Lecture Outline

Introduction: Why Study Disney in Viewing America?

  • Reflection of historical themes
  • Contributions to American culture

Disney as American Icon: Private and Public Life

  • Biography
  • Early Career (Disney Studios)
  • Film innovations and achievements
  • Television and other media

The Politics of Filmmaking: Disney as Public Figure

  • Conservatism
  • WWII frustrations
  • HUAC testimony

Disney Films and Political/Social developments

  • “Edutainment”–a “reflection of Disney’s worldview”
  • WWII Propaganda films
  • Disney and the Space Race (“Man in Space” educational series (1955))
  • Impact of the Counterculture

Analyzing Disney Films: Critical and Positive readings from a modern perspective

  • Race and gender in Peter Pan
  • Song of the South (1946)–racist or multiculturalist?
    • Dominant viewpoint: Uncle Remus as “detrimental” character to “cultural advancement of the Negro people” (in post-WWII racial context)
    • Or: Song of the South as multi-cultural and progressive? Recognizes African American oral tradition as aspect of American culture


  • Vision and Construction
  • Four “lands”:
  • Fantasyland
    • Child-oriented
    • “It’s a Small World” ride created for 1964 World’s Fair
  • Adventureland
    • exotic “other world”
  • Frontierland
    • Reliving pioneer days (glorification of American expansion)
  • Tomorrowland
    • Ever-evolving “marvels of the future”
    • “Carousel of Progress” (also from the 1964 World’s Fair)
  • “Main Street, USA”
    • Disney’s ideal small town (nostalgia)
    • Entrance to the park

Disney’s Legacy

  • Death in December, 1966
  • Unfinished plans for Walt Disney World, EPCOT
    • Original vision for EPCOT (“vital center,” answer to urban problem)
    • Realization of EPCOT as “permanent World’s Fair”
  • International expansion of the Disney brand
    • Parks in Japan, Paris

Conclusion: Disney as a cultural icon

Text by Ava Burke.

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