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PSY 355 Psychology & Media in the Digital Age

This page was last modified on April 5, 2017

The Wonderful World of The Walt Disney Company

DEIComplete the American Film Institute Top 10 of Top 10
  • How many films in total have you seen at least once?

ney Experience Inventory

Count up the number of films you have seen at least once

• Count up the number of films you have seen 2 or more times

• Have you ever visited a Disney theme park or vacation resort?

• What did you like about those experiences?

Background: Intellectual Property & US Copyright Law
Intellectual property = "the legally recognized exclusive rights to creations of the mind. Under intellectual property law, owners are granted certain exclusive rights to a variety of intangible assets, such as musical, literary, and artistic works; discoveries and inventions; and words, phrases, symbols, and designs." {W}

vs. Real property: non-movable assets, i.e., buildings & grounds

vs. Personal property: tangible/movable assets (e.g., jewelry, clothing) and intangible assets (e.g., bank accounts, stocks)

Legal rights associated with intellectual property (grounded in US Constitution, Art. 1, Sec. 8, Clause 8)
  • Trademarks: valid for as long as the trademark is used or the term is ruled generic, that is, part of everyday language (cellophane, aspirin, thermos, trampoline) by the US Patent & Trademark Office
  • Patents: at the expiration of a patent, the invention moves into the public domain
  • Copyright: if a work is not covered by copyright, it moves into the "public domain" and can be used by anyone

CGP Grey: Copyright - Forever Less One Day (YouTube)

Law Length

  • 1790: 28 years
  • 1831: 42 years
  • 1909: 56 years (with © affixed to publication)
  • 1976: 75 years or 50 years after author's death
  • 1998 Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act (colloquially "Mickey Mouse Protection Act")
    • Personal author: 70 years after author's death
    • Corporate author: 120 years after creation or 95 years after publication
    • Applies to anything published after 1923
    • © doesn't need to be affixed to publication

Modern Corporate Media Conglomerates

Control of the content of ca. 90% of modern mass media in 2010 resided in five companies
  • The Walt Disney Company (2015 revenue: $52.5 B; profit $8.4 B)
  • Time Warner (2013 revenue: $29.8 B; profit $3.7 B)
  • Viacom (2013 revenue: 13.8 B; profit $3.4 B)
  • Vivendi (2013 revenue: €22.1 B/~$30 B; profit €2.8 B/~$3.7 B)
  • The News Corp [FOX et al] (2015 revenue: $8.6 B; loss: $1.3 B; equity: $12.1 B)


  • Rise of media companies in the 1900s-1930s
    • Hollywood: Rise of the great studios (Warner Bros., MGM, etc.) including film production, distribution, and theater ownership (vertical integration)
    • The Hearst Corporation in the 1920s & 1930s: magazines & newspapers + Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) film company
    • NBC (RCA) & CBS as national radio networks which later became in the 1950s (with ABC) the great TV networks

Copyright Law in US

  • Consequence of the emergence of such companies
1. Appearance of the corporate rather than individual author

2. Legally protected intellectual property owned by corporate authors becomes the foundation of an almost endless series of republication opportunities as new technologies provide new outlets

3. The value of media corporations resides in protecting the ownership of their creations. If they cannot be protected against use by others, the corporation value decreases.

Marketing in Disneyworld
Disney TVDisney is generally considered the pioneer or pivotal media conglomerate to recognize the interactive possibilities across multiple media platforms (Stark, 1997).

