Member only
Episode
138

Disney Part III: The Magic

Mar 5, 2021
Arts & Culture
-
19
minutes
Film & Cinema
Disneyland
1960s
USA
Weird history
Eccentric people

In the last part of our three-part series on Disney, we take a look at the magic of Disney and ask ourselves what ingredients are in its special, magic sauce.

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[00:00:00] Hello, hello hello, and welcome to English Learning for Curious Minds, by Leonardo English. 

[00:00:11] The show where you can listen to fascinating stories, and learn weird and wonderful things about the world at the same time as improving your English.

[00:00:22] I'm Alastair Budge and today is part three, the final part, of our three-part our mini-series on Disney.

[00:00:30] In Part One we learned about the history of Disney, how it all got started, and how it turned into the juggernaut that it is today.

[00:00:38] In Part Two, which you can find on the website, leonardoenglish.com, we learned about the business of Disney, how it all works commercially, and some of the weird and wonderful ways in which Disney makes money.

[00:00:52] And in this episode, Part Three, we are going to talk about the magic of Disney, some of the reasons that Disney films, and Disney characters have become some of the most loved by people all over the world.

[00:01:07] Without these magical characters, Disney would be nothing, they are the glue that holds everything together. 

[00:01:14] So, buckle up, enjoy the episode, I think it’s going to be a fun one.

[00:01:19] Before we get right into that though, let me quickly remind you that you can follow along to this episode with the subtitles, the transcript and its key vocabulary, so you don’t miss a word and build up your vocabulary as you go, over on the website, which is leonardoenglish.com.

[00:01:36] The website is also home to all of our bonus episodes, like Part II of this mini series, plus guides on how to improve your English in a more interesting, more effective, way. 

[00:01:47] So if you haven’t checked that out yet, the place to go to is leonardoenglish.com.

[00:01:54] OK then, Disney, and specifically, the magic of Disney, why it all works so well.

[00:02:02] Now, perhaps the most fervent, the most passionate of Disney fans might say that there is no way to explain the magic of Disney. 

[00:02:11] Magic can’t be taught, nobody can explain why something is magical, it just is.

[00:02:18] But, there are lots of aspects of the Disney magic that can be quite nicely explained, and the fact that the original Disney, Walt Disney, died in 1966, and since then his company has done a pretty good job at creating magic without him, I think it’s fair to say that there is a tried and tested formula for creating the Disney magic.

[00:02:41] Or perhaps I should say that there are formulas, multiple formulas, because as you have now learned, there is much more than one style of Disney film.

[00:02:52] So in this episode we are going to reveal what some of the key themes are of Disney films, and some of the reasons why they work so well.

[00:03:03] There are 5 core themes that we’re going to cover.

[00:03:07] Firstly, the stories of Disney, how the stories are actually structured.

[00:03:13] Secondly, and on a related point, the characters in the movie.

[00:03:18] Thirdly, the morals and theme of the movie.

[00:03:22] Fourth, the humour, the jokes, what makes us laugh.

[00:03:26] And finally, of course, the music.

[00:03:29] So, the first theme is the story, the actual narrative of the movie. 

[00:03:35] Every movie is a little different, but they almost always use a formula that has been nicknamed The Hero’s Journey.

[00:03:44] And it goes something like this.

[00:03:47] It starts by setting out the scene, the normal situation. Then, the problem with the situation is presented - note, it’s here that the bad character is normally introduced.

[00:03:59] Then, our hero is presented with a choice, does he or she go on this journey, do they take up the challenge? Inevitably, after weighing up the options, after deliberating, they depart.

[00:04:15] They come across challenges on their journey, and meet people who can help them.

[00:04:20] Then, there is one disaster, and it looks like all hope is gone.

[00:04:26] But magically, something happens, an opportunity presents itself, often the hero is reunited with a long-lost friend, our hero gets up again, and continues on their quest

[00:04:39] There is some kind of battle, the hero emerges victorious, and everyone is happy.

[00:04:47] Now, this might sound simplistic, but you can put this formula onto almost everything that Disney does.

[00:04:55] Whether it’s Aladdin trying to win over the princess, Ariel trying to become a human, or Pinocchio trying to become a real boy, there is always this hero’s journey that is the backbone of the film.

[00:05:10] And it works incredibly well.

[00:05:12] After you finish watching a Disney movie, you aren’t left thinking, “well, that didn’t make sense”, or “I wonder what happened to him or her”, there is a logical conclusion that you sort of expect but is pleasantly surprising, and you leave feeling that everything is as it should be.

[00:05:31] So, from a storytelling perspective, the stories themselves, even though they might not be original, are full of just the right amount of drama to make everyone feel good. You leave thinking that the ending is correct, the hero has achieved his or her goal, and there aren’t any unanswered questions. 

[00:05:52] There’s a principle that is attributed to Chekhov, the Russian playwright, that if there is a gun introduced in a story, something needs to happen to that gun. Good storytelling means anything that is introduced to the narrative is either used or explained, and Disney certainly doesn’t fail in this regard.

[00:06:16] Our second ingredient in the magic of Disney is the characters.

[00:06:21] Now, as any storyteller knows, a story is nothing without its characters, and Disney does a fantastic job at creating characters with just the right amount of complexity

[00:06:35] Not too complicated so that a child can’t understand why the character is doing something, and not so simple that they are completely boring and predictable.

