Monday, December 29, 2008

What Disney Films Taught Me about Cities

This is a review of Walt Disney's classic short film "The Little House" released in 1952.

It's amazing how cartoons aimed at children can affect our perceptions of ideas and places. Disney's "The Little House" is one of those affectionate cartoons that make us reminisce but also can enforce negative ideas about the city.

I know, I know it's a cartoon and it was created in the 1950's when American cities were at there most congested but one can not helpt to notice that the film puts the city in a really bad light. The city is being shown as loud noisy boistorius plague that sprang up overnight.

"Everything was bigger and better for this was the age of progress" Claims the self narratoring house as the the film shows tenement houses fighting and throwing garbage at each other. Every time the Little House gains a new neighbor, they become more disruptive and less friendly. In fact all of the city buildings are angry, with the skycrapers being the angriest.

The end of the film, ironically sends the Little House to a new countryside...presumbably to have a new city reach it's countryside. Kind of sounds like sprawl. The cartoon ends with the Little House saying "...the best place to find peace and happiness is in a little house...way out in the country." I wonder how many Americans still believe that and how many developers are still selling that belief as sprawl gobbles up the beloved countryside.


duchessofginger said...

I loved that cartoon and still do. That house is adorable. But from a critical perspective it does reenforce the ideal that the city is a bad place and that we should all live in the country with white picket fences...

Toure Zeigler said...

It's one of those things that you look back at and say, "hey...wait a minute." It's amazing how cartoons like these can shape our image and perceptions about cities.

A large part of the reason why Sesame Street was created was to embrace city neighborhoods that kids lived in.

With 80% of Americans living within a metropolitan area the iconic country setting that was preffered in the 1950's is no longer a reality or even preffered by most Americans.

The other thing about that iconic image of 1950's Americas is the number of people that were kept out of country settings like those shown in the cartoon.

Joe said...

I remember this too. Disney was always portraying things in a bad light. I do think it showed a good representation from the late 1800s through the different expantions of a city up until the 1950s.

I wonder what this cartoon would look like if they made a sequal?

Toure Zeigler said...

I dont know know what the sequal would look like today Joe.

Would the little house actually embrace sprawl by disney standards?