Disney and his studio do not only aim to create entertainment but present a meaningful thesis as well; “All our dreams can come true if we have the courage to pursue them” (Williams & Denney, 2004, p. 69). Usually, Disney’s stories like to present the royal romance comprising of love, courage and dream.
By comparing Cinderella (Geronimi, Luske, & Jackson, 1950) and his latest princess iteration, The Princess and The Frog (Clements, 2009), we could clearly see the critical influence of Cinderella that has affected the cartoon culture of Disney’s stories, as highlighted by the appearance of the Fairy Godmother, the importance of animal characters and the narrative power of the songs. Many of Disney’s stories are concerned with a goal that the leading character has to achieve, passing obstacles along the way in order to realize his dream.
As such, a correlation can be seen between Cinderella (1950) and The Princess and The Frog (2009); both the young ladies work very hard to achieve their aspirations. Before Cinderella was transformed by Fairy Godmother with an opportunity to attend the royal ball, she was a poor girl, and seemingly under distress. Her stepmother and stepsisters take over all her benefits and mistreat her. She is abused and made to serve as the housekeeper and maid for her family. However, she does not give up on dreaming and wishing, and has faith that one day her dream will come true.
On the other hand, Tiana is a poor African-American young lady who works very hard to accomplish her goal of owning a restaurant in New Orleans. Although, her dream seems big and difficult for her to achieve, she never thinks about giving up. She continues tracing her dream; her hopes remain high even after she is accidently transformed into a frog by kissing the cursed Prince Naveen. Although these two Disney princesses are coming from different nationalities and generations, they both represent the same story structure of Disney’s fairytales.
Secondly, Disney’s Cinderella has become the dominant version in Western culture, since it was the first one to be aired on the big screen. It was the first time a character like the Fairy godmother was presented straight from a Disney tale. Her task was strictly to prepareeverything for Cinderella so she could attend the royalty ball. The story of Cinderella has historically portrayed a strong character in the Fairy godmother; a prominent companion has become an important element in the life of a cheerful heroine in the follow up stories of Disney.
Looking into The Princess and The Frog (Clements, 2009)Mama Odie is representing a new type of Fairy godmother as a blind voodoo priestess. She plays a guiding role in the story, full of magic and power to help the frogs transform back into humans. The Fairy godmother has thus become an iconic character since it was first presented in Cinderella. It plays an important part in shaping the cartoons’ structures, influencing many other stories to portray the same character in other forms, enriching the story with color and inspiration.
Thirdly, by featuring animal characters in Cinderella, Disney and his animators have developed a new structure of cartoon culture. Animal characters have carved a niche in Disney’s animations. However, these animal characters only play supporting or minor roles in the full-length animated films. Due to the strong connection between animal characters and Disney’s animations in the public’s mind, Disney and his animators have recently inclined towards creating much more detailed versions of the animal characters found in Cinderella.
As a result, the mice have gained more screen time than the step-mother and sisters, and one of the most memorable scenes in the film regarding the manufacturing process of the ball dress revolves aroundbirds and mice which work together to prepare a beautiful gown for Cinderella. This scene appears for nearly 8 minutes in the film. It shows the importance of animals in story-telling. Moreover, those animals carry their own personality, as seen for example in the red bird who would much enjoyperforming a vocal accommodation where as the character Jaq, who was portrayed as a leader of the mice while Gus was the cute and childish one.
Moreover, the relationship between Cinderella and the mice provided clues to reveal her real personality. Her kindness could be observed through her interest in making clothes and dresses for the animals, rescuing them from traps, and feeding them with enough food. As such, in the story of Cinderella, animals do not feature as minor characters. They are highlighted to be very important in the narrative. Since that story, animal characters have moved up in ranks, taking important roles as support for the main characters in reaching their goals.
In The Princess and The Frog (Clements, 2009)those small animal characters follow Cinderella’s tradition in that they play important roles as support for the frogs so they could return to their human forms, carrying their own personality and dreams. For example, Ray is a firefly, who knows Mama Odie and agrees to help the frogs find her and nearly sacrifices himself fighting with Dr. Facilier. From his lover to the star, we can see that his personality is very gentle and kind. Moreover, Louis is a friendly neurotic alligator, who dreams to become human and joins a jazz band as the trumpet player.
He is not just a background image and accompanies the frogs in their adventure. Their appearances make the narratives to be more balanced, completed and interesting. Thanks to the success of theanimal characters in Cinderella, animal characters have continued to play an important role in developing plots and, in turn, have had stories revolve around them instead of the other way round. Lastly, over the years Disney’s animations have developed an indivisible relationship with songs and musical elements.
Songs provide a useful tool to breathe more definition into the characters. For example, in Cinderella, the song “A Dream is A Wish Your Heart Makes” (Geronimi, Luske, & Jackson, 1950), we can observe that Cinderella is faced with many obstacles, but her dream is still kept alive in her heart, thanks to her positive attitude. This way, songs contain the power of presenting deeper content, which normal speech may not effectively communicate. Besides, the audience can see and feel the threat pertaining to the character of Dr.
Facilier, for example, by virtue of the song “Friends on the Other Side” (Clements, 2009). Walt Disney has seemingly pioneered the tradition of using songs and music to replace boring conversations, because the song can portray an idea in much more detail. For example, the Fairy godmother’s song “Bibidi-Bobidi-Boo” (Geronimi, Luske, & Jackson, 1950), played when she transforms the pumpkin into a coach, the mice into a horse, and Cinderella’s appearance for the ball, etc. relayed a magical element only music could provide.
The song, in this context, is a much more powerful tool to present the idea than normal speech, because it gives the audience an extra vocal dimension to remember the scene with, adding to the visual impact. Moreover, the songs and music also add to the dynamics of the picture in order to present the inner meaning of the stories. By comparing the versions of “Sing Sweet Nightingale” (Geronimi, Luske, & Jackson, 1950) as sung by Cinderella and her stepsisters, we can see the difference in nature of both parties, Cinderella being the gentler much more caring personality.
At another instance, we can see a deeper relationship between the frogs, through the song Never knew I Needed, instead of simply saying, I think I am falling in love with you (Clements, 2009). It surrounds the narrative with a profundity in an implicit way. Disney’s animation, hence, really has the ability to capture the fantasy-oriented imagination of the audience providing entertainment both for the adults and children alike. Incorporating these qualities into Disney’s cartoon culture has enabled the creation of some of the most excellent pieces of animated and other motion-picture films that history has ever seen.
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