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The Disney Fetish

The Disney Fetish

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The Disney Fetish

By Seán J. Harrington

Contributors: Seán J. Harrington

The Disney Fetish represents an attempt to distil the essential elements of appeal in ‘Disney’ as a broad and complex socio-cultural institution.

Publication date: 2014
Total pages: 244
ISBN: 9780 86196 713 1
Price: £ 20.00


The Disney Fetish represents an attempt to distil the essential elements of appeal in ‘Disney’ as a broad and complex socio-cultural institution. The discussions within seek to provide an account of the consumer of mass-media that addresses Western society’s increasing reliance on consumable fantasy, fantasy which is argued to have an undeniably erotic component. This book posits that the contemporary consumer must interact with corporate media entities as socio-cultural institutions that enable a self-administration of gratification. It is argued that the Walt Disney Company represents a penultimate example of this dynamic relationship, which can be understood as structurally perverse and fetishistic. It is proposed that the gratification of the Disney consumer is achieved at their own expense, and that this expense is to the benefit of Disney commercially and structurally as a major socio-cultural institution. This is achieved through an engagement with Lacanian psychoanalytic theory, animation, film and cultural studies, and the industrial- organisational history of the Walt Disney Company. What is created within is an account of the subject’s interactions within the apparatus of Disney media. The films and cartoon shorts are analysed within a psychoanalytic framework, along with discussions of pseudo-mythical figure of Walt Disney himself.

This book aims to satisfy a latent distrust that contemporary society has developed for the Disney Company as provider of family- oriented consumerism. It attempts to de-mystify the unsettling cleanliness and pretensions to innocence that the Disney product claims to hold. Contemporary society is rife with critiques of Disney, each attempting to draw attention to the questionable practices of the company and the unsettling duality of its images. This work structures and develops this inherent discontent in an academic fashion, supported by several years of rigorous research.


This book of Lacanian cartoon metaphysics is a wild ride, like a hacked and rewired attraction at Disneyland, It will decimate and reanimate your memories of the Disney Classics, in its carambolage of psychoanalysis, studio history, characterology, audience reception, artists’ chimeric reappropriations, narrative readings and post-Marxist cultural studies. It is as much about ‘addicted’ audiences and their ‘perverse’ investments in Disney’s flat absolute, as it is about the curious psychic formation of Walt, the narcissist who must keep things pure and be kept pure at all costs, just as the films he stands over expose and curb sex and war, flaunt weird hybridizing and showcase a worldly play with innocence. The study weedles its way into a variety of films from the hybrid live-cartoon Alice series to the late live-cartoon films of the immediate postwar, passing though the Golden Age of Disney films and also, unusually, engaging in close analyses of the pro-war effort work in WW2, bringing, in each instance, what we know but glide over, into sustained vision: the bizarreness of the Disney Universe that chimes so well with the bizarreness of our social fantasies and individual psyches. It also has charming illustrations.

Esther Leslie, Professor in Political Aesthetics, Birkbeck, University of London

“Through a synthesis of theoretical perspectives, Harrington masterfully critiques and complicates Disney consumption, providing valuable insights about media consumption generally. This unique and fascinating analysis of the perversity of the Disney world provides another opportunity to understand media and media audiences. A welcome addition to the study of Disney.”

Janet Wasko, Professor & Knight Chair in Communication Research, University of Oregon

“To all ye who enter this book – Disney-aficionados, film-scholars and fetishists – you will never watch Mickey et al. in the same way again! Wonderful as the world of Walt may be, Harrington will show you its dark, obscene dialectical underside, and will teach you how to do Disney like Bambi did Dallas: exuberantly, joyously, skilfully, tightly and unreservedly. And with intellectual attitude to spare, he will serve you plenty of food for thought on top. Take the plunge, enjoy….!”

Professor Dany Nobus, Professor of Psychology and Psychoanalysis, and Pro-Vice-Chancellor at Brunel University London.



Part One: The Homunculus

Chapter 1 A Theoretical Context

Chapter 2 Psycho-mythology

Chapter 3 The Phallus and Disney Animation

Chapter 4 The Conceptual Homunculus

Part Two: The Regressive Apparatus

Chapter 5 Disney Character Tropes

Chapter 6 The Industrial Process and the Father

Chapter 7 Fantasia and Eroticism

Chapter 8 Regression and Jouissance

Part Three: The Hybrid Utopia

Chapter 9 Hegemony

Chapter 10 Disney’s ‘Good Neighbour’

Chapter 11 World War II and Propaganda

Chapter 12 The Consumerist Utopia


Future Research

References, Filmography, Studios, Digital Rights


Seán J. Harrington is an Irish writer and academic based in London. He is a lecturer in screen media at Brunel University and is currently involved in inter-disciplinary research in the areas of animation and digital game design.

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