[00:06:47] Despite the fact that a large proportion of the characters in Disney movies aren’t human, and don’t live in human worlds, they are humans in their character, which makes them far easier to relate to.

[00:07:01] To give a real example, Ariel, the mermaid in the Little Mermaid is not the quintessential princess. Instead, she is independent, headstrong, not afraid to push barriers.

[00:07:16] In Toy Story, you have the characters Buzz Lightyear, the spaceman and Woody, the cowboy. They are both complex characters, they have human characteristics, they are proud, they are jealous, they get sad, they have hopes and dreams.

[00:07:33] And it’s not just the main good characters, the bad characters, the villains are also unique, they are their own characters with their own hopes and dreams.

[00:07:44] Disney also makes sure that you can normally understand why the villains are evil, what their motivations are. 

[00:07:52] Walt Disney believed from early on that young children could cope with evil characters, they could manage the baddies in the movies, as long as at the end of the movie good triumphed over evil, that it was clear that evil wasn’t the route to success.

[00:08:12] But it’s also important in Disney films that you can understand why an evil character is evil. 

[00:08:19] If a character was doing something evil and you couldn’t understand why, well that was scary. But if you know why the character is behaving in a particular way, even if what they are doing is evil, a child can manage it if they understand it.

[00:08:37] Again, to give you some examples, in The Little Mermaid, Ursula, the sea witch, has been thrown out of Atlantica by her rival, King Triton.

[00:08:47] In Peter Pan, Captain Hook wants revenge on Peter Pan for feeding his hand to a crocodile. 

[00:08:54] In Cinderella and Snow White, the villains are jealous of the main character.

[00:09:00] Yes, they’re nasty, but you can normally understand why they are doing what they are doing. 

[00:09:05] There are, of course, exceptions - I still can’t see why Cruella De Vil needs to wear the fur of Dalmatian puppies - but the rule does generally work.

[00:09:16] And on a final point related to the characters, it’s not just the main characters or the villains, even the adjacent characters, the characters who help the heroes on their journey end up being often just as popular as the main characters.

[00:09:33] Timon and Pumba in the Lion King, for example, Baloo the bear in The Jungle Book, or Thumper the rabbit in Bambi. These are all characters with their own complex personalities, characters that are popular in their own right.

[00:09:48] Because of their popularity, Disney can do more with these characters. They can sell merchandise, of course, but they can even do things that create entirely different films based on these characters - for example The Return of Jafar, which was about the bad guy in Aladdin. 

[00:10:08] So, Disney has great characters, characters that stand the test of time and are as popular now as when they first were introduced to the world.

[00:10:19] Our third theme of every Disney film, which is intrinsically linked both to the story and the characters is the moral, the life lesson that the film teaches you.

[00:10:31] Whether that’s the importance of friends or family, the problems that arise with greed, or the importance of being true to yourself, Disney films all try to teach us something.

[00:10:44] And given that it’s almost always the parents that pull out their wallets and pay, either for cinema tickets, for Disney Plus, or for anything else that is being bought, a parent is going to be happier to do so if they think that their child is learning, being taught a valuable life lesson.

[00:11:03] Our fourth ingredient, our penultimate ingredient in the Disney special sauce, is humour.

[00:11:10] Now, Disney films operate on different levels of humour. 

[00:11:14] Young kids might find it funny when a character falls over on a banana, slightly older kids might find it funny when there is a misunderstanding in the film, or a play on words

[00:11:26] And adults might see hidden funny parts in the film that kids miss altogether

[00:11:32] For example, the characters in Disney films often have amazing, slightly discreet facial expressions that most kids wouldn’t completely understand.

[00:11:42] Disney has this special mix of humour that works on so many different levels, but the important thing is that you don’t need to understand every single joke to understand the story. 

[00:11:55] So a younger kid can watch a Disney movie and understand more or less everything, and they can have a lot of fun watching it, they don’t feel like they’ve missed out on jokes. 

[00:12:05] And an adult might not laugh so much at a bear tripping up on a banana, but they might laugh at some of the more complicated jokes or facial expressions made by the adult characters in the movie.

[00:12:18] Of course, it’s hard to have success as a kids film without humour, but with Disney films the humour isn’t the main part, it just helps move the story forward, and lighten often complicated scenes.

[00:12:33] Fighting scenes, for example, are often funny. 

[00:12:36] There’s a fight scene in Robin Hood where the Sheriff of Nottingham tries to catch and kill Robin Hood, but the entire scene is hilarious, and nobody actually gets hurt. So, humour isn’t just there to make you laugh, it helps the storyline.

[00:12:56] And our final ingredient is the music.

[00:12:59] When you think of a Disney movie, one of the first things that probably comes to mind is the music, the songs in the film.

[00:13:07] The songs aren’t only fun and enjoyable to listen to, much like the humour they have an important role.

[00:13:14] And that’s to help explain often difficult concepts to younger viewers, to help them understand how the characters are feeling. 

[00:13:24] In Pocahontas, for example, “Colors of the Wind” is used to discuss the pretty serious message of colonialism and race.

[00:13:33] In Toy Story’s “You’ve Got a Friend in Me” there’s the message of the importance of friendship.

[00:13:40] And in a more recent example, in Frozen’s “Let it go” there is the very important message of being true to yourself, of not trying to hide your true self.

[00:13:51] So, they serve a very important message, gluing a lot of the narrative together.

