“Hakuna Matata! What a wonderful phrase! Hakuna Matata! Ain’t no passing craze. It means no worries for the rest of our days, it’s our problem free philosophy, Hakuna Matata!” I am sure all of my readers out there need no introduction as to where this beloved song originates from, but for those who happen to have lived under a rock their entire lives, I’ll fill you in, it’s from Disney’s The Lion King of course! In my opinion Hakuna Matata could just as well be the Disney Company’s theme song, for it seems quite possible that the media conglomerate that is Disney, will have “no worries for the rest of their days,” as their success does not seem to be dwindling anytime soon.

An 89-year-old company, Walt Disney’s widespread reach has spanned multiple generations, with its endless movies, TV stations and shows, books, theme parks, merchandise in every shape and form, and even its own radio stations. For me, my love affair began with Disney the day I was given a Winnie the Pooh stuffed animal as a baby. You know that one tattered stuffed animal everyone had as a child, the stuffed animal you loved so much you wouldn’t go anywhere without it? Well for me that was my Pooh and somewhere along the line Pooh Bear ended up becoming my family’s nickname for me, the nickname they still use to this day, so I guess you could say that Disney is a constant in my everyday life!

But wait, didn’t A. A. Milne create Winnie the Pooh? So one would think that Milne was the reason for my bear obsession, technically yes, but I think it is a valid point to say, that without Disney being licensed the rights to the two books written by Milne, Pooh would be nowhere near as successful as he is today under Disney’s ownership. From stuffed animals, to clothes and home goods, Disney has been able to take Milne’s books and create them into four TV shows and nine different movies. Disney’s latest remake, entitled simply Winnie the Pooh, was a theatrical film released in July of 2011 and grossed over 30 million dollars. Renowned movie critic, Roger Ebert gave the film 3 out of 4 stars, and Gary Goldstein of The Los Angeles Times said that the film “proves a fitting tribute to one of the last century’s most enduring children’s tales…appeal will presumably top out with very young children and the nostalgic parents who escort them…”

To me, Goldstein’s words nicely sum up how I feel about the Walt Disney Company, it has the ability to create projects that transcend any age gap, and I honestly believe that no other corporation will be ever be able to replicate what Disney has done.

Now, don’t get me wrong here, although it may sound like I have had the wool pulled over my eyes about the “evils” of Disney, due to my love and nostalgia I have leftover from my childhood, I am extremely aware that Disney is not perfect. Walt Disney himself accused three of his employers of being Communists and it is often rumored that he was an anti-Semitic and Nazi supporter, however no actual facts have been
found to support this view of Disney. Since its inception Disney has been criticized for it lack of diversity within its films, and many characters have been seen as racist.

It seems though, that the largest problem critics have with Disney is their Disney Princess franchise, created in 1999, using the main princesses featured in their films, such as Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, and Beauty and the Beast. Just take a look at the picture below…

Many seem to think that the Princesses teach young girls to be submissive, that being beautiful is the only asset you need in life (even Belle with her book smarts, only won over the Beast because of her sweet disposition and good looks), and that like Jasmine seducing Jafar for Aladdin, your body is the only way to get what you want.

Do I understand the critics’ viewpoints? Yes, absolutely. Do I think they are valid? No, no I don’t. From a female’s perspective I do not see the harm  in allowing young girls, and even young boys, to fantasize, while watching Cinderella, about wanting to grow up to be a prince or a princess. Doesn’t everyone want to be?! I am well above the age where dressing up in a tiara is considered acceptable, but I would love to one day find out that my beliefs as a young girl were right; I was in fact adopted by my “parents” and I am actually a Princess of a foreign land! There’s a reason that people are so enthralled (myself included) with stories about Grace Kelly and Kate Middleton, average girls or “commoners” who became real-life princesses, both of their weddings have even been compared to fairy tales.

Even though I was not a princess fanatic as a child, the franchise came along right after my time 😦 , I still do not think, that had I used every Halloween to dress up as a princess (the closest I came, was in 6th grade when I dressed in pajamas, put on a long blonde wig, threw on a crown and called myself “Sleeping Beauty”, clever, right?!) that I would have severe self-esteem issues now. Heck! I was most definitely a Barbie girl living in a Barbie world, and isn’t the Barbie ideal of how a woman should look, scarier than a young girl wanting to live in a castle!?

But once again, though I see the argument, I don’t actually agree. Yes Barbies and Princesses alike could give a young girl body image issues, I don’t think they are the real culprits here. I can quite honestly say no female I know, has ever watched a Disney movie or picked up a Barbie in Disney Princess form (yup, they have those, double whammy right?) and said “Gee!, I really wish I looked like that animated character!” Do you want to know why? Because they are animated, they are plastic, it’s fake! And my parents (and hopefully most other parents) raised a daughter smart enough to know the difference between what is real and what is not.

Every side of an issue can be argued, especially when it comes to Disney. I don’t foresee the critics of Disney ever fading, but personally I also don’t view Disney as the real offender in promoting false images. Why is it so wrong to believe in Disney as you did as a child? To see it for the innocence that it is, to think that the good guys will always triumph over the bad guys, to know that no matter what has happened to you in your life there is always the possibility of a “Happily Ever After.” I think the only way to sum it up is that, with Disney, “Dreams Come True,” and that’s never a bad thing.

  • How do you feel about Disney?
  • Do you think Disney gives children false ideas about the real world?