Genre in Contemporary Disney Animated Features (2008-2016)

  • Eve Benhamou

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Abstract

This thesis explores how Disney has re-appropriated and re-envisioned a wide range of Hollywood genres in order to revise and renew the studio’s feature-length animated output. Focusing on films released between 2008 and 2016, this study analyses their distinctive generic approach, building on the specific aesthetic of animation, and the intertext and paratext surrounding Disney.
This study elaborates on two main trends characterising Disney’s contemporary output. Section 1 focuses on borrowings from and convergences with genres of romance, including romantic and screwball comedies, looking closely at how Disney self-reflexively revises one of the studio’s most iconic genre: the fairy tale. Section 2 explores the studio’s more expansive generic impulses, considering re-appropriations of action-adventure genres such as the superhero film and the cop buddy film. These two sections demonstrate the multiple ways in which Disney’s output engages with contemporary Hollywood genres, both as animated films and Disney features.
Examining these films from the perspective of genre studies challenges well-established understandings of Disney, mainstream animation, and film genres. The analysis of non-canonical films such as Disney animated features, often excluded from live-action dominated genre studies, opens new ways to approach major Hollywood genres, foregrounding the porousness of generic borders and the key role of paratexts in generic construction. Such a generic perspective also reassesses recurring associations between mainstream animated films and a very narrow set of genres, linked to their perceived limited audience and lightweight content. Through the particular form and styles of animation, these films re-imagine a multiplicity of genres in playfully challenging and often subversive ways. Combining a focus on genre and on the specificities of the animation medium, this thesis illuminates how Disney distinctively reworks contemporary generic tropes, engaging with the studio’s own familiar narratives, aesthetic style, and gender portrayals in the process.
Date of Award23 Jan 2019
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Bristol
SupervisorKristian O Moen (Supervisor) & Sarah C J Street (Supervisor)

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