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Disney animated films send mixed moral messages, according to Dr. Annalee Ward in her new book published in November.

Mouse Morality: The Rhetoric of Disney Animated Film analyzes some Disney values and life lessons about the nature of human beings and their relationships, society, and knowledge. The book emerges from Dr. Ward's research for her Ph.D. dissertation work. 

"The book is a close textual analysis of five Walt Disney films," Ward said. "I look at these films from a rhetorical criticism standpoint and ask, 'What moral messages do these films teach?' There are some obvious positive lessons taught as well as sometimes contradictory messages that people need to be aware of."

"The Lion King" first triggered Ward's curiosity after she watched it at home with her daughter. In her book, she also examines "Pocahontas," "The Hunchback of Notre Dame," "Hercules," and "Mulan," and describes how easily children accept as truth the messages conveyed in these films. She believes some of these messages become ingrained over time and are difficult to overcome later in adolescence and adulthood.

"For some parents, Disney videos are like baby-sitters," she said. "However, some of their messages contradict the Christian worldview - messages such as 'follow your heart' or 'what sells is what's important' or 'females can't find themselves without a man in their lives.' These are dangerous, particularly for young girls."

Dr. Ward believes that these films reinforce both positive and negative moral messages, and they need to be viewed with discernment.

Mouse Morality was published by the University of Texas Press. To read more about the book, click here. Dr. Ward is chair of the communication arts department at Trinity, and will serve in 2003 as president of the Religious Communication Association, which gives scholars interested in communication and religion an outlet for support, encouragement, and ideas. She is also a member of the National Communication Association and the Communication Ethics Commission. 

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