Disney doesn't have the best track record for handling other cultures in movies!
Pocahantas, Aladdin, Moana, Song of the South just to name a few.
Given recent events, the leadership at Disney may finally be heading in the right direction.
First, let's get this out of the way…yes I'm a huge Disney fan. My family visits Disney World often. I am not, however, blind to their troublesome past.
In 2018 an exhibit of Native American art was opened in Epcot at Walt Disney World. The exhibit was created in partnership with several museums and Native artists inside the American Adventure pavilion in the World Showcase part of the park. I toured the display and it is fabulous – worth the visit!
A couple of years before that, a new totem pole was placed in the Canada pavilion in Epcot. The pole was built by Tsimshian artisan David Boxley and dedicated by the Git Hoan dancers.
Now, Frozen 2.
I went to see the movie opening weekend with my family. Elsa leaves her kingdom to try and find the source of her powers. On her journey, she encounters an indigenous tribe. At this point, I started to cringe and worry – here we go again!
But the movie showed the group in a good way!
When I got home I turned to Google to find out more about the movie and came across several articles about Disney and the Sami people.
During the production of the movie the producers traveled to Norway and met with the Sami people. Disney signed an agreement with them to ensure an accurate representation of their culture in the film.
Disney’s team really wanted to make it right,” says Anne Lájla Utsi, managing director at the International Sámi Film Institute. “They didn’t want to make any mistakes or hurt anybody. We felt that they took it seriously. And the film shows that. We in Verddet are truly proud of this collaboration.” – Inside the Magic
Anne Lájla Utsi, managing director at the International Sámi Film Institute, was part of the Verddet advisory group. She told NOW, “This is a good example of how a big, international company like Disney acknowledges the fact that we own our own culture and stories. It hasn't happened before.” – Upworthy
My only complaint about the portrayal of the indigenous culture is that is was the same theme we have seen in movies over and over. Look at Avatar or Return of the Jedi – the indigenous people are peaceful, connected to nature, live in a primitive way while they battle another group with advanced weapons. Could we for once show that indigenous people do change and evolve too? We have scientists, astronauts, and doctors – all using modern techniques.
I hope this is a sign of even better things to come from the Walt Disney Company.
Have you seen Frozen 2? What did you think?
Photos courtesy of Samediggi Sametinget.
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