Social Order and Authority in Disney and Pixar Films contributes to an essential, ongoing conversation about how power dynamics are questioned, reinforced, and disrupted in the stories Disney tells. Whether these films challenge or perpetuate traditional structures (or do both), their considerable influence warrants careful examination. This collection addresses the vast reach of the Disneyverse, contextualizing its films within larger conversations about power relations. The depictions of surveillance, racial segregation, othering, and ableism represent real issues that impact people and their lived experiences. Unfortunately, storytellers often oversimplify or mischaracterize complex matters on screen. To counter this, contributors investigate these unspoken and sometimes unintended meanings. By applying the lenses of various theoretical approaches, including ecofeminism, critiques of exceptionalism, and gender, queer, and disability studies, authors uncover underlying ideologies. These discussions help readers understand how Disney’s output both reflects and impacts contemporary cultural conditions.
Kellie Deys is associate professor of English at Nichols College, where she chairs the English department and the Honors program.
Denise F. Parrillo is associate professor of English at the Community College of Rhode Island.
Introduction by Kellie Deys and Denise F. Parrillo
Section 1: Maintaining Social Orders
1. “We Don’t Like What We Don’t Understand”: Mob Mentality and Individualism in Beauty and the Beast and The Hunchback of Notre Dame by Kellie Deys
2. Animated Fantasy and Isolation: The Asian Identity Vacuum in Disney’s Constructed Universe by Christopher Maiytt
3. The Magic Island of Seabrook High: Disney Retcons the Civil Rights Movement in High School Musical Descendant Zombies by Aaron Clayton
Section 2: Regulated Worlds of (Resisting) Children
4. Do You Want to Build a Childhood Trauma?: Parental Agency and Authority in Disney’s Frozen by Denise A. Ayo
5. “Because My World Would Be a Wonderland”: Fantasy Circumscription & Adult Constructions of Girlhood in Alice in Wonderland (1951) and Peter Pan (1953) by Joseph V. Giunta
6. It Isn’t Just His Nose that Grows: Disney’s Pinocchio and the Erotic Afterlives of Errant Boys by Vincent A. Lankewish
Section 3: Challenging Social Constructs
7. Who Can Be Super?: Examining the Shifted Ability Spectrum in The Incredibles by Ethan Faust
8. Risk and Reflexivity in Pixar’s The Incredibles by Francine Rochford
9. Out There: Science Fiction and Surveillance in Pixar’s WALL-E and Up by Farisa Khalid
10. Pixar’s Coco: The Power of Celebrity and its Impact on the Adolescent Mind by Susan Ray
About the Editors and Contributors
Kellie Deys and Denise F. Parrillo’s anthology—the first in Lexington Books’ Studies in Disney and Culture series—is a timely and welcome addition to the scholarly literature on the ‘Disneyverse.’ Its chapters explore power dynamics, obedience/resistance to authority, and related topics as represented in Disney and Pixar films from the 1990s through today. In clear and compelling terms, this book illustrates the importance of reading Disney/Pixar films ‘against the grain.’ It is an essential text for anyone interested in Disney’s longstanding cultural influence.
The editors of Social Order and Authority in Disney and Pixar Films have done a fantastic job of assembling a collection of eclectic essays that, taken together, tell the story of Disney’s cultural influence, both the conventional and the disruptive. The essays in this collection contextualize how Disney and Pixar have affected and been affected by American culture in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.
Deys and Parrillo’s collection stands out in the body of Disney critique by examining both classic and modern works as well as the Pixar catalog. The timing for this compilation is perfect given the rapid growth of Disney+. This collection would complement curricula and research in critical studies and media analysis through its examination of a wide range of content through the Disney/Pixar lens, such as gender, queer, and disability studies.
Disney archetypes include princesses, princes, heroes, heroines, and villains. Those archetypes, however, exist in hierarchies and power dynamics within the films, and those ideas are imparted to audiences. Our current spotlight on inequalities and power relations, as well as human rights atrocities around the globe, makes Social Order and Authority in Disney and Pixar Films both timely and necessary. Essays look beyond usual approaches to examine relationships. Deys’s Beast/Hunchback essay looks beyond disability tropes to interrogate the idea of insurrection. Ayo’s essay moves beyond feminist critiques of Frozen to unearth parental expectations. Essays often contextualize films within real-world events such as McCarthyism, the murder of Vincent Chin, and 9/11. This collection reminds us of the influence that Disney/Pixar, and its global reach, can have on our belief systems, on our lives.
Even when it seems that Disney and Pixar always enforce the prevailing social order, the quality of discussions in the volume remains exceptional. Students of media and popular culture will find a solid addition to the ways in which contemporary culture enforces and resists the false omnipresent.