August 16, 2019
The day before we left for our grand adventure into the untamed wilderness of Western Colorado, we spent the evening with my cousin and her young daughter. This new relative of mine was a cute and babbling mini human with a language only really understood by her mother and us after a few enthusiastic repetitions of the phrase.
Her blue eyes reflected an intelligence that lied just beyond her grasp. The freedom to truly express that intelligence was still getting hooked up in her mind.
One thing she knew how to communicate was the need for a nightly edition of her family’s movie night. Always a Disney film, the four of us settled in to the couch to watch this evening’s chosen flick: Beauty and The Beast.
This film was once a staple in my rotation of childhood favorites.
Like many children, Disney movies are as familiar to us as family homes and once-loved blankets or toys. To revisit them as an adult with the desire to understand the childhood sentiment opens up a new way to watch these films. We watch them to understand their significance to our own development.
These cartoon films are quite interesting to engage with as a functioning toddler. Concepts we can not yet identify are given obvious roles in the films as if to create a baseline for our perception of them. An example is in the character design for these films.
Archetypes in Disney films follow the same tropes in every iteration. The design of these characters makes determining what role they play in their respective movies easy to distinguish. So easy, in fact, that even a child that is not yet two can distinguish the good guys from the bad. The stories also follow clear paths and deliver messages that resonate with everyone.
No wonder, then, that children pine for as much exposure to these stories as they can. Disney was not only able to create iconic cartoon films, but imbue them with meaning that tickles our subconscious brains. Watching them as an adult does not take away from the significance of these movies either. The music, the dialogue, the design are thoughtful and helpful tools for maneuvering the realities of the world.
Eventually we all grow up, right? We understand the world is not as big nor as grand as we thought as children. The evils of the Earth reveal themselves to us and remind us that, actually, the good and the bad exist in a near balanced state.
Disney movies are like water wings in the great deep pool that is the modern world. Through using archetypes, themes and hardships all-too-common, Disney movies ease us into reckoning with all of this.
They also teach us valuable lessons. And, for some of us, how to say “Papa.”