Disney: Aesthetics, Narratives, and Business Practices

Excited to be teaching this 2017 summer course in the Cinema Studies department at New York University.

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Disney: Aesthetics, Narratives, and Business Practices:

When Industrial Light and Magic’s VFX team experienced difficulties articulating the Rathtar creature’s multiple limbs for Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015), they consulted with Pixar’s animators who had struck upon an innovative rigging system to animate Hank the octopus’s tentacles for Finding Dory (2016). This curious case of convergent evolution, ultimately executed through a collaboration across studios, occurred because both Lucasfilm and Pixar Animation share a common parent: The Walt Disney Company.

Somewhat embodying an octopus, Disney’s far reach extends across a vast empire of entertainment and multi-media interests that influence American culture. The company’s deeply entrenched, self-cultivated, and legally regulated image of a benevolent conglomerate means its business model and practices often evade severe scrutiny. Similarly, Disney’s seductively alluring, seemingly innocent movies and the representations they proffer resist critical analysis from adoring audiences.

In this course we will break the spell of Disney’s image and products to address critically both the Corporation, and the narratives it projects. We will also have occasion to examine the changing output and company cultures of Disney’s recent acquisitions, which include: Marvel, Pixar, and Lucasfilm. Screenings and clips will draw from Disney’s and its subsidiaries’ most beloved movies, lesser-seen works, and externally produced films that present critiques of Disney’s global empire.

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