Ever since Walt Disney began turning out feature-length animated films, scholars, theologians and journalists have plumbed the depths of the simple morality tales for deeper religious meanings and messages.
Was Snow White’s eating of the poison apple an allusion to the Fall in the Garden of Eden? When the puppet maker Geppetto was swallowed by a whale, was that a veiled reference to Jonah in Hebrew Scriptures? Were Jiminy Cricket’s initials in “Pinocchio” a hidden reference to Jesus Christ?
While we’re at it, have the Disney films morphed under the corporate leadership of Michael Eisner from an early reflection of Judeo-Christian religious sensibilities during Disney’s life to embrace a wider pantheon of non-Western and pagan beliefs and gods? How do the stories accommodate changing cultural perceptions about race, sexual orientation and gender roles?
There has been no end of fascination with what some have called the Gospel According to Walt, and it’s little wonder. The Disney gospel is among a child’s earliest tutors, offering insights into acceptable human behavior and relationships through the dilemmas, triumphs and failures of its cartoon characters.