Disney: The Original Fandom

So recently, I have been browsing on Pinterest about Frozen and its growing fandom. Somewhere, someone asked the question about Frozen being the first Disney movie with its own fandom. Yet, somewhere lies to the realization that Disney actually perfected fandom before fandom was probably a word. Walt Disney intentionally put his company on the track of becoming this fandom whereas some people created pieces and could care less about them (I am looking at you Arthur Conan Doyle.) Fandom has been systematically arranged and perfected by the Disney corporation. This formula has gone on to inspire the next generations which consists of popularity, emotional damage, fanwork, and shipping.

Even cult fandoms have marginal popularity. Disney is extremely popular. It is the first fandom to get an amusement part. Disneyland laid the foundation for all other parks to be made. Universal Studios would have existed along with The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, but both projects would have contained a higher risk of failure with no precedent. The sheer popularity of Disneyland gave the founders of Universal a way for themselves to make as much money as the Disney Corporation. Along with the popularity of the brand, Disney has created sub-fandoms. Frozen, The Lion King, and the Disney Princess brand are all sorts of sub-fandoms created by Disney. Disney has had movies so popular that the movies have become Broadway musicals. In addition to the sub-fandoms created by Disney, there are sub-fandoms which have been acquired by Disney including Marvel’s Avengers and Star Wars. Foreign companies use Disney as a distributor of film. Studio Ghibli has given Disney exclusive distribution rights so even people those fandoms have some contribution to the Disney fandom.

What is fandom without some emotional damage? Somewhere, I know there is a better way of saying that, but at this time, the words escape me. Disney helps people feel empathy for its main characters. Of the many Disney movies, The Lion King, Bambi, and The Fox and the Hound seem to be the most relevant to this part of this post. Now that I think about it, most of the emotional damage comes from the deaths of the parents though not the only way. At least, Disney did not “kill” off a main character and wait a  couple of years to bring them back to life. In Robin Hood, Disney only waited a couple of heart-tearing moments.Yet without sorrow, there will be no opportunity for the hero to rise up. This so called emotional damage it to make the hero if not the viewer stronger. The emotional damage is there to show the journey from the mad man with a box into the hero that saves the day. Oops. Wrong fandom. But, you see how the principle permeates popular culture. Pixar/Disney created such characters that we empathize with children’s toys. The characters which Disney creates impact the lives of the people who watch the movies and provide the emotional reaction consistently throughout the movies.

Fandoms often have things re-created by the ones who love them. I am talking about fanfiction, fanart, and cosplay. I don’t read fanfiction. It is one of those things that i just don’t do. But, I know that it exists. Why and how do you know something exists without even looking for it? Because, I have looked at all of the fanart. I have looked at enough to convince me that I know there is fanfiction. I spent an entire summer looking up fanart of the Disney Princesses. I do not feel like I wasted a summer though. It was a cultural experience of sorts. I also wanted to touch on the subject of cosplay because…

ArtfulAnarchy on Devianart

ArtfulAnarchy on Devianart

And, this only one example of the countless pictures found on the web. These people replicate the costumes for the pure enjoyment of Disney. In a response to people creating their own Disney Princess dresses, the Disney Princess line was formed. This has not overpowered the grassroots of the cosplay. In this case, imitation is flattery.

Disney taught me how to ship. The word itself was created in the 1990’s, but people have been doing it forever. It is a concept as old as dirt, yet Disney perfected its selection of OTPs. Because of shipping, fanwork are created. For a recent example, the sheer number of shippers for Anna and Krisoff from Frozen. Yes, it is implied they start a relationship, but look at the fanart that even implies children:

xxMeMoRiEzxx on Devianart

xxMeMoRiEzxx on Devianart

And Elsa? Elsa gets shipped with Jack from Rise of the Guardians despite corporate boundaries. People ship Jessie with Woody totally avoiding the fact that the official OTP has her with Buzz and Woody with Bo Peep. Yet, shipping is all in the small stuff. Jessie and Woody are cowfolk. That equals that they are meant to be! That is the long and the short of it.

Though not an official indicator of a fandom, merchandise can show a fandom. Disney is the perfecter of this unofficial indicator. In addition to the amusement parks all over the world, Disney has stores where merchandise is sold. As mentioned above, the Disney Princess line came out of Disney seeing a need and filling it with merchandise. There are debates on the Internet about who should and should not be included in the line. The line is based on the most popular movies. (As a personal opinion, Pocahontas should be included in the line because she is a chief’s daughter.) That is why Eilonwy is not included and the Disney Corporation does not include animals. Otherwise, Nala would be a Disney Princess. The Disney Fairies line came about because Tinker Bell was originally included and then taken out of the Disney Princess line.

Disney is original creator of the fandom world. Some may ask the question: Why? I ask: Why not? Disney movies are targeted at children. They created the indicators of fandom subtly throughout the creation of the company. They were at the forefront of popularity with enough “emotional damage” to keep the company going. Through inspiring fanwork, Disney shipping has systematically been spread throughout the culture sometimes using merchandise.


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