Since I’ve been lacking in motivation as to what to write for my blog post, and did not want to delve into yet another piece on my long project, I decided to think about the transnationalism of a topic that’s interested me for numerous years: Disney.
Disney has produced and created so many timeless movies, movies that children and adults love and cherish. However, I couldn’t help but think about how, over the last sixty or seventy years, the company has grown ever-more transnational in its approach. This blog post will consider what the development of Disney as a transnational corporation, and the benefits transnational cinema from different parts of the world could have on a person, especially children who tend to watch these films. Of course, I’m not thinking of Marvel or considering our favourite Wakandan king, partly because that would lead to an 8000 word dissertation.
In the older days of Disney, movies such as Snow White [a German classic based on a story by the Grimm Brothers] didn’t seem to be based in a particular location. These movies were rather ambiguous in nature, and appeared to take part in an almost make-believe universe. Most Disney movies have been based off old stories and folklore from around the world. The Lion King is based off Hamlet by William Shakespeare (but is based in Kenya), while The Sleeping Beauty is based off a French classic by Charles Perrault in 1697. The Jungle Book is based in India, written in a novel by Rudyard Kipling, while Mulan came from an old ballad from the Song Dynasty titled ‘An Ode to Mulan’. What truly makes this corporation transnational is the implementation of classics and stories from all around the world in a set of movies that have grown vitally universal over the past few decades. I would suggest that the diversity of such Disney films explains an ultimate increase in transnationalism through its popularity and ability to appeal to people of all ages around the world.
While the more modern Disney (after the death of Walt Disney) did still combat issues of orientalism and cultural misappropriation (particularly with Aladdin’s portrayal of the Middle East and Pocahantas’ relationship with John Smith), the corporation grew increasingly more transnational with the introduction of their first African American Princess in the Princess and the Frog, and with Moana from Polynesia. What Disney has truly managed to succeed in through all these years is use an increasing level of globalisation to make way for new actors and networks. Walt Disney himself was known to be xenophobic. After his death, there were numerous movies (particularly during the 90s), where movies based in Asian and African countries were released (The Lion King and Mulan being the most famed). This brings me back to Bayly’s arguments who focused on the sense of global history which came about during an era of globalisation in the 90s, in the AHR Conversation. This suggests that Disney was able to use the globalising environment of the 1990s to benefit their own company, only growing more popular as time went on.
Disney was able to use a change in markets and ideologies to create newer movies that were more popular from the last. They also managed to use the transnationalism of their corporation to evoke a strong emotional response in their children, thus helping to create a huge part of their identity as they grew up. This sums it up perfectly: “Although Disney cartoons can seem mushy and rather superficial for adults, there is a strong case for arguing that they create forceful memorial emotions for their first spectators, children. As an example, one of the interviewees mentions that his son ‘cries every time Simba’s father dies in the Lion King.’ On this point, several children-oriented studies confirm the identification and adoption processes at work through Disney activities.”
While Disney has attempted to create a universal make-shift world with numerous movies, particularly the older ones, the newer movies such as Moana or Mulan not only display the strength of their female characters, but also spend a lot more time explaining the cultural atmosphere in each region at the time, thus educating children as well as keeping them engaged in a fantasy, animated world. Of course, Disney has now proceeded to acquire Marvel, another very transnational company, but that’s a story for a different day.