Walt Disney and the Psychology of His Children's Cartoons

Walter Disney was born December 5, 1901 in Chicago.


His family bought a farm and his father struggled to raise his family. Four years of back-breaking work and the family sold out their farm, barely breaking even on his investment.

It was four years work with nothing to show. The family then found

themselves in Kansas City in 1910 when Walt was 8. 

When Walt lived on the farm, he had his first exposure to movies in a nearby theatre. Movies had just come into existence around 1895 and 1896, largely the creation of Thomas Edison in NJ, and by the years 1904-1914, movie theatres proliferated throughout the United States and other parts of the world. Millions in the United States attended weekly by 1914. Disney became enamored with the movies and they became a regular part of his life. He and his wife would date, going to the movies, Disney was married at 24 years of age.

Vaudeville and Burlesque, also were influences on his life. Disney was fond of drawing and sketching, especially caricatures, which he made for 25-cents a piece in local barber shop. For the better part of his childhood and into his teenage years he had an arduous newspaper route, for which he received only a small allowance, his father taking most of the money for family expenses. Neither he nor his father were heavy drinkers; Walt enjoyed a scotch in the evening as an adult after he had become successful. Charley Chaplin was a Disney idol, the creation of Mickey Mouse was influenced by Chaplin, however, Disney stated that Mickey Mouse was a creation devoted to Horatio Alger.

Alger was a writer that had studied under Henry W. Longfellow with the hopes of becoming a poet. He wrote scores of novels concerning the American Dream, of a poor boy becoming rich through hard work and diligence. For a time he was a minister, but was found guilty of molesting young boys. Nonetheless, his novels became a popular American literary tradition during the early 1900s.

Walter Disney and D. Wernher von Braun. Von Braun served as technical advisor on three space-related television films that Disney produced in the 1950s. Together, von Braun (the engineer) and Disney (the artist) used the new medium of television to illustrate how high man might fly on the strength of technology and the spirit of human imagination. Von Braun was Disney's space consultant, and helped to shape Tommorowland of Disney world, as well as some other futuristic works of Disney.

Disney Biography - Disney and Politics

Walt's father was a socialist, his family had English and Irish roots. Disney sketched political cartoons for his father's socialist newspaper, however, he did not stick to his father's political persuasions and became more and more conservative, in the American political tradition (more along the lines of Reagan's ideology), as he got older. He became staunchly anti-communist, as Hollywood, of which Disney was a part, was effected by labor strikes and struggles with communist ideology from within. Disney felt he would be a political cartoonist, but ended up pursuing what was gaining popularity in the early 1920s , that is children's cartoons.

Walt Disney serving as an ambulance driver in Europe at the close of World War I. Disney agonized to be a part of the war effort, and was finally accepted at the close of the war.

Disney's first cartoons

The first children's cartoons produced started appearing from before 1914, and Felix the Cat (not Disney) preceded Mickey Mouse, but failed to gain the huge success that Mickey Mouse did, although many of us can still remember the TV jingle, "Felix the Cat, the wonderful wonderful cat.. whenever he gets in a fix he reaches into his bag of tricks," But Disney stated that Felix the Cat never evolved, had remained two-dimensional, and didn't grow in personality. Mickey was different, and much of Disney's own animated personality was incorporated into the Mickey persona.  When Mickey Mouse was first created he was to be known as Mortimor Mouse. His wife objected, and the name was changed to Mickey. Disney had originally created a cartoon rabbit, Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, which had become somewhat popular. However, the company for which Disney was working, stole, or took over, Disney's cartoon character, as Disney had not taken the necessary legal steps to protect his creation, and so Disney morphed his rabbit into a mouse, changing the ears, coloring and body. Oswald the Lucky Rabbit became Mickey Mouse.

Mickey Mouse's first film, wasn't Steamboat Willy, as most of us might think, but rather it was a flick of Mickey humorously flying a small plane, "Plane Crazy". This was a reflection of Disney's infatuation with airflight, influenced by the writings of Russian militarist Alexander P. DeSeversky's, Victory Through Air Power. His second cartoon feature was that of dancing skeletons, a horror-spoof. Disney next featured Mickey Mouse in The Gallopin' Gaucho. Neither of the first two Mickey flicks were successful, until finally Disney created Steamboat Willy, which succeeded in iconizing Mickey Mouse.

Disney provided the voice for the original Mickey Mouse, until excessive smoking rendered his voice incapable of carrying the character, at which point another actor took over the role.

