Tolkien on Disney


What might not have come of it if this man had been educated–or even brought up in a decent society?

— J. R. R. Tolkien on Walt Disney's Snow White, via.

More than the moment-to-moment writing in Tolkien's oeuvre, it's his total commitment to building a rich and realized world that amazes and delights me. Tolkien was an Oxford philologist, and it shows constantly in the languages and worlds he built.

So I shouldn't be surprised that Tolkien hated Disney — both man and company — and hated what they stood for: a cheap, vulgar shadow of the rich folktale traditions he knew and loved.

[...] I recognize [Walt Disney's] talent, but it has always seemed to me hopelessly corrupted. Though in most of the 'pictures' proceeding from his studios there are admirable or charming passages, the effect of all of them to me is disgusting. Some have given me nausea [...]

And also:

It might be advisable [...] to let the Americans do what seems good to them — as long as it was possible [...] to veto anything from or influenced by the Disney studios (for all whose works I have a heartfelt loathing).

Why the loathing? I suppose it's for many reasons, as such antipathies often are; but to choose just one, it's that Disney trivializes the genre of fairy stories that was so dear to Tolkien's heart.

The land of fairy-story is wide and deep and high, and is filled with many things: all manner of beasts and birds are found there; shoreless seas and stars uncounted; beauty that is an enchantment, and an ever-present peril; both sorrow and joy as sharp as swords.

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