For most people in our generation, there seems to be a certain sense of fascination attached to the term ‘Disney’. Is it simply nostalgia, or is there more to it than we think? To many, it seems to provide a temporary escape into the make-believe, magical world that the man, Walt Disney, created: a world filled with fairy tale romances, prince charmings, and pumpkins that turn into carriages. Animals talk, your house is cleaned by furniture (sometimes animals), and when you want something, your fairy godmother waves her wand and it appears out of thin air. Is this a healthy obsession? With the recent re-release of The Lion King in 3D, people are remembering the good ol’ days when Disney was just Disney. And I mean exactly that: just Disney, viewed through the eyes of innocent children.
Home to cartoon classics such as Beauty and the Beast, The Little Mermaid, Cinderella, The Lion King, and many more, the empire boasts theme parks all over the world, not to mention mass-produced merchandise and vacation cruises. They are the ones who have, truly and officially, defined what once upon a time and happily ever after means for most. It is unrealistic, even dangerous — their movies that don’t involve actual royalty are obsessed with the idea of a privileged lifestyle, the narcissist natures of certain characters imply that beauty is valued more than it should be, and that perfect, romantic love is crucial in order to lead a fulfilling and happy life.
Despite my innate love for all Disney related things, something pessimistic is eating away at my insides. Growing up has opened my eyes to the real world; the innocence has gone, and suddenly, Disney isn’t the same. I’ve realized that not all boys turn out to be Prince Charming, and that the person trying to poison your apple is not necessarily wearing a black cape. As one friend, Lewis, put it, real life should not be based on what he alleges are “Nazi inspired dream sequences”, encouraging girls to marry rich and cause boys to be self-conscious about their ‘common’ status.
Everyone has dreams and imaginations that they go back to time after time, and the beauty of classic Disney is that it allows the audience to go down memory lane while drawing the distinction between fantasy and reality. And, while new Disney flicks such as Tangled are funny, they aren’t the same as the classics. One student, Rachel, insists that “there is definitely something different about the classics in comparison to the new ones. There’s more gentleness, I feel more connected to the old Disney characters. The new ones are just there to make you laugh.” Even the new, digitally remastered DVDs take away a bit of the original effect: “to re-edit them seems to kind of take away the authenticity and ruins the nostalgia. It’d be like taking all the classic black-and-white silent films with the addition of sound and colour.”
Ultimately, Disney has made no comeback… because, simply put, it just never went out of style. After visiting Disney World in Florida this summer, I realised that no matter how old I get, classic Disney is, and always will be, unchanging and sentimental for me… Even if my fairy godmother doesn’t exist.