In its hundred-year history, the Walt Disney Company has created multiple projects featuring characters from various minorities and indigenous groups. The purpose of this essay is to examine the later films of Walt Disney Animation Studios, beginning in the often-dubbed “Disney Renaissance” with Pocahontas and concluding with Frozen II, and analyze the portrayal of the native groups being featured within the narrative. Beyond this, the secondary aim of this paper is to determine whether or not any significant development has been made in said depictions in the studio’s projects, both as it pertains to narrative and visual representation, as well as reception from audience members, critics, and community leaders of said ethnic groups. Beyond the analysis of the chosen films and their reception, this essay will touch upon the potential conflicts which may arise when potentially vulnerable or traditionally ignored aboriginal groups see their culture commodified by corporations such as Disney. The findings of this essay are that while Walt Disney Animation Studios still struggles with representation and commercialization of indigenous groups, the company has evidently made efforts to respond to criticism, and increase its cooperation with aboriginal populations when developing feature
film projects. For the most recent example, while the company’s immensely successful Frozen utilizes multiple facets of Sámi culture, it does not directly feature any characters of Sámi origin. For the sequel, however, the company made efforts to work with indigenous groups to ensure a more favorable representation, resulting in largely positive reception from Sámi audiences. Whilst there are still problematic elements present, and the company’s commitment to fair, accurate representation is likely motivated more by financial incentive than anything else, some progress has undoubtedly been made.
Disney, animation, cultural sensitivity, Indigenous studies, cinema studies