How did it all begin?
  • Disneyland, the television show, premiered on the ABC Television network on Oct. 27, 1954. It consisted mostly in old cartoons & old films which were serialized. Later called "The Wonderful World of Disney"
    • 1954-1955: Davy Crockett, a three-part series: "Davy Crockett, Indian Fighter," "Davy Crockett Goes to Congress," & "Davy Crockett at the Alamo" presented across 3 months. Generated $100 million of merchandise sales (10% of all American children's product sales)
    • Other series within Disneyland: Zorro, the Swamp Fox, Johnny Tremaine et al.
  • The Mickey Mouse Club (1955-1959) = a weekday afternoon TV show, with cartoons, "Mouseketeers" (young people who sang & dance), and serials: "Spin & Marty" & "The Hardy Boys"
  • Disneyland, the theme park, opened July, 1955
    • The first live made-for-television broadcast hosted by Ronald Reagan & Art Linkletter (Stark, 1997)
  • Today's Disney Channel & Disney Kids Channel

  • Who can afford Disney in the 21st century?
Pricing of Disney Parks

In 2016 Disney began seasonal or "tiered" pricing: Regular tickets in 2016 are
$107, but "Peak" season tickets are $119.

  • A $3.50 ticket in 1917 is equal to a ticket price of $21.05 in 2017
  • The rate of inflation between 1971 and 2017 was 501.5%
  • Hence, the REAL cost of a $119 ticket to Disneyworld (that is, the price
    over and above the inflation rate) went up 565% in 46 years or
    a 12.3% rise over the national inflation rate.

Characters in the Disney World

Discussion Focus:
In small groups of 3 or 4 persons, accomplish the following:
  • Each person should come up with the favorite or two favorite Disney characters
  • For each character, discuss 
    • What is/are their most important physical trait(s)?
    • What is/are their most important personality trait(s)?
    • Is/are their other aspects to the character that appeal to you?
  • When you have done this for each group member, find out if there are any commonalities or similar character traits that arose?

Whole Class

  • Each group should share a summary of their discussion
  • Questions/Issues for the entire class
    • Gender
    • Ethnicity
    • Age
    • Spirituality/belief system
    • What kind of world do these characters emerge from?


  • The "Princess" role (England et al., 2011)
Disney Princesses
  • Originally 9 (now 11) films, 25,000 products ($4 billion in sales in 2008)
  • Before 1990s, high levels of stereotypical gender role portrayal & no attention to non-White females
  • After 1980s, more nuanced gender role portrayal & wider attention to non-White females

Male stereotypical characteristics: Curious about princess, exploring, physically strong, assertive, unemotional, independent, athletic, engaged in intellectual activity, inspires fear, brave, physically attractive, gives advice, leader, rescuing

Feminine stereotypical characteristics: Pays attention to physical appearance, physically weak, submissive, shows emotion, affectionate, nurturing, sensitive, tentative, helpful, troublesome, fearful, ashamed, collapses crying, physically attractive, asks for advice, victim

Disney princes

  • High in shows emotions, affectionate, physically strong, assertive, athletic
  • Low in paying attention to appearance, being ashamed, crying
Disney princesses
  • High in affectionate, fearful, troublesome, athletic, assertive (esp. toward animals)
  • Low in being unemotional, leadership, inspiring fear, performing a rescue
  • Girls' toys vs. boys' toys

Disney Eyes vs. Stomachs

Physical attractiveness

  • The Beauty = Goodness Stereotype (Bazzini et al. 2010)
Heroes Villains
Disney Heroes
Bazzini et al. (2010) found
  • Physically attractive characters were more intelligent, less aggressive, showed greater moral virtue, were more romantically involved, and more likely to achieve positive life outcomes by the end of the film.
  • Psychological research shows that, among American women generally, physical attractiveness is thought to lead to more happiness in life (more success, happier marriages, etc.)
  • Among children between 6 and 12, the beauty-goodness stereotype is already pretty well established, e.g., children prefer to play with peer rated more handsome or pretty.

Five Worlds of the Imagination

Disneyland 1958 map

Maceline MO

Disney Worlds

"landscapes" of the imagination

Main Street USA






Bazzini, D., Curtin, L., Joslin, S., Regan, S., & Martz, D. (2010). Do animated Disney characters portray and promote the beauty-goodness stereotype? Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 40(10), 2687-2809.

England, D. E., Descartes, L., & Collier-Meek, M. A. (2011). Gender role portrayal and the Disney princess. Sex Roles, 64, 555-567.

Stark, S. D. (1997). Glued to the set. New York: Delta Books.