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    Walt Disney's Ape-man: race, writing, humanism

    Byrne, Eleanor ORCID logoORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0003-1976-0897 and McQuillan, Martin (2001) Walt Disney's Ape-man: race, writing, humanism. New Formations, 2001 (43). pp. 103-116. ISSN 0950-2378

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    In their seminal work, How to Read Donald Duck, Dorfmann and Mattelart suggest that Disney's anthropomorphic representation of animals allows for the uninhibited display of the humanist ideology of liberal capitalism. Throughout the Disney catalogue one can find examples of humanised animals, from Steam Boat Willy to Basil the Great Mouse Detective, upholding the values of liberal economics and its main stay liberal democracy. These animations are not so much a rendition of animals as such, rather they are anthropomorphic metaphors by which Disney presents the most humanist and traditional of values. We are encouraged to laugh at Donald Duck because he is human, all too human. However, once the line between animal and human has been crossed (and crossed-out) it is not a simple task to reaffirm an absolute boundary between the two. Instead, despite the most persistent of ideological manoeuvres to uphold the division, the very fact that an animal is used to further an anthropocentric schema means that the animal installs itself within the human, and vice versa, in a 'relation without relation'. Donald is human, with a girlfriend, three nephews, and a mortgage, but he is also irreducibly a duck (the relation may be denied but it cannot help but be the case). Donald is both human and animal but at the same time neither human nor animal. We would argue that, in performing an anthropocentric ideology, Disney allows us the possibility of imagining an animal otherwise (a thinking animal or an animal that writes), the possibility of which must unsettle the founding distinctions upon which Disney's humanism is based.

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