[00:13:58] And even if you might not be the sort of person who spends their life listening to Disney songs, you can't deny that they are incredibly popular.

[00:14:07] The last song I mentioned, Let It Go, has been listened to 2.4 billion times on YouTube. The songs don’t only work to support the film, they are hugely popular in their own right.

[00:14:21] So, these are five of the most important ingredients in the magic of a Disney film, and without any one of them, it’s hard to imagine a Disney film being quite the same.

[00:14:33] If there were no music, if it weren't funny, if there wasn’t some overarching moral, if there were no big characters, or if they didn’t go on this hero’s journey, a Disney film would be very different.

[00:14:48] There are, of course, several other factors that we could include.

[00:14:51] The films are stunning, they are beautiful, going right back to Snow White in 1937. You can see that the artists creating the animations are fantastically talented, and visually they are very appealing films.

[00:15:07] The fact that they are cartoons means that it’s a lot easier to dub them into different languages, and sell them to an international audience. With live action films, the quality of the film reduces, because anyone can see that they are dubbed

[00:15:24] But with a cartoon, which is the majority of what Disney makes, it’s a lot easier.

[00:15:30] And finally the themes in Disney, the deeply human themes are universal, they are applicable no matter your age, your nationality, your belief systems, or even when you watch them.

[00:15:44] They are often set in imaginary worlds, where toys are alive, animals can talk or carpets can fly.

[00:15:52] This makes them even more universal, because they aren’t like a world that any of us lives in.

[00:15:57] If you watch Snow White, that was made over 80 years ago, but a kid could watch it and have just as much fun as someone watching it in 1937. 

[00:16:08] They also don’t include cultural references, things that someone would only understand if they had grown up in a particular place at a particular time, so you can watch one now or in 100 years and it won’t be harder to understand.

[00:16:24] Love, jealousy, anger, bravery, friendship, family, fear, these are all universal themes, and there’s a reason that they feature so prominently in all of the Disney movies.

[00:16:38] And our final, final extra ingredient is nostalgia, the feeling of wanting to relive the past.

[00:16:45] Given that Disney is almost 100 years old, most people at least in the Western world will be able to remember watching, and presumably enjoying, Disney as a kid. 

[00:16:57] When they grow up, and have children of their own, the universality of Disney movies means that they can in turn recreate that same experience that they shared with their parents with their own children.

[00:17:10] Although the recipe for magic might be there for all of us to see, this isn’t to say that anyone, with the right ingredients and deep enough pockets, with enough money, can create a hit movie.

[00:17:22] There certainly is something else, a special sauce, some magic that is hard to pin down, that brings it all together.

[00:17:31] And whatever that is, that is surely the true magic of Disney.

[00:17:37] OK then, that is it for today's episode on The Magic of Disney, and with that comes the end of our mini-series on Disney.

[00:17:47] As a reminder, in part one we learned about the history, in part two we learned about the business, and in part three it was the magic.

[00:17:56] I hope you enjoyed it, that it was a little bit magical, and at least that you've learnt something new.

[00:18:02] As always, I would love to know what you thought of this episode, what you think of Disney, what your favourite Disney movie is and why, and anything else that you would like to share. 

[00:18:12] For our lovely members, you can head right into our community forum, which is at community.leonardoenglish.com and get chatting away to me and to other curious minds.

[00:18:23] And as a final reminder, if you are not yet a member of Leonardo English but you are looking to improve your English in a more interesting way, to join a community of curious minds from all over the world, to unlock the transcripts, the subtitles, the key vocabulary, and the bonus episodes - like part two of this mini series - then the place to go to is leonardoenglish.com

[00:18:47] You've been listening to English Learning for Curious Minds, by Leonardo English.

[00:18:52] I'm Alastair Budge, you stay safe, and I'll catch you in the next episode.

[END OF EPISODE]


Continue learning

Get immediate access to a more interesting way of improving your English
Become a member
Already a member? Login

[00:00:00] Hello, hello hello, and welcome to English Learning for Curious Minds, by Leonardo English. 

[00:00:11] The show where you can listen to fascinating stories, and learn weird and wonderful things about the world at the same time as improving your English.

[00:00:22] I'm Alastair Budge and today is part three, the final part, of our three-part our mini-series on Disney.

[00:00:30] In Part One we learned about the history of Disney, how it all got started, and how it turned into the juggernaut that it is today.

[00:00:38] In Part Two, which you can find on the website, leonardoenglish.com, we learned about the business of Disney, how it all works commercially, and some of the weird and wonderful ways in which Disney makes money.

[00:00:52] And in this episode, Part Three, we are going to talk about the magic of Disney, some of the reasons that Disney films, and Disney characters have become some of the most loved by people all over the world.

[00:01:07] Without these magical characters, Disney would be nothing, they are the glue that holds everything together. 

[00:01:14] So, buckle up, enjoy the episode, I think it’s going to be a fun one.

[00:01:19] Before we get right into that though, let me quickly remind you that you can follow along to this episode with the subtitles, the transcript and its key vocabulary, so you don’t miss a word and build up your vocabulary as you go, over on the website, which is leonardoenglish.com.

[00:01:36] The website is also home to all of our bonus episodes, like Part II of this mini series, plus guides on how to improve your English in a more interesting, more effective, way. 

[00:01:47] So if you haven’t checked that out yet, the place to go to is leonardoenglish.com.

