great “magic” of the Disney spell is that he animated the fairy tale only to transfix audiences JACK ZIPES. Breaking the Disney Spellt. It was not once upon a. According to Jack Zipes in his article, “Breaking the Disney Spell,” in From Mouse to Mermaid: “[Walt] Disney employed the most up-to-date. Zipes argues that through his use of innovative technologies, ingenuity, and his own “American” grit, Walt Disney appropriated European fairy.

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Skip to main content. Log In Sign Up. Breaking the Disney Spell. He did not use a magic wand or demonic powers. On th contrary, Disney employed the most up-to- date technological means and used his own “American” grit and ingenuity to appropriate the European fairy tales. His technical skills and ideological proclivities were so consummate that his signature has obfuscated the names of Charles Perrault, the Brothers Grimm, Hans Christian Andersen, and Collodi.

If children or adults think of the great classical fairy tales today, be it Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, or Cinderella, they will think Walt Disney. Their first and perhaps lasting impressions of these tales and others will have emanated from a Disney film, book, or artefact.

Though other filmmakers and animators produced remarkable fairy-tale films, Disney managed to gain a cultural stranglehold on the fairy tale, and this stranglehold has even tightened with the recent productions of Beauty and the Beast and Aladdin The man’s spell over the fairy tale seems to live on even after his death.

Foundational Essay: Zipes’ “Breaking the Disney Spell”

But what does the Disney spell mean? Did Disney achieve a complete monopoly of the fairy tale during his lifetime?

Did he imprint a particular American vision on the fairy tale through his animated films that dominates our perspective today? And, if he did manage to cast his mass-mediated spell on the fairy tale so that we see and read the classical tales through his lens, is that so terrible? Was Disney a nefarious wizard of some kind that we should lament his domination of the fairy tale?

Wasn’t he just more inventive, more skillful, more in touch disneey the American spirit of the times than his competitors, who also sought to animate the classical fairy tale for the screen?

Of course, it would be a great exaggeration to maintain that Disney’s spell totally divested the classical fairy tales of their meaning and invested them with his own. His radicalism was of the right and the righteous.

The great “magic” of the Disney spell is that he animated the fairy tale only to transfix audiences and divert their potential utopian dreams and hopes through the false promises of the images he cast upon the screen. But before we come to a full understanding of this magical spell, we must try to understand what he did to the fairy tale that was so revolutionary and why he did it.

The Oral and Literary Fairy Tales The evolution of the fairy tale as a literary genre is marked by dialectical appropriation that set the cultural conditions for its institutionalization and its expansion as a mass-mediated form through radio, film, and television.

Fairy tales were first told by gifted tellers and were based on rituals intended to endow meaning to the daily lives of members of a tribe. As oral folk tales, they were intended to explain natural occurrences such as the change of the seasons and shifts in the weather or to celebrate the rites of harvesting, hunting, marriage, and conquest.

The emphasis in most folk tales was on communal harmony. A narrator or narrators told tales to bring members of a group or tribe closer together and to provide them with a sense of mission, a telos. The tales themselves assumed a generic quality based on the function that they were to fulfill for the community or the incidents that they were to report, describe, and explain. Consequently, there were tales of initiation, worship, warning, and indoctrination.

Whatever the type may have been, the voice of the narrator was known. The tale came directly from common experiences and beliefs. Told in person, directly, face-to-face, they were altered as the beliefs and behaviors of the members of a particular group changed.

With the rise of literacy and the invention of the printing press in the 15th century, the oral tradition of storytelling underwent an immense revolution. This change did not happen overnight, zipe it breking foster discrimination among writers and their audiences almost immediately so that distinct genres were recognized and approved for certain occasions and functions within polite society or cultivated circles of readers.

In the case of folk tales, they were gradually categorized as legends, myths, fables, comical anecdotes, and, of course, fairy tales. The fairy tale had to fit into the French salons, parlors, and courts of the aristocracy and bourgeoisie if it was to establish itself as a genre.

