If you've just stumbled onto this blog, please forgive the appearance; it's still under construction. If I've used one of your photos (found on Google) in a lecture and you don't approve, please write a comment and I'll remove it.

The purpose of this blog is to explain the basics of art and culture to English language learners in secondary school in Slovakia. This is not for profit. If you look to your right, you'll see a long list of topics that I plan to cover. This is a large project that will most likely take years to complete, covering some topics I know little about (like dance), so I will be borrowing heavily from other experts, with their permission, giving credit wherever possible. Please be patient, and, of course, all advice is greatly appreciated.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

The Walt Disney Company, a History

®    Disney started in 1923 as the Disney Brother's Cartoon Studio, headed by Walt and Roy Disney. Today it's the second biggest mass media conglomerate in the world, second only to Comcast.

®    In 1928, Walt created his most important character, Mickey Mouse, which was an instant hit and launched Disney's career.

®    Mickey Mouse starred in Steamboat Willie that same year, the first animated film with sound. Disney made a dozen short films a year, introducing new characters. These cartoons would appear in theatres before feature presentations. Disney also began printing comics.

®    Mickey was also popular with politicians, especially during WWII. Mickey Mouse was the code word for the allied invasion of Normandy on D-Day. Nazi Germany hated Mickey, which only boosted his popularity more.

®    In 1978 Mickey became the first cartoon character to get a star on Hollywood Boulevard. According to Time Magazine (2008), "Mickey had a 98% awareness rate among children between ages 3-11 worldwide."

®    In 1937, Disney produced the first feature-length animated film, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. It was soon followed by such classics as Pinocchio, Fantasia, Dumbo, Bambi, Cinderella, Alice in Wonderland, Peter Pan, and countless others.

®    Walt Disney has the distinction of winning the most Academy Awards (22) and nominations (59) in history. He died in 1966 of lung cancer, age 65.

®    Walt Disney was always trying to find some new form of entertainment. As his business grew, he expanded into many new areas. In 1950 Disney produced its first live-action film, Treasure Island.

®    In 1955 Disney opened its first theme park, Disneyland, in California. There are now 14 Disney theme parks around the world. That same year it began televising its Mickey Mouse Club.

®    Disney also bought the rights to as many story lines as possible, a trend it continues today. Disney now owns Winnie-the-Pooh, Pokemon, Pixar, The Muppets, Marvel Comics, The Chronicles of Narnia, and Lucas Films, including Star Wars and Indiana Jones.

®    In '81, Disney began its Disney's World on Ice skating tours.

®    In '83 the Disney Channel began on basic cable.

®    In '84 Disney began Touchstone Pictures, a new film studio to produce films to more mature audiences. It created Hollywood Pictures in 1990 for the same reason. These studios have produced: Down & Out in Beverly Hills, Pretty Woman, The Dead Poets' Society, The Rock, Con Air, Sister Act, and The Sixth Sense.

®    In '85 Disney began producing television cartoons: The Gummi Bears, Ducktales, and Winnie-the-Pooh.

®    In '86 Disney began a partnership with Ghibli Studios in Japan to show their films in the US.

®    In '87 Disney opened its first retail store.

®    In '88 Disney began making its first videogames. In 2002 it began its most famous game Kingdom Hearts.

®    In '94 Disney began the show Beauty & the Beast on Broadway.

®    In '96 it bought ABC, the American Broadcasting Company.

®    In '98 Disney started its first line of cruise ships.

Disney Controversies:

1. racial stereotypes

Many of Disney's classic films portray stereotypical views of non-white characters. In one cartoon, Mickey Mouse dressed in blackface. The Indians in Peter Pan, the Siamese cats in Lady & The Tramp, and the entire film Song of the South all perpetuate racism. At least one of his Jewish artists claimed Disney said antisemitic things, but also said he owed everything to Disney.

2. Subliminal Messages

Several of Disney's films have hidden, sexual content including nudity, sometimes put in secretly by animators, and sometimes misinterpreted when it's hard to hear what a character is saying. In Aladdin, the main character says, "Come on... good kitty, take off and go...."  But, the tiger growls at the same time, confusing some audiences into hearing, "Good teenagers, take off your clothes." In each and every controversy, Disney has reanimated the film so that there's no sexual content.

Besides this, Disney films sometimes insert hidden images of Mickey Mouse. They've made it a game for people to find as many "hidden Mickeys" as possible.

3. Bullying Pixar

Before buying Pixar, Disney worked as an equal partner in Toy Story and other films. But the partnership wasn't truly equal, because Disney owned the stories and sequel rights to all of Pixar's films, even though Pixar was the one who created and developed all their original stories. All Disney provided was marketing, and then they charged Pixar a distribution fee. Pixar tried to negotiate a fair deal in 2004, led by Steve Jobs, but it fell through, and instead Disney bought it.

4. Handling of Foreign Films
For a while, Disney owned Miramax studios, which became infamous for its treatment of Asian films. Miramax would buy films and never show them. Or, they would re-edit them, cutting out scenes, and changing the subtitles to remove political content, etc. They would completely change the films. Examples include Iron Monkey, Shaolin Soccer, Farewell My Concubine, Fist of Legend, and Hero, which had been lost for years before being found and released thanks to Quentin Tarantino.

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