FINDING FAITH IN THE HOUSE OF THE MOUSE

Autor: Mark Adams Fuente: Washington Post

The world's most famous rodent and his animated friends say more about faith and values than you might think -- they're not just postage stamps. There are life lessons in the full-length animated features that have been the signature of the Walt Disney Co. for nearly seven decades.

Peter Pan taught us that "faith, trust and pixie dust" can help you leave your cares behind. Jiminy Cricket showed Pinocchio -- and millions of moviegoers -- that "when you wish upon a star," dreams come true.

"Bambi" stimulated baby-boomer support for gun control and environmentalism.

"Cinderella" became a syndrome. "The Little Mermaid" illustrated the challenges of intermarriage. "The Lion King" hinted at Hindu tradition in the "Circle of Life."

Walt Disney said he wanted his theme parks to be "a source of joy and inspiration to all the world." Some have compared them to shrines to which American families make obligatory pilgrimages, parents reconnecting with their own childhoods while helping their kids experience a cartoon fantasy mecca.

Even Disney's detractors see tremendous symbolic value in his cartoon characters. As a boycott loomed in the mid-1990s, one Southern Baptist leader -- denouncing the Disney corporation's human-resources policies toward same-sex couples -- asked his sympathizers: "Do they expect Mickey to leave Minnie and move in with Donald? That's goofy!"

There is a consistent set of moral and human values in these movies, loosely based on Western, Judeo-Christian faith and principles, which together constitute a "Disney gospel." Ironically, it is at the same time a largely secular scripture that reflects the personal vision of Walt Disney and the company he shaped in his image and, to a lesser degree, the commercial goals of the studio.

So good is always rewarded; evil is always punished. Faith is an essential element -- faith in yourself and, even more, faith in something greater than yourself, even if it is some vague, nonsectarian higher power. Hard work and optimism complete the basic canon.

In "Pinocchio," an old man needed a miracle, supernatural intervention, to give life to his little boy, slumped motionless across the room. So the white-haired woodcarver did what might be expected under the circumstances:

He knelt on his bed, folded his hands on the windowsill and turned his eyes to heaven. Then, in his soft Italian accent, he did not pray. Instead, Geppetto wished upon a star.

The transformation from puppet to boy that ensued in Walt Disney's Oscar-winning 1940 animated feature "Pinocchio" was indeed miraculous but not traditionally divine. As the man slept, a winged, glowing spirit, the Blue Fairy, advised the marionette to "let your conscience be your guide," to "choose right from wrong" so he could earn the "gift of life."

Walt Disney, who as an adult avoided church services, did not want religion in his movies.

"He never made a religious film, and churchmen were rarely portrayed in Disney movies," according to Bob Thomas in "Walt Disney: An American Original," authorized biographer of the company's founding brothers.

Disney's daughter Diane Disney Miller told one minister that there are no churches on Main Street because her father did not want to favor any particular denomination. It is an explanation repeated today by company officials, as if the company's genius for the generic did not extend to creating a one-size-fits-all church. Walt "didn't want to single out any one religion," according to Disney archivist David Smith.
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A63998-2004Aug13.html
 
 
 
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