“Part of your world”: Disney's portrayal of ethnic minorities

Kelle Neal, Tennessee State University


Multiculturalism has transformed in its meaning and significance over the years, but not in its need for a constantly changing America. One definition that best embodies multiculturalism is a “philosophy that recognizes ethnic diversity within a society and that encourages others to be enlightened by worthwhile contributions to society by those of “diverse ethnic backgrounds.” Multiculturalism thus becomes a sincere effort to include members from diverse ethnic backgrounds” in order to make their cultural traditions and social customs important contributions to society-at-large. Multiculturalism initially was intended to be inclusive, but rather became divisive as the “worthwhile contributions” were relegated to the differences that created distances between ethnic groups as well as the mitigating factor that created the term “un-American.” The purpose of this thesis is to discuss how Disney portrays ethnic minority characters in title roles in its films. In the early 1990s, when multiculturalism made an appearance in American film, literature, education and politics, Disney released Aladdin. Each film that subsequently followed Aladdin featuring an ethnic minority title character had elements usually associated with the particular culture that Disney was representing. The stereotypes that have been tied to various ethnic groups served as the centerpiece for each film, a way to ease to viewers into a non-White title character and a bridge between Disney’s previous films which usually depicted minorities in insignificant roles.

Subject Area

Fine arts|Ethnic studies

Recommended Citation

Kelle Neal, "“Part of your world”: Disney's portrayal of ethnic minorities" (2010). ETD Collection for Tennessee State University. Paper AAI1476488.