Special Issue "The Psychosocial Implications of Disney Movies"

A special issue of Social Sciences (ISSN 2076-0760).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (30 September 2018)

Special Issue Editor

Guest Editor
Prof. Dr. Lauren Dundes

Department of Sociology, McDaniel College, Westminster, MD 21157, USA
Website | E-Mail
Interests: race and gender intersectionality; racial and ethnic stereotypes; hypermasculinity; gender roles; assimilation; cultural factors in health care; sociology of food safety; attitudes about the functioning of the criminal justice system

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

The popularity of Disney children’s movies has contributed to the company’s status as a commercial juggernaut. The OED’s recognition of the word “Disneyfied,” a term denoting romanticization, speaks to Disney’s impact on children’s entertainment. These movies play an integral role in the mediascape that shapes our understanding of topics from gender, race, and class, to colonialism and imperialism. The movies’ accessibility to children through videos, DVDs as well as streaming has created a sustained demand for critical analysis of their contents.

This Special Issue invites authors to interrogate underlying themes of Disney children’s movies to provide readers with insight about cultural hegemony. Possible areas of exploration include how the identity of princesses and princes as well as heroes and villains reflects, perpetuates and influences cultural norms. The Special Issue editor invites papers ranging from theoretical approaches to empirical assessments of viewers’ perspectives.  In particular, studies of how audiences interpret cultural artifacts would complement previous scholarship that generally does not include data about the meaning of the films to different demographic groups. Whether primarily theoretical or empirical, a variety of methods including sociological, socio-historical, psychological, psychoanalytic, literary, folkloristic, feminist, and interdisciplinary is welcome.   

Prof. Lauren Dundes
Guest Editor

Manuscript Submission Information

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Keywords

  • Disney
  • Disney films
  • gender
  • race
  • social class
  • gender roles
  • sexuality
  • symbolism
  • prince
  • princess

Published Papers (14 papers)

