Although its early films featured racial caricatures and exclusively Caucasian heroines, Disney has, in recent years, become more multicultural in its filmic fare and its image. From Aladdin and Pocahontas to the Asian American boy Russell in Up, from the first African American princess in The Princess and the Frog to "Spanish-mode" Buzz Lightyear in Toy Story 3, Disney films have come to both mirror and influence our increasingly diverse society. This essay collection gathers recent scholarship on representations of diversity in Disney and Disney/Pixar films, not only exploring race and gender, but also drawing on perspectives from newer areas of study, particularly sexuality/queer studies, critical whiteness studies, masculinity studies and disability studies. Covering a wide array of films, from Disney's early days and "Golden Age" to the Eisner era and current fare, these essays highlight the social impact and cultural significance of the entertainment giant.
Johnson Cheu —
Johnson Cheu is an assistant professor in the Department of Writing, Rhetoric and American Cultures at Michigan State University in East Lansing, Michigan. He has published scholarly work in disability studies and popular culture studies, as well as poetry and creative essays.
Diversity in Disney films: critical essays on race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality and disability, ed. by Johnson Cheu. McFarland, 2013. 307p filmography index afp ISBN 0786446013 pbk; ISBN 9780786446018 pbk. Reviewed in 2013jun CHOICE.
Studies in cultural diversity in the media too frequently reduce subjects to predictable stereotypes (e.g., "coons," patriarchy, privilege, otherness, and so on) in which one can identify the transgressions of the past. This issue raises its racist head in this volume, the first two sections of which delve into concerns articulated in the subtitle. Subsequent sections offer fresh, often fascinating theoretical insights; contributors dissect physical and intellectual disability (e.g., Hunchback, Dopey, Gus) and animated depictions. Two essays stand out as particularly worthwhile and praiseworthy: Tammy Berberi and Viktor Berberi's "A Place at the Table," a comparative analysis of three beauty and the beast folktales, and William Verrone's "Is Disney Avant-Garde?," in which he contrasts the Disney version of Alice in Wonderland with experimental filmmaker Jan Svankmajer's surreal adaptation Alice. Most of the essays offer good, but not groundbreaking or provocative, readings of the Disney texts, from their silent days to the newer multicultural iteration. Other scholars of animation are absent--Paul Wells and Karl Cohen, Annalee Ward (Mouse Morality, CH, Apr'03, 40-4440), and most notably Eleanor Byrne and Martin McQuillan (Deconstructing Disney, CH, Apr'00, 37-4263).
Summing Up: Recommended. With reservations. Graduate students, researchers, faculty. -- T. Lindvall, Virginia Wesleyan College