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Good Girls & Wicked Witches

Good Girls & Wicked Witches

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Good Girls & Wicked Witches

Women in Disney's Feature Animation

By Amy M. Davis

Good Girls and Wicked Witches is a new animation book published in time for the Paris exhbition on Walt Disney European influences. A lovely read.

Publication date: December 2006
Total pages: 274 + vi
ISBN: 0 86196 673 2
Price: £ 17.50


Good Girls and Wicked Witches: Women in Disney's Feature Animation by Amy Davis looks at how human female characters have been represented during the first 60 years of feature-length animation at Disney. Tallying up which films have had human females in leading roles and analysing how such issues as activity/passivity have been handled, this book re-examines the notion that Disney heroines are rewarded for passivity, and contextualises these films within the larger Hollywood landscape in which they were produced.

The subject of women and how they were regarded over the course of the twentieth century is not by any means a new subject. Writers, feminists, anti-feminists, politicians, political commentators, psychologists, journalists, celebrities, housewives, students, historians, and many others have written on this subject in varying degrees of depth and seriousness. But in the last century, as a mainly print-based culture gave way to one which is image- and media-based, it was the way these physical/cultural/social expectations were tied together with and within the medium of film, and disseminated in the person of the ‘actress’ (be she a live woman or a drawing), which became important. It is with the images of women in popular culture – in magazines, on television, on billboards, in calendars, in newsreels, and in films (the medium with which this book is concerned), to name just a few examples, that all of the aspects of American society’s changing attitudes towards women were mapped.

This book analyses the construction of (mainly human) female characters in the animated films of the Walt Disney Studio between 1937 and 1999. It is based on the assumption that, in their representations of femininity, Disney films both reflected and helped shape the attitudes of the wider society, both at the time of their first release and subsequently. It attempts to establish the extent to which these characterisations were shaped by wider popular stereotypes. Moreover, because of the nature of the animated film – because it is a unique combination of printed popular culture (as in drawings done for newspapers, books, and magazines) and the twentieth century’s later emphasis on more life-like visual media (such as film, television, and various other forms of photography), it is argued here that it is within the most constructed of all moving images of the female form – the heroine of the animated film – that the most telling aspects of Woman as the subject of Hollywood iconography and ideas of American womanhood are to be found. Furthermore, because within American animation it is the work of the Disney Studio which has reigned – and continues to reign – supreme within its field, and because most of the major animated films created in Hollywood have been produced by Walt Disney’s studio, it is upon these films that the book concentrates.


Chapter 1, Film as a Cultural Mirror
Chapter 2, A Brief History of Animation
Chapter 3, The Early Life of Walt Disney and the Beginnings of the Disney Studio, 1901–1937
Chapter 4, Disney Films 1937–1967: The “Classic” Years
Chapter 5, Disney Films 1967–1988: The “Middle” Era
Chapter 6, Disney Films 1989–2005: The “Eisner” Era
Appendix 1, Disney’s full-length animated feature films
Appendix 2, Disney films analysed in this study, with plot summaries
Appendix 3, Bibliography
Appendix 4, Filmography


Amy M. Davis is a lecturer in the School of Media, Film, and Journalism and a course director for Film Studies at the University of Ulster, Coleraine. The author of several papers on Disney feature animation,Good Girls and Wicked Witches is her first large study of the Disney studio’s output, and grows out of her doctoral work in the history department of UCL.
She earned a Ph.D. in history from UCL in 2001, and is the author of “The Fall and Rise of Fantasia”, in Hollywood Spectatorship: Changing Perceptions of Cinema Audiences (Richard Maltby and Melvyn Stokes, eds), published by BFI in 2001, a piece on Pocahontas, “Borrowing the Earth: Saving the Planet and Disney’s Pocahontas”, published in Mythe et Mythology, by the University of Poitiers in 2001, and an examination of Walt Disney’s working relationships with women, “The Dark Prince and Dream Women: Walt Disney and Mid-Twentieth Century American Feminism”, published in The Historical Journal of Film, Radio, and Television in June 2005). Good Girls and Wicked Witches is her first large study of the Disney studio’s output, and grows out of her doctoral work in the history department of UCL.

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