As a final project, students planned and developed a web resource for an audience of their choosing. These resources ranged from teacher modules, to fandom hubs, to advice on how to adapt a lackluster Disney Renaissance movie into a musical. Students had free rein over many aspects of the project, but each project was required to incorporate a 4-6 minute video essay from each contributor, 300+ words of writing from each member, and a resources/works cited page. The project also was required to be public facing and to make a contribution into an ongoing discourse.
The Rescuers Down Under
As the first and least popular film we studied as a class (students watched Little Mermaid on their own), student groups had the difficult task of finding something relevant and timely to say about this lowest-performing Disney Renaissance movie. The two student groups assigned to this film took different approaches, with one trying to fix the movie and the other trying to bury it.
The group first developed a resource for theater groups or filmmakers who might wish to adapt The Rescuers Down Under into a musical. The resulting project would be more in line with the rest of the films of the Disney Renaissance, all of which incorporate strong musical numbers. They also offered advice to potential filmmakers who might wish to remake the film, with plot hole identification and fixes.
The second group sought to dissuade, rather than enable any potential remake of the movie. Based on objections the students had to Disney’s recent play-it-safe model of remaking popular movies from the 90s as live action films, they developed a project designed to discourage Disney from putting any more resources into this film. Those resources could be better used to develop creative new projects, they reasoned, instead of rehashing past successes. The group created a mock campaign-style website to appeal to parents, with alternatives to Rescuers Down Under and reasons for why the film should remain obscure.
Beauty and the Beast
Three student groups took on Beauty and the Beast. One group designed a fandom page, with links to Belle-centered itineraries at Disney World, a curated selection of merchandise, craft ideas, and a side-by-side comparison of the Disney film with its 1740 literary source.
A second group approached Beauty and the Beast as a tool parents could use to introduce important topics of conversation with their children. This viewing guide gives parents discussion questions corresponding to different moments in the field and customized for a child’s developmental level.
A third group used the film as a case study to introduce prospective cinematographers to issues of writing, image, and color in filmmaking. Their work included in-depth formal analyses of the film’s palette, writing decisions, and character images.
The Lion King
One student group looked at The Lion King holistically, providing a crash course to students of the film. This web resources explored many aspects of the film, from controversies surrounding plagiarism and its representation of African culture to the musical adaptation. The project focused on the “circle of life” motif in a formal analysis of the film.
Another student group also took a pedagogical approach to The Lion King, but provided a resource more pitched toward teachers than students. In this interdisciplinary portal, purposefully designed to mimic the design aesthetic of the mid-90’s when the film was initially released, the student group illustrated how he Lion King can be used to teach psychology, sociology, copyright law, and government.
The final Lion King group decided to use the film as a resource for parents to introduce questions of death, authority, cultural appropriation, and the patriarchy to children of varying age ranges.
Approaches to Aladdin were largely characterized by ethical considerations, from politics to the ethics self-determination. Aladdin in the World used the film as a springboard for teachers to introduce subjects from the American Revolution, to the Persian Gulf War, to American Imperialism and the Ottoman Empire. This resource used in-depth historical research to situate the film in terms of American interventions abroad in the late 90s.
Aladdin and Me also looked at the film’s ethical implications, but focuses less on its relationship to the political climate and more on the film’s characterization, treatment of self-determination, and the overall morality of its messaging.
A final site provided a resource for instructors interested in using Aladdin to teach argument. It provides lesson plans and gives case studies of kinds of arguments made about the film – for instance, regarding the Westernization of Aladdin, its engagement with the concept of the “undeserving poor,” and its treatment of crime.
ReachTeach Hercules provides resources for high school teachers to use the film to explore its relationship to its Greek sources, as well as to introduce questions around fatherhood, female sexuality, and heroism. Lessons from Hercules takes a similar approach, coupling video analysis with lesson plans to enhance high school World Literature and History courses.
Moms on Hercules satirizes internet fan/hate discourse on children’s films in order to explore the implications of Hercules adaptation of source material, its treatment of religion, and its treatment of women.
The groups that took on Mulan were most interested in its representation of Asian culture and of gender roles. Exploring Mulan provides resources both for the casual viewer of the film and for teachers who are interested in taking on questions of cultural appropriation, gender, and adaptation. Mulan for Teachers focuses more exclusively on a teacher’s takeaways from the film, with material on the history of Chinese costuming as well as formal analysis of the film and an exploration of its approach to masculine and feminine stereotyping. Gender in Mulan also explores these questions, but is pitched more specifically to Gender Studies students in lower-division university courses.