Representations of animal harm and objectification in the works of Walt Disney Animation Studios’ films: 1937- 2016

Stanton, Rebecca Rose (2019) Representations of animal harm and objectification in the works of Walt Disney Animation Studios’ films: 1937- 2016. Doctoral thesis, Northumbria University.

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This PhD thesis critically examines how Walt Disney Animation Studios (WDAS) has depicted – and sometimes failed to depict – different forms of harming and objectifying animals (1937–2016). This is an interdisciplinary project that contributes new research into Disney studies and critical animal studies. As such, this project will utilize past research in critical animal studies, particularly speciesism, throughout. Each chapter of this thesis focusses on a different form of harm or objectification that animals can experience: Chapter 1: Animal Food Farming, Chapter 2: Hunting and Fishing, Chapter 3: Clothing, Chapter 4: Pets and Working Animals, and Chapter 5: Entertainment. Each chapter begins by outlining the history, relevant scholarly literature, and other relevant cultural depictions of that form of harm. Then, each chapter presents the data that demonstrates how many times these types of harm or objectification have been depicted in WDAS films. Next, each chapter offers a broad exploration of how the chapter’s topic(s) has been depicted in WDAS films and (where appropriate) across the wider Disney brand. Finally, each chapter includes case studies relevant to that chapter’s topic. For example, Chapter 1: Animal Food Farming includes a close-reading of Home on the Range (2004), a WDAS film set on a dairy farm. As well as studying WDAS films, this project will also explore other elements of the Disney brand such as the theme parks and merchandise in order to understand Disney’s depictions of animals and animal harm more broadly. The thesis concludes by arguing that since 1937 WDAS representations of animals and animal harm have been shaped by speciesist attitudes. Throughout WDAS’s history, higher-order, heavily-anthropomorphised, neotenized, pro-social, and individualized animal characters have been depicted as un-deserving of the harm or objectification that their species commonly experience. In contrast, lower-order, non-anthropomorphised species have been depicted as little more than objects. Additionally, it is evident that WDAS has only challenged animal harm that has become socially unacceptable, such as the production of fur. Animal harm that is socially-acceptable or involves lower-order species (such as the production of leather) has been minimized, attenuated, or depicted romantically. Additionally, some forms of animal harm that are very common in reality, such as medical testing, have never been depicted, or even acknowledged, in WDAS films.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Uncontrolled Keywords: Speciesism, Romanticism, Abuse, Farming, Media
Subjects: L300 Sociology
W900 Others in Creative Arts and Design
Department: Faculties > Arts, Design and Social Sciences > Arts
University Services > Graduate School > Doctor of Philosophy
Depositing User: John Coen
Date Deposited: 14 Aug 2020 12:38
Last Modified: 31 Jul 2021 12:17

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