In the world of Disney, there is a common practice of including religion and spirituality into their films. the religions that are used in the films range from Christianity to Buddhism and Islam and Confucianism as well as polytheistic beliefs. the films that portray these religions and spiritualities include Mulan the lion king Moana Pocahontas Aladdin and snow white. The religion that is portrayed in the Disney film Mulan is Confucianism which is the system of philosophical and ethical teachings founded by Confucius and developed by Mencius a Chinese philosopher and Buddhism.
in Mulan there is a religious theme that is referred to throughout the film that involves recurring prayer to the fa family’s ancestors. at the beginning of the film Mulan, her father her mother and her grandmother are all either directly praying or reference praying to their ancestors on occasion.
Mulan, the ancestors can be seen coming to life as ghost life figures who discuss how to go about giving Mulan guidance when she leaves for the army.
spirituality and religion are shown through the characters Yao and Chien-Po as well when they practice religious meditation for relaxation. Mulan reflects many parts of the Chinese religion and culture by making many references to upholding the family honor. some scenes show one’s respect towards their parents’ elders and ancestors and compassion that are crucial to Confucianist and Buddhist beliefs. the principle of compassion is shown in the scene where Shang the commanding officer spares Mulan’s life when it is revealed that she is indeed a woman.
before this scene, Mulan had saved his life and he overrides what he is obligated to do legally which is to kill her for impersonating a man to serve in the army
The religious values that are presented of the eastern Asian religions are shown positively however there is American culture individuality displayed in the film with Mulan going to war for father but also to be herself and prove to herself her ability and value. In the Lion King the religion that is shown is Christianity, there are a multitude of ways that the Christian practice is show throughout the film including at the beginning of the film with ‘The Circle of Life”-the new life and celebration of the life of Simba, the future king. God allows new life to be born, for His glory, whether it is in human form or animal form, the way the light shines on Simba as he is presented to the entire animal kingdom is similar to the way God shined light on Jesus after he was baptized, and Another way the Lion King shows biblical lessons is when Mufasa gives Simba a lecture about how he deliberately disobeyed him by journeying into the elephant graveyard against his strict orders. Mufasa then turns it into a lesson about how being brave doesn’t mean Simba should go looking for trouble.
Then he turns it around and forgives Simba of his disobedience and lets him know he loves him unconditionally. Just like how God or a parent can lecture a child about what they did wrong, and then forgive them with unconditional love. God forgives us so we should forgive others with the same love. Another film that shows Christian values and beliefs is Snow White, in Snow White there are three prominent colors exist in the story: white, red and black. They are all captured in different areas of the film, with the most obvious being and mainly in the appearance of Snow White. She has skin “white as snow, lips red as blood and her hair is as black as ebony.” These colors are not only found in the within the appearance of Snow White herself, but the colors are also represented in the three ways that the Queen uses for her murder attempts in the film. She initially uses white lace in which she disguised as a peddler woman and made a poisoned lace. She then gave the lace to Snow White and choked her by making the lace tighten around her neck.
Snow White then fell dead and the wicked queen fled. However, the dwarves came and revived snow White by cutting the lace., then a black poisoned hair comb by changing into a gyspy and went to the dwarf’s cottage with the poisoned comb for Snow White. Snow White at first refused to let the woman in but when the queen showed her the comb, Snow White put it on her head and fell dead. but was once again revived by the dwarfs when they removed the comb from her head. and finally, a red poisoned apple only one half of the apple was poisoned, the wicked queen then disguised as a farmer’s wife and made her way to the dwarf’s cottage. At the cottage the queen gave Snow White the poisoned half of the apple. Snow White ate it after the queen ate her half. Then she fell dead. Each of these colors has significant symbolic implications and represents a time of life. White, representing birth, is for purity, and innocence. Red, representing life, symbolizes action, fire, spiritual awakening, and love. Black, symbolizing death indicates the absolute and eternity. The religion of polytheism is represented in a couple Disney films as well including Moana and Pocahontas. In Pocahontas, she believed in the laws of nature, that everything from the water to the trees were connected to mother earth.
She believed that every living thing, and nonliving thing has a soul and that everything is connected in one way or another. Polytheism is defined as the worship of or belief in multiple deities, which are usually assembled into a pantheon of gods and goddesses, along with their own religions and rituals. In most religions which accept polytheism, the different gods and goddesses are representations of forces of nature or ancestral principles. The beliefs of polytheism can be shown with grandmother willow who is the doctor referenced by Pocahontas near the end of the film who gives medicine to heal wounded settlers and with the song “Colors of the Wind” which Pocahontas sings and the lyrics include “You think you own whatever land you land on The Earth is just a dead thing you can claim But I know every rock and tree and creature Has a life, has a spirit, has a name” which is a direct relation to the beliefs of polytheism. Another film that displays the polytheistic beliefs is Moana. In Moana the Gods are mentioned only a few times throughout the film. It is a subtle display of polytheism it offers a very sympathetic view of polytheism and it does so very skillfully.
Moana means sea in the Polynesian languages. The sea is very central in this movie as well as in Polynesian culture and religion. The religious significance of the word Moana is very clear in the Hawaiian language because Ku-Hai-Moana is the most renowned Hawaiian Shark God and Moana also means the act of worship. Moana is the name of the female protagonist in the film and she has an unusual attraction to the sea as the sea is calling to her. This special connection the Moana in the film has with the sea strengthens her role as a representative of her polytheist sea-oriented culture. Moana has a determined mindset and the opening scenes reveal she is different from the other children because of her strong interest in the sea. Just like in Pocahontas, Moana has a grandmother figure who when she passes returns as a part of nature whereas in Pocahontas the grandmother returns as a willow tree in Moana she returns as a stingray that guides Moana on her journey across the sea when she is trying to get the heart of Te Fiti, who is the Polynesian goddess of earth and life, back to where it belongs to stop her island from dying.
In Aladdin the religion that is solely represented is Islam. Throughout the film Aladdin, Disney integrates parts of the Islamic faith. They do this by setting the film in the Middle East where the village, the palace and marketplace are all depicting an Arabic town. There is a repetition of ‘Allah’ by many of the characters for example the Sultan says ‘Allah forbid you should have any daughters’ in the scene where Jasmine says that she will only marry for love, causing her father to become frustrated. The Islamic faith is also depicted through mentions of prayers occurring at different times of the day that are customary to the religion, as well as the women being portrayed in Hijabs. Many do not realize the amount of information that you can learn about these religions form an animated film and with Disney making the effort to portray a multitude of different religions in their films they can teach young kids about the many different religions that are in the world in a fun way that they will be able to remember.