What Disney Movies Teach Viewers

Kristen C.

Staff Writer

Walt Disney’s movies have influenced millions of children and their families across the world. His movies have taught lessons of forgiveness, love, friendship and honor. Many individuals believe Disney movies are the catalyst to provide a child with healthy life lessons.

Snow White marked the first animated feature movie ever made by Walt Disney. Released May 19, 1938, Snow White gave children of struggling families a break in the late 30’s harsh economic time, allowing kids to enjoy their age while not thinking of adult matters. Forced to live in exile from her evil step-mother’s scorn, Snow White was faced with many terrible situations. In this movie, there are many lessons to be learned. The dwarfs’ work ethic is reflected to the children, as well as Snow White’s hard work she provides to the dwarfs’ household without being asked. This shows that even those who are small, like the dwarfs, can accomplish anything they set their minds to.  When Snow White saw a job needed to be done, she went ahead and completed it. This teaches children to make their own incentives to complete tasks, without having to be asked by parents and other adults. Viewers learned that even the smallest act of kindness can be repaid in time.

Also portraying a movie with a horrible step-mother, when released in 1950, Cinderella became an instant classic love story, showing principles of positivity, patience and friendship. Treated harshly by her step-mother and step-sisters and forced to be a servant, Cinderella had every reason to despise the world. She was constantly torn down by her “family,” but she still persevered, treating her animal friends with kindness and love. Cinderella kept an optimistic attitude that she would one day meet her prince charming and find true love. In the end, the prince saw the inner beauty Cinderella possessed. Senior Emily Pluemer stated, “Cinderella is my favorite Disney movie because she goes from being a maid to having all her wishes come true.” This taught a lesson of what hard work can accomplish, and how everything will get better with time, as good things will happen to good people.

A good person can be found in the character of Mary Poppins. Adapted from the books by P.L Travers, Mary Poppins was introduced in 1964, combining animation with live action scenes. As a magical, rosy-cheeked nanny, Poppins takes charge of the Banks children, who are sometimes out of control and discourteous. She makes everyday chores an enjoyable activity, showing that even the most boring work can be fun. This movie also shows a lesson to parents, exampled by Mr. Banks who is too preoccupied with work to pay attention to his children. This lesson tells parents to be actively engaged in their children’s activities, instead of hiring a babysitter to do it all the time for them. Environmental science teacher Ms. Christine Lauer stated, “My daughter liked Mary Poppins when she was younger, and even my granddaughter watches it now. She loves to see the fun things Mary pulls out of her bag.” Mary Poppins shows that understanding each other is essential to having healthy family relationships.

In China, family is one of the most important relationships people can have. Released in 1998, Mulan is set in the Han Dynasty and is one of the top movies showing themes of courage and perseverance. Because her father was gravely ill, Mulan took his spot in the army, following her heart and believing in herself enough to impersonate a male and join forces against the Huns. Mulan is a loveable, spirited girl who does not fit in with Chinese tradition because she has a bad habit of speaking her mind Disney-Princess-Mulan KCand following her heart, which gets her into a lot of trouble. However, being true to her heart also brings her victory in the end and honor to her family. Junior Samantha Blu commented, “Mulan is an awesome chick for proving that she can be as tough as a guy. Actually, at one point in the movie she helps Shang when he cannot walk.” Mulan shows bravery, wisdom and honor, which young girls can idolize. She makes her own destiny come true, to honor her family. However, this could only be done by breaking traditional roles. This shows that sometimes people must break their customs in order to achieve greatness. Mulan overcame her personal obstacles to achieve her goal in the end.

The Fox and the Hound shares a more difficult lesson to its viewers, displaying themes similar to Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, where two families come from different backgrounds and have individuals trying to merge the families together. Released in 1981, the story starts off with a fox named Tod befriending a hound puppy by the name of Copper. At first, their relationship is flawless; however, Copper’s gun-wielding owner Amos Slade forbids Copper from seeing Tod again, threatening to shoot the fox. Junior Lydia Ellington stated, “The Fox and the Hound is still one of my childhood favorites. Tod and Copper face many challenges in their friendship, just like any one of us would.” Because the two are mortal enemies, their friendship abruptly comes to a halt. In the end though, the two reconcile, showing that true friendship can overcome any obstacle.

Debuted in 1992, overcoming obstacles is an important matter in Aladdin as well. Trying to impress Princess Jasmine, the “street rat” pretends to be this fabricated “Prince Ali” character. One theme is common throughout the movie: just be yourself, for if people do not get to know the real person, it is a lie. Aladdin falsely believed that Jasmine would never love him if she knew his true identity: that of a common street rat. To overcome this, Aladdin pretended to be someone else. This led to unforeseen consequences, as it allowed Jafar to take hold of the lamp, become a sorcerer, and take over the palace. Parents could use this as a valuable learning example for children. They can explain to their kids that if they want to make a good impression, all they have to do is behave as themselves and not pretend to be someone else. Another theme prevalent throughout the movie is loyalty. Aladdin promises Genie to use one of his three wishes to release him from the lamp. Although Aladdin could have used the wish for other wishes he wanted to make, he kept his word to set the Genie free. Aladdin honored his original promise, which can demonstrate ethical ideas to young viewers.

Released in 1991, the popular love story Beauty and the Beast also focuses on teaching people to be themselves. Sacrifice is a dominant factor throughout this movie. Beauty-and-the-Beast KCWhen Belle recognizes the dangers of her father’s illness, she begs the Beast to let her father go and take her in his place. Belle loved her father so much that she would become imprisoned for life just to save him. This teaches viewers the power of love and how important family is. Although the beast has serious anger issues and is not easy to look at, Belle shows understanding to the Beast’s problems. She falls in love with who the beast is on the inside, not for what he looks like on the outside, showing viewers that true love comes from within. In the end, Belle tells the Beast she loves him, she saves his life, he again becomes human, and they live happily ever after.

Walt Disney’s movies are the retellings of classic stories, legends and fairy tales. Family members of all ages can easily relate to the subject matter presented throughout these films and learn lessons through these captivating stories.

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