Tuesday, 13 April 2010 01:52

Do Disney movies have an animal rights agenda?

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During a recent conversation with a friend we talked about the messages in Disney movies featuring animal characters. Some examples:

  • Bambi's mother is shot by a hunter (and is later shot himself during a man-made fire) 
  • Dumbo's mother is put into chains in the circus
  • Cruella De Vil wants to kill the puppies from One Hundred and One Dalmatians and turn them into fur coats
  • Fox hunting in The Fox and The Hound

This really got me thinking - do Disney writers intentionally try to make us question how humans treat animals? Or, were these simply common script formulas written to pull at our heart strings, just like when humans kill/harm other humans in live action movies?

I did a web search and found an interesting article entitled, "Skewed Views About Animal Rights: Blame It On Disney" by Michael Smith (Herald-Journal - Jul 28, 2000). Here are some quotes:

  • "They were shown going through the events of their lives with the frustrations, desires and fortitude with which people would have faced such circumstances."
  • "Most people realize that there is a difference between people and animals. They can see the obvious, that animals do not think and react as human beings do."
  • The author refers to a "ludicrous letter, quoting from it, "I can't imagine how anyone can chew on a drumstick again after watching the animated movie 'Chicken Run' ". And he commented, "real chickens do not 'share our quest for life and liberty as well as most of our feelings of joy, affection, frustration, sadness and pain.' "
  • He countered the letter writer's feelings by saying, "did this animal rights advocate event notice that these were not real chickens in this movie? ...real chickens are too stupid to even be trained to mimic the behaviors shown in the movie."
  • He quotes PETA's response to Chicken Run: "real chickens would tell us the same thing if they could." And then he comments, "real chickens don't have any idea that they may be made into a pot pie. They do not sit around contemplating their future"
  • He wraps up his article stating, "the animal rights movement is based on a fundamentally wrong premise - that animals are basically the same as people - its recommendations and demands should be ignored."
While this article didn't really answer my questions about Disney's agenda, it made me think more about the messages in animation movies featuring animals. Personally, I don't understand how people can watch these cute characters (with whom they identify with) suffer in real-life situations, and then continue to partake in the cruelty. Movies like Finding Nemo and Bee Movie also come to mind - fish tanks and bee hives - and even Wall-E with the environmental message.
I also found a great blog post from vegansaurus about captivity, which spoke about elephants and the movie Dumbo.
What do you think about this? Are animated movies, especially from Disney, made purely for entertainment value, or is there something more to them? What's your response to Michael Smith's article?
Read 10082 times Last modified on Monday, 14 May 2012 06:05