Disney and his family

In December of 1933 the Disney's had a little girl Diane Maria Disney. They later had a second little girl, their only two children. The Disney's remained together until his death of cancer and circulatory failure in the 1960s, at the time that the plans for Disney World were being approved by the city officials in Orlando, Florida. His brother Roy was his business partner  for all of the years of the Disney legacy, and continued to work with the Disney empire even after Walt Disney's death. He was more sensible and level headed, but  frequently got into blowout fights with his impetuous brother Walter. Walt never got to see Disney World.

Walt Disney had something a volatile temper. His family was aware of his temper and were cautious with him. He had two daughters, and on one occasion, he reached across the table and slapped his girl across the face. When he went to work he looked forlorn. An employee asked him why, and he told her. "There must have been a good reason," the worker said. "Damn right," Disney, she gave me "that dirty Disney look." After getting into a head to head battle with his brother, he always seemed to be the one to go and make amends. His older daughter is said to have inherited his hot temper, and frequently got into clashes with her father. Whereas his younger daughter is described as "his little girl," and didn't inherit the fiery disposition.

On the other hand, with the foregoing in mind, Disney was considered by his family to be a good father. His wife spoke fondly of Walt Disney, as a good husband and father, and his family is very loyal to their father to this day. So while Disney had a temper and was explosive at times, was a work and smoke-aholic, he was also a good person to his family and others, and was not ill-liked, he had a sense of humor about himself and although he was very ambitious with his ideas, he still didn't take himself all too seriously, as is reflected in his humorous work, which gives his most fondly remembered characters their folksy appeal, which has lasted for generations.

Disney, Child Abuse and Implications for Disney Fantasies and Films

Disney was the victim of child abuse himself from his boyhood years until the time he was 14, his father apparently thrashing him often with whatever he could get his hands on to strike or beat the boys with.

Disney's rendition of Pinocchio clearly reflects his childhood experience of being physically abused as a child by his father. One scene in Disney's Pinocchio movie is almost an exact representation of Disney's experience with his father's beatings.

The last event of child abuse occurred when Walt was 14 years old, his father didn't like the speed of his work and sent him to the basement for a beating. His older brother Roy shouted out encouragement, "Don't let him do it to you again. Don't let him treat you like a boy." When his father grabbed the handle of a hammer to beat Walt, Walt grabbed it from his hands and held his father's arms. His father broke down and cried and never beat him again. Interestingly, a scene in the animation Disney film Pinocchio, so vividly corresponds with this experience of Walt at 14, that it is striking. It demonstrates that memories of child abuse are long-lasting, even for adults many years later.

Disney's own troubled upbringing is a reminder that often times child abuse takes place behind the scenes, and that it is passed on from generation to generation, but at the same time, it is possible to break that chain of abuse. Some have found their escape in fantasy, however, children and victims of abuse need to be anchored, they need nurturers and protectors. Some who are aware of the prevalence of child abuse, both in the United States and other countries, can think about taking up work in assisting and caring for children. In some states in the U.S. and other countries, there is a need for early childhood or special education teachers. Preschool  and Kindergarten teachers of high quality are of much value. <special_needs_children_school_ideas.php">Special education teachers perform a vital role in caring for children with special needs.

Sigmund Freud made the accurate comment before WWI that we are enamored by fairy tales (Cinderella, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty were folk tales for centuries in Germany and some other countries. The Brother's Grimm were the first, in the 1700s, to collect and document these folk tales and put them in writing), as a result of trying to regain the childhood that we may have lost through  oppression experienced in childhood. This seems to be true of Disney. His abusive childhood may have led him on a campaign to create the perfect fantasy world that he did not experience as a boy. One co-worker observed that Disney worked with an almost demonic fervor, like he was being driven by demons. While Disney was a creator, his past, apparently still haunted him, and his workaholism in creating and re-creating childhood fantasies may have had deeper psychological roots of efforts to escape from the past.

Sigmund Freud astutely observed that our interest as adults or children in the fantasy world of fairy tales, is often the result of attempting to regain a childhood that may have been lost due to abuse. This may have likely been the case with Walt Disney and part of what drove him to create an ideal fantasyland for children.

Sigmund Freud astutely observed that our interest as adults or children in the fantasy world of fairy tales, is often the result of attempting to regain a childhood that may have been lost due to abuse. This may have likely been the case with Walt Disney and part of what drove him to create an ideal fantasyland for children.