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Open AccessArticle The Rise of the Androgynous Princess: Examining Representations of Gender in Prince and Princess Characters of Disney Movies Released 2009–2016
Soc. Sci. 2018, 7(12), 245; https://doi.org/10.3390/socsci7120245
Received: 5 October 2018 / Revised: 5 November 2018 / Accepted: 16 November 2018 / Published: 22 November 2018
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Abstract
Previous quantitative research examining Disney movies has highlighted that whilst prince characters display largely balanced gender profiles, princesses exhibit biased gender role portrayals—performing mostly feminine characteristics, rarely participating in rescue behavior, and concluding movies in romantic relationships with the prince. However, such research, [...] Read more.
Previous quantitative research examining Disney movies has highlighted that whilst prince characters display largely balanced gender profiles, princesses exhibit biased gender role portrayals—performing mostly feminine characteristics, rarely participating in rescue behavior, and concluding movies in romantic relationships with the prince. However, such research, as well as public commentary, has also suggested that princess characters in movies released across the 2000s and 2010s may have more positive gender role portrayals. This study aimed to test these assertions by utilizing content coding analysis to examine the behavioral characteristics, rescue behavior, and romantic conclusions of prince and princess characters in five iconic Disney films released between 2009 and 2016 (The Princess and the Frog, Tangled, Brave (released under Pixar), Frozen, and Moana). Comparisons were also made with earlier titles to assess historical changes. Results showed that princesses in “2000s to 2010s” movies exhibited an almost equal number of masculine and feminine behaviors, thus demonstrating more egalitarian profiles over time. In contrast, princes appeared to adopt a more feminine behavioral profile in later movies. In addition, characters engaged in equal numbers of rescue behaviors, and princesses were more likely to remain single in “2000s to 2010s” movies. Results therefore suggest that Disney is indeed presenting more diverse, androgynous, balanced characters to viewers, and the theoretical and practical implications for the socialization of young child viewers are discussed. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Psychosocial Implications of Disney Movies)
Open AccessArticle Balancing Gender and Power: How Disney’s Hercules Fails to Go the Distance
Soc. Sci. 2018, 7(11), 240; https://doi.org/10.3390/socsci7110240
Received: 26 September 2018 / Revised: 9 November 2018 / Accepted: 14 November 2018 / Published: 16 November 2018
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Abstract
Disney’s Hercules (1997) includes multiple examples of gender tropes throughout the film that provide a hodgepodge of portrayals of traditional conceptions of masculinity and femininity. Hercules’ phenomenal strength and idealized masculine body, coupled with his decision to relinquish power at the end of [...] Read more.
Disney’s Hercules (1997) includes multiple examples of gender tropes throughout the film that provide a hodgepodge of portrayals of traditional conceptions of masculinity and femininity. Hercules’ phenomenal strength and idealized masculine body, coupled with his decision to relinquish power at the end of the film, may have resulted in a character lacking resonance because of a hybridization of stereotypically male and female traits. The film pivots from hypermasculinity to a noncohesive male identity that valorizes the traditionally-feminine trait of selflessness. This incongruous mixture of traits that comprise masculinity and femininity conflicts with stereotypical gender traits that characterize most Disney princes and princesses. As a result of the mixed messages pertaining to gender, Hercules does not appear to have spurred more progressive portrayals of masculinity in subsequent Disney movies, showing the complexity underlying gender stereotypes. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Psychosocial Implications of Disney Movies)
Open AccessArticle Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Beauty and the Beast, and Disney’s Commodification of Feminism: A Political Economic Analysis
Soc. Sci. 2018, 7(11), 237; https://doi.org/10.3390/socsci7110237
Received: 1 October 2018 / Revised: 28 October 2018 / Accepted: 28 October 2018 / Published: 15 November 2018
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Abstract
This paper seeks to explore the strategies Hollywood utilizes to capitalize on feminist social movements through replacing hegemonic male characters with female ones or updating traditional stories through a more “feminist” retelling. By analyzing both 2017’s Star Wars: The Last Jedi and Beauty [...] Read more.
This paper seeks to explore the strategies Hollywood utilizes to capitalize on feminist social movements through replacing hegemonic male characters with female ones or updating traditional stories through a more “feminist” retelling. By analyzing both 2017’s Star Wars: The Last Jedi and Beauty and the Beast as representative of this corporate trend, we critique the ways in which these pseudo-feminist texts not only contribute little to the social conversation surrounding the evolving roles of women and their representations in media through the lenses of critical political economy, feminist political economy, and feminist film criticism. We conclude that creating “feminist” reimaginings of classic narratives ultimately serves to uphold the existing economic structures that maintain social and financial capital within the largest Hollywood studios. Thus, little to no social progress is made through the creation of these retellings. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Psychosocial Implications of Disney Movies)
Open AccessArticle Mulan and Moana: Embedded Coloniality and the Search for Authenticity in Disney Animated Film
