Database for Animation Studies


Absent Patriarchs and Persuasive Enforcers of the Future Nation: A Contextualized Reading of American Wartime Fathers in Walt Disney’s Pinocchio, Dumbo and Bambi

This article discusses the portrayal of fatherhood and paternity in Walt Disney’s benchmark features Pinocchio (1940), Dumbo (1941) and Bambi (1942) through a contextualized historical and cultural analysis. The author aims to provide a coherent study of how the father figure is constructed in each of these films and why the tone of this presentation varies considerably within the short time span between the theatrical releases. The article proceeds to demonstrate how, with their prominent father characters, these features exhibit metaphorically the transitional and challenged sentiments regarding fatherhood and masculinity in early 1940s America. The immense societal crises, the Great Depression and the Second World War, destabilized prevalent gender roles and, as a response, sparked ideologically charged discourses that were pretentiously spread in contemporary mainstream film, and which sought to restore the former patriarchal order. This article intends to discover to what extent the Disney studio participated in these popular discourses or used them for its own interests. Finally, the article investigates how these films contribute to the construction and understanding of ‘reality’ of this past and the role of fathers within it.

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Animation: An Interdisciplinary Journal
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