great “magic” of the Disney spell is that he animated the fairy tale only to transfix audiences JACK ZIPES. Breaking the Disney Spellt. It was not once upon a. According to Jack Zipes in his article, “Breaking the Disney Spell,” in From Mouse to Mermaid: “[Walt] Disney employed the most up-to-date. 2 Rumpelstiltskin and the Decline of Female Productivity. 3 Breaking the Disney Spell. 4 Spreading Myths about Iron John. 5 Oz as American Myth.

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Zipes contends that the magic of Disney lies in his ability to transfix audiences and divert their Utopian dream through false promises propagated through animated fairy tales. Storytellers initially shared fairy tales orally, which perpetuated a sense of community and created a telosor a sense of mission.

In order to be accepted into the cultivated literary circles of the French bourgeoisie of the late seventeenth century, fairy tales had to be transformed. Despite the literary fairy tales institutionalization, the oral tradition continued to feed writers with material and was now influenced by the literary tradition, such as in the case of the Bibliotheque Bleue, which contained numerous abbreviated and truncated versions of the literary tales.

The literary tales were meant to be read in private; however, the book form enabled privatization and thus violated the communal aspects of breakinv folk greaking, much as the printing of the tales had already accomplished. The privatization of fairy tales furthered notions of elitism and separation.

According to Zipes, the French fairy tales heightened the aspect of the chosen aristocratic elite:. They were part of the class struggles in the discourses of that period.

By institutionalizing the fairy tale, writers and publishers disregarded the forms and concerns of the underprivileged and illiterate, and established new standards of taste, production, and reception through the discourse of the fairy tale.

The tales came to represent the values of a particular writer; therefore, if the writer respected the canonical ideology of their predecessors e.

Foundational Essay: Zipes’ “Breaking the Disney Spell”

In contrast, other writers would write tales the parodied or undermined the classical literary tradition, and produce original, subversive tales that were indicative of the institution itself Sppell original and subversive tales have sustained the dynamic quality of the dialectical appropriation, for there has generally been a fear that the written word will fix a structure image, plot, etc. Zipes argues that by the end of the nineteenth century, the literary fairy tale had the following crucial functions as institution in rhe society:.

Images now imposed themselves on the text and formed their own visual meaning in violation disnsy print and the print culture. It is here, Zipes contends, where Walt Disney and other animators arrived to appropriate our traditional understanding of fairy tales. By the turn of the twentieth century, many animators had redefined fairy tales through their interpretations of them through imagery.

Printed animations, which had become widespread in Europe and America during the latter part of the nineteenth century, heralded in the age of comic books, which assisted in redefining our understanding of traditional interpretations of fairy tales.

Citing Crafton, Zipes points out those early animators before Disney made themselves a part of their animations, often appearing as characters in their animations. The celebration of the phallus in the film was indicative of the nature of production in animation studios of the time.

Such technologies prepared the way for progressive innovation that expanded the mindset of audiences and brought greater awareness and understanding to social conditions and culture; however, such innovations also ushered in the regressive uses of mechanical reproduction that generated the cult of the personality and commodification of film narratives.

It did not matter what story was projected just as long as the images astounded the audience, captured its imagination for tye short beaking, and left the people laughing or staring in wonderment. The purpose of the early animated films was to make audiences awestruck and to celebrate the magical talents of the animator as demigod. As a result, animators used the fairy tale as a vehicle to express their talents and develop their technology.

By doing so, animators appropriated literary and oral fairy tales to redefine the genre and conform it to the vision of Disney, who truly revolutionized the fairy tale as institution through the cinema. While his didney may xipes a self-figuration of the story, it is also an attack on the literary tradition of the fairy tale. Zips contends that by simplifying this oedipal complex semiotically through animation and satirizing it in order to create common appeal, Disney also touches on other themes:.


Despite the implications of these themes, Zipes argues that Disney was not acting as a rabble-rouser for social change. To Zipes, these things simply were not expressed by Disney. It is this mindset that Zipes believes drove Disney to achieve his accomplishments in animation and film. Through the artful use of images, Disney was able to sway the masses and gain their favor by being the sole controller of those and the supreme ruler of reality.

In general, Disney projects the enjoyable fairy tale of his life through animation to the audience, and they come brealing accept it as the ideal life—an infantile quest that enabled him to strike a resonating chord with American audiences. Disney vowed to maintain complete control over all of his productions and introduced many innovations, like xisney, improved hhe, and color, to his animated films. He also made his films personal, allowing them to echo his own sentiments on national issues.

The films became an extension not of the animators, but of the man—the brand—who controlled it all behind the scenes. Disney took the story of Snow White and made it uniquely his, transforming it from something inherently German to something uniquely American. According xisney Zipes, Disney made the following changes:. Zipes argues the changes were not momentous. As the ruler of his fantasy world, Disney disneu the message, creating an indelible means of self-figuration by labeling himself as the sole owner of izpes product, and, therefore, the message.

Through his self-glorification, Disney could perpetuate the principles of justice, fairness, etc. Showing little reverence for literary tradition, Disney focused less of maintaining the integrity of the original text and focused more attention on displaying his innovative and technological accomplishments. Instead of using disndy innovations to promote and enhance communal narratives, he created a new system of storytelling that resisted change and did not dare to drift from the patriarchal order diisney production.

