Are Disney and Pixar Films Politicising Children?

Wreck-It Ralph

After recently watching the new Disney film Wreck-It Ralph, I was looking forward to basking in the familiar warmth that accompanies the neurotically exultant conclusions that are inevitable in Disney/Pixar films.  Openly mythic in their construction, these films always conclude with hero banishing (but not killing) the villain, and restoring order to the equilibrium that existed before the quest.  Anyone that has studied literature/film/theatre studies for longer than a day knows that this is how narratives function (for those that haven’t try looking here or here), this is uncontroversial stuff.

However, what the hyper-cheesy narrative endings infer can be read from either side of the political spectrum – either as liberal morality tales that imply that everyone is equal and should be accepted for who they are, or as cautionary conservative warnings not to attempt to transcend your socio-economic place in culture and society: the status-quo in society is there for a reason.

Wreck-It Ralph features a video game ‘bad guy’ trying to earn himself a medal (an icon of social mobility) and climb the symbolic ladder from the rubbish heap up to the penthouse.  The narrative twists and turns as they always do (see more here), but he ends up satisfied after his ordeal literally left to only look out at the world he craved earlier in the film.  He has a fatalistic acceptance of his predicament and says it is the best part about his day.

If you revisit earlier CGI kids films, they all have the same double-layered morality.  In all 3 Toy Story films, one of the central characters has an existential crisis and goes on a spiritual journey outside of Andy’s room – only to return with more toys into the enclosure:  everyone is equal and welcome, yet also realising that ‘there is no place like home’ and the status quo is restored.  The same goes for Shrek, the same goes for Cars, and the same goes for all of the earlier animated Disney films.

I can’t help but wonder whether ‘family-film’ actually just translates to ‘film-that-I-can-bend-my-politics-too’.  Of course, happy endings happen in most mainstream films, but it is the intensity of the Disney/Pixar mythic-narrative-machine with its heavy emphasis on the return to stability/equal-rights for all conclusions that are so interesting.  No other franchises so heavily permeate into children’s culture than these films; just think of the fast-food tie-ins, merchandise, video games/apps and clothing that children interact with.  All of these characters can be classed as heroes of both right-wing and left-wing fundamentals.

For more from Ollie visit his blog Crispy Sharp Film

Winnie the Pooh – Trailer

The trailer below is not exactly a great one, Keane and Winnie the Pooh are a strange and unnatural mix, but what it is trailing is pretty exciting.

Coming next year is a new Winnie the Pooh film that is hand drawn like in the good old days. It even has Craig Ferguson as Owl for some reason.

Reminds me of my old The New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh VHS which was probably given away to a younger cousin and then thrown out. Curse you younger cousins.

Disney Get Specific About Boobs

It’s enough to make Mickey Mouse blush as Disney have sent out a casting call for Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides asking for “beautiful female fit models. Must be 5ft 7in-5ft 8in, size 4 or 6, no bigger or smaller. Age 18-25. Must have a lean dancer body. Must have real breasts. Do not submit if you have implants.”

Apparently there’s even going to be a “show and tell” day when the applicants assets will be put to the test. Good old Hollywood glamour!

In other Pirates news, details of Penelope Cruz’s character have been revealed; she is to play Blackbeard’s daughter and love interest to Captain Jack. Exciting stuff.

Please make up your own joke about Orlando Bloom being a boob.

Cineworld Drop Alice Boycott

Cineworld have announced that they have reached a compromise with Disney and are going to show Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland despite the earlier DVD release date. The Times “understands” that this is due to a promise from Disney that this will not become the standard for new film releases. The whole mess continues to baffle me as the average consumer doesn’t know when a DVD is going to be released and probably doesn’t care, especially for a 3D film where the cinema offers a much better experience. Other cinema chains are likely to follow suit or lose large audiences to a major rival.

Alice in UK Boycott Dispute

It was pointed out to me today that I had completely missed the story of the three big UK cinema chains, Odeon, Vue and Cineworld, threatening to boycott Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland. In a bid to combat piracy and have the film available for consumers to buy on DVD sooner Disney are proposing to have the DVD out 12 weeks after the theatrical release rather than the standard 17 weeks.

The cinema chains are unhappy as this will allow them less time as the exclusive outlet for the film and so predict they will lose money, and with these three owning about 60% of all British screens and over 90% of British 3D screens Disney would stand to lose millions should the boycott go through. Disney tried the same tactic with A Christmas Carol last year but eventually caved to the cinemas demands so could well do the same this time around.

From the cinema’s point of view it is clearly benificial to have the film exclusively for 17 weeks rather than 12 but isn’t having the film for no weeks at all an even worse prospect? I feel it might be worth Disney calling the cinema chains bluff as I don’t see following through with the boycott as a good business decision.

With today’s technology and the modern consumer’s demand for media content as they want it, when they want it, it is refreshing to see a company like Disney make moves  towards not forcing people to wait for access to a film in the medium they want. If someone misses a film in the cinema and are able to then see it on DVD they are arguably less likely to turn to piracy. As the rest of the world moves forward the entertainment industry cannot hope to stick to old outdated distribution methods. Earlier this week Bollywood film Striker was released simultaneously in cinemas and on YouTube, allowing the choice between the big screen experience and a more on demand option.

If consumers can’t get what they want through official means they are liable to turn to illegal options that are more convenient. Disney is making a step in the right direction and I hope they are not hindered by the cinema’s interference.