In a way, Mickey Mouse became bigger than his creator. Referring to Mickey Mouse as a "little idol," Disney is quoted as saying, “We’re restricted with the mouse,” Walt told me. “He’s become a little idol. The duck can blow his top and commit mayhem, but if I do anything like that with the mouse, I get letters from all over the world. ‘Mickey wouldn’t act like that,’ they say.”

Violence in Children's Cartoons

On the other hand, Disney was not a purist when it came to artworks, nor was he an idealist, "Give the people what they want," he stated; his driving ambitions were success-oriented, popularity and commercialism played a vital role in his choices. He encouraged a young artist to abandon pure art in favor of where money could be made and popularity achieved. This was especially true during the making of such movies as Peter Pan and Alice in Wonderland, when the company was under much financial pressure. Action and violent scenes were deliberately added and accentuated, to hook the audience and draw crowds in Disney's Peter Pan. (Violence in children's cartoons continues to be a problem today. A 1996 survey revealed that 8 out of 10 Saturday morning children's cartoons contain violent characters.

It's the tale of Chicken Little, only with Foxy Loxy being a cunning villain who uses a number of psychological tactics to drive a farm-ful of animals into a cave to be eaten. Slightly disturbing and quite political - most youngsters will probably prefer Disney's new, computer-animated take on the story, now in theaters.


Some journalists have described Disney movies in terms of --horror movies for children--. Horror movies, which were popular since the earliest movies were created in the late 1800s and early 1900s, were, no doubt, an influence on Disney's style of film-making, as well as those who took over his work in other Disney features such as illustrated in this scence from The Little Mermaaid and Ursala the Sea Witch.

George Gerbner, Media and Democracy: A book of Readings and Resources 1996 - Media Violence-Opposing Viewpoints, NY p.154. )

Exposure to violence, even in cartoons , can effect a child's mental, emotional and neurological development.

Some modern children's cartoons, such as in this Disney cartoon, are heavy in horror, terrifying or frightening or violent scenes. When accompanied with bonding characters, including romance, it can have a strong impact in a child's emotional, psychological, even spiritual, character.

Maleficent, Dragon Incarnation - Disney Films

Children's mental health disorder, such as anxiety disorders ,sleep disorders, some attentional problems and childhood depression, might be connected to exposure to frightening scenes in movies, and terror. Some children have nightmares as a result of seeing frightening scenes in such movies as Sleeping Beauty and Snow White.

Because many children see children's movies such as Disney films or TV cartoons, hundreds or thousands of times during their childhood years, it can have a big impact on a child's cognitive and emotional development, establishing thought, emotional, even behavioral patterns, which can be carried with them even into adult years.

Disney Studios and War Propaganda Films During World War II

During World War II, troops occupied Disney studios in California. Disney plunged wholeheartedly into the war effort. It was during that time that Disney was creating both Peter Pan, Alice in Wonderland and Bambi, as well as some other projects. All of these projects were postponed until after the war, with the exception of Bambi, which continued. One animator left for the war, and returned four years later, resuming his animation work on (a film concurrent with Bambi) the very same sequence that he had left behind for the war four years earlier.

The studio, during these years produced "Chicken Little," reproduced in recent years, which was  originally a war propaganda film that depicted the evils of mass hysteria. The studio had been preparing for its wartime role since before Pearl Harbor. Disney succeeded in "exerting a vast influence on the thinking of both the public and policy makers." This was at a time when other movie companies were entertaining an "entertainment hungry"; United States with war musicals and war movies. It was a few years after the war finished that Disney started making plans for his Disneyland dream in California.

In 1941 Disney was raw: threats of workers, dissatisfaction, political tensions and alliances, he was saying and doing things he later realized were unwise.  He had suffered a nervous breakdown of sorts at one point around 1931 and left for an extended vacation with his wife to recuperate and regain his health, his doctor tried prescribing treatments, until the time that he returned from his rest, and told his doctor that he was no longer in need of such help. The prolonged vacation seemed to help.  In 1935, during the production of Snow White, he again started having the same feelings of emotional fatigue, and took another extended rest, which again gave him sufficient strength to continue his work.

After World War II Disney was under financial pressure for hits, and Alice in Wonderland, completed after the war, had the pace of a three-ring circus, but in Disney's words, has plenty of entertainment and should satisfy everyone. Animators tired of the project, as did Disney, calling it punishing work and everyone, including Walt, were relieved when it was finished. As it turned out, the movie wasn't financially successful.

