“Disney Constructs Childhood so as to Make It Entirely Compatible with Consumerism

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“Disney constructs childhood so as to make it entirely compatible with consumerism” (Smoodin cited in Giroux, 2002; 105). Discuss this statement in relation to TWO animated films from the Disney canon.

The Walt Disney Company is a diversified international entertainment company (Disney, 2010) with ownership of many media outlets including radio, cinema, television and literature as well as consumer products such as stationary and toys. The Disney brand has huge recognition globally especially in the category of children’s entertainment with over 80 years of productions in this sector. With an obvious predominance and market leadership in children’s entertainment and consumerism, The Disney Company has an unparalleled capability to reach and influence millions of children globally with promotion and advertisement of its productions and consumer goods. Closer examination of Disney's projected and well protected image as a business focused at providing wholesome entertainment to the masses, “the happiest place on earth” (Giroux, 2000,100) reveals that within the entertainment lies an undeniable amount of self advertising and allusions to consumerist behaviours aimed at children. This harmony that Disney creates between Childhood and consumerism is accurately outlined in the following argument “Disney constructs childhood as to make it entirely compatible with consumerism” (Smooden, 1994: 14, cited in Giroux, 2002,: 105). This link between Disney's seemingly innocent entertainment, its meticulous image, hidden self advertising and promotion of consumerism to children can be highlighted with the example of two of its films, The Little Mermaid (1989) and Hercules (1997).

The Disney Company holds a significant and influential place in society and entertainment culture around the world especially in the context of children and childhood. Children for many generations, since the establishment of the Disney Brothers Cartoon Studio (“Company History”, 2010, para2) in the early 1920s, have been audiences to the entertainment that Disney produces. Since the company’s establishment and therefore over many generations, Disney has situated itself in a highly influential position culturally as an international storyteller and cultural icon. The Disney empire saturates every aspect of society and childhood with its films, products and advertisements which penetrate into the lives of everyone who is exposed to their influence. As argued by Giroux (2000, 100) “Disney's image as an icon of American culture is consistently reinforced through the penetration of the Disney empire into every aspect of social life”. The influence and appearance of Disney in society is undeniably wide spread, shown in the statistics taken from the Global Disney Audiences Project in which 97.5 respondents had seen a Disney film (Wasko, J., Phillips, M., Meehan, E.R., 2001, 358) With an almost monopolistic hold on children's entertainment (Katy, 2009) and the entertainment industry, as well as iconic cultural status, Disney is able to further its popularity by advertising through its broad range of media platforms.

With seemingly unlimited potential to broadcast itself and its products, advertising is a key component of Disney's harmonization of childhood and consumerist behaviours. Disney is a highly powerful media conglomerate that includes ownership of almost every imaginable media outlet; Disney uses this large number of medium as a platform to advertise its self and its products both explicitly and implicitly to its viewers. “It has the power to turn every element of communication and information into an advertisement” (Giroux, 2001, Chapter 5). Disney does not only use methods such as billboards, posters and television advertisements to promote its products, the company also use its films as advocates for consumerism of its products, these hidden messages are often clouded by the company’s reputation as innocent, wholesome family entertainment....
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