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The Gospel According to Disney:
Christian Values in the Early Animated Classics
Philip Longfellow Anderson
Foreward by Disney Legends Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston
Longfellow Publishing Retail: $15.00
Rating: 3 out of 4
Perhaps the strongest and most enduring brand name in films is Walt Disney, especially when it comes to animation. The extent to which the stories, characters, settings, and lessons of Disney animated films have permeated our culture is a testament to marketing and synergy brilliance as much as creative talent. Most of the films examined in this book are based on previous literary works, but Disney has been successful in getting the public to think of the Disney animated features when thinking of the stories. Due to this success, Anderson has found the films useful to communicating lessons that are also found in the Holy Bible.
The Gospel According to Disney uses the animated features of Walt Disney, from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs through The Jungle Book, plus the characters of Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck to discuss Biblical values and lessons. Some of the concepts discussed include sin, suffering, evil, faith, hope, love, maturity, forgiveness, redemption, obedience, and self-sacrifice.
Each chapter is centered on a film (except for the two that deal with Mickey and Donald) and starts with a Biblical passage that they author relates to the lessons to be learned from that film. Anderson alternates between discussing the Biblical passage and the animated film, often with anecdotes from neither also thrown in, to illustrate three lessons. At the end of each chapter, there are questions that author wants the reader to consider, ranging from profound to fun.
Anderson is a Minister of the United Church of Christ. Many of the anecdotes he uses are typical of those used in pulpits. At some points, the book reads like a sermon, with more emphasis on preaching than on the animated film, and at other points there is closer examination of the film with less emphasis on the morality being communicated.
This is not an extensive scholarly treatise, nor a deep theological essay. It focuses more on values, very little on theology. This is not a book for someone looking for critical analysis of Walt Disney's animated feature films. It is more helpful in using Disney films to teach lessons, or for Bible readers who want to enjoy Disney films more. It can also be used to see what kind of lessons Disney films teach. It is well written for mainstream consumption, no doubt with the intention that it could be read out loud in groups. Overall, it is an enjoyable and thought-provoking work.
The Gospel According to Disney
-- Posted February 15, 2000
-- Review by Ken Pellman
Ken "SFH" Pellman
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