English 149 - Summer Sessions II, 2019

Topics in Literature

    Topic: Eco Disney

Class Information

Instructor: Geier, Ted
CRN: 74149
Time: TWR 2:10-3:50
Location: 130 Physics


    This course considers how Disney designs the world, paying special attention to the Ecologies, Identities, and Cultural Politics of the Magic Kingdom. The beloved, mass-imaginary media of Disney expresses a clear ecological thought, which can be framed in positive ways but must be negotiated further to properly consider the fullness and the deficiencies of Eco Disney.

    "Eco Disney" begins with their very first expressions of proper life through animal characters and good vs. evil in the revolutionary cinema event, Snow White. It continues as the vast moral and psychological affect of a world and a media ecology articulated through Disney songs. The global media empire is ruled over by an American institution, the Walt Disney Company. Disney of course is parent to ABC, ESPN, and one of the most important architectural forces of the twentieth- and twenty-first centuries, Disney’s resort and real estate development holdings. Against their central place as masters of the universe and consumers of energy, their films and parks intently explore environmentalist themes. They produce some of the most widely viewed nature documentaries, like Penguins and Bear. Their parks feature attractions like Epcot’s "Living With The Land" aquaculture works, Avatar Land, and ubiquitous ‘eco-friendly’ labelling on their park vehicles and structures. The films often employ didactic narrative approaches to inclusivity, the treatment of others, and radical cohabitation across species lines in environmental disaster that invoke the live-action/animation divide.

    Put simply: Disney designs the world, inside and out. Students will consider the company’s essential voice in environmental and social concern while negotiating mass media culture as environmental cost and cultural homogenizer.

    Readings, music, and viewings focus on the audience impact of Disney’s stories about environment and animals through representations of cultural identity, self-actualization, and depression in recent films such as Coco, Moana, Black Panther, Zootopia, Frozen, and Inside Out. Another key target of the class is Disney's critical cultural anthropogenesis—source and solution to ecological and economic crisis—in their contemporary films. For example, Coco and Frozen, taken together, initiate an ecological thought of the local, particular, and family registers of mass climate change and the affect of risking the living memories of the past because of the machinations of current industry and enterprise. Zootopia, meanwhile, attempts a dangerous abbreviation of multicultural representations yet also stakes out a disarming claim against techno-capital hegemonies.

    We also will want to think clearly about the power of the 'cute factor' and the emotional impact of Disney's ubiquitous anthropomorphic animals.

    Your instructor is an unabashed Disney stan, and you are very much invited to be one, as well. There may be some occasional travel into Star Wars and Marvel universes, which is appropriate to contemporary Disney study but not precisely the expertise at hand. In all cases, we'll need to be very careful in evaluating the stakes of the company's mass expression of the world and its future(s), which will often mean we are not very happy about the power Disney wields even when it seems to be attempting to save the world.


    Attendance/Participation; Several collaborative projects and writing outcomes (weekly); a 'crowd-sourced' annotated bibliography; a separate culminating research essay.


    All readings available via Canvas (free)
    All films/multimedia provided or on library reserve