Want to Learn a New Literary Technique? Turn to Disney.

While Disney is controversial in the feminist realm for weak female characters, selling the image of a passive woman being the only desirable type of woman and a host of other things I won’t list here (but will rather link the reader to instead), at the root of every Disney story is writing from a team of talented individuals that know what they are doing.

For a well written theme, look no further than the Disney classics. Theme is defined as the main topic of a text, or in this case, movie. In Disney’s Hercules, for example, the main theme is true strength comes from sacrifice. Looking back even further to earlier movies like Sleeping Beauty, strong, well-represented and almost cliche themes like true loves conquers all are clearly portrayed throughout the film.

And I shall awaken her with true love’s kiss, and if that doesn’t work, I’ll just be some kind of weird pervert that kisses sleeping 16 year old girls.


That’s what makes Disney great at stories–it’s not just one character that carries out the main theme. In Hercules, it’s not just Hercules that has to sacrifice something for love to understand what makes a true hero, but his love interest Meg. While Princess Aurora in Sleeping Beauty is taken away to live in a forest, away from her betrothed true-love Prince Philip, they somehow find each other again and fall in love at first sight because they were meant to be and true love will always prevail, despite dragons and distance.

Disney’s writers can do well with more than just theme. A symbol is a tool used by many Disney writers to create a richer story. A symbol in a story is an object that represents, stands for, or suggests an idea, belief, action, or material entity. In Dumbo, the magic feather is nothing more than a black feather, but to the viewer it represents the courage and self-confidence Dumbo needs to fly. In Aladdin, the magic lamp the Genie is linked to represents endless power but also represents the Genie’s lack of freedom that is associated with that power.

Itty bitty living space.

I can go on and on explaining how Disney has time and time again executed flawless literary technique within their films, and Buzzfeed.Com actually came up with a pretty good list I referred to for this story. For fun, try writing down this list of literary themes and watching a Disney movie while trying to fill out each item on the list with something from that Disney movie.

By watching, learning, and studying how Disney expertly exicutes these literary techniques, you yourself can learn to master these story elements in your writing as well. Plus, this is a great excuse to pop some popcorn and veg out to a bunch of cartoons over the weekend. Who doesn’t love that?

Amanda Riggle
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Amanda Riggle

Managing Editor at The Poetics Project
Amanda is the Managing Editor at The Poetics Project and of The Socialist, the national magazine of The Socialist Party USA, as well as the Lead Editor of Pomona Valley Review's upcoming 11th issue. She graduated with a BA in English Education and a minor in Political Science. She is currently enrolled in an English MA program with an emphasis in Literature. During her free time, Amanda enjoys writing poetry, reading, traveling, crocheting, watching entire seasons of campy shows on Netflix, and, of course, writing blogs.

You can follow Amanda on Twitter @ThePandaBard, on Pinterest @ThePandaBard, or on Medium @ThePandaBard. You can also find her research on Academia.Edu at Cpp.Academia.Edu/MandaRiggle.

Amanda Riggle
Rarely use

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