Back to the Books: Q&A with “Understanding Disney” professor Daniel Steinhart
**Editor’s note: This story first appeared in the Emerald’s “Back to the Books” edition, which is currently available in locations throughout Eugene.**
Journalism 412: Understanding Disney
What goes on: Analyze the scope of the massive Walt Disney empire, which covers properties from ESPN to Lucasfilm, a TV and radio station and theme parks. One homework assignment is to write an analysis of your personal relationship to Disney.
When it’s offered: Every term.
Hours in class per week: 3 hours, 40 minutes.
Prerequisite: Journalism 201 “Media and Society” with a grade of mid-C or better.
What does the curriculum look like?
Professor Daniel Steinhart: We look at the past and the present of the Walt Disney Company, so we start off talking about the history of the company and then we look at things like the first animated feature film made by the company, Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, and the importance of that. We look at the relationship between Disney and television, the Disney theme parks, and exploring the origins of the Disneyland park in Anaheim and how it’s become a phenomenon around the world. We also take it up to the present and look at how Walt Disney is now a company that owns many other companies.
It’s actually a really interesting year to look at Disney. They own Pixar, Marvel Studios, and Lucasfilm. This year, we have Inside Out, The Avengers, and Star Wars VII. So I think it’s an interesting time to look at how Disney continues to remake itself by acquiring all these big companies.
So it’s a big-picture view of the Disney empire.
DS: Absolutely. Another component of it is how Disney reflects culture and how it’s shaped culture.
Does Disney shape our culture because its media is geared toward a younger, impressionable audience?
DS: Everyone grows up with Disney. I think Disney has had a power influence in people’s conceptions of things like gender, family values and those areas for better and for worse. We’ll spend some time talking about those issues, especially in relation to the films. One of the assignments that we have students do is writing a personal history of their relationship to Disney, whether it’s the films, the products or Disneyland. And I’m sure for a lot of people that starts in childhood. I think it’ll be a chance for students to analyze the relationship to Disney and reevaluate some of the imagery and ideas that they’ve been given from Disney.
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