Dumbo, by contrast, which was made on a limited budget, less than $1,000,000, was, though, successful financially.

During the war years, Disney and his organization, were responsible for scores of war-training and war-propaganda movies for the navy, army, and especially the air force. Disney had read the book, “Victory Through Air Power, written by a Russian author, Alexander P. DeSeversky, that became the basis for the most pivotal of Disney's war films, and that gave strong persuasion for the success inherent in airpower.  When Bambi was finally completed, a long project, he immediately started to work on the movie "Victory Through Airpower," Seversky even coming in to assist. He [Disney] applied his skill to explaining bomb sights and factory methods with the "same zeal that he had to recounting the exploits of Mickey Mouse and Snow White." The Dwarves themselves were actually featured on a war film produced during that time period. Donald Duck also was used in a cartoon where he wakes up from a dream working in a Germany munitions factor, with a song and  the famous duck saluting Adolph Hitler.  It delighted audiences, although it was banned in Germany.

The Disney team often did their wartime work with little thought to making money. Disney animators designed 1,400 insignia emblems for military uniforms at the mere cost of $25 each, making no money on the project. "I had to do it," Disney is quoted as saying, "Those kids grew up on Mickey Mouse, I owed it to them." The ideology of heavy use of air power, was part of Disney's philosophy for the war, and his movies on this subject had a profound influence on Winston Churchill, who sent to the United States for a copy of Disney's war film. This led to a decision by Churchill in the use of airpower, which broke a deadlock in war strategy, when the United States and Britain were planning assaults on Germany. Churchill was in conference at the time with Roosevelt. The Disney movie proved to be the tie-breaker, and a huge air offensive was planned and implemented; it proved to be a part of the Allied forces winning strategy for D-Day. Roosevelt was amazed by the way Disney's airplanes masterfully wiped ships off the seas. The Joint Chiefs of Staffs also viewed the film and it had a powerful influence on their war plans.

Details of ways to eliminate hydropower dams of the enemy were visualized by Seversky and animated by Disney, before actually carried out by the Royal Air Force, who went on to bomb the Rhineland dams, in almost the exact method proposed by Seversky and later in Disney's films. When Walt was in Washington he was invited to a meeting with high naval offices who complained about his neglect of naval power and emphasis on air power. Walt stuck to his strong support for air power and it continued to be a major theme of his war effort in animated films until the end of World War II, when Disney studios resumed their emphasis on children's cartoons.

Background of Bambi Film and novel by Felix Salten

Salten's Bambi, rather than being a children's book, was one rife in violence and even a little dabbling of sex. I might easily be an R-rated movie, a

The Disney classic Bambi was the only film that continued to be produced during WWII by Disney animators during WWII. The story behind the movie is of interest; the novel Bambi, ein Leben im Walde (Bambi, A Life in the Woods) is a book by Felix Salten, first printed in 1923. Felix Salten was the pen-name of Siegmund Salzmann, a Jewish author, who was born in Budapest, Hungary but grew up in Vienna, Austria. The book was translated from German into English by Whittaker Chambers, who needed to supplement his income while working at a Communist newspaper. Felix Salten wrote a sequel, entitled Bambi's Children. Salten's works also inspired The Shaggy Dog, a Disney film in the '60s.  Salten, being  Jewish, fled to Switzerland during the Nazi occupation.

The 1906 book Josephine Mutzenbacher - The Life Story of a Viennese Whore, as Told by Herself, was an erotic novel first published anonymously in Vienna, Austria in 1906 that is also attributed to Salten and that is famous in the German-speaking world, having been in print in both German and English; for over 100 years it has  sold over three-million copies, becoming an erotic bestseller described as a"pornographic classic". It has been translated into English, French, Spanish, Hungarian and Japanese, and been the subject of numerous films, theater productions, parodies, and university courses, as well as twenty sequels, still being popular today.

The novel Bambi is a deep symbolic representation, not only of the perils of hunting, but also has a striking or symbolic comparison, a foreboding prophecy of sorts, of what Jews and others would experience in the "man hunt" of humans by the Nazis. The novel is shockingly violent at times, and glimpses of Salten's past work in pornography , are apparent in certain scenes. Incest and even lust directed towards children, or sexuality involving children, is part of the landscape in the original novel. One child's librarian stated that the novel Bambi, was not for young children, but one would be better to wait until being older to read it. Disney's version, while containing scenes of terror, removes any of the sexual inferences that were part of the original novel.

