Reading Response to “Understanding Disney”, chapters 7 and 8

In reading about the “audience” for Disney, and what (or who) exactly that is, I was surprised to see how many different reactions people had to the company and its products. Most interesting to me were the opinions of the students mentioned in the survey on page 191. I was surprised to read that so many of them had adopted such a blasé attitude towards Disney, and how many had the viewpoint that it was just for kids, and that they had outgrown it. This is such an opposite reaction to Disney than what I or any of my friends have. We all fit more into the category of the other group of students mentioned on page 193—the Disney/nostalgia lover. All of my friends, myself included, are avid Disney fans who grew up with heavy influences all around us, and we continue to love and appreciate both the nostalgic older films, as well as the newer ones that have come out more recently, such as “Tangled”.

This is not to say that we are as obsessed with Disney as the tattooed George Reiger, or any of the other “Disney freaks”. The world is full of crazies—people who are about as far from the squeaky clean image or ideals that Disney promotes, yet these people are so in love with Disney. I think that’s such an interesting juxtaposition.

When I said above that my friends and I all appreciate both the older and newer Disney films, part of it is because of the aesthetics and wonderful animation, as mentioned on page 207. A friend of mine from high school is an aspiring animator—his dream is to work for Disney. He studies behind-the-scenes clips of the Disney animators, and watches the films again and again, from an animator’s point of view. But he also is the biggest fanatic out of all the people I know. He knows all of the lyrics to the songs, and can spout facts like a Disney encyclopedia. Even though I’m not an aspiring animator, I can still appreciate the beauty of, and also the effort that went into, a well-crafted animation sequence.

Another group of the Disney audience (or perhaps, a better phrase would be “former audience”) were the Disney resistors. All I could think (biased as I am) was how sad it was for them. But I find this outlook interesting as well, particularly because they are seeing as negative something that I defended as a positive attribute of Disney in my last post on Chapter 5. Whereas in that post, I argued in favor of the clean, escapism of the Disney animated universe, these people seemed to find it to be a disheartening and cruel lie. Perhaps it is because I have always been able to tell the difference between the real and imagined worlds (I may have wished to live in them, or played make-believe that I did- but I always knew deep inside that it was fantasy. The people who have become disillusioned because of Disney kind of annoy me, to be honest. There is such a stark contrast between the Disney universe and the real world, (just look at “Enchanted”) that I find it very hard to believe someone, even a child, could become so confused as to think that Disney was telling the truth about the real world. I think that if you have suddenly come to terms that the real world is not a Disney fantasy land, those films would become even more special- because they are still just the same as ever, and can be a real escape.

Finally, this chapter concludes with the mention of “sacred Disney”, and what a true statement that is. For many—from the crazed fanatics to the nostalgia fans, as well as every form of negative critic—Disney is viewed as almost like a religion. (Whether this is good or not, depends on who you’re talking to, I suppose). There is a genius behind Disney’s decision to make so much of their content geared towards children, because once something has your childhood in its grasp, it will never let go; it’s there for life. And I think that is the real genius behind it all—more than the messages or the wonderful animation or music. The real genius behind it all, both from a business and an entertainment/artistic viewpoint, is that the company puts so much effort into making content for children, because so many of them will grow up to have a continued appreciation for it, and will continue to spend their time and money on Disney-related things, either for themselves or their own children (thus starting the cycle again). And I really admire that. How can you not?

I think that’s the real magic of it.

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