What is the appeal of Disney princess films, and what effect do they have on young girls and women?

Hamilton, Maddy (2013) What is the appeal of Disney princess films, and what effect do they have on young girls and women? BA dissertation, University of Portsmouth.

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    Walt Elias Disney, born in 1901 was an avid drawer from Chicago Illinois; he began his career by working as a sketch artist at newspapers and art studios. He then found a job making commercials based on cut-out animation for Kansas City Film Ad Company. As well as this, he began experimenting with a camera, doing hand-drawn cel animation. This later influenced him to open his own animation studio, where he would sell his seven minute cartoons to the local theatre. In 1923 however the studio fell behind on payments and was burdened with debt and closed down. It was then on February 8th 1926 Walter Elias Disney moved to Hollywood, California and formed the famous production company Walt Disney Studios, originally named the Disney Bro’s Studios with his brother Roy and his cartoonist friend Ubbe Iwerks. It wasn’t until 1937 however, that Disney released his first feature length princess film; ‘Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs’ a new take of the Grimm’s fairytale. This film would be the beginning of the Princess phenomenon that will entice girls and women for years in the future. I will be analysing the films released by the Walt Disney Studios including ‘Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs’ (1937), as the first film in the princess trend it will hold the foundations of what is prevalent in this style of Disney films to come. The next film ‘The little Mermaid’ (1989) is the first of the Princess films made within the ‘Eisner Era’. Michael Eisner became the chief executive at Disney between 1989 and 2005, and it was in this period that female characters became less of an innocent and weak female and played more of an independent role. This is also the time where “the overall make-up of the Disney studio itself shifted from being one of male dominance to...at least a greater presence of women in leadership roles” (Davis, A, 2006). ‘The little Mermaid will be the example of how this was portrayed on screen. Another film that will feature largely within this document is ‘Beauty and the Beast’ (1991), the very first of the Disney films co-written by a female and one that was widely accepted by feminists who had previously condemned the Walt Disney Studios for being chauvinistic. The film shows the lead character that prefers books and intellect to love and romance. ‘Aladdin’ (1992), ‘Pocahontas’(1995) and ‘Princess and the Frog’ (2009) will all be analysed as they develop to appeal to wider audiences, breaking stereotypes and targeting viewers of different ethnic groups as well as how Disney has grown and intercepted other age groups and what effect this may have had on the audiences. The main aim is to discover the appeal behind the stories; the mysterious and perfect endings and the magical enticement that attracts the viewers that has gained Walt Disney the worldwide recognition that has been accomplished today. The fairytale scenarios and the damsel in distressed type characters is what has been portrayed by Disney for years, being adapted and perfected by writers along with social and political advances discussed in chapter two. Being the original Disney Princess film, ‘Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs’ (1937) will be analysed to decipher the themes such as the role the Princess plays, the stereotypes, and the running themes for example characters and magical influences. These factors will be the main points of discussion within this document, I will discuss why typecasts of characters holds such a strong influence on the viewers. The most recent film to be released by the studios - ‘Brave’ (2012) will also be analysed in comparison to this, with particular reference to changes in society including historical factors. The Princess character in ‘Brave’ (2012) is notably different to its predecessor in ‘Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs’ (1937), the films in between show how the stories and the characters are developed overtime. The representation of the Princess characters will play a large part in why their charm is so well received by audiences including feminists. Breaking the stereotypes will also be discussed with particular reference to how a modern fairytale is depicted to a young audience with ‘Brave’ (2012).

    Item Type: Dissertation
    Departments/Research Groups: Faculty of Creative and Cultural Industries > School of Art and Design
    Depositing User: Jane Polwin
    Date Deposited: 06 Jan 2014 14:39
    Last Modified: 28 Jan 2015 12:32
    URI: http://eprints.port.ac.uk/id/eprint/14039

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