[00:01:54] OK then, Disney, and specifically, the magic of Disney, why it all works so well.

[00:02:02] Now, perhaps the most fervent, the most passionate of Disney fans might say that there is no way to explain the magic of Disney. 

[00:02:11] Magic can’t be taught, nobody can explain why something is magical, it just is.

[00:02:18] But, there are lots of aspects of the Disney magic that can be quite nicely explained, and the fact that the original Disney, Walt Disney, died in 1966, and since then his company has done a pretty good job at creating magic without him, I think it’s fair to say that there is a tried and tested formula for creating the Disney magic.

[00:02:41] Or perhaps I should say that there are formulas, multiple formulas, because as you have now learned, there is much more than one style of Disney film.

[00:02:52] So in this episode we are going to reveal what some of the key themes are of Disney films, and some of the reasons why they work so well.

[00:03:03] There are 5 core themes that we’re going to cover.

[00:03:07] Firstly, the stories of Disney, how the stories are actually structured.

[00:03:13] Secondly, and on a related point, the characters in the movie.

[00:03:18] Thirdly, the morals and theme of the movie.

[00:03:22] Fourth, the humour, the jokes, what makes us laugh.

[00:03:26] And finally, of course, the music.

[00:03:29] So, the first theme is the story, the actual narrative of the movie. 

[00:03:35] Every movie is a little different, but they almost always use a formula that has been nicknamed The Hero’s Journey.

[00:03:44] And it goes something like this.

[00:03:47] It starts by setting out the scene, the normal situation. Then, the problem with the situation is presented - note, it’s here that the bad character is normally introduced.

[00:03:59] Then, our hero is presented with a choice, does he or she go on this journey, do they take up the challenge? Inevitably, after weighing up the options, after deliberating, they depart.

[00:04:15] They come across challenges on their journey, and meet people who can help them.

[00:04:20] Then, there is one disaster, and it looks like all hope is gone.

[00:04:26] But magically, something happens, an opportunity presents itself, often the hero is reunited with a long-lost friend, our hero gets up again, and continues on their quest

[00:04:39] There is some kind of battle, the hero emerges victorious, and everyone is happy.

[00:04:47] Now, this might sound simplistic, but you can put this formula onto almost everything that Disney does.

[00:04:55] Whether it’s Aladdin trying to win over the princess, Ariel trying to become a human, or Pinocchio trying to become a real boy, there is always this hero’s journey that is the backbone of the film.

[00:05:10] And it works incredibly well.

[00:05:12] After you finish watching a Disney movie, you aren’t left thinking, “well, that didn’t make sense”, or “I wonder what happened to him or her”, there is a logical conclusion that you sort of expect but is pleasantly surprising, and you leave feeling that everything is as it should be.

[00:05:31] So, from a storytelling perspective, the stories themselves, even though they might not be original, are full of just the right amount of drama to make everyone feel good. You leave thinking that the ending is correct, the hero has achieved his or her goal, and there aren’t any unanswered questions. 

[00:05:52] There’s a principle that is attributed to Chekhov, the Russian playwright, that if there is a gun introduced in a story, something needs to happen to that gun. Good storytelling means anything that is introduced to the narrative is either used or explained, and Disney certainly doesn’t fail in this regard.

[00:06:16] Our second ingredient in the magic of Disney is the characters.

[00:06:21] Now, as any storyteller knows, a story is nothing without its characters, and Disney does a fantastic job at creating characters with just the right amount of complexity

[00:06:35] Not too complicated so that a child can’t understand why the character is doing something, and not so simple that they are completely boring and predictable.

[00:06:47] Despite the fact that a large proportion of the characters in Disney movies aren’t human, and don’t live in human worlds, they are humans in their character, which makes them far easier to relate to.

[00:07:01] To give a real example, Ariel, the mermaid in the Little Mermaid is not the quintessential princess. Instead, she is independent, headstrong, not afraid to push barriers.

[00:07:16] In Toy Story, you have the characters Buzz Lightyear, the spaceman and Woody, the cowboy. They are both complex characters, they have human characteristics, they are proud, they are jealous, they get sad, they have hopes and dreams.

[00:07:33] And it’s not just the main good characters, the bad characters, the villains are also unique, they are their own characters with their own hopes and dreams.

[00:07:44] Disney also makes sure that you can normally understand why the villains are evil, what their motivations are. 

[00:07:52] Walt Disney believed from early on that young children could cope with evil characters, they could manage the baddies in the movies, as long as at the end of the movie good triumphed over evil, that it was clear that evil wasn’t the route to success.

[00:08:12] But it’s also important in Disney films that you can understand why an evil character is evil. 

[00:08:19] If a character was doing something evil and you couldn’t understand why, well that was scary. But if you know why the character is behaving in a particular way, even if what they are doing is evil, a child can manage it if they understand it.

[00:08:37] Again, to give you some examples, in The Little Mermaid, Ursula, the sea witch, has been thrown out of Atlantica by her rival, King Triton.

[00:08:47] In Peter Pan, Captain Hook wants revenge on Peter Pan for feeding his hand to a crocodile. 

[00:08:54] In Cinderella and Snow White, the villains are jealous of the main character.

[00:09:00] Yes, they’re nasty, but you can normally understand why they are doing what they are doing. 

[00:09:05] There are, of course, exceptions - I still can’t see why Cruella De Vil needs to wear the fur of Dalmatian puppies - but the rule does generally work.