They were not the initiators of the literary fairy-tale tradition in Europe. While the literary fairy tale was being institutionalized at the end of the seventeenth century and beginning of the eighteenth century in France, the oral tradition did not disappear, nor was it subsumed by the new literary genre. Rather, the oral tradition continued to feed the writers with material and was now also influenced by the literary tradition itself. In some cases, the literary tales presented new material that was in turn transformed through the oral tradition and returned later to literature by a writer who remembered hearing a particular story.

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By the beginning of the nineteenth century when the Brothers Grimm set about to celebrate German culture through their country’s folk tales, the literary fairy tale had long since been institutionalized, and they, along with Hans Christian Andersen, Collodi, Ludwig Bechstein, and a host of Victorian writers from George MacDonald to Oscar Risney, assumed different ideological spe,l aesthetic positions within this institutionalization.

These writers put the finishing touches on the fairy-tale genre at a time when nation-states were assuming their modern form and cultivating particular forms of literature as commensurate expressions of national cultures. What were the major prescriptions, expectations, and standards of the literary fairy tale by the end of breakig nineteenth century? Here it is important first to make some general remarks about the “violent” shift from the oral to the literary tradition and dsney just talk about the appropriation of the magic folk tale as a dialectical process.

Appropriation does not occur without violence to the rhetorical text created in the oral tales. Unlike the oral tradition, the literary tale was written down to be read in private, although, in some cases, the fairy tales were read aloud in parlors. However, the book form enabled the reader to withdraw from his or her society and to be alone with a tale.

This privatization violated the communal aspects of the folk tale, but the very printing of a fairy tale was already a violation since it was based on separation of social classes.

Extremely few people could read, and the fairy tale in form and content furthered notions of elitism and separation. In fact, the French fairy tales heightened the aspect of the spekl aristocratic zipex who were always placed at the center of the seventeenth and eighteenth century narratives. They were part and parcel of the class struggles in the discourses of that period. As Spdll Armstrong and Leonard Tennenhouse have suggested, “a class of people cannot produce themselves as a ruling class without setting themselves off against certain Others.

Their hegemony entails possession of the key cultural terms determining what are the right and wrong ways to be a human zioes. Indeed, only the well-to-do could purchase the books and read them. In short, by institutionalizing the literary fairy tale, writers and publishers violated the forms and concerns of non-literate, essentially peasant communities and set new standards of taste, production, and reception through the discourse of the fairy tale.

The literary fairy tales tended to exclude dsney majority of people who could not read while the folk tales were open to everyone. Indeed, the literary narratives were individualistic and unique in form and exalted the power of those chosen to rule.

In contrast, the oral tales had themes and characters that were readily recognizable and reflected common wish-fulfillments. Of course, one had to know the dialect in which they were told. From a philological standpoint, the literary fairy tale elevated the oral tale through the standard practice of printing and setting grammatical rules in “high French” or “high German. This is one of the reasons that fairy tales were not particularly approved for children. If one looks carefully at the major writers of fairy tales for children who became classical and popular in the 6 nineteenth century, it is clear that they themselves exercised self-censorship and restraint in conceiving and writing down tales for children.

This is not to argue that the literary fairy tale as institution became one in which the imagination was totally domesticated. On the contrary, by the end of the nineteenth century the genre served different functions. As a whole, it formed a multi-vocal network of discourses through which writers used familiar motifs, topoi, protagonists, and plots symbolically to comment on the civilizing process and socialization in their respective countries.

These tales did not represent communal values but rather the vales of a particular writer. On the other hand, many writers would parody, mock, question, and undermine the classical literary tradition and produce original and subversive tales that were part and parcel of the institution itself. The so-called original and subversive tales kept and keep the dynamic quality of the dialectical appropriation alive, for there was and there is always a danger that the written word, in contrast to the spoken word, will fix a structure, image, metaphor, plot, and value as sacrosanct.

