University Studies Negative Impacts of Disney Movies on Children

in Disney, Movies & TV

The old hag from Snow White, Riley crying from Inside Out, Frollo from Hunchback of Notre Dame

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A recent study looked at how Disney films have changed over the years, and the effect they could have on children, and some fans may be surprised by the results.

Wade and Ember sit in a theater in Elemental
Credit: Pixar

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Dr. Lindsay Hahn, an assistant professor of communication at the University at Buffalo, has always been fascinated by people who think violent media, especially television and video games, “rot people’s brains.” This led to her researching and teaching classes about media psychology, morality, and the effects this media has on children.

“From the printing press, from radio, from books, from television, from video games — the panic around them is all the exact same,” says Hahn. “People ask the exact same questions about whether or not this is bad for us.” Naturally, this had her turn to the most popular media brand in the world: the Walt Disney Company. And she loves it.

Hans and Anna cuddling close to each other at a ballDisney
Credit: Disney

“We research Disney, we research violent video games, we play video games for research, and all of those things are extremely fun to me, but also I love getting to play around with them for work. So I feel like because of that, I have the very best job.”

Along with other researchers, Hahn recently released a paper showcasing their results titled Examining the Motivations of Walt Disney Heroes and Villains and Their Association with Audience Appeal and Future Film Production. This looks not only at the effect Disney has on children but also at whether their message has changed over the years. It seems that the House of Mouse has learned not to mess with a winning formula.

Disney Movies Are Mostly the Same, Don’t Negatively Influence Children

Scar leaning in toward Simba in the canyon
Credit: Disney

While many fans accuse Walt Disney Animation and the company as a whole of changing their messaging and attempting to influence their children, that doesn’t seem to be the case. After watching all 734 Disney films, Hahn has learned that the morals and themes of these movies have remained the same since the beginning.

“The content since 1937, when Snow White was released — it turns out that heroes are always moral, villains are always egoistic. Disney found the secret sauce to what audiences like, and they just have not changed it at all.”

That being said, one change has been seen in the studio’s films as time passed: the villains have become less evil.

Cruella De Vil smoking a long cigarette with the smoke surrounding a picture of the dalmationsDisney
Credit: Disney

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“Obviously, there’s a pretty big difference between Ursula and Maleficent versus some of these obscure villains that may have hilariously robbed a bank and got into some hijinks… In older Disney films with the classic Disney villains, we see that they’re willing to harm other people, whereas more recent villains are less likely to do that, even if they are still self-centered in general.”

Either way, Hahn doesn’t believe that media of any form can change a person’s morality or cause them to be more violent. It only gets in the way when it prevents you from engaging in daily life.

What’s the best lesson you’ve learned from a Disney movie? Let Inside the Magic know in the comments down below!

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