From the Advent of Multiculturalism to the Erasure of Race: The Representation of Race Relations in Disney Animated Features (1995-2009)

Eve Benhamou

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)

Abstract

As one of the most powerful purveyors of entertainment in the world, the Disney company has produced blockbuster films, including animated features that have enjoyed enduring popularity. Reflecting and shaping to some extent American popular culture and ideology, they have left vivid images in our memory. Arguably, one of Disney’s most ubiquitous symbol is the beautiful white princess.
The representation of race relations in Disney films has always been problematic, sometimes sparking heated debates: non-white characters were either absent or stereotypically portrayed. Nonetheless, in parallel with the advent of multiculturalism in the 1990s, a series of films have foregrounded a new approach on these portrayals, the most notable being Pocahontas (Gabriel and Goldberg, 1995), Atlantis (Trousdale and Wise, 2001), and The Princess and the Frog (Clements and Musker, 2009).
In this article, I will examine the evolution of the representation of race, focusing on the film texts and their historical and cultural context, production history, and critical reception. I will argue that the apparent messages of tolerance and promotion of multiculturalism were accompanied and slowly replaced by a colour-blind erasure of race.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages16
JournalExchanges: The Warwick Research Journal
Volume2
Issue number1
Early online date10 Oct 2014
Publication statusPublished - 10 Oct 2014

Keywords

  • Disney; Race; Multiculturalism; Pocahontas; Atlantis: The Lost Empire; The Princess and the Frog

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