[00:09:16] And on a final point related to the characters, it’s not just the main characters or the villains, even the adjacent characters, the characters who help the heroes on their journey end up being often just as popular as the main characters.

[00:09:33] Timon and Pumba in the Lion King, for example, Baloo the bear in The Jungle Book, or Thumper the rabbit in Bambi. These are all characters with their own complex personalities, characters that are popular in their own right.

[00:09:48] Because of their popularity, Disney can do more with these characters. They can sell merchandise, of course, but they can even do things that create entirely different films based on these characters - for example The Return of Jafar, which was about the bad guy in Aladdin. 

[00:10:08] So, Disney has great characters, characters that stand the test of time and are as popular now as when they first were introduced to the world.

[00:10:19] Our third theme of every Disney film, which is intrinsically linked both to the story and the characters is the moral, the life lesson that the film teaches you.

[00:10:31] Whether that’s the importance of friends or family, the problems that arise with greed, or the importance of being true to yourself, Disney films all try to teach us something.

[00:10:44] And given that it’s almost always the parents that pull out their wallets and pay, either for cinema tickets, for Disney Plus, or for anything else that is being bought, a parent is going to be happier to do so if they think that their child is learning, being taught a valuable life lesson.

[00:11:03] Our fourth ingredient, our penultimate ingredient in the Disney special sauce, is humour.

[00:11:10] Now, Disney films operate on different levels of humour. 

[00:11:14] Young kids might find it funny when a character falls over on a banana, slightly older kids might find it funny when there is a misunderstanding in the film, or a play on words

[00:11:26] And adults might see hidden funny parts in the film that kids miss altogether

[00:11:32] For example, the characters in Disney films often have amazing, slightly discreet facial expressions that most kids wouldn’t completely understand.

[00:11:42] Disney has this special mix of humour that works on so many different levels, but the important thing is that you don’t need to understand every single joke to understand the story. 

[00:11:55] So a younger kid can watch a Disney movie and understand more or less everything, and they can have a lot of fun watching it, they don’t feel like they’ve missed out on jokes. 

[00:12:05] And an adult might not laugh so much at a bear tripping up on a banana, but they might laugh at some of the more complicated jokes or facial expressions made by the adult characters in the movie.

[00:12:18] Of course, it’s hard to have success as a kids film without humour, but with Disney films the humour isn’t the main part, it just helps move the story forward, and lighten often complicated scenes.

[00:12:33] Fighting scenes, for example, are often funny. 

[00:12:36] There’s a fight scene in Robin Hood where the Sheriff of Nottingham tries to catch and kill Robin Hood, but the entire scene is hilarious, and nobody actually gets hurt. So, humour isn’t just there to make you laugh, it helps the storyline.

[00:12:56] And our final ingredient is the music.

[00:12:59] When you think of a Disney movie, one of the first things that probably comes to mind is the music, the songs in the film.

[00:13:07] The songs aren’t only fun and enjoyable to listen to, much like the humour they have an important role.

[00:13:14] And that’s to help explain often difficult concepts to younger viewers, to help them understand how the characters are feeling. 

[00:13:24] In Pocahontas, for example, “Colors of the Wind” is used to discuss the pretty serious message of colonialism and race.

[00:13:33] In Toy Story’s “You’ve Got a Friend in Me” there’s the message of the importance of friendship.

[00:13:40] And in a more recent example, in Frozen’s “Let it go” there is the very important message of being true to yourself, of not trying to hide your true self.

[00:13:51] So, they serve a very important message, gluing a lot of the narrative together.

[00:13:58] And even if you might not be the sort of person who spends their life listening to Disney songs, you can't deny that they are incredibly popular.

[00:14:07] The last song I mentioned, Let It Go, has been listened to 2.4 billion times on YouTube. The songs don’t only work to support the film, they are hugely popular in their own right.

[00:14:21] So, these are five of the most important ingredients in the magic of a Disney film, and without any one of them, it’s hard to imagine a Disney film being quite the same.

[00:14:33] If there were no music, if it weren't funny, if there wasn’t some overarching moral, if there were no big characters, or if they didn’t go on this hero’s journey, a Disney film would be very different.

[00:14:48] There are, of course, several other factors that we could include.

[00:14:51] The films are stunning, they are beautiful, going right back to Snow White in 1937. You can see that the artists creating the animations are fantastically talented, and visually they are very appealing films.

[00:15:07] The fact that they are cartoons means that it’s a lot easier to dub them into different languages, and sell them to an international audience. With live action films, the quality of the film reduces, because anyone can see that they are dubbed

[00:15:24] But with a cartoon, which is the majority of what Disney makes, it’s a lot easier.

[00:15:30] And finally the themes in Disney, the deeply human themes are universal, they are applicable no matter your age, your nationality, your belief systems, or even when you watch them.

[00:15:44] They are often set in imaginary worlds, where toys are alive, animals can talk or carpets can fly.

[00:15:52] This makes them even more universal, because they aren’t like a world that any of us lives in.

[00:15:57] If you watch Snow White, that was made over 80 years ago, but a kid could watch it and have just as much fun as someone watching it in 1937. 

[00:16:08] They also don’t include cultural references, things that someone would only understand if they had grown up in a particular place at a particular time, so you can watch one now or in 100 years and it won’t be harder to understand.

[00:16:24] Love, jealousy, anger, bravery, friendship, family, fear, these are all universal themes, and there’s a reason that they feature so prominently in all of the Disney movies.

