I am redecorating my bedroom. Well, technically am just decorating it since I haven’t done much to it since I moved on last year. I am hanging photos of various trips to Disney Parks as shown above. As I was looking at the layout I decided what I really needed was a quote about family to put in that empty space in the middle. So I went to the internet (as you do) to find the perfect thing. Imagine my surprise when the internet failed me miserably!
When I Googled ‘Disney quotes about family’ the results were plentiful. However they were disappointing. The top row contained: 1 compilation of various famous movie quotes, most not family themed; 3 quotes that had nothing to do with Disney at all; 2 images that were the same unimpressive quote by Walt; and a quote from one of the Winnie the Pooh books that, to my knowledge, never appeared in a Disney film. My frustration level was high. I thought I would have to dig through many quotes to find the perfect one for my photo wall. Instead was looking and looking just to find something that was close to appropriate. For a company that focuses its work on families and children Disney has a shocking lack of families and family related discussion.
As I contemplated this phenomena, I became aware of something I already knew peripherally. Disney doesn’t do family. While it is an underlying values in almost everything that they put out, the actual traditional families are few and far between. Now I’m not saying that the only families that are of value are ones that have Mom, Dad, and 2.4 children. However, the extreme lack of such things is telling. Here are some examples.
- Mickey & Minnie have been dating exclusively for 90 years. They have yet to commit.
- The Duck family seems to be full of unaddressed loss and grief. Donald has three nephews in his custody and no living siblings which, of course, makes Huey, Dewey, & Louis orphans. Donald himself has only an uncle, leaving us to wonder what happened to his parents.
- Goofy has a son and no spouse.
- Of the 56 Disney animated features only four show families that have not lost a member in a tragic way (death or forced separation) at the beginning of the film: “Moana”, “Zootopia”, “Mulan”, and “101 Dalmatians”. That is a shocking 7% of their animated films. Pixar has one, “Brave”.
- The small screen is slightly better, but Hannah Montana, Zach & Cody, and others were being raised by single parents. All of the kid characters in the Disney Afternoon shows were short at least one parent.
Parentless families are a staple for Disney. Is it any wonder that I couldn’t find a good quote for my wall?
As I continued to read, I came to realize that the only Disney film that talks about family in any real way is “Lilo & Stitch”. Of course, one of the key elements in the story is how broken the sisters are. It is perhaps the only Disney movie that tackles the tragedy of loss head on. In a beautiful way it is their brokenness that heals the out of control Stitch. The most beautiful line about family is spoken by Stitch at the end of that movie. He says,
‘This is my family. I found it all on my own. It is little and broken, but still good. Yeah, still good.”
It is poignant and powerful especially for those of us who grew up in ‘broken’ families. But I can’t put it on my wall. It makes me cry.
I wonder what more Disney could do to talk about family in all its shapes and sizes. I wonder what would happen if Max and Goofy talked about the loss of Mrs. Goofy. I wonder if kids being raised by single parents, foster parents, adopted parents, and all other kinds of vaguely parent shaped people could resonate with conversations about loss, change, and being different from the norm. If Disney is going to continue to use this storytelling trope, perhaps they should actually use it. If “Lilo & Stitch” is any example, they could do it well in ways that could resonate deeply with people. The could open a door for connections to be made. Perhaps they could help us to realize that ultimately we are all broken in some way and are just looking for family to call our own.
None of which helps me with my wall art dilemna.
Got any good ideas for my space? Let me know in the comments.