Animation Studies 2.0: Cultural Dominances

From Animation Studies 2.0, the blog post I chose was: “Disney Animated Features and Engaging Middle Grade Learners”. (https://blog.animationstudies.org/?p=1144)

I found this article particularly interesting to read as it discusses the idea of the legacy of imperialism which conveys the cultural dominances that once occurred in the past. I think its particularly important for children to understand these issues as many people today still experience being mistreated and related to malicious stereotypes. Educating children about these issues could possibly teach them to treat each other with respect and to not judge someone just upon their looks regarding race as well as gender.

I think using animation to educate children on these issues can be a very useful tool if done so correctly. This is because animation can be made very engaging by producing them in an creative manner, which can be manipulated to express issues that live action possibly could not accomplish.

Within the article one of the films introduced to us is Disney’s Pocahontas. With the clear racial differences within this animation it is understandable that there would possibly be controversy over this topic. One of the things that stunned me whilst reading this post was the children’s response to the song “Savages” in the film Pocahontas. The song essentially features the English troops preparing for battle against the Native Americans, which alone shows the cultural dominance. The children however misinterpreted the song and cheered it on, not understanding the racial links within it which shocked me.

However in the film John Smith the British man, Pocahontas and the Native American woman, Pocahontas essentially try to bring their people together. Due to this I think the film does a fairly good job at showing that people should be treated equally and that we are all the same as humans, regardless of the colour of our skin or where we come from. Although there are still some flaws, I think the song “Colours of the Wind” in Pocahontas does a good job at displaying this issue. Also I think its a good educational song for children to show we’re all equal.

Another Disney film that the article features is “The Jungle Book”. Again this also displays another clear racial difference however this is expressed differently. One way this is addressed is through the problematic character of King Louie. The children were first given other resources such as poems and other reading materials based upon this. They were then given the opportunity to watch a clip from The Jungle Book which stated by the article, peaked the children’s interest as they appeared to be more lively and interested.

I found this factor interesting as it shows that animation can be used as a more effective form of education. Since it is evident that children enjoy to watch animations, creating them to convey a certain topic could really benefit the children. This is because this could possibly make children more interested in their education if they are able to learn in a way that they enjoy and doesn’t seem so non-visually driven.

The children were shown the song “I wanna be like you” from The Jungle Book, which is sang by the character King Louie. The article states that the children were unsure as to why they were shown this clip and its link to imperialism. They were then given the lyrics of the song and “the students were horrified to learn that what was once a fun and carefree animated song-and-dance number can more accurately be read as institutionally racist support for imperialism from a character exhibiting African characteristics (King Louie, an ape) and who believes himself to be inherently inferior to a character standing in for white man (Mowgli, a boy).”

Overall, I think presenting this issue can encourage individuals to think more carefully about the information directed towards children and to adults in seemingly innocuous formats. As I think these somewhat hidden racial interpretations that children may not understand that Disney relay within their productions can hinder the way in which children see and treat one another. Therefore, by presenting animations in the correct educational manner can help children to learn more comprehensively.

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