Disney Adults Explained

Written by: Taylor

How Disney’s early 90’s success created a generation of adult Disney lovers.

Jodi Benson and Samuel Wright recording The Little Mermaid

The year was 1989. Ariel the bubbly redhead pops onto the scene as Disney’s first princess-led film in decades. The Little Mermaid represents a key turn of events in Disney animation. Princess predecessors such as Aurora (Sleeping Beauty,1959), Cinderella (1950), and Snow White (1937), all represented the women of the time; poised, and graceful, yet reserved and submissive. Albeit clueless, Ariel was adventurous and fun-loving, and represents the start of the Disney renaissance era that had the most significant impact on what one might call a “Disney adult” today.

Disney Kids

As we drift further into the 90s, more princesses emerge. The bookworm Belle followed by the outspoken Jasmine – our first princess of color. Next up, the groundbreaking Pocahontas and heroine Mulan. Disney had fully harnessed their movie mojo, bottled it up, and injected it into all of us spending our youth in front of the screen.

Anyone under the age of 10 in the 90s (and arguably, their parents too) spent that decade enjoying the incredible animated films and feeling the magic that makes Disney special. Rather than the typical fairy tales, Disney was able to create something unique. We were riveted by their original stories of family and friendship like The Lion King, A Goofy Movie and Toy Story, and we found our identity in it. Their films were about all of us – about real life and what we’d want to become, and what we could be with a little imagineering.

The Four Pillars of Disney

Throughout Disney’s development, one thing has remained constant: their core values of HOME that radiate from any of their creations. Sharing their Heart, Originality, Magic, and Evolution, Disney was able to create space for us in their films and parks and generate a sense of belonging.

Across the states and around the world, Disney gained a following and maintained loyalty because of these values. When coupled with Disney’s massive 80s, 90s, and 2000’s success, there’s no way to compare the Disney that our parents knew with the Disney of today. So then, why do some find it surprising that the youth who grew up on Disney still love it? We learned to be Disney lovers from our parents, and now the next generations are learning to be Disney lovers from us.

90's Comeback

If we look at fashion, music, and art of any kind, we often see a pattern of trends repeating themselves. We look to the past for inspiration and reimagine what we loved most. Now that the Disney kids generation is reaching majority, we’re rediscovering what we loved most about our childhoods.

When we think of the way we have evolved from 1989 to now, we see an explosion of technology, a drastically different society, and a different way of life than our parents and their parents ever experienced. Yet the sense of magic and belonging Disney created remains. And in a society as flawed as ours, there’s almost nowhere else to go to experience what it feels like to be a kid again.

The Disney Community

In the years following the original Disney princesses, we’ve seen Disney grow to include films that address diversity and inclusion, mental health, loss, and so much more. More than a production company, theme park, or even a business, Disney has grown into a community of fans and authentic connections.

Disney has always had the ability to evoke that sense of magic and feeling of home. Enjoying that isn’t limited to a certain age and liking Disney shouldn’t be the deciding factor in judging someone as a “real grown-up.” The Disney community is a place to form friendships and build connections and indulge in the delight of their characters and stories. Disney has earned our fanship – and that admiration goes beyond age and time.


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