We’ve grown up loving Disney films. For the last 80s Disney has been a cornerstone for the vast majority of the world’s childhoods. We’ve learned the countless songs, memorized the scenes and the nostalgia keeps us coming back for more and more.
We’ve admired the dashing heroes and beautiful princesses, but it’s no secret that Disney hasn’t been the best when it come to representation. A big criticism for the company is it’s lack of appropriate racial portrayals, which can be traced back to it’s earliest works. A few examples of this could be the Native Americans in 1953’s Peter Pan, the Sunflower Centaur in 1940’s Fantasia, the Crows in 1941’s Dumbo and of course, lest we forget, Uncle Remus from 1946’s Song of the South.
Even in recent times, Disney has also been under fire for many of it’s creative choices regarding characterizations that could be deemed very racist. For example in 1993’s The Lion King, the hyenas, the bumbling savages in the savannah, are portrayed using typical African American and Hispanic characteristics. Going as far as hiring Whoopi Goldberg and Cheech Marin to reinforce these portrayals. Another example in that film could be the decision of designing the movie’s villain, Scar, with darker features while his heroic counterparts are giving golden or beige fur with lighter features.
Although Disney does, in fact, seek out counsel from representatives when taking on cultures outside of the US, they still seem to come under scrutiny. From Pocahontas to Mulan to The Princess and the Frog, which reduced it’s heroine into a frog form for 80% of her screen time; Disney continually seems to miss the mark.
Many believe that if Disney simply hired more people of color to write, produce and/or direct these projects, that these “hiccups” wouldn’t be so consistent. After all, can one truly represent a culture that they haven’t lived in.
With the release of Moana in the past year, which has been praised for it’s accuracy and sensitive to the subject matter, Disney might’ve finally found it’s footing in what it takes to bring us a vivid portrayal of a different way of life. But that doesn’t really take away from the mistakes and misfires from the past, does it?
With the amount of power and the massive following they have, you’d think Disney would give way to bring about different points of view without it being muddled along the way. Because honestly, I think we can all agree, the excuse of keeping these films “inclusive” isn’t really a valid one. Especially when said subjects feel anything but included.