Soc. Sci. 2018, 7(11), 230; https://doi.org/10.3390/socsci7110230
Received: 1 October 2018 / Revised: 4 November 2018 / Accepted: 6 November 2018 / Published: 11 November 2018
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Abstract
As the consciousness of coloniality, diversity, and the necessity of not only token depictions of otherness but accurate representations of diversity in literature and film has grown, there has been a shift in the processes of adaptation and appropriation used by major film [...] Read more.
As the consciousness of coloniality, diversity, and the necessity of not only token depictions of otherness but accurate representations of diversity in literature and film has grown, there has been a shift in the processes of adaptation and appropriation used by major film production companies and how they approach representing the other. One clear example of this is the comparison of the depiction of diverse, cross-cultural womanhood between Walt Disney Animation Studio’s Mulan (1998) and Moana (2016). This paper will use a cross-period approach to explore the ways in which a global media conglomerate has and has not shifted its approach to appropriation of the multicultural as other and the implications for representational diversity in the context of globalization and a projected global culture. In one case, a cultural historical tale was decontextualized and reframed, while in the other, cultural actors had a degree of input in the film representation. By examining culturally specific criticisms and scenes from each film, I will explore how the legacy of coloniality can still be seen embedded in the framing of each film, despite the studio’s stated intentions towards diversity and multiculturalism. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Psychosocial Implications of Disney Movies)
Open AccessArticle Touching Queerness in Disney Films Dumbo and Lilo & Stitch
Soc. Sci. 2018, 7(11), 225; https://doi.org/10.3390/socsci7110225
Received: 26 September 2018 / Revised: 15 October 2018 / Accepted: 1 November 2018 / Published: 7 November 2018
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Abstract
Disney’s influence as a cultural purveyor is difficult to overstate. From cinema screen to television programming, vacation theme parks to wardrobe, toys and books, Disney’s consistent ability to entertain children as well as adults has made it a mainstay of popular culture. This [...] Read more.
Disney’s influence as a cultural purveyor is difficult to overstate. From cinema screen to television programming, vacation theme parks to wardrobe, toys and books, Disney’s consistent ability to entertain children as well as adults has made it a mainstay of popular culture. This research will look at two Disney films, Dumbo (1941)1 and Lilo & Stitch (2002),2 both from distinctly different eras, and analyze the similarities in artistic styling, studio financial climate, and their narrative representation of otherness as it relates to Queer identity. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Psychosocial Implications of Disney Movies)
Open AccessArticle Postfeminist Masculinity: The New Disney Norm?
Soc. Sci. 2018, 7(11), 221; https://doi.org/10.3390/socsci7110221
Received: 30 September 2018 / Revised: 29 October 2018 / Accepted: 30 October 2018 / Published: 5 November 2018
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Abstract
A recent trend in Disney scholarship attends to postfeminist readings of Disney film and media. This paper contributes to that conversation by focusing on the representations of masculinity that accompany postfeminist sensibilities in and through Disney media and its reception. With a sociological [...] Read more.
A recent trend in Disney scholarship attends to postfeminist readings of Disney film and media. This paper contributes to that conversation by focusing on the representations of masculinity that accompany postfeminist sensibilities in and through Disney media and its reception. With a sociological focus on postfeminist masculinity, this article reviews several Disney characters to argue for a new model of postfeminist masculinity advanced in recent Disney films, with a particular focus on the Incredibles films, and examines how this representation has been received in popular media. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Psychosocial Implications of Disney Movies)
Open AccessArticle “I’ve Got to Succeed, So She Can Succeed, So We Can Succeed”: Empowered Mothering, Role Fluidity, and Competition in Incredible Parenting
Soc. Sci. 2018, 7(11), 215; https://doi.org/10.3390/socsci7110215
Received: 5 October 2018 / Revised: 22 October 2018 / Accepted: 23 October 2018 / Published: 30 October 2018
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Abstract
The social influence of Disney discourse is difficult to ignore, as is their repetitive matricide and positioning of the patriarchal and heteronormative family model in their bloc.kbuster animated films. Yet, through its Pixar Animation Studios subsidiary, Disney has pushed progressively at the boundaries, [...] Read more.
The social influence of Disney discourse is difficult to ignore, as is their repetitive matricide and positioning of the patriarchal and heteronormative family model in their bloc.kbuster animated films. Yet, through its Pixar Animation Studios subsidiary, Disney has pushed progressively at the boundaries, not only in terms of animation artistry but also through the social topics explored. This study builds on previous research of male mothering in Finding Nemo by visiting the subsequent 11 Pixar animated films, with in-depth exploration of their most recent release, Incredibles 2. Ultimately, I argue that Pixar has once again opened space by embracing empowered and collaborative parenting. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Psychosocial Implications of Disney Movies)
Open AccessArticle Queen Phiona and Princess Shuri—Alternative Africana “Royalty” in Disney’s Royal Realm: An Intersectional Analysis
Soc. Sci. 2018, 7(10), 206; https://doi.org/10.3390/socsci7100206
