‘I don’t have a skull… Or bones’: Minor Characters in Disney Animation
This article explores the place of minor characters in Disney’s animated features. More specifically, it proposes that Disney’s minor characters mark an aesthetic rupture by breaking with the mode of hyperrealism that has come to be associated with the studio’s feature-length films. Drawing on character theory within literary studies and on research into animated film performance, the article suggests that the inherent ‘flatness’ of Disney’s minor characters and the ‘figurativeness’ of their performance styles contrasts with the characterizations and aesthetic style of the leading figures. The tendency of Disney’s minor characters to stretch and squash in an exaggerated fashion is also reminiscent of the flexible, plasmatic style of the studio’s early cartoons. In addition to exploring the aesthetic peculiarity of minor characters, this article also suggests that these figures play an important role in fleshing out the depicted fictional worlds of Disney’s movies. By drawing attention to alternative viewpoints and storylines, as well as to the broader narrative universe, minor characters add detail, nuance and complexity to the animated films in which they appear. Ultimately, this article proposes that these characters make the fairy-tale-like worlds of Disney animation more expansive and believable as fictional spaces.