While Disney may receive a lot of criticism for scandalous race portrayals and imagery, there is no doubt that there are many positive effects these films have on children even today. The issues of expression, equality, safety, hope and self-acceptance are all issues covered by Disney films that will benefit your children.
While not always praised for their ethnic diversity, Disney has made efforts to make sure their heroes and heroines are not always Caucasian, as in the case of The Jungle Book, The Princess and the Frog, Aladdin, Mulan and Pocahontas. As well in the animated Disney films, the heroes are both male and female, if not predominantly female. Females in later Disney films are smart, kind, witty and noble, such as in Tangled, Beauty and the Beast, and giving a good interpretation of female empowerment to young girls.
Many Disney programs show children the importance of being safe and listening to your guardians. Though in a dream, Alice from Alice in Wonderland wanders off from her sister and becomes lost and stuck in Wonderland, only wishing to go home. Pinocchio leaves his father and becomes lost and kidnapped while Ariel from the Little Mermaid leaves the advice of her father and makes a deal with a dangerous witch, risking her life. Messages like this inform children to listen to advice given by their parents and to stay safe.
Though this may sometimes go over a child's head, Disney movies occasionally have a message at the end of the movie. Such was the case with the film Wall-E. Though the protagonist doesn't do more than blip, beep, and occasionally shout its own name or the name of his love interest Eve, the world around Wall-E shows the importance of helping the environment. The message at the end of the film gears children toward environmental awareness, planting trees and the risks of overconsumption as a person and as a society.
The genie from Aladdin said it best while transformed into a bee and buzzing beside Aladdin's ear as Aladdin pretends to be a prince in front of Jasmine: "Just -bee- yourself." Many Disney movies such as Aladdin and The Lion King show children both the importance of being yourself and living up to your responsibilities, as well as knowing that people will like you for who you are, not who you pretend to be.
While not always the case in life, Disney movies encourage children to believe and hope. Belief in happy endings and that people will do the right thing is important to child morality. Innocence and naivety is not something you will want your child to be rid of any time soon.
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