Disney's Animated Features In Comparison To Propp's Literary Theory
                                  Amy Sherr
                        Western Connecticut State University


     This study deals with Disney's animated features.  Its purpose is to 
establish whether the structure of the movies is consistent with the literary 
theory developed by Vladimir Propp.  
    Nine films have been analyzed in order to determine if elements of 
Propp's theory are apparent in each feature.  The sample used represents 
the different categories, styles, and production years of Disney animation.
    The conclusions of this study provide a greater insight into how 
Disney films achieve their popularity.  Although it was not determined 
that Propp's Literary Theory contributes to the success of the films, the 
researcher noted several other characteristics of the features that could 
contribute to Disney's success.  Such trends include the music, 
characters, and animation quality of the movies.  These characteristics 
could be examined in a  later study in order to attempt to pinpoint how 
Disney's films achieve their success.


    Since the release of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs in 1937, 
Disney animated features have been a front-runner of popular culture.  
they have received a high level of public and critical acclaim, have been 
awarded many honors and recognitions, and have been able to maintain 
consistent popularity over six decades.  Despite drastic changes in cultural 
trends and norms, Disney's animated features remain popular.  New 
Disney releases become instant classics and Disney's older films maintain 
a timeless appeal.
    One of the most fascinating aspects of Disney's animated features is 
their diversity.  The subjects range from princes and princesses to deer 
and dogs.  Furthermore, Disney takes its plots from a wide range of 
sources.  Many Disney films are born from classic literature.  Other 
features are based on legends.  Disney has also occasionally bypassed
known works and formulated original tales.  Due to the fact that Disney's 
animated films range so greatly, one can  question what is the unifying 
feature that leads to the success of the films.  Is there a certain structure
that Disney follows, and if so, is it this structure that leads to the triumph
of the pictures?
    Much has been written about Disney animation.  Books written by 
authors such as Bailey (1984), Sinyard (1988), and Maltin (1973) discuss 
animation techniques, the costs of production,  critical reactions, and 
awards won by the Disney pictures.  The soundtracks and plots are also 
discussed.  However, the structural elements of the features are never 
    If it is established that the films follow a particular structure, it can be 
deducted that this structure, at least partially, accounts for the success of 
the movies.  Once the structure is identified, it can be applied to future 
animated films.  Therefore, the new releases should be able to achieve a 
level of success that is similar to the features already produced by Disney.  
this study was established in order to determine whether or not Disney 
movies follow the literary theory established by Vladimir Propp (1968). 
Propp established a structure of elements that comprise a Russian folk 
tale.  These elements are referred to as functions.  The functions take 
place in a  specific sequential order.  Although it is not necessary for a tale 
To have each of the stated functions, it is imperative that the present 
elements follow in the correct sequence.  Although it is not directly stated, 
Propp implies that this structure leads to the success of the tales (Propp, 
1968).   This raises the question of whether Disney's animated features 
also follow the structure identified by Propp.
    In order to accurately assess the structure of the films, the researcher 
took a sample of nine of Disney's animated features.  The sample spans 
from Disney's earliest releases to their most recent.  Additionally, it 
represents the various story types used by Disney.  In terms of this study, 
the movies are categorized as three types.  The first  types "Fairy Tales."  
the films represented here are Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, 
Cinderella, and Beauty and the Beast.   Peter Pan, Robin Hood, and 
Pocahantas are placed in the category of "Popular Stories and Legends".  
The final category, "Disney Creations" contains Dumbo, Bambi, and 
Lady and the Tramp. The films that are classified as "Fairy Tales" or 
Popular Stories and Legends" come from tales that are rooted into our 
culture.  They are well-known in both their original and Disney forms.  
The films categorized as "Disney Creations" are stories that are associated 
primarily with the Disney version of the story.  Although many of these 
plots originally came from other sources, the tales and characters involved 
are best known through the Disney interpretation.
    After the films were selected, they were viewed by the researcher 
several times.  This enabled the researcher to determine whether Propp's 
functions were present.  Once the functions were identified, they were 
analyzed to determine if  they are in the correct order.  Propp's  thirty-two 
functions are versatile enough that at least a few of them will appear in 
any given story.  The mere appearance of a few functions does not 
indicate that Propp's theory is applicable to the tale.   The researcher feels 
What if a feature contains approximately one-third of Propp's functions, it 
can be considered true to the theory.  Therefore, if a movie contains at 
least ten functions, all of which are in the proper order, it will be 
considered true to Propp's theory.
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.     
    "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs", which took its inspiration from 
the Grimm's fairy tale, was the first full-length animated feature in 
history.  The film was released on February 4, 1938 and became the 
second highest grossing picture of its time.  Snow White and the Seven 
dwarfs follows Propp's theory relatively closely.  Not all of the functions 
that are present, however, are in their proper order.