[00:16:38] And our final, final extra ingredient is nostalgia, the feeling of wanting to relive the past.

[00:16:45] Given that Disney is almost 100 years old, most people at least in the Western world will be able to remember watching, and presumably enjoying, Disney as a kid. 

[00:16:57] When they grow up, and have children of their own, the universality of Disney movies means that they can in turn recreate that same experience that they shared with their parents with their own children.

[00:17:10] Although the recipe for magic might be there for all of us to see, this isn’t to say that anyone, with the right ingredients and deep enough pockets, with enough money, can create a hit movie.

[00:17:22] There certainly is something else, a special sauce, some magic that is hard to pin down, that brings it all together.

[00:17:31] And whatever that is, that is surely the true magic of Disney.

[00:17:37] OK then, that is it for today's episode on The Magic of Disney, and with that comes the end of our mini-series on Disney.

[00:17:47] As a reminder, in part one we learned about the history, in part two we learned about the business, and in part three it was the magic.

[00:17:56] I hope you enjoyed it, that it was a little bit magical, and at least that you've learnt something new.

[00:18:02] As always, I would love to know what you thought of this episode, what you think of Disney, what your favourite Disney movie is and why, and anything else that you would like to share. 

[00:18:12] For our lovely members, you can head right into our community forum, which is at community.leonardoenglish.com and get chatting away to me and to other curious minds.

[00:18:23] And as a final reminder, if you are not yet a member of Leonardo English but you are looking to improve your English in a more interesting way, to join a community of curious minds from all over the world, to unlock the transcripts, the subtitles, the key vocabulary, and the bonus episodes - like part two of this mini series - then the place to go to is leonardoenglish.com

[00:18:47] You've been listening to English Learning for Curious Minds, by Leonardo English.

[00:18:52] I'm Alastair Budge, you stay safe, and I'll catch you in the next episode.

[END OF EPISODE]


[00:00:00] Hello, hello hello, and welcome to English Learning for Curious Minds, by Leonardo English. 

[00:00:11] The show where you can listen to fascinating stories, and learn weird and wonderful things about the world at the same time as improving your English.

[00:00:22] I'm Alastair Budge and today is part three, the final part, of our three-part our mini-series on Disney.

[00:00:30] In Part One we learned about the history of Disney, how it all got started, and how it turned into the juggernaut that it is today.

[00:00:38] In Part Two, which you can find on the website, leonardoenglish.com, we learned about the business of Disney, how it all works commercially, and some of the weird and wonderful ways in which Disney makes money.

[00:00:52] And in this episode, Part Three, we are going to talk about the magic of Disney, some of the reasons that Disney films, and Disney characters have become some of the most loved by people all over the world.

[00:01:07] Without these magical characters, Disney would be nothing, they are the glue that holds everything together. 

[00:01:14] So, buckle up, enjoy the episode, I think it’s going to be a fun one.

[00:01:19] Before we get right into that though, let me quickly remind you that you can follow along to this episode with the subtitles, the transcript and its key vocabulary, so you don’t miss a word and build up your vocabulary as you go, over on the website, which is leonardoenglish.com.

[00:01:36] The website is also home to all of our bonus episodes, like Part II of this mini series, plus guides on how to improve your English in a more interesting, more effective, way. 

[00:01:47] So if you haven’t checked that out yet, the place to go to is leonardoenglish.com.

[00:01:54] OK then, Disney, and specifically, the magic of Disney, why it all works so well.

[00:02:02] Now, perhaps the most fervent, the most passionate of Disney fans might say that there is no way to explain the magic of Disney. 

[00:02:11] Magic can’t be taught, nobody can explain why something is magical, it just is.

[00:02:18] But, there are lots of aspects of the Disney magic that can be quite nicely explained, and the fact that the original Disney, Walt Disney, died in 1966, and since then his company has done a pretty good job at creating magic without him, I think it’s fair to say that there is a tried and tested formula for creating the Disney magic.

[00:02:41] Or perhaps I should say that there are formulas, multiple formulas, because as you have now learned, there is much more than one style of Disney film.

[00:02:52] So in this episode we are going to reveal what some of the key themes are of Disney films, and some of the reasons why they work so well.

[00:03:03] There are 5 core themes that we’re going to cover.

[00:03:07] Firstly, the stories of Disney, how the stories are actually structured.

[00:03:13] Secondly, and on a related point, the characters in the movie.

[00:03:18] Thirdly, the morals and theme of the movie.

[00:03:22] Fourth, the humour, the jokes, what makes us laugh.

[00:03:26] And finally, of course, the music.

[00:03:29] So, the first theme is the story, the actual narrative of the movie. 

[00:03:35] Every movie is a little different, but they almost always use a formula that has been nicknamed The Hero’s Journey.

[00:03:44] And it goes something like this.

[00:03:47] It starts by setting out the scene, the normal situation. Then, the problem with the situation is presented - note, it’s here that the bad character is normally introduced.

[00:03:59] Then, our hero is presented with a choice, does he or she go on this journey, do they take up the challenge? Inevitably, after weighing up the options, after deliberating, they depart.

[00:04:15] They come across challenges on their journey, and meet people who can help them.

[00:04:20] Then, there is one disaster, and it looks like all hope is gone.

