Disney

'Zootopia': How To Make the World a Better Place

via Zootopia on Facebook

Zootopia is the story of a large, metropolitan city where everyone lives in peace and harmony. Tolerance and diversity are hallmarks of this great city. Hope abounds in this land of talking animals because it’s a place where, “You can be anything!” Zootopia is peaceful because after thousands of years of evolution, carnivores no longer eat other animals. Everyone lives in peace. The prophet Isaiah’s vision that “The wolf will live with the lamb, and the leopard will lie down with the goat” seems to be fulfilled in Disney’s latest movie.

Pixar's New Film Takes Gamble on Hindu Theme

Screenshot via Youtube / Disney•Pixar

Pixar, the computer animation studio beloved for its kid-friendly fare such as Finding Nemo and Inside Out, is not known for taking on religious themes.

But its newest short film tells a personal story about a boy who learns to appreciate his religious heritage by envisioning the Hindu gods as superheroes.

Sanjay’s Super Team, directed by artist Sanjay Patel, is based on Patel’s relationship with his father and his experience growing up in California as the son of Indian-American immigrants.

“This is a very personal story; it’s the truth about how I grew up,” Patel said.

“It’s about how difficult it is for different generations to see eye to eye.”

What 'Frozen' Teaches us about Power, Privilege, and Community

Photo Courtesy of Disney
The queen of the kingdom of Arendelle, Elsa, was born with a special ability to manipulate ice. Photo Courtesy of Disney

Just as polar vortices sweep through America, Elsa, one of the main characters in the latest Disney princess movie, Frozen, unleashes her icy power in the fictional kingdom Arendelle, across theaters everywhere. In addition to delighting progressive audiences by satirizing Disney’s own trope of “marriage at first sight,” the story compels viewers, young and old, to find courage to be their true selves. The Oscar-nominated signature song, “Let It Go,” poignantly expresses the sentiment of letting go of fears, secret pains, and pretense. Fans of the song, from celebrities to little girls, have been belting the tune theatrically anywhere from kitchens to car rides to the Internet.

G.K. Chesterton says,

Fairy tales are more than true: not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.

A good story is more than a pleasurable experience — it empowers us to live a changed life. Frozen is filled with beloved characters and catchy melodies, but also has much to teach us about power, privilege, and community.

Disney Princesses, Merida's Makeover, and Empowering Girls

Disney / Pixar
Disney / Pixar

Having a 3-year-old daughter opens your eyes to a world that you did not know existed, the world of princesses. Disney has cornered the princess market; there are currently 11 official Disney princesses, and if you are brave enough to travel to Disney World/Land or even a Disney store, you will soon find out that there is a plethora of accessories — dresses, placemats, and cups (just to name a few).

Disney has come under fire in the past for focusing only on Caucasian women — Snow White, Cinderella, Aurora (Sleeping Beauty) and others. But over time, non-white princesses were introduced, like Mulan, Pocahontas, Jasmine, and Tiana.

Disney’s latest princess was Merida from the film Brave broke most of the Disney princess rules. She didn’t like pretty gowns, she liked to shoot bows and arrows, and her crowning glory was frizzy, wild red hair. Some people believed that Disney had finally broken the mold of the “damsel in distress” model of princesses that has been a dominant theme throughout many of the films. The trend actually started with Pocahontas and Mulan; maybe the theme of strong women role models would continue. Brave was a cute film with a wonderful message. Merida had a round face and was rough and tumble with her triplet brothers. She didn’t want fancy dresses or even want to be a princess; Merida just wanted to be Merida. She was the example of girls being girls, no matter how they look.

However, in a recent update, Disney decided to take the idea of Merida in Brave and throw it out the window. Merida, for her official induction into the Disney princess cohort, got a bit of a makeover. Merida 2.0 was taller, skinnier in the waist and had a slimmer face. Her famous bow-and-arrow set are missing, and her iconic wild hair has been tamed.

After the uproar that followed, Disney quietly pulled the newer version of Merida.

But my question for Disney stands: why? What was so wrong with Merida that it warranted the change?

People of Earth...

THE SKIES LOOK different to me these days. The soft and tranquil clouds of my youth that often reminded me of cute Disney characters—a misty Dumbo drifting languidly overhead—have mostly been replaced by dark and threatening formations, more reminiscent of Disney’s lesser-known films, such as Godzilla vs. The Little Mermaid: This Time It’s Personal. More specific, the violently roiling skies of late are like a scene from Steven Spielberg’s War of the Worlds, where intense storm clouds heralded an alien invasion.