    The film begins with the exposition that Propp identifies (1968).  Here 
we learn that the princess Snow White is being raised by her evil step-
mother.  The vain queen, who is bitterly jealous of Snow White's beauty 
dresses the princess in rags and forces her to be the scullery maid.  
despite her hardships, Snow White remains kind and optimistic that her 
dreams will come true.  While getting water from the well, she meets a 
prince and instantly falls in love with him.  The queen, however, has 
learned from her magic mirror that Snow White's beauty surpasses her 
own.  She therefore orders one of her huntsmen to take Snow White out 
into a secluded place and kill her.  The huntsman is unable to do this.  
instead, he warns Snow White of the queen's plans (Snow White and the 
seven Dwarfs, 1937).
    After the exposition, the functions begin occurring.  The first function, 
which states that "One of the members of a family separates himself from 
home" (Propp, 1968,  p. 26) occurs when Snow White heeds the 
huntsman's warning and flees into the woods.  However, at this point, 
two functions occur out of their proper order.
    Once in the woods, Snow White finds shelter in the home of seven 
dwarfs.  Yet, at the castle, the queen learns from her magic mirror that 
Snow White is alive and is living with the dwarfs.  This occurrence is 
function five, "The villain receives information about his victim" (Propp, 
1969, p. 28).  The queen then fulfills function six, deceiving the victim in 
order to take possession of him or his belongings (Propp, 1969), by 
using her magic to disguise herself as an old beggar woman.
        At this point, the story goes back to functions two and three in 
which an interdiction is addressed and violated (Propp, 1969).  Before 
leaving for work, the dwarfs warn Snow White to be wary of strangers.  
Yet, when she meets her step-mother, disguised as an old
lady she trusts the woman and allows her into the cottage.
  The story now goes forward to function seven.  Snow White eats the 
poison apple that is offered to her by her step-mother and "submits to 
deception and thereby unwittingly helps her enemy" (Propp, 1968, p. 
10).  She then falls to the ground in the "sleeping death".  Function eight, 
the villain causes harm or injury to a member of the family" (Propp, 
1968, p.30) has occurred.
    Upon seeing Snow White's imminent danger, all of the woodland 
creatures that she had befriended run into the woods in order to find the 
dwarfs.  This is when the "misfortune or lack is made known" (Propp, 
1968, p. 36).  The dwarfs return to the cottage in a vain effort to protect 
Snow White and then chase the queen into the woods, fulfilling function 
ten, "the seeker agrees to or decides upon a counteraction" (Propp, 1968,  
p.38). "The hero and the villain  join in direct combat" (Propp, 1968, 
p.51) and finally, the dwarfs corner the queen on a ledge.  Lightning 
strikes and the queen falls to her death.  The villain has now been defeated 
according to Propp's eighteenth function (1968).
    To conclude the story, the prince, who won Snow White's heart in the 
beginning of the film returns and awakens her with love's first kiss.  The 
initial misfortune or lack is liquidated" (Propp, 1968, p. 53) according to 
the nineteenth function.  The dwarfs rejoice and the prince takes Snow 
White to his castle where they "live happily ever after".  The marriage and 
ascent to the throne fulfills the thirty-first, and final function. (Propp, 
    Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs follows Propp's structure 
relatively closely but not precisely.  It is true that many of the functions 
are present, however, because Propp stresses so vehemently the necessity 
for the functions to be in order, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs 
cannot be considered true to Propp's theory.
    The movie Dumbo was based on a book written by Helen Aberson and 
Harold Pearl.
It was Disney's third animated feature and was his shortest and least 
expensive.  This did not detract from its quality or popularity though.  
upon its release on October 31, 1941 (Maltin, 1973) Dumbo lifted the 
spirits of a nation on the brink of war.  The initial investment was doubled 
in box office grosses (Sinyard, 1988).
    Dumbo is a very difficult film to analyze in terms of Propp's theory.  
Dumbo, the elephant, is both the victim and the hero.  Furthermore, there 
is no actual villain.  While some antagonistic elephants make Dumbo's 
path harder, they really cannot be classified as villains.  The true villain in 
this feature is society.
    Dumbo is the story of a baby elephant.  His birth is a source of great 
celebration for the circus.  However, when it is discovered  that his ears 
are abnormally big, he faces cruel tormenting from the other elephants.  
only his mother, Mrs. Jumbo remains faithful to him.  One day, 
however, Dumbo is tortured by some insolent children.  Mrs. Jumbo 
attempts to defend her son, but things get out of control and Dumbo's 
mother is placed into solitary confinement (Dumbo, 1941).  This action is 
true to Propp's first function of a family member leaving home (Propp, 
    Dumbo is forced to become a clown.  Although the act is a hit, it  is a 
source of great shame for him.  The other elephants will not even 
acknowledge him as one of their own.   This could be considered Propp's 
function Eight-A, where a member of the family lacks 
and desires something (Propp, 1968).  Dumbo longs to have the feeling 
of acceptance which he lacks.    