[00:04:26] But magically, something happens, an opportunity presents itself, often the hero is reunited with a long-lost friend, our hero gets up again, and continues on their quest

[00:04:39] There is some kind of battle, the hero emerges victorious, and everyone is happy.

[00:04:47] Now, this might sound simplistic, but you can put this formula onto almost everything that Disney does.

[00:04:55] Whether it’s Aladdin trying to win over the princess, Ariel trying to become a human, or Pinocchio trying to become a real boy, there is always this hero’s journey that is the backbone of the film.

[00:05:10] And it works incredibly well.

[00:05:12] After you finish watching a Disney movie, you aren’t left thinking, “well, that didn’t make sense”, or “I wonder what happened to him or her”, there is a logical conclusion that you sort of expect but is pleasantly surprising, and you leave feeling that everything is as it should be.

[00:05:31] So, from a storytelling perspective, the stories themselves, even though they might not be original, are full of just the right amount of drama to make everyone feel good. You leave thinking that the ending is correct, the hero has achieved his or her goal, and there aren’t any unanswered questions. 

[00:05:52] There’s a principle that is attributed to Chekhov, the Russian playwright, that if there is a gun introduced in a story, something needs to happen to that gun. Good storytelling means anything that is introduced to the narrative is either used or explained, and Disney certainly doesn’t fail in this regard.

[00:06:16] Our second ingredient in the magic of Disney is the characters.

[00:06:21] Now, as any storyteller knows, a story is nothing without its characters, and Disney does a fantastic job at creating characters with just the right amount of complexity

[00:06:35] Not too complicated so that a child can’t understand why the character is doing something, and not so simple that they are completely boring and predictable.

[00:06:47] Despite the fact that a large proportion of the characters in Disney movies aren’t human, and don’t live in human worlds, they are humans in their character, which makes them far easier to relate to.

[00:07:01] To give a real example, Ariel, the mermaid in the Little Mermaid is not the quintessential princess. Instead, she is independent, headstrong, not afraid to push barriers.

[00:07:16] In Toy Story, you have the characters Buzz Lightyear, the spaceman and Woody, the cowboy. They are both complex characters, they have human characteristics, they are proud, they are jealous, they get sad, they have hopes and dreams.

[00:07:33] And it’s not just the main good characters, the bad characters, the villains are also unique, they are their own characters with their own hopes and dreams.

[00:07:44] Disney also makes sure that you can normally understand why the villains are evil, what their motivations are. 

[00:07:52] Walt Disney believed from early on that young children could cope with evil characters, they could manage the baddies in the movies, as long as at the end of the movie good triumphed over evil, that it was clear that evil wasn’t the route to success.

[00:08:12] But it’s also important in Disney films that you can understand why an evil character is evil. 

[00:08:19] If a character was doing something evil and you couldn’t understand why, well that was scary. But if you know why the character is behaving in a particular way, even if what they are doing is evil, a child can manage it if they understand it.

[00:08:37] Again, to give you some examples, in The Little Mermaid, Ursula, the sea witch, has been thrown out of Atlantica by her rival, King Triton.

[00:08:47] In Peter Pan, Captain Hook wants revenge on Peter Pan for feeding his hand to a crocodile. 

[00:08:54] In Cinderella and Snow White, the villains are jealous of the main character.

[00:09:00] Yes, they’re nasty, but you can normally understand why they are doing what they are doing. 

[00:09:05] There are, of course, exceptions - I still can’t see why Cruella De Vil needs to wear the fur of Dalmatian puppies - but the rule does generally work.

[00:09:16] And on a final point related to the characters, it’s not just the main characters or the villains, even the adjacent characters, the characters who help the heroes on their journey end up being often just as popular as the main characters.

[00:09:33] Timon and Pumba in the Lion King, for example, Baloo the bear in The Jungle Book, or Thumper the rabbit in Bambi. These are all characters with their own complex personalities, characters that are popular in their own right.

[00:09:48] Because of their popularity, Disney can do more with these characters. They can sell merchandise, of course, but they can even do things that create entirely different films based on these characters - for example The Return of Jafar, which was about the bad guy in Aladdin. 

[00:10:08] So, Disney has great characters, characters that stand the test of time and are as popular now as when they first were introduced to the world.

[00:10:19] Our third theme of every Disney film, which is intrinsically linked both to the story and the characters is the moral, the life lesson that the film teaches you.

[00:10:31] Whether that’s the importance of friends or family, the problems that arise with greed, or the importance of being true to yourself, Disney films all try to teach us something.

[00:10:44] And given that it’s almost always the parents that pull out their wallets and pay, either for cinema tickets, for Disney Plus, or for anything else that is being bought, a parent is going to be happier to do so if they think that their child is learning, being taught a valuable life lesson.

[00:11:03] Our fourth ingredient, our penultimate ingredient in the Disney special sauce, is humour.

[00:11:10] Now, Disney films operate on different levels of humour. 

[00:11:14] Young kids might find it funny when a character falls over on a banana, slightly older kids might find it funny when there is a misunderstanding in the film, or a play on words

[00:11:26] And adults might see hidden funny parts in the film that kids miss altogether

[00:11:32] For example, the characters in Disney films often have amazing, slightly discreet facial expressions that most kids wouldn’t completely understand.

[00:11:42] Disney has this special mix of humour that works on so many different levels, but the important thing is that you don’t need to understand every single joke to understand the story. 