Received: 30 September 2018 / Revised: 13 October 2018 / Accepted: 15 October 2018 / Published: 20 October 2018
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Abstract
This paper explores the representations of two of Disney’s Africana royals, Phiona from the Queen of Katwe and Princess Shuri from Black Panther. Taking into consideration the pedagogical impact of media to reinforce ideologies of White supremacy and privilege, the depictions of these [...] Read more.
This paper explores the representations of two of Disney’s Africana royals, Phiona from the Queen of Katwe and Princess Shuri from Black Panther. Taking into consideration the pedagogical impact of media to reinforce ideologies of White supremacy and privilege, the depictions of these alternative royals in Disney’s royal realm are analyzed using intersectionality theory. The girls’ intersecting identities are juxtaposed with Collins’ matrix of domination concept. The analysis revealed that, while both Phiona and Shuri are challenged by the legacy of colonialization, capitalism, and globalization that constitute the matrix of domination, their approaches to these challenges are different as a result of the unique ways that their identities intersect. The author stresses that while it is commendable of Disney, and Hollywood, to allow for the affirming portrayals of these Africana girls on screen, the gesture is baseless unless a tipping point is reached where such films, and those depicting other non-dominant groups, become the norm rather than the exceptions. In other words, the challenge for those in the industry is not to resist the matrix of domination that stymies the creation of films that reflect the spectrum of the lived and fantastical experiences of Africana, and people of color; rather, the challenge is to dismantle it. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Psychosocial Implications of Disney Movies)
Open AccessArticle Death and Coping Mechanisms in Animated Disney Movies: A Content Analysis of Disney Films (1937–2003) and Disney/Pixar Films (2003–2016)
Soc. Sci. 2018, 7(10), 199; https://doi.org/10.3390/socsci7100199
Received: 11 September 2018 / Revised: 11 October 2018 / Accepted: 12 October 2018 / Published: 16 October 2018
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Abstract
The purpose of this content analysis was to examine how death depictions in animated Disney films has changed in the past 14 years and the coping mechanisms used to process death within these films. A content analysis from 2005 was used to investigate [...] Read more.
The purpose of this content analysis was to examine how death depictions in animated Disney films has changed in the past 14 years and the coping mechanisms used to process death within these films. A content analysis from 2005 was used to investigate the influence of Disney films on children’s concepts of death based on 23 death scenes from 10 full-length Disney Classic animated films from 1937 to 2003 and 10 death scenes from 8 selected full-length Disney and Pixar animated films from 2003 to 2016. Our goal was to compare the findings across the two studies. Similar to the original study, the portrayal of death focused on five categories: character status; depiction of death; death status; emotional reaction; and causality. We expanded on the original study and more research by examining coping mechanisms used to process death within a selection of these films. Our findings indicated that some scenes from animated Disney and Pixar films obscure the permanence and irreversibility of death and often fail to acknowledge deaths emotionally. Our conclusions showed that Disney’s and Pixar’s portrayal of death in newer films might have more positive implications for children’s understanding of death than Disney Classic animated films. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Psychosocial Implications of Disney Movies)
Open AccessArticle From the Sleeping Princess to the World-Saving Daughter of the Chief: Examining Young Children’s Perceptions of ‘Old’ versus ‘New’ Disney Princess Characters
Soc. Sci. 2018, 7(9), 161; https://doi.org/10.3390/socsci7090161
Received: 28 August 2018 / Accepted: 11 September 2018 / Published: 14 September 2018
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Abstract
Both popular and academic discourse has noted progressive change in the gender role portrayals of much-loved Disney princess characters. However, at present, little is known about children’s recognition of such changes, or of their interpretation of princesses’ gendered behavior. This study therefore asked [...] Read more.
Both popular and academic discourse has noted progressive change in the gender role portrayals of much-loved Disney princess characters. However, at present, little is known about children’s recognition of such changes, or of their interpretation of princesses’ gendered behavior. This study therefore asked 131 8–9-year-old UK children to attribute various feminine and masculine characteristics to ‘princesses’ both before and after watching an ‘old’ (Sleeping Beauty) versus ‘new’ (Moana) Disney princess movie. Post-movie they were also asked to attribute these characteristics to the princess characters (Aurora and Moana respectively) and were assessed on their labelling of thirteen popular female characters as ‘princesses’. Results showed that whilst children recognized the largely feminine versus androgynous gendered profiles of Aurora versus Moana respectively, viewing a ‘newer’ Disney movie did not change their perception of ‘princesses’ more broadly. Moreover, a large proportion of children did not identify Moana as a princess at all. Results therefore simultaneously complicate and enhance the current discussion regarding the influence of gender role models, particularly those within the Disney franchise, on the development of gender knowledge and identity in young children. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Psychosocial Implications of Disney Movies)