Donald Duck in a post Pearl Harbor World War II war propaganda film from Disney studios. After World War II, Disney studios were transformed into war propaganda production, which lasted until the end of the war. The only movie to be produced by Disney studios during that time period, was the completion of Bambi.

Development of Disney Characters, Directing of Cartoon Features and Ideology of Disney Cartoons

Donald Duck made his debut in 1934 in Silly Symphony, The Wise Little Hen, and Donald Duck is described as "the explosive Donald Duck." Disney stated, that he could do whatever he wanted with "the Duck," but that with "that idol" Mickey Mouse, there were certain lines that he could not cross. If he pushed the Mickey Mouse character too far, the public responded unfavorably. So, in a way, his creation, became bigger than Disney himself. Donald Duck, on the other hand, did not reach the idolic proportions of Mickey Mouse, and Disney, apparently, had greater liberty in the way he presented the character.

A silent version of Snow White had been produced in 1915 that Disney had seen. This formed the basis for Disney's first feature film, Snow White and the Seven Dwarves.  Disney acted out each part, every dwarf, the Evil queen, with his face beaming while depicting the dwarfs. He gave a two-hour performance when presenting his idea, which sold the idea of Snow White to his production team, as the future major-feature movie. Snow White is described as a 14-year-old girl, Prince Charming was 18. The end of the movie is when the Prince’s kiss awakens the sleeping Snow White. Some had tears in their eyes at the end of Disney's performance. The Queen is described by Walt's directing as “A mixture of "Lady Macbeth and the Big Bad Wolf". "Her beauty is sinister, mature, plenty of curves, she comes ugly and menacing when scheming and mixing her poisons. Magic fluids transform her into an old witchlike hag."

Child psychology: Disney Princesses have a powerful influence on the mind and psyche of a child.

Disney movies provide a sharp dichotomy between "snow white" purity, and pure evil and wickedness. Greg Fouts, Ph.D., of the University of Calgary, Alberta, Canada, in studying this tendency in Disney films notes that the stereotyping of totally pure and totally evil, can become deeply ingrained in a child's mind, causing her (or him) to view people in sharp boundaries of pure or evil. Andrea Lawson, associated with Fouts, notes that Disney fairy tale films can encourage fear of the mentally ill, as most of the classic cartoons feature characters who "go mad," or "crazy," are usually violently, and which give a strong and distorted stereotype of mental illness.

Disney villains are

The climactic kiss and Princess Culture


Disney fantasy movies often involved a "climactic kiss," as one mother and New York Times Magazine writer described, but as far as discussions about or movies about sex, Disney preferred to leave such discussions as private matters (good advice for parents today and for film-makers. Children's PG and even G-rated movies today often have much in the way of sexual innuendo, some of which goes over children's heads, but some of which keeps them thinking for days and weeks afterward.)

The fantasy romances of such movies has evolved, according to the Time article, into a "Princess Culture". (See December 24, 2006 New York Times Magazine for full article)  and taken on  a life of its own.  Some parents are concerned with the lessons that such movies teach children. Day after day exposure to the idea of a Prince Charming, firmly plants such idealistic seeds in the mind and hearts of little girls. This may be of concern for many parents. Also, the escalating nature of the violence of children's movies  is also a concern, as is the sexual content and innuendos of many children's movies today. The sexual innuendo in children's films has increased in recent years.

The Sorcerer's Apprentice was originally a poem by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, written in 1797. The poem is a ballad in fourteen stanzas.

Fantasia, based on the earlier feature, "The Sorcerer's Apprentice," was made in 1940 featuring Mickey as the blundering Sorcerer. A new version entitled The Sorcerer's Apprentice, was released by Disney Studios in 2010. The Reluctant Dragon was released in 1941, based on a story from the late 1800s, portrays the Dragon as a friend rather than foe. Of all the Disney films, by the time of World War II, only three or four actually were profitable, which put some pressure on Disney and the company.

Mickey Mouse as The Sorcerer's Apprentice, the idea based on a poem from the 1700s, in 1940, just 12 years after Mickey's most well-known film to date, Steamboat Willy, Mickey, now more refined in his appearance and in full color.

