Disney and the shape of cultural representation


Art done by Akilah Brogan.

As the progress-centered era of Disney Studios evolves, they gradually leave behind the Eurocentric backgrounds that once tainted its productions. They’ve taken a leap with their creative thinking of indulging open culture.

For over half a century Disney was only basing their films in European culture. Considering that Disney has faced many accusations on whether it was culture representation or appropriation, with racist stereotypes and remarks they made in the past leading them looking for a positive change. A change which indulges in multi-cultural backgrounds in the most realistic way possible for the viewers of all ethnicities to feel involved in movies in a non-discriminatory way.
From this reshaped vision, Disney has given us a variety of characters from different backgrounds, countries, and cultures in an authentic and accurate way that finally enlightens the viewers to engage more into these films and relate comfortably. With Disney’s first cultural movie being ´ The Three Caballeros ´ in 1943, which displayed Latin American culture, and also being Disney’s shortest film rolling at 43 minutes, many people at the time filed complaints on this as “ unsatisfactory”. Since the european based films were to be rolling at an hour and 23 minutes cutting ¨ The Three Caballeros” 40 minutes shorter than Snow White, being Disney’s first released movie in 1938.
According to Pew Research center, “Majority of Americans see at least some discrimination agaisnt black, hispanic, and asians in the U.S.” ( Over 80% of discrimination is against black people), or people of color, have been prevail against, especially African Americans and latin cultures, simply because of the color of their skin. The feeling of being inconsiderable, unrecognized, and undervalued can cause some to feel irritated, frustrated, or even not engaged. That’s due to a society that had a tendency of ignoring its citizens due to the color of their skin. Leading them to have a belief that the color of their skin determines if they have value enough to create a storyline. The production from when Disney first started to spread its entertainment in 1934 was around the era of homophobia, masculine power and racism. But fast forward to the latest release of Encanto, which circles around feminine power and Latin culture, with light skinned to dark skinned colombians and its diverse culture in the 20th century. The majority if not all, as individuals, listen to music. The music is said to be started and inspired from Syria, but has been played throughout many cultures. Although Encanto is mostly known for its diverse Colombian setting, its soundtrack is what makes the audience more engaged. The ‘Encanto’ soundtrack has had 125 millions streams making it No.1 since Frozen ´ Let it go´ in 2013. Disney is highly representative of its princesses, adventures, etc, more so its soundtracks for its films. Going back some years, Aladdin was released in 1992, centering the Arabic, Egyptian and Indian descent. fstory three years later, Pocahontas, was released in 1995. But it wasn’t until late 2009 when the First African American movie, Princess and the Frog, made its first showing. made its first showing. This was a highlight to the Black community since they finally received a movie portraying Tiana’s experience, as her life was way different than her best friend Charlotte’s, portraying Tiana’s experience and the trials and tribulations she’d had gone through, as her life was much harder than her best friend Charlotte’s because of the color of her skin. But this was the set off because now Disney has displayed many cultures in their recent films from the Incan Culture to Polynesian to having gender neutral characters. Just to give a brief insight into the film, Encanto is a great film with lovable and relatable characters. The movie’s moral is to love your imperfections and embrace them. They were all expected so much throughout the movie that they were never truly themselves. The animation is also beautiful. Everything is so realistic and detailed yet so Disney-like at the same time and their voices match the diverse personalities of their characters The determination Mirabel had in this movie to prove she is just as special as her magical family shows how important it was for her. She was just trying to make her family proud and see that she is special. The songs from the film are impeccable, they are so catchy and captivating to listen to. I love how the songs tell the story of Encanto and helps us get a better understanding of the characters, Like “Surface Pressure” and “What Else Can I Do” Not to mention the ethnicity is amazing too, so many varieties of skin tone all the characters looked different and none of them were very stereotypical.
Disney has been getting a lot of praise for their cultural movies they have been doing recently, setting the feel of the characters emotions and the soundrroundsing around them. Throughout all Disney cultural movies they take place during different time periods and different countries. Colombia (Encanto, 1950s), Northern China (Mulan 221 BCE-1912 CE), and Motunui (Moana ,984 BC). Giving you different eras and traditions that inspired the many writers, producers, directors, etc. to show from around the world. Disney has come a long way from little to no representation to various representations for all ethnicities and races, and for that we appreciate all the dedication and hard work they put behind the films.