Open AccessArticle Disney ‘World’: The Westernization of World Music in EPCOT’s “IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth”
Soc. Sci. 2018, 7(8), 136; https://doi.org/10.3390/socsci7080136
Received: 24 July 2018 / Revised: 9 August 2018 / Accepted: 11 August 2018 / Published: 13 August 2018
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Abstract
Although Disney’s EPCOT theme park markets itself as a place to experience other cultures and reflect on Earth’s history, the dominance of a Western perspective omits true authenticity, specifically in the music of its nighttime show IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth. This 13-minute long [...] Read more.
Although Disney’s EPCOT theme park markets itself as a place to experience other cultures and reflect on Earth’s history, the dominance of a Western perspective omits true authenticity, specifically in the music of its nighttime show IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth. This 13-minute long presentation offers a visual retelling of humanity’s existence accompanied by an original musical score that guides the narrative. The consecutive music section titles provide insight into critical points within Disney’s story arc: Prologue: Acceleration, Chaos, Space, Life, Adventure, Home, Celebration, and Meaning. While sounds of music from other cultures do present themselves—albeit in stereotypical and clichéd fashions— they are arbitrarily highlighted within a framework of Western musical components. This framing allows Disney composers to control the perception of ‘others’ through music. Furthermore, the final Meaning section is entirely built of Euro-American musical conventions, insinuating that cultures arrive at their most enlightened, evolved selves when they become Westernized. Despite its impressive technological advances and complex musical composition, IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth is guilty of implementing Western musical frameworks that Disney utilizes in the majority of its films and theme parks. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Psychosocial Implications of Disney Movies)
Open AccessArticle Time to Face the Music: Musical Colonization and Appropriation in Disney’s Moana
Soc. Sci. 2018, 7(7), 113; https://doi.org/10.3390/socsci7070113
Received: 16 May 2018 / Revised: 7 July 2018 / Accepted: 10 July 2018 / Published: 13 July 2018
Cited by 2 | PDF Full-text (216 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
Despite Disney’s presentation of Moana as a culturally accurate portrayal of Polynesian culture, the film suffers from Western ethnocentrism, specifically in its music. This assertion is at odds with marketing of Moana that emphasized respect for and consultation with Polynesians whose expertise was [...] Read more.
Despite Disney’s presentation of Moana as a culturally accurate portrayal of Polynesian culture, the film suffers from Western ethnocentrism, specifically in its music. This assertion is at odds with marketing of Moana that emphasized respect for and consultation with Polynesians whose expertise was heralded to validate the film’s music as culturally authentic. While the composers do, in fact, use Polynesian musical traits, they frame the sounds that are unfamiliar within those that are familiar by wrapping them with Western musical characteristics. When the audience does hear Polynesian music throughout the film, the first and last sounds they hear are Western music, not Polynesian. As such, the audience hears Polynesian sounds meld into and then become the music that defines a typical American film. Thus, regardless of Disney’s employment of Polynesian musicians, the music of Moana remains in the rigid control of non-Polynesian American composers. Rather than break new ground, Moana illustrates a musical recapitulation of white men’s control and marketing of the representations of marginalized people. Moana’s music is subject to appropriation, an echo of how colonial resources were exploited in ways that prioritize benefits to cultural outsiders. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Psychosocial Implications of Disney Movies)
Open AccessArticle The Portrayal of Families across Generations in Disney Animated Films
Soc. Sci. 2018, 7(3), 47; https://doi.org/10.3390/socsci7030047
Received: 5 February 2018 / Revised: 14 March 2018 / Accepted: 14 March 2018 / Published: 18 March 2018
Cited by 2 | PDF Full-text (291 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
Disney animated films continue to serve as an influential form of media that shapes children’s development of beliefs about the world surrounding them, including the construct of the family. However, a census analysis as to how Disney animated films represent depictions of families [...] Read more.
Disney animated films continue to serve as an influential form of media that shapes children’s development of beliefs about the world surrounding them, including the construct of the family. However, a census analysis as to how Disney animated films represent depictions of families has yet to be conducted. To fill this gap, we assessed the qualities of family demographics, structure, and function in a census analysis of 85 Disney animated films from the years 1937–2018. Results indicated that single parent families (41.3%) was the most predominantly represented family structure, followed by nuclear (25%) and guardian (19.2%). We also observed that the first depiction of a non-Caucasian family was presented in the 1990s, with a growing number of ethnically diverse families since that time. However, minimal interactions between families of differing ethnicities are noted. Overall, over 75% of all Disney animated films depicted warm and supportive familial interactions, with 78.8% of the films illustrating a positive relationship between the protagonist and his/her family. Analysis and implications are offered for parents and educators who wish to further understand the content Disney animated films offer in depicting families. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Psychosocial Implications of Disney Movies)