Disney went on to produce the Sorcerer’s Apprentice in 1938, which was an old fairy tale, interpreted from a poem. Mickey was  the apprentice whose sorcerer's powers ran astray disastrously, choreographed from Stravinsky's Rite of Spring (Sacre De Printemps), music of primitive people of the Russian Steppes with weird dissonances. Walt complained one day that it seemed as if artists had never grown up. "How can you grow up in this atmosphere, for God's sake?" replied one observer, it's like living in Santa Clauses workshop. Disney tried to perpetuate the myth of Santa Clause with his girls as long as he possibly could. (Many of his most popular movies come from childhood myths and stories written in the late 1800s.) The spiritistic nature of Disney films has often been a subject of discussion and also of psychological study.

A recent study published in Child Psychiatry, analyzed negative stereotyping and use of "demonizing" words in Disney films, finding an average of 5.6 per film. The psychological implications for children are many, according to the study. (Much in children's programming similarly embraces the spiritistic theme. One example is Scooby Doo, the new movie of which has a long and poignant scene of voodoo euphoria. Some of the Scooby Doo books have prolonged conversations or discussions on witchcraft and wicca, ghosts and the  paranormal.)

After Snow White, Disney produced Pinocchio, which was originally written by Carlo Collidi (Lorenzi) in 1880. Collidi saw himself in the character of Pinocchio, a boy who was always in trouble, always doing something wrong. Disney "pursued the new project almost demonically," and he was determined to make Pinocchio even greater than the preceding Snow White feature. "Pinocchio should use every ounce of force he has in his swimming to escape the whale. This should be the equivalent of the storm and the chase of the queen in Snow White," he directed.

While trying to get started in finishing Peter Pan after the war, Roy and Walt got into one of many angry shouting matches. Roy yelled back to at Walter, "Look you're letting this place drive you to the nuthouse. That's one place I'm not going with you!" Walt later tried to reconcile saying, "Isn't it amazing what a horses ass a fellow can be sometimes," both smiled and the argument was assuaged.

Separation Anxiety and Horror Movies for Children


It has been noted by psychologists that many Disney films, and other children's films in more recent years, capitalize on the emotions involved with "separation anxiety" and in that respect, Disney and some other children's films, can lead to emotions in children that might not be healthy in their formative years. Some have referred to Disney films as "horror movies for children," although today, horror movies that are truly horrifying are part of the social landscape of a large percentage of children, with and without parents knowing what their children are watching through cable and satellite television systems; Disney movies introduced children to movies and to the idea of horror for excitement in children's movies.

Background History, Company Debt, Snow White and Cinderella

Cinderella became the first hit movie since Snow White and helped to shrink the companies debt in the 1950s to $1,700,000. Cinderella was a French/German children's fairy tale from the 1500s, that the Grimm brothers recorded in their book on children's tales in centuries past. Actually, it is believed that the first Cinderella story originated in China in the 9th Century. Cinderella is a story, that is really about child abuse, a wicked stepmother and evil sisters who abuse Cinderella in various ways, and it is one reason why the story is such an enduring tale, any woman or girl who might have experience abuse as a child, can relate to this simple, yet compelling story.

Disney received a medal from the League of Nations for his Mickey Mouse creation. He met with a number of presidents, receiving a medal from Lyndon Johnson, and was even received by such politicians as Mussolini of Italian (WWII) fame. After WWII, visitors and employees were often perplexed by his silence and manner, his disinterest, and gruffness.

Winnie the Pooh

A.A. Milne author of Winnie the Pooh, created his book while a soldier in England during WWI. His books was something of a fantasy to escape the war of whic he was a part, and which he disliked, and was created for his son Christopher Robin.

A. A. Milne, author of the original Winnie the Pooh story (1926). The story was eventually sold by his widow  to Disney movies (1961). Milne was also wrote novels, plays and poems. Christopher Robin was the son of the author of Winnie the Pooh. Christopher wanted to name Milne's character, and without stopping to think, the boy said "Winnie-the-Pooh," "And so he was," stated Milne. (The "Pooh" part of the name Winnie the Pooh, came from a real swan of that name on the family property.) Thus, the name of the famous lazy bear in the stories became Winnie the Pooh even though traditionally "Winnie" is a girl's name and Winnie the Pooh is definitely a boy bear. Unlike Bambi, there is nothing scandalous about the roots of the Winney the Pooh story, although in a couple of illustrated scenes in Winnie the Pooh series, Christopher Robin does invite Winnie the Pooh to watch him take a bath.