For instance, for some people the Grimms’ fairy tales are holy, breakong fairy tales are considered holy and not to be touched. How did this notion emanate? Yet, worship of the fairy tale as holy scripture is more of a petrification of the fairy tale that is connected to the establishment of correct speech, values, and power more than anything else.

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This establishment through the violation of the oral practices was the great revolution and transformation of the fairy zipds.

By the end of the nineteenth century the spe,l fairy tale had the following crucial functions as institution in middle-class society: The oral tales continued and continue to threaten the more conventional and classical takes because they can question, dislodge, and deconstruct the written tales.

Moreover, within the literary tradition itself, there were numerous writers such as Charles Dickens, George MacDonald, Lewis Carroll, Oscar Wilde, and Edith Breakimg, who questioned the standardized model of what a fairy tale should be. By this time the fairy tale had expanded as a high art form operas, ballets, dramas and low art form folk plays, vaudevilles, and parodies and a form developed classically and experimentally for children and adults. The oral tales continued slell be disseminated through communal gatherings of different kinds, but they were also broadcast by radio and gathered in books by folklorists.

Most important in the late nineteenth century was the rise of folklore as an institution and various schools of literary criticism that dealt with fairy tales and folk tales. The illustrators were frequently anonymous and did not seem to count. Though the illustrations often enriched and deepened a tale, they were more subservient to the text. However, the domination of the word in the development of the fairy tale as genre was about to change.

The next great revolution in the institutionalization of the genre was the film, for the images now imposed themselves on the text and formed their own text in violation of print but also with the help of the print culture.

And here is where Walt Disney and other animators enter the scene. Yet, primitive though it was, the order of the scenes did form a coherent, logical, and progressive continuity.

Foundational Essay: Zipes’ “Breaking the Disney Spell” – The Professional Essays of H.E. Eanes

A new way of making moving pictures had been invented. Scenes could now be staged and selected specially for the camera, and the movie maker could control both the material and its arrangement. In fact, it is noteworthy that Disney’s very first endeavors in animation not considering the advertising commercials he made were the fairy-tale adaptations that he produced with Ub Iwerks in Kansas City between thd To a certain degree, Disney identified so closely with the fairy tales he appropriated that it is no wonder his name virtually became synonymous with the genre of the fairy tale itself.

However, before discussing Disney’s particular relationship to the fairy-tale tradition, it is important to consider the conditions of early animation in America and role of the animator in general, for all this has a bearing on Disney’s productive relationship with the fairy tale.

Fairy Tale as Myth/myth as Fairy Tale – Jack Zipes – Google Books

In his important study, Before Mickey: The Animated FilmDonald Crafton remarks that “the early animated film was the location of a process found elsewhere in cinema but nowhere else in such intense concentration: This can take several forms it can be direct or indirect, and more or less camouflaged. At first it was obvious and literal; at the end it was subtle and cloaked in metaphors and symbolic imagery designed to facilitate the process and yet to keep the idea gratifying for the artist and the audience.

Part of the animation game consisted of developing mythologies that gave the animator some sort of special status. Usually these were very flattering, for he was pictured as or implied to be a demigod, a purveyor of life itself. One of the more interesting aspects of the early animated films is a psychically ddisney tension between the artist and the characters he drew, one that is ripe for a Freudian or Lacanian reading, for the artist is always threatening to take away their “lives,” while they, in turn, seek to deprive him of his pen phallus or creative inspiration so that they can control their own lives.

Almost all the early animators were men, and their pens and camera work assume a distinctive phallic function in early animation. The hand with pen or pencil is featured in many animated films in the process of creation, and it is then transformed in zipfs films into the tails of a cat or dog. These tails then act as the productive force or artist’s instrument throughout the film.

For instance, Disney in his Alice films often employed a cat named Julius, who would take off his tail and use it as stick, weapon, rope, hook, question mark, etc. It was the dixney means to induce action and conceive a way out of a predicament.