Academic journal article K@ta

The Grammar of Disney Long Animations: A Structuralist Reading

Academic journal article K@ta

The Grammar of Disney Long Animations: A Structuralist Reading

Article excerpt

Abstract: Treating several animated films as texts, the analysis of this particular genre of entertainment is using structuralist narratology, which is applied to establish a general grammar of Disney long animations by revealing the underlying rules governing the tilm narratives. Discussing the typical characters and actions, the construction of "function", and the significant actions which shape the story, this study reveals the six actant/roles based on the prescribed characterization, three basic patterns of how each actant is related to one another, and the twelve sets of basic arrangement of functions as the single basic structure of all Disney long animations. This study proves how loyal and consistent the creators of Disney long animations are toward the underlying basic structure of the story.

Key words: actant, function, structure, narrative, narratology, grammar.

Disney animated films have been long associated with incredible versions of classical stories, and unforgettable warmhearted characters. The films are usually packed with sensational musical instruments and the films' hit singles are sung by famous artists. The story, the characters, and the music, are definitely the main elements of Disney animated filmmaking. Therefore, it is interesting to discuss "the secret recipe" that makes every single Disney animated production a huge success and are well accepted in any parts of the world. Treating the animated films as texts, the analysis of this particular genre of entertainment is using structuralist narratology, "a new poetics which will establish a general 'grammar of literature, the underlying rules governing literary practice" (Selden, 1993, p. 109).

Structuralist narrative theory has originated from some elements of linguistic analogies. The grammar of sentence structure, or syntax, is the fundamental of narrative rules, which Todorov, as cited in Selden (1993) refers as "narrative syntax":

The most elementary syntactic division of the sentence unit is between subject and predicate: 'The knight (subject) slew the dragon with his sword (predicate)'. Evidently this sentence could be the core of an episode or even an entire tale. If we substitute a name (Launcelot or Gawain) for 'the knight', or 'axe' for 'sword', we retain the same essential structure. ...the whole corpus of tales is constructed upon the same basic set of functions. A function is the basic unit of the narrative 'language' and refers to the significant actions which form the narrative (p. 109).

A.J. Greimas in his Semantique Structurale (1966) has come up with " the universal grammar of narrative" by applying to it a semantic analysis of sentence structure. He proposes 3 pairs of binary oppositions that cover all six roles, or 'actants', Propp's term for the dramatist personae:

Subject/Object

Sender/Receiver

Helper/Opponent

These pairs describe three basic patterns which usually occur in all narratives:

1. desire, search, or aim (Subject/Object)

2. communication (Sender/Receiver)

3. auxiliary support or hindrance (Helper/Opponent) (p. 111)

According to Saussure, "language is the primary sign system whereby we structure our world." Thus, language system is similar to any other sign system of social behaviour like fashion, table manners, and sports (Bressler, 1999, p. 93). All of those are considered as texts with underlying systems that construct them. Like language, these expressions of social behaviors generate meaning through a system of signs (p. 93). Like language, the system of signs can also be found in the product of social behaviour, for example film.

Therefore, the purpose of analyzing Disney animated films using structuralist narratology is to retain the shared essential structure in any Disney animated versions by revealing the single underlying structure that is embedded in any Disney animated films as the "secret formula" behind the success of Disney as the major animated filmmaker. …

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