In the way of textual criticism, Winnie the Pooh (the book series), of which there were four, are simple enough and gentle enough for any child. The theme of a single boy or girl in the midst of fantasy creatures or animals, is something that had been developed already in literary history, most notably in Lewis Carrol's Alice in Wonderland. Carrol, a pen name, was an epileptic, and quite possibly on medications for his epilepsy. There has been much written about the fantastical story of Alice in Wonderland, as it relates to Carrol's severe epilepsy. Also, there has been speculation about Carrol's relationship with Alice, a real girl, some have said, his daughter, other's have said a friend of his family, but these allegations seem to be unfounded.

Milne, the author of Winnie the Pooh, wrote for a politically satirical journal in the early 1900s in London, and the illustrator of Winnie the Pooh Ernest Shepherd, was a political cartoonist in the same paper. Winnie the Pooh, seems to be have written during World War I, when Milne was in the army in England, as a diversion from the rigors of army life, according to what we can piece together from comments in his biography, although it was not published until the mid-1920's. Following the primary book, Milne wrote three others, for a total of four Winnie the Pooh books. Some of these give the impression of a lazy summer vacation and were all written prior to World War II.

There are references in Winnie the Pooh that seem to reflect Milne's preoccupation or comic satire concerning  the subject of medicine for children. In two scenes, in separate  books,  Piglet, first, is given "medicine," "MMMM...medicine," says Piglet, "I don't need any mmmm.....medicine," he says with trepidation. "Take your medicine!!!!!!" is the reply of an overbearing adult. In the second book in the series, Tiger is similarly given "medicine" to help him with "energy". At the least, this documents the idea, that even during the 1920s, giving medicine to children for "energy" and behavioral issues may have been a source of some controversy. There have been books written that analyze the characters of Winnie the Pooh and their significance. Eeyore, you might say, displays the traits of a, sometimes volatile, depressive alcoholic. Winnie the Pooh sometime resembles a (honey) alcoholic, in his activity, or a "binger," when it comes to his passion for honey.

Milne was a passionate smoker, pipes being the order of the day in  early 20th century England, and some of the scenes in Milne's stories remind one of a group  of men sitting around a bar and "chewing the fat," telling "fish stories" and the like, over drafts of beer. Also, Milne was a prolific  writer, and a dry English humor. He wrote scores of plays, novels, articles, and an interesting, if not dry, autobiography as well. But unlike Salten of Bambi, his books for children are not Orwellian in nature, (as Bambi is), but are merely books for children, that reflect Milne's own experiences and concerns in life, a childish escape and fantasy.

The illustrations, by Earnest Shepherd, of Winnie the Pooh have remained largely unchanged since they were created in the 1920s, (designed after the book had been written, which perhaps accounts for the gap between the later years of World War I, when Winnie the Pooh was most likely written, and when the book was published in the mid-1920s). Shepherd's wife of many years died after the first Winnie the Pooh book, and before the second book was written, from health problems associated with asthma and medication.

Winnie the Pooh, Bambi and Mickey Mouse are elaborated on this page because these characters form deep emotional bonds with children from the child's earliest ages, and from the first days of a child's life, Winnie the Pooh is inculcated into their hearts through songs, toys and paraphernalia for babies. These type of cartoons, Winnie the Pooh, Bugs Bunny, today's Dora the Explorer; Bambi, Square Pants Bob, that is Sponge Bob, the Flintstones, are or contain emotionally-bonding characters, "soft-bonding" cartoons. (Bart Simpson and friends, Rug Rats, are a little more advanced in satire and crudeness, but the same  principle applies, Family Guy characters (and South Park cartoon characters), known for their off-color jokes and profanity, while considered to be "adult" cartoons, are probably most often viewed by children, the characters are bonding and at the same time repulsing. There are more advanced in terms of crudeness- adult-children cartoons, but these are the most well-known and most talked about in school.) Unlike Felix the Cat, the characters are well enough developed that children bond to them emotionally. This bonding process lasts well into high school and for some adults, an emotional bond exists with these characters well into adulthood.

The Tao of Pooh, written by Benjamin Hoff, who had studied world religion, reveals striking parallels between Winnie the Pooh books and the Taoist holy book. Whether or not Milne was directly influenced by reading Taoist writings in his creation of Winnie the Pooh stories is not known.

Winnie the Pooh has been linked with Taoism, and a best selling book has been written entitled, the Tao of Pooh. There are striking parallels between Taoist holy writings and those of the Winnie the Pooh novels for children. (A recent biography on Charles Schultz, the creator of the popular Snoopy and Peanuts characters, interestingly gives insight into Shultz's Buddhist persuasion and how that is reflected in and may have influenced his comic series.)