    Although he feels completely alone, Dumbo soon finds an unlikely 
friend, Timothy Q. Mouse.  Together, Timothy and Dumbo discover that 
his enormous ears enable him to fly.  Dumbo's act is a success and soon 
he is the star of the circus.  Here we can say that the villainous society is 
defeated according to the eighteenth function. (Propp, 1941).  
    The final scene of the movie shows the circus train riding out of town.  
All of the elephants are singing Dumbo's praise and Mrs. Jumbo is 
traveling in Dumbo's private car with her son .  Dumbo's popularity and 
fame give him an almost royal position amongst the circus animal.  This 
can be interpreted as his ascent to the throne, Propp's thirty-first function 
    The story of Dumbo does have a few elements that can be considered 
to be Propp's functions.  They are, however few in number and their 
interpretations are often loose.   Therefore, the movie Dumbo is not 
considered true to Propp's theory.
    Bambi, which was released on August 21, 1942 was Disney's 
interpretation of a book by Felix Salten.  It is often considered to be one 
of Disney's most artistic and realistic works (Maltin, 1973).  One of Walt 
Disney's goals for the picture was to obtain a level of animation quality 
that surpassed anything previously accomplished.  Deer were brought into 
the studios and all of the artists involved attended classes on wildlife 
drawing in order to create the most realistic product (Sinyard, 1988).  The 
most striking realism in "Bambi", however, lies in the story.  For the first 
time, Disney bypassed magic spells and flying animals and opted for a 
different kind of enchantment.  They concentrated on the beauty and the 
pain of nature.
     Bambi did not do as well in the box-office as Disney had hoped.  The 
country was at war and Bambi proved to be a little too realistic for some.  
It still performed well though.  The investment was more than made up 
for and subsequent re-releases proved to be enormously successful.
    Bambi is another film that is very difficult to view in terms of Propp's 
theory because of its character set-up.  It is similar to Dumbo in that there 
is no direct villain.  Instead, the spirit of man, and the devastation they 
bring to wildlife haunt the movie.  The character of Bambi is both the 
victim and the hero (Bambi, 1942).
    The film opens with news of Bambi's birth spreading throughout the 
forest.  All of the creatures in the forest go to meet the "young prince".  
Bambi is raised by his mother.  His father, the Great Prince of the Forest, 
watches over him from a distance.  Bambi's father's absence fulfills the 
first function on Propp's theory, a family member absents himself 
(Propp, 1968).  With the help of his mother and his two friends, 
Thumper and Flower, Bambi learns about the wonders of nature.   One 
day, when Bambi is old enough, his mother brings him to play in the 
meadow. It is beautiful, and the young deer has a wonderful time 
frolicking and playing .  
  The fun is short lived though.  Panic suddenly ensues.  Man has entered 
the forest.  Bambi and his mother flee into the woods with the rest of the 
This hunt can be considered Propp's fourth function, "The villain makes 
an attempt at reconnaissance" (Propp, 1968, p.28).  Bambi and his 
mother escape.  Winter arrives and the Bambi learns more of the 
hardships of life.  Food is scarce and he is cold.  
    Finally, spring comes once more to the forest.  But, with the warm 
weather and fresh grass come the hunters.  Once again, Bambi and his 
mother are pursed and this time his mother is fatally shot.  The villain has 
caused harm to a member of the family according to the eighth function 
(Propp, 1968).  At this point Bambi's father comes to protect and care 
for his young son and Bambi learns that he is the son of the Great Prince 
of the Forest.
   Bambi and his friends continue growing up.  Together they learn about 
first loves as each of them becomes "twitterpated".  Bambi falls in love 
with his childhood friend Faline.  This represents Propp's eleventh 
function, "the hero leaves home"(Propp, 1968, p.39).
    Once again, though, man enters the forest and leaves disaster in his 
wake.  This time, a forest fire is started.   Bambi saves Faline, but nearly 
dies from his own wounds.  This represents Propp's seventeenth 
function, "the hero is branded" (Propp, 1968, p.52)  Once again, his 
father appears in Bambi's hour of need.  The Great Prince encourages 
Bambi to safety.
    Bambi and Faline are reunited, and the film ends as it began.  The 
animals in the forest hear news of the new prince's birth.  They hurry to 
the forest clearing to find Faline with Bambi's twin fawns.  Watching 
from the ledge overlooking the forest are Bambi and his father.  Bambi's 
father steps down from the ledge. Bambi  is left as the new Great Prince 
of the Forest.   The continuing cycle of nature has finally come full circle.   