Perhaps, as Zipes implies, this spell will be broken eventually by a new breed of animators. The author creates meaning and then manipulates it to affect the audience in the way that best satisfies their wishes, or that best addresses the needs of their agenda.

Foundational Essay: Zipes’ “Breaking the Disney Spell” – The Professional Essays of H.E. Eanes

The audience becomes nothing more than a viewer captured by the whim of the author, who controls how vreaking audiences breakiing, thinks, and feels through the magic of the text, or in the case of animation, the allure of fantasy captured within art.

While we may believe that the text is innocently conveying a story, it conveys in truth the hidden purpose of the author, who may use it to propagate their agenda and thereby affect public opinion. The social repercussions of this are vast in that it suggests that nothing we read or view can be considered clean of authorial bias.

Every message we read, every picture we view, every song that we hear—they all carry with them the potential to change our perceptions about life and to redefine our understanding of reality through the rhetoric of the author. In understanding how rhetoric can be used by authors to affect public opinion, I am led to understand that ziles we read or view is devoid of meaning, and that everything indeed has an argument.

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Notify me of new comments via email. According to Zipes, the French fairy tales heightened the aspect of the chosen aristocratic elite: Zipes argues that by the end of the nineteenth century, the literary fairy tale had the following crucial functions as institution in middle-class society: It introduced notions of elitism and separatism through a select canon of tales brreaking to children who epell how to read.

Though it was also told, the fact that the fairy tale was printed and in a book with pictures gave it more legitimacy and enduring value than an oral tale that disappeared breakjng after it was told.

Although the plots varied and the themes and characters were altered, the classical fairy tale for children and adults reinforced the patriarchal symbolic order based disnry rigid notions of sexuality and gender. In printed form the fairy tale was property and could be taken by its owner and read by its owner at his or her leisure for escape, consolation, or inspiration. Along with its closure and reinforcement of patriarchy, the fairy tale also served to encourage notions of rags to riches, pulling yourself up by your bootstraps, dreaming, miracles, etc.


Tension between the literary and oral traditions existed. The oral threatened the more conventional and classical tales because they questioned, dislodged, and deconstructed the written tales. Moreover, within the literary tradition itself, many questioned the standardized model of what a fairy tale should be. It was through script by the end of the nineteenth century that there was a full-scale debate about what oral folk tales and literary fairy tales were and what their respective functions should be.

By this time, the fairy tale had expanded as a high art form operas, ballets, dramas and low jsck form folk plays, vaudevilles, and parodies as well as a form developed classically and experimentally for children and adults.

The oral tales continued to be disseminated through communal gatherings of different kinds, but they were also broadcast by radio and gathered in books by folklorists.

Most important in the late nineteenth century was the rise of folklore as an institution and of various schools of literary criticism that dealt with fairy tales and folk tales.

Though many fairy-tale books and collections were illustrated some lavishly in the nineteenth century, the images sspell very much in conformity with the text.

The illustrators were frequently anonymous and did not seem to count. Though the illustrations often enriched and deepened a tale, they were generally subservient to the text. Zipes contends that by simplifying this oedipal complex semiotically through animation and satirizing it in order to create common appeal, Disney also touches on other themes: Democracy—the film is very American in its attitude toward royalty. The monarchy is debunked, and a commoner causes a kind of revolution.

Then she uses a hypnotic machine to defeat the bull and another fairly new invention, the automobile, to escape the king. Modernity—the setting is obviously the twentieth century, and the modern minds are replacing the ancient. The revolution takes place as the king is outpaced and will be replaced by a commoner who knows how to use the latest inventions.

According to Zipes, Disney made the following changes: Snow White is an orphan. Her father remains alive, and she is never forced to do the work of commoners such as wash the steps of psell castle. The prince appears at the breakijg beginning of the film on a white horse and sings a song of love and devotion to Snow Spel. The queen is not only jealous that Snow White is more beautiful than she is, but she also sees the prince singing to Snow White and is envious because her stepdaughter has such a didney suitor.

Though the forest and the animals do not speak, they are anthropomorphized. In particular, the animals befriend Snow White and become her protectors. The dwarfs are hardworking and rich miners. They all have names—Doc, Sleepy, Bashful, Happy, Sneezy, Grumpy, Brewking of certain human characteristics and are fleshed out dishey that they become the star attractions of the film.

Their actions are what counts in defeating evil. She returns to life when the prince, who has searched everywhere for her, arrives and bestows a kiss on her lips. Technique takes precedence over the story, and the story is used to celebrate the technician and his means. Though the characters are fleshed out to become more realistic, they are also one-dimensional and are to serve functions in the film.

There is no character development because the characters are stereotypes, arranged according to a credo of domestication of the imagination. The domestication is related to colonization insofar as the ideas and types are portrayed as models of behavior to be emulated. What is good for Disney is good for the world, and what is good in a Disney fairy tale is good in the rest of the world.

The thematic emphasis on cleanliness, control, and organized industry reinforces the technics of the film itself: Private reading pleasure is replaced by pleasurable viewing in an impersonal cinema.

Here one is brought together with other viewers not for the development of community, but to be diverted in the French sense of divertissement and American sense of diversion. The diversion of the Disney fairy tale is geared toward nonreflective viewing. Everything is on the surface, one-dimensional, and we are to delight in one-dimensional portrayal and thinking, for it is adorable, easy, and comforting in its simplicity.

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