Which is why I always carry a prepared speech of surrender in my backpack, in case I need to immediately declare loyalty to a superior race. Although, so far, the alien presence has been pretty unimpressive, consisting mainly of crude, humanoid Kardashians attempting to assimilate quietly. One hopes that when the next prototypes arrive, they will better conceal the vaguely reptilian features of their planet’s indigenous life forms. Not to mention vice presidential hopeful “Paul Ryan,” whose hairline displays the telltale widow’s peak once thought to be a unique facial characteristic of earthly vampires, until NASA rovers spotted it on a rock on Mars. (Mars reportedly privatized its health care for seniors decades ago, and just look at the place now: not an elderly person in sight.)

BUT WHAT WAS I talking about? Oh yes, the weather. The typical forecast this summer included phrases such as “hurricane-force winds,” “damaging hail,” and “start hoarding toilet paper.” Of the four mature trees in our yard, only one remains, having survived repeated gale-force winds through pluck and attitude, although having a trunk the circumference of a grain silo probably helped. (I could never get my arms around it for a hug, back when I used to do that sort of thing.)

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Muslim Woman Files Suit Against Disney Over Headscarf Dispute

Muslim woman with hijab. Image via 	Zurijeta / Shutterstock.
Muslim woman with hijab. Image via Zurijeta / Shutterstock.

LOS ANGELES—The ACLU is suing The Walt Disney Co. on behalf of a Muslim woman who claims the company discriminated against her by not allowing her to wear a headscarf while working in a Disney restaurant in Anaheim.

Former Disney employee Imane Boudlal worked at the Storytellers Cafe at the California Adventure park, directly across from Disneyland. In 2009 she requested to wear her hijab while working. The ACLU claims that two months later, Disney supervisors denied her request, allegedly due to Disney policies on employee uniforms.

Managers, however, say they worked with Boudlal on several uniform options including one involving a hat, in keeping with the restaurant’s style, to be worn over her hijab.

16 Christian Leaders and Their Cartoon Counterparts

 

So, you've seen Politicians Who Look Like Disney Characters.

Maybe you've perused Celebrities Who Look Like Historical People and already wasted some time checking out Cats That Look Like Hitler, Men Who Look Like Kenny Rogers or Pugs That Look Like Things.

Today it's our great pleasure to bring you 16 Christian Leaders and Their Cartoon Counterparts, including our buddy Brian McLaren (over there with Turtleman from Finding Nemo), Rick Warren, Rachel Held Evans, Mark Driscoll, John Piper, Rob Bell, God's Politics contributor Shane Claiborne, Pope Benedict XVI, our very own Sojourners Chief Executive Awesomeness Jim Wallis ... and many more.

You're welcome.

Ten Ways The Social Justice Movement Changed How I Look at Disney Movies

Sleeping Beauty's castle, Eurodisney, Terry Why / Getty Images
Sleeping Beauty's castle, Eurodisney, Terry Why / Getty Images

 

I’m a child of the 90s—the true height of Disney mania. Little MermaidAladdinLion King.

But have you ever gone back and watched a childhood movie as an adult? And what about after tapping into social justice? Well, you missed a lot the first time around. Your little toddler brain had no idea that things could be so complex. So—the ten ways the social justice movement changed how I look at Disney movies: 

(In no particular order of severity or hilarity.)  

10. Learn the Humanity of the Poor — Let’s learn from Aladdin and not be the snooty prince with the weirdo facial hair pattern (who, as we learn later wears the classic red heart boxers). When we push the poor aside, we deny their God-given humanity.

Aladdin, that handsome be-vested “street urchin,” sang it best.

Art With a Brutal Heart

DISNEY ANIMATION is often criticized for masking cynical corporate values—Wall-E’s profound challenge to over-consumption was accompanied by the selling of toys and games; the company claims to be pro-feminist but only tweaks the fairytale princess archetype with heroines who express their “strength” by showing that they can fight like a man.

Yet there’s still some magic in the Disneymagination—Fantasia, The Jungle Book, and The Lion King, despite their political alarm bells (racism and homophobia are challenged and reinforced, the average of which can only compute to ambivalence), are examples of visual resplendence, a sense of humor, and an invitation to hope. The best parts of the Disney worldview look like the eschatological images in a Martin Luther King Jr. speech; the worst merely bolster a culture of privilege and exclusion.

The most Disney-like current film is Mirror, Mirror, a retelling of the Snow White story, directed by the fantastic visual stylist Tarsem Singh. It features Julia Roberts in a wickedly entertaining turn as the queen, with a witty script, gorgeous set and costume design, and some bawdy fun. But the portrayal of Snow White as a “liberated” young woman whose liberation depends on her behaving like a Bruce Willis action character produces a paradox: Any of the images from this film could be exhibited in an art gallery—so elegantly composed and imaginative are they—but the ethical heart of the film isn’t artful at all.

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