Hey, folks, it is me, your favorite drunk uncle, Barry Buzzkill! The very same uncle that’s not invited to the next family reunion because he accidentally knocked granny while blindfolded in an attempt to hit the pinata. How would I know her geriatric self would walk in front of me?! Whatever, the reader might be intrigued by this title or rolling their eyes thinking – Not another whiney article about diversity! You’re in luck because it is another somewhat whiney, equally intriguing article about diversity. I’m black, I am going to discuss one of Disney’s weird obsessions, touch on their mediocre to terrible live-action remakes, and who knows Disney might hire me to write a live-action adaptation movie of Bambi. It will star Chris Rock as Bambi and Will Smith as the hunter.
Alright, I’m not actually Batman but you couldn’t tell 6-year-old Buzzkill he wasn’t! I believe for two Halloweens in a row I dressed as Batman. As original Bruce Wayne’s Batman and Terry McGinnis’ Batman Beyond. As a child I was Batman, I wasn’t “black Batman”, I never felt like I couldn’t be Batman, shoot, I had lightning bolts shaved on the side of my hair growing up so I can run faster like The Flash… Pfft, what a badass. My point is society, specifically, adults have forgotten the power of a child’s imagination. It’s a bunch of grown-ups bickering online constantly about making everything hyper-realistic, maybe some adults weren’t fortunate enough to grow up in a household that encouraged them to just be a kid. Watch various family-friendly animated shows and movies. Waking up in time to tune into Saturday morning cartoons as you shove a giant spoonful of your favorite cereal. I don’t know, it seems as if people that missed out on such a small, yet special experience as a child are releasing their frustrations onto others. Losing their minds because a character doesn’t have the tiniest detail that honestly doesn’t improve the writing or character development instead something as skin color is treated as a box to check. A movement that once seemed progressive is now shallow and annoying.
Why was Batman brought up in a topic about Disney? It all begins in the 90s and ends in the early 2000s when it comes to animation. There’s a myth that there was little-to-no representation for people that weren’t white. That supposedly so many people couldn’t see themselves from content 28-31 years ago… YOUR HONOR, THAT’S A BOLD FACE LIE! This black guy used to fall for this until I rewatched some classics, so I’ll solely address some animated Disney (including Pixar) movies from the 90s to 2004 that are incredibly progressive, that today’s Disney movies execute terribly.
The Hunchback of Norte Dame (1996): The main lead has a visible disability, has a heart of gold, doesn’t allow his visibility to define his character, fights against the man, and is accompanied by a kickass supporting female character that’s not cringeworthy.
Beauty and the Beast (1991): Lead character is a bookworm, who yearns for adventure, she teaches the audience not to judge a book by its cover and the story is also about fighting against bigotry aka Gaston the douche.
Mulan (1998): Lead character is going outside her societal gender norms, her culture is displayed respectfully, and she shows humility and growth. While realizing she can’t get the job done alone, it takes a team effort
Aladdin (1992): Started from the bottom now we’re here sort of story, the lead character’s culture is represented with respect, a charming lead that wisens up that money isn’t everything, and is accompanied by a love interest that is above materialistic value and as a great partner she helps build her man up when in doubt. Loving someone for being themselves not for the shiny stuff.
A Goofy Movie (1995): An adventurous beautiful, and at times gutwrenching but humorous story between a single father and his son.
Lilo & Stich (2002): First Polynesian Disney Princess in my eyes. Before Frozen it tackled difficulties that siblings (specifically between sisters) must face without parents, another movie that represents and embraces the lead’s culture well without it coming across tacky.
Finding Nemo (2003): Another wonderful story about being a single parent (or guardian), learning to let go and accept. Sometimes the best thing you can do for people you love is to let them go, and experience life. Doesn’t mean you love them any less.
Look, there are many more but the point is Disney never lacked diversity or a progressive story. Whether the characters were short, tall, fat, skinny, talking animals (anthropomorphic), Hispanic (Emperor’s New Groove, Peru), or characters with disabilities, etc. It didn’t matter in the sense that those traits weren’t their sole identity. They were fleshed-out characters that didn’t constantly rely on pop culture references, the hottest social media trend, or dumb down another race/sex/gender to bring up another. The bar is so low that the audiences have now blindly accepted tokenism and pandering as progression.
Black Frog With Soul
As a black man would it be awesome to see more black leads in animated movies, lets’s go! Yet, tall this excitement at what cost? See, Disney will give audiences exactly what they ask for but here’s the catch, it’s about specifics and action. If audiences ask for more non-white leads, sure no problem for the company but nobody specified the quality. Hey, have a Peter Pan movie, here have a Little Mermaid movie, here take some more scraps we’re finished with these. Everybody rushes into the theaters or turns on Disney+. Do you hear that sound? That’s Disney turning on their money counter machine because that’s the end game, making money. If Disney cared then why do they lie to all our faces? Perhaps the majority of audience members are gullible, I’m not sure what the issue entirely is on the consumer’s end but it needs to stop if people want actual better content. It stops when you talk with your money.
Disney has NEVER released an animated film depicting a black lead being a human being for the entirety of the movie. What they will do is depict a racially ambiguous black-like character as human for the entirety of the movie, which is most definitely not bad. The issue is the lies black people are represented well when they’re an amphibian or a soul for the entirety of the movie. If it’s based in the continent of Africa it’s all talking animals. Disney also needs to redeem itself within the Native American culture for weirdly turning the tragic story of Pocahontas into Romeo and Juliet.
Brother Bear is a good movie in my eyes, but Native Americans are in the same boat if not worse. Being a talking bear for the majority of a movie or love story with one’s colonizer. No more changing the race of old franchise characters, we need brand new stories, we need to explore actual cultures/fables to bring them to life, bring back child-like wonder and imagination just less pandering on trying to be “woke”. We can all do better, we feed the machine and the machine gives us mediocrity. I’m Barry Buzzkill, and I need a drink…
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