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Jump to: Research

Open AccessEssay Storm Power, an Icy Tower and Elsa’s Bower: The Winds of Change in Disney’s Frozen
Soc. Sci. 2018, 7(6), 86; https://doi.org/10.3390/socsci7060086
Received: 8 May 2018 / Revised: 25 May 2018 / Accepted: 25 May 2018 / Published: 31 May 2018
Cited by 1 | PDF Full-text (1065 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
In Disney’s box office sensation Frozen (2013), Elsa conjures powers rivaling those of Zeus, which is an echo of the shifting gender dynamics at the time of the film’s release. By independently creating offspring Olaf and Marshmallow through whirlwinds, Elsa’s parthenogenesis (virgin birth) [...] Read more.
In Disney’s box office sensation Frozen (2013), Elsa conjures powers rivaling those of Zeus, which is an echo of the shifting gender dynamics at the time of the film’s release. By independently creating offspring Olaf and Marshmallow through whirlwinds, Elsa’s parthenogenesis (virgin birth) evokes wind-driven pollination, allowing her to circumvent any male role in creation. However, Elsa’s autonomy clashes with the traditional gender hierarchy, which is reinforced by a cultural context replete with latent symbolic meanings. Examples include both carrots and carats as phallic symbols, eggs as representations of the procreative potential that is appropriated by men and devalued in women, gender bias in perceptions of magic and enchantment, and the value of the nubile nymph over the tempestuous termagant. The normalcy of male dominance likely drives the resolution of the plot, in which Elsa learns to wield power in a non-threatening manner. In addition to having implications for gender roles, Frozen also portrays a mélange of gender symbolism through Elsa’s snowmen creations, which function as an expression of the storm of controversy surrounding the subversion of binary conceptions of gender. In the end, Frozen serves as a cautionary tale about the dangers inherent in an unattached female as the ultimate potentate. This content analysis suggests that the film reflects fears surrounding the maelstrom of societal changes including expanding fertility options and the re-conceptualization of gender identity--pressing issues likely to sustain Frozen’s relevance. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Psychosocial Implications of Disney Movies)
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