Is Disney Too Violent for Kids?

Family Matters on 03.21.11
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Since 1937, The Walt Disney Company has been creating a magical kingdom full of movies, characters and stories for children (and adults alike) to enjoy. And do they ever enjoy them. From 1995 to 2011, the Walt Disney Company grossed more than $25 billion, second only behind Warner Bros.

A personal favorite of mine from the Disney vault is "Cinderella." I must have seen this one 40 times at least. You know, the one where a young girl's own stepmother forces her to give up her life to sleep in the barn on a bed of hay and wait on her stepmother and two stepsisters hand and foot. It could be worse for the poor little cinder girl, though. Her only friends could have been rats, and a pumpkin might have been her only mode of transportation. Oh, wait.

As far as the harsh lessons of a Disney movie go, Cinderella's message was pretty tame. Think of "Bambi": His mother dies in the opening scenes, being shot by hunters. And poor "Dumbo" is taken from his mother and forced into the circus. Ariel, "The Little Mermaid," must choose between her family and her one true love -- forever.

Disney dares to go even darker sometimes. In "Anastasia," Rasputin spends a portion of the movie in purgatory, dancing and singing with all manner of bugs, simultaneously trying to keep his limbs and head connected to his body (all while trying to plan Anastasia's death, of course). In "Snow White," the title character's stepmother is trying to actually kill her. I guess Cinderella didn't have it so bad after all.

Are these classic films giving the right messages to our children, imparting wisdom and good lessons? Of course they are. When I think back on all of these movies, I don't remember the death, revenge, cattiness, and plotting. I remember Cinderella becoming a princess, because her true love wouldn't stop until he found her. I remember Bambi becoming friends with Thumper, even though they looked different. And I remember Snow White being shown the kindness of seven strangers who took care of her when no one else would, and who she took care of in return.

Are these lessons I want to instill in my daughter? Absolutely. Will I have to explain to her that sometimes bad things happen, but you have to move past them to get to the good things? Yes, I will. If she can make some memories learning those lessons with the help of some animated characters she'll remember fondly forever, then I say "Hi ho! Hi ho! It's off to Disney we go".

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