Dragon, Finding Nemo, Up, Ratatouille, Meet The Robinsons, Wall-E, Mars Needs Mom and Toy Story 3 are my favorite disney movies.

    and yes, i agree that Disney’s more realistic now. It’s just not about glass slippers anymore and being a damsel in distress (oh hey i also like Brave and Tangled). I like that they send these meaningful messages, but don’t lose the comedic value. And the life lessons have help me more than I can count.

  2. jmlucio says:

    Reblogged this on Beautiful Christian World and commented:
    Even though one of my favorite movies ever is The Little Mermaid, I see what this author is saying and I get it! Great read and a thinker. As Christians we should be worried about ALL substance we introduce our loved ones to.

  3. taobabe says:

    As a former 3D animator, I will have to respectfully disagree.

  4. I would agree to disagree. I loved the older Disney movies for the very reason of encouraging fantasies and imagination. Living in a rapidly advancing technological age the imaginations and creativity of our youth are rapidly declining statistically. The older Walt Disney movies encouraged imaginations and to dream big regardless of how unrealistic the dreams were. Realism is fine to a degree, but as Christians I believe we should guard our children’s hearts in what they receive and are taught. Is it ok to expose today’s youth to sexual onus and vulgar undertones which today’s Disney movies do? Though children may not get it, the seeds are being planted regardless. There are Disney movies that are pure, simple, and fun though. But they’re few and far between considering the two different styles of old and new.

  5. Dr Iffi says:

    hmmmm………. yes its good to instill realism into our kids and that hard work pays off and that certain things we just might not get but I still like to dream…….. I still like to wish that if I work hard I will get what I want and I would want my kids to be dreamers too….. yes with a pinch of realism though but I believe dreams make us ambitious and just believing in it sometimes makes our wishes come true because we work hard for it. not because someone tells us and discourages us that this is impossible and we also end up believing that we cant do this or that.

  6. I have issues with the Disney entertainment. So many of the young actors who our children look up to go on to become very bad role models for your children. One person asked in jest one day, “what is Disney doing to these actors”, after pondering, I have to pose this as a serious question.

  7. I also find myself disagreeing with you on this one. All the classics taught good lessons – The Lion King taught us that we can’t run from our mistakes or problems but we have to face them; The Little Mermaid taught us that quick fixes don’t work; Beauty and the Beast taught us never to judge outward appearances and that kindness can soften the hardest hearts; and I could go on. I will sadly say that I don’t think Disney will ever relive those prime years, but they were the prime years for a reason. The movies were fantastic and they were based on good sound morals. And I think that optimism is a necessity in today’s broken and cynical world (but dreams do need to be balanced with hard work, I agree with you there). And as an aside – have you watched anything on Disney channel lately? It makes me want to cry. And this is where the bad role models come from.

  8. Okay, I can see I’m facing a lot of cynicism on this one :) I would just like to point out a few things that I couldn’t fit into my post. First, I’m talking strictly about the motion pictures Disney puts out – I’m surprised they still have a channel, seeing that it was bad enough when I was in high school. So I’m not addressing their network department whatsoever. And yes, many of you are right – the renaissance Disney movies did teach good morals and lessons – I’m not denying that. They just weren’t often coupled with the hash realities of life (Simba’s dad dying – I’ll give you all that one). They sort of set this premise that once you realize what your ambitions are, everything just sort of falls into place, and in the end, everything works out. But in today’s newer movies, not everything works out perfectly. The kid from Meet the Robinsons doesn’t find his birthmother, Ralph is still a bad guy, Mike realizes he was never meant to be a scarer, etc. There’s a lot more loss portrayed in today’s films as the characters are forced to accept the reality of their situations, yet make the best of it. Hope this helps clarify a bit. I can still stand to have my mind changed. :)

    • You make some very good points but I still think you are under-estimating the ‘drama’ and loss that characters experienced in the classics. You already mentioned Simba, but consider Belle from Beauty and the Beast. Her father got imprisoned and she traded places with him. Granted that later the Beast allowed her to roam the castle, but she will still a prisoner and couldn’t see her dad anymore. Not to mention later on in the movie when her dad almost gets locked up in the asylum and Beast (whom she now loves) almost dies. When thinking about Ariel, even though she gets her dream of becoming a human at the end, she still has to give up her old family for her new one and her decision is not without loss. Then there is Cinderella who is forced to work like a slave in her own home. Ok, granted the fairy godmother came along (which is definitely not realistic when wanting to achieve your dreams), but she still suffered through a lot before her prince found her. And yes, in these movies everything works out in the end, but so it does in every Disney movie (including today’s ones). I just wanted to show that the characters in the classics also had their fair share of loss and they also had to make the best of their situations. Life has never been easy for Disney characters :)

  9. I don’t think Disney are doing that great at the moment. There was a time when they could do no wrong and would churn out classic after classic. In recent times they have presided over some spectacular flops such as John Carter and the Lone Ranger.

  10. Glynis Jolly says:

    I have read the post and the 12 comments before mine and find myself astonished at how much people do not know about Disney Studios, Walt Disney himself, and the CEOs after him. I do realize that many are too young to be completely aware of Disney’s beginnings, but clearly research has been scarce.

  11. Thank you for being open and willing to listen to my opinion, you don’t get that too often these days :)

  12. drakulus23 says:

    I disagree, Disney movies have been dumbed down over the years. Movies like Hunchback of Notre Dame is darker then any Disney movie i’ve seen this generation. Frollo and Jafar are amongst my favorite villains of all time.

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