[00:11:55] So a younger kid can watch a Disney movie and understand more or less everything, and they can have a lot of fun watching it, they don’t feel like they’ve missed out on jokes. 

[00:12:05] And an adult might not laugh so much at a bear tripping up on a banana, but they might laugh at some of the more complicated jokes or facial expressions made by the adult characters in the movie.

[00:12:18] Of course, it’s hard to have success as a kids film without humour, but with Disney films the humour isn’t the main part, it just helps move the story forward, and lighten often complicated scenes.

[00:12:33] Fighting scenes, for example, are often funny. 

[00:12:36] There’s a fight scene in Robin Hood where the Sheriff of Nottingham tries to catch and kill Robin Hood, but the entire scene is hilarious, and nobody actually gets hurt. So, humour isn’t just there to make you laugh, it helps the storyline.

[00:12:56] And our final ingredient is the music.

[00:12:59] When you think of a Disney movie, one of the first things that probably comes to mind is the music, the songs in the film.

[00:13:07] The songs aren’t only fun and enjoyable to listen to, much like the humour they have an important role.

[00:13:14] And that’s to help explain often difficult concepts to younger viewers, to help them understand how the characters are feeling. 

[00:13:24] In Pocahontas, for example, “Colors of the Wind” is used to discuss the pretty serious message of colonialism and race.

[00:13:33] In Toy Story’s “You’ve Got a Friend in Me” there’s the message of the importance of friendship.

[00:13:40] And in a more recent example, in Frozen’s “Let it go” there is the very important message of being true to yourself, of not trying to hide your true self.

[00:13:51] So, they serve a very important message, gluing a lot of the narrative together.

[00:13:58] And even if you might not be the sort of person who spends their life listening to Disney songs, you can't deny that they are incredibly popular.

[00:14:07] The last song I mentioned, Let It Go, has been listened to 2.4 billion times on YouTube. The songs don’t only work to support the film, they are hugely popular in their own right.

[00:14:21] So, these are five of the most important ingredients in the magic of a Disney film, and without any one of them, it’s hard to imagine a Disney film being quite the same.

[00:14:33] If there were no music, if it weren't funny, if there wasn’t some overarching moral, if there were no big characters, or if they didn’t go on this hero’s journey, a Disney film would be very different.

[00:14:48] There are, of course, several other factors that we could include.

[00:14:51] The films are stunning, they are beautiful, going right back to Snow White in 1937. You can see that the artists creating the animations are fantastically talented, and visually they are very appealing films.

[00:15:07] The fact that they are cartoons means that it’s a lot easier to dub them into different languages, and sell them to an international audience. With live action films, the quality of the film reduces, because anyone can see that they are dubbed

[00:15:24] But with a cartoon, which is the majority of what Disney makes, it’s a lot easier.

[00:15:30] And finally the themes in Disney, the deeply human themes are universal, they are applicable no matter your age, your nationality, your belief systems, or even when you watch them.

[00:15:44] They are often set in imaginary worlds, where toys are alive, animals can talk or carpets can fly.

[00:15:52] This makes them even more universal, because they aren’t like a world that any of us lives in.

[00:15:57] If you watch Snow White, that was made over 80 years ago, but a kid could watch it and have just as much fun as someone watching it in 1937. 

[00:16:08] They also don’t include cultural references, things that someone would only understand if they had grown up in a particular place at a particular time, so you can watch one now or in 100 years and it won’t be harder to understand.

[00:16:24] Love, jealousy, anger, bravery, friendship, family, fear, these are all universal themes, and there’s a reason that they feature so prominently in all of the Disney movies.

[00:16:38] And our final, final extra ingredient is nostalgia, the feeling of wanting to relive the past.

[00:16:45] Given that Disney is almost 100 years old, most people at least in the Western world will be able to remember watching, and presumably enjoying, Disney as a kid. 

[00:16:57] When they grow up, and have children of their own, the universality of Disney movies means that they can in turn recreate that same experience that they shared with their parents with their own children.

[00:17:10] Although the recipe for magic might be there for all of us to see, this isn’t to say that anyone, with the right ingredients and deep enough pockets, with enough money, can create a hit movie.

[00:17:22] There certainly is something else, a special sauce, some magic that is hard to pin down, that brings it all together.

[00:17:31] And whatever that is, that is surely the true magic of Disney.

[00:17:37] OK then, that is it for today's episode on The Magic of Disney, and with that comes the end of our mini-series on Disney.

[00:17:47] As a reminder, in part one we learned about the history, in part two we learned about the business, and in part three it was the magic.

[00:17:56] I hope you enjoyed it, that it was a little bit magical, and at least that you've learnt something new.

[00:18:02] As always, I would love to know what you thought of this episode, what you think of Disney, what your favourite Disney movie is and why, and anything else that you would like to share. 

[00:18:12] For our lovely members, you can head right into our community forum, which is at community.leonardoenglish.com and get chatting away to me and to other curious minds.

[00:18:23] And as a final reminder, if you are not yet a member of Leonardo English but you are looking to improve your English in a more interesting way, to join a community of curious minds from all over the world, to unlock the transcripts, the subtitles, the key vocabulary, and the bonus episodes - like part two of this mini series - then the place to go to is leonardoenglish.com

[00:18:47] You've been listening to English Learning for Curious Minds, by Leonardo English.

[00:18:52] I'm Alastair Budge, you stay safe, and I'll catch you in the next episode.

[END OF EPISODE]