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Disney Animated Movies as Topics for Discussion &
Insight into American Language and Culture
by Robert L. Seltman

I have enjoyed using Disney animated features for many years, as a teacher of English for Japanese university students and as a parent of bilingual children. I have discovered people of all ages often love Disney animated features:

  1. The plot line is accessible for just about anyone, even when English is a foreign language. . . Yet creative enough so that all will find one favorite among any random selection of Disney classics.
  2. Many people are knowledgeable about Disney movies, which are always big box office hitsinternationally. Having already a positive association, assignments and discussions are a joy.
  3. The artistry is excellent, a real plus to people accustomed to graphic excellence. The music toois top notch, in recent years achieving both commercial and artistic recognition on its own.
  4. Disney Company targets their films for both children and adults, expanding the appeal, while maintaining an appropriate language level for anyone (no dirty words or rude slang usage).
  5. The subtle evolution in American values are mapped in Disney features, bringing insight into America's changing point of view since the 30's. America has learned a lot in the last 75 years and Disney charts this journey.
  6. The under 90 minute length adapts well to classroom schedules and student's attention span.
  7. Teachers and students have a great advantage using Disney products because few othercompanies have such a huge assortment of accessible teaching material.

Each story has been reproduced into a variety of books, targeting different English levels, from preschool through adult. Much of the material has also been translated into the student's native tongue providing excellent support.

There are magazines, websites, fan clubs, coloring books, toys, research papers, political critiques, massive advertising campaigns, and computer software surrounding the release of each new film, as well as, ongoing promotion of all the existing classics. A teacher or student can find Disney material anywhere in the world, at prices often cheaper than text books.

The Design of these lessons are simple. A student can screen each film at home, in class, or in the school or public library. The points in each discussion can be responded to in writing or among classmates. It is up to the individual student, and any teachers involved, how deep the discussions will go. Some may prefer the romantic and sentimental issues in each plot, others may prefer a literary analysis. Artists often enjoy film structural or graphic analysis, while still others enjoy the political or social implications. The fun part of these films is they can move with the personal flow and pedagogical needs of each participant.

Walt Disney says in the film short The Making of Snow White:

"We can be sure of only one thing: every grown-up once was a child.
Now when we make a new picture, we don't think of grown-ups,
and we don't think of children, but of that fine, unspoiled spot deep down
in everyone of us, that maybe the world has made us forget,
and that maybe our pictures may help recall"


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Robert L. Seltman