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Smokestacks Meet Thumper: Disney and the Environment

Chim chiminey, Chim chiminey, Chim chim cher-oo! Disney may have made the life of a chimney sweep seem like dancing on the rooftops, but some decades later we've learned smudgy, sooty coal is a filthy form of energy. Which is why the news that much of Europe may be returning to their old coal ways requires a huge spoonful of sugar.

Italy is poised to increase its reliance on coal to 33 percent from 14 percent over the next five years. Total power generated from coal will billow to 50 percent. Don't just blame the Italians, countries all over Europe are expected to put into operation about 50 coal-fired plants over the next five years — plants and gunk that we will be able to enjoy for the next five decades. Germany in particular has 60 new coal-fired power stations planned. To see how Disney fits into the modern eco-picture,


An animator who worked on Disney's Bambi went the way of Bambi's mom last week and requested in lieu of flowers, donations to the Natural Resources Defense Council. His request underscores a Disney obsession with the pastoral, evidenced in films from Bambi, to Pocohontas, to Finding Nemo. Some say these films inspire tiny environmentalists, like this researcher at Cambridge University.

These films have taught us variously about having a fundamental respect for nature. Some of them, such as Bambi, inspired conservation awareness and laid the emotional groundwork for environmental activism.

In a step to take the eco-activism from figurative to literal, Disney is launching new film production unit called Disneynature. They're gearing up to make feature-length documentaries about animals and the environment, similar to the wildly popular March of the Penguins. The first US movie to be released, is dubbed Earth is set to open April 22, 2009 — Earth Day a year from now.

Are we at a crossroad in terms of environmental decision making, where we need to choose between the black-lunged Dick Van Dyke chimney sweep of coal, and the blissful Disney forests? Are you surprised that countries are returning to coal? Was Disney a true trailblazer in the environmental movement? Does entertainment have a place in driving environmental policy?

Do you love that part in Bambi where the skunk says, "he can call me Flower if he wants to?"


Join The Conversation
Helen2 Helen2 9 years
Great post. Although 'Disneynature'? They should have called it 'EcoDisney'!!
Mädchen Mädchen 9 years
I'm wondering, that film called "Earth", that's not the one based on a BBC series, is it? That one's a huge hit in Germany right now.
stephley stephley 9 years
But still, razing fields to build a theme park isn't the nicest thing you can do for animals.
hypnoticmix hypnoticmix 9 years
I'm not too pleased about the new coal refineries however Western Europe has proven to have a fairly green lifestyle in the past several years. My question would be what's the filter technology today as apposed to years ago? Where is the waste going and how is it being handled? If they're using the same old filter technology then they're fools. As for Disney's new venture they have always had a history of lacing a sub story of eco awareness with good fun family entertainment. I say good for them.
KrisSugar KrisSugar 9 years
i googled and googled and couldn't find any info about what my prof told me. so take it for what it's worth, an anecdote. :)
Mädchen Mädchen 9 years
To be fair, those new plants in Germany are actually being built to replace old ones that cause far more emissions. Nuclear power is being phased out in Germany (no matter how "clean" it is, you'll always have the waste to deal with) and apparently alternative energies won't be able to replace the old plants that soon. I'm not fully convinced though...
KrisSugar KrisSugar 9 years
Stephley I think Walt Disney was more against animal cruelty and/or hunting. I remember one of my professors telling me a story of how as a young boy he saw his brother shoot a rabbit. The rabbit wasn't dead, so his brother broke it's neck. or something like that. Anyway, it traumatized him. that's the story I remember prior to our discussion of Bambi. it's worth a look-up!
katybug518 katybug518 9 years
I'm confused I why there is all of the sudden a huge push to return to coal-fired power plants, can anyone shed some light on that subject?
stephley stephley 9 years
"Was Disney a true trailblazer in the environmental movement?" The trails Disney blazed through orange groves and farm areas to build those theme parks raises questions about its eco-friendliness.
Angelica Angelica 9 years
Disneynature? I wonder how those will fair in the box office.
jillpollock jillpollock 9 years
Could you please cite the Disney Nature study?!?!? It is by David Whitely. And he is not a "researcher" he is a Fellow of Homerton College, Cambridge.
Bettyesque Bettyesque 9 years
Interesting closing question :rotfl: I question entertainment being a big driving nudge on environmental issues although my opinion may be bias because I agree with Syako .. Disney scares me .. ever since Snow White ... the evil queen haunts me. :JAWDROP:
Shopaholichunny Shopaholichunny 9 years
:ROTFL: RACIC. I'm sick of hearing about eco-friendliness too.
KrisSugar KrisSugar 9 years
i tell you what makes me crack up, is the scenes with quails in them. There goes mother quail... OH! and 18 more really fast!
UnDave35 UnDave35 9 years
Nyra, what would you like to talk about?
KrisSugar KrisSugar 9 years
Rac, you just made me laugh out loud! i swear. And yes, "he can call me flower if he wants to" is my favorite Bambi quote. I am having the kind of day where all I can do is scream "I LOVE BAMBI!" but I won't. (office decorum) I'll just settle for the all caps declaration.
syako syako 9 years
well that's why we're talking about Bambi! duh! ;)
nyaradzom2001 nyaradzom2001 9 years
I am so sick of eco-friendliness, the american elections, iraq, iran, terrorists, global warming, american immigration. Grrrrr!!
raciccarone raciccarone 9 years
I have always let cartoons determine my environmental policy. How else will one know if it is Wabbit Hunting Season or Duck Hunting Season?
yesteryear yesteryear 9 years
this is so strange... why?
UnDave35 UnDave35 9 years
Will they be using "clean coal"? I wonder if they could be harnessing nuclear power, which is also very eco-friendly.
syako syako 9 years
dang you, I have that song stuck in my head now :rant: And how random was your last question? ;) Disney scares me. :scared: My husband works in power and such so more power plants means more work, is that terrible to say?
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