Walt Disney's Later Years

Disney was a passionate smoker, and despite the warnings from his doctor and family, continued to smoke until the time he contracted lung cancer. He often smoked his cigarettes down to the butt and beyond!   Smoking eventually led to his physical decline and he died at the age of 67. He had other health problems, a polo accident led to a back problems. Rather than having an operation, he made visits to a chiropractor. As he result, though,  Disney believed, of the chiropractic visits, he continued having back pain until his death, for which he found no relief (he felt that the chiropractic treatments contributed to the continued back problems rather than assuaging them). In has last years, he suffered with many pains, hot compresses were necessary to assuage the pain in his face throughout the night.

Disney believed in God and was a non-practicing roman Catholic. Christmas and Birthdays were strong Disney traditions. Disney is said to have respected all religions. His daughter attended Catholic school, but was married in a Protestant Church, she and her husband-to- be, were baptized there shortly before the wedding, but neither he or his family were religious. Disney's daughters had a number of grandchildren, the fifth child of the oldest daughter, being named, finally, to Walter's relief, after himself, Walter. Disney had been told by a fortune teller before his work started in earnest, that he would die before his life's work was completed. It became something he never forgot, and he did in fact die before seeing the approval or ground breaking of what might be considered the greatest achievement in his name, Disney World. His brother and son-in-law remained a part of the team after Disney died, carried the work to completion, and Disney World has become a Universal symbol for more than 40 years.

Snow Whilte and the magic apple. Magic, spells, spiritism are a strong element in many of the fairy tales recreated by Disney for children.

Conclusion on Disney movies for Children
and the Psychological Impact of Movies and Childhood Fantasies on Children

Some children's films (and television cartoons) borrow heavily from religion. In the case of The Lion King, African animism becomes an interwoven theme throughout, the well-known poster scene of the Lion King characters looking longfully to the sky at the great risen-spirit of the dead father lion, as one example, as well as the scene depicted in this picture.

Children often draw strong religious and spiritual mental imagery and ideas from children's movies, such as The Lion King, which theme revolves around the religious beliefs and practices of African animism. "Hercules" is a another example of a children's film that draws heavily on religious elements, as well as Aladdin, to a certain extent, blending myth, religious traces, and romantic fantasy. For some children weaned on Disney movies and Disney World, the Disney Princess fantasies that are marketed heavily in the past ten years, children's formative years, the way of thinking and psychological development of a child can be strongly influenced by Disney fantasies and culture. For a child whose video collection has 100 Disney and similar films, this can have a strong influence on their way of thinking and way of life into adult years. Disney, and the children's film industry in general, is a powerful cultural influence throughout the world.

In addition to separation anxiety, childhood depression may be linked with overindulgence in children's fantasies, especially for emotionally sensitive little girls.

Also, because Disney made horror for children acceptable and marketable, horror movies of the most violent type have become part of the cultural fabric of most children and teens in this decade. Disney movies broke ground for children's horror movies in future years.

The cartoon violence can be as real or have as much impact as other forms of violence for children, and much of it is added to even Disney films to make it more catchy and marketable. (e.g. Peter Pan, Bambi). Some psychologists have expressed concern over negative stereotyping in Disney films both of the mentally ill and other negative, or "demonizing" terminology and the effects this may have on a child's psyche and personality. Because films are constantly reinforced, since the advent of the VCR and CDs, the lessons taught in children's films are very powerful, much more so than in previous generations of children. Parents, then, need to be selective in their choices in children's entertainment. Parents should endeavor to direct and mold the minds of their children in positive ways.

Also, it is of interest to note, is that unresolved issues in childhood, can be noted in the works of many adults, such as the case in Disney, and his difficult childhood, the abuse by his father, may have been part of what drove Disney in the creation of his fantasy world for children.

Parents might consider cultivating in their children what got Disney started in the beginning, that is a love for drawing, a peaceful art, that can help children to learn to focus, films and TV for children tend to scatter the mind of a child, or cause emotional highs and lows, drawing and art is a peaceful pastime that can relieve stress and anxiety and that can help children develop self-esteem and positive thought patterns. So rather than spoil or overindulge children in every new (and old) movie that comes out, encourage a child to develop his or her own talents in art, have art tools handy for a child, provide coloring books and crayons, easel and paints. This can help a child to be a "doer" rather than just a "viewer"!

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