Aside from film and television, another one of my biggest passions is Disney. Specifically, Disney history; from the company itself, to the films (both animated and live-action), and to the Parks. I just can’t get enough.
When I heard that there was going to be a class here at Dodge during the Winter Interterm, I just had to find out more about it.
Disney: From Animation to Empire (FTV-329-08), taught by Dawn Fratini, looked at how a small animation studio became one of the largest and most successful global entertainment companies in the world.
Nearly everyone today has grown up with some recognition of the Disney brand, but yet, there is still a multitude of misinformation, urban myths, and mysteries surrounding the company’s history, development, and operations.
“The Disney Company, as a topic, is rich and complex: it involves Hollywood history, television history, gender and cultural studies, fan culture, media industries studies, and travel and leisure studies,” said Fratini.
Using the historic “backbone” (as Fratini calls it) of the Company’s legacy, the class looked into specific topics using different media studies methodologies.
“I thought the topic would not only challenge students’ assumptions and biases, but allow them to explore specific subtopics that were most interesting to them,” Fratini said. “For example, screenwriting majors could look at narrative trends, creative producing majors could examine the studio’s production philosophy over time, and so on.”
Having sat in on the class, I could tell not only Fratini’s passion for the topic, but the students as well. The day I visited, they were going over one of my personal favorite times of Disney history: Walt’s trip South of the Border. Throughout that class, the students learned how an animation strike lead to Walt getting involved in the Good Neighbor Program, created to help stem the rising tide of Nazism in South America. The mere act of Walt (and company) being in some of these places pushed the Nazi agenda to the side, merely because everyone was so excited to have Walt in their country.
One of the students, surprised at that, noted “I can’t believe the effect he had on World War 2, without ever knowing it!”
“I think the class was not only immensely fun and entertaining, but consistently full of surprises for me and for the students,” Fratini said. “Not only did we learn new facts, but, covering such a broad range Disney history within the context of American history, really vividly illustrated cultural and economic trends in ways not always expected.”
If you’re interested in the class (and as a biased Disney nerd, I think you should be!), it is being offered this summer, #FTV329/529. Be sure to check it out!