Propp's thirty-first function is also realized as Bambi is married and 
ascends to the throne (Propp, 1968).
    Bambi contains several of Propp's functions.  Although many of them 
are more symbolic than literal, they still follow Propp's theory nicely.  
unfortunately, though, there are not enough functions present to 
determine that Bambi's structure is consistent with Propp's theory.
    Cinderella was released on March 4, 1950 (Maltin, 1973) and 
immediately met with public acclaim.  Many of the children who were 
first introduced to Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs thirteen years 
earlier could now share Cinderella with their own children.  In fact, 
Cinderella grossed more money than any Disney movie up to that time 
except for Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.  The adaptation was filled 
with "the tradition Disney ingredients - a basic fairy-tale fantasy, a coating 
of music and magic, an infusion of comedy and charm"(Sinyard, 1989, 
p.64) and the audiences loved it.  In fact, 1950,  was dubbed "our 
Cinderella year" by Roy Disney (Sinyard, 1989).  It was not only a literal 
comment, but it also represented the art, magic, and prosperity that 
Cinderella brought to the Disney Studios.
    In terms of Propp's theory, Cinderella is almost a perfect model.  
however, two of the functions appear out of their sequential order.
    The film begins with the expositional period identified by Propp 
(1968).  Cinderella was raised by her kind and devoted father after her 
mother's death.  Still, though, he felt that Cinderella needed a mother's 
care so he married again.  The new wife was from a good family and had 
two daughter's who were Cinderella's age.  Upon the untimely death of 
Cinderella's father, Propp's first function (Propp, 1968), the step-
mother's greedy nature became apparent.  She squandered the family's 
money and forced Cinderella to become a servant in her own home 
(Cinderella, 1950).  This servitude fulfills the eighth function, where a 
member of the family is harmed (Propp, 1968). Yet Cinderella remained 
gracious and loving and confident that her dreams of happiness would 
one day come true.
    The actual story begins with Cinderella waking up to a new day.  With 
the help of her friends, a menagerie of mice and birds, she gets dressed.  
When it is time for her to begin her chores for the day.  Cinderella goes 
downstairs in order to prepare breakfast for the family.
    While doing her duties for the day, Cinderella receives a message for 
the family.  She brings it to her step-mother.  It is revealed that a royal 
call is being planned for the evening, and by the king's order, every 
eligible maid in the kingdom is to attend.  The king is on a quest for a 
suitable wife for his son.
   Cinderella desperately wants to attend the ball and meet the prince.  
Propp established that desire as function Eight-A (1968).  Her step-
mother says that she may go, but only if she finishes her chores and has a 
suitable dress to wear.  Cinderella goes to her room to fix her dress, but 
the cruel step-mother and step-sisters give Cinderella an unbelievable 
number of chores, to prevent her from finishing on time.  Cinderella's 
animal friends recognize what the step-mother is up to and know that 
Cinderella will not be able to attend the ball.  This is where "the 
misfortune or lack is made known" (Propp, 1968).  To show their love 
for Cinderella, the animals decide to make the dress themselves.   When 
the dejected and disappointed Cinderella goes to her room, she sees the 
beautiful gown waiting for her.  Elated, she runs downstairs to attend the 
call with her family.  As soon as the step-sisters see Cinderella, they 
become bitterly jealous of her beauty.  They both attack her and ruin her 
dress, while the step-mother simply watches.  When the damage is done, 
the family leaves for the ball, leaving a crushed Cinderella behind.  This 
attack, however, has prepared the way for Cinderella to receive a magical 
agent, and represents Propp's function twelve (1968).
    Cinderella runs to the garden crying hysterically.  She collapses on the 
ground and sobs with her head on a bench. Suddenly, twinkle of light 
begin sparkling and a person appears on the bench with Cinderella's head 
in her lap.  The woman tries to comfort her, but Cinderella insists that 
there is nothing left to believe in.  The woman responds that if all hope 
were lost, she would not have been able to appear.  Cinderella realizes 
that this is her fairy godmother and thereby "reacts to the actions of the 
future donor" (Propp, 1968, p.42).   Cinderella then "acquires the use of 
 magical agent" (Propp, 1968, p.43) when the fairy godmother begins 
casting her spells.  A pumpkin is turned into a coach; the mice become 
horses; and Cinderella is dressed in as a lovely gown.  The fairy 
godmother warns Cinderella that the spell will break at the stroke of 
midnight. This warning represents the second function (Propp, 1968) and 
is therefore out of order.  Then Cinderella gets into the coach and is 
transferred...to the whereabouts of the object of  a search" (Propp, 
1968, p.50).  This is transferal represents Propp's fourteenth function 
    Cinderella goes to the ball and meets the prince.  The two fall in love 
instantly, although they are unaware of the other's identities.  The night 
flies away and Cinderella is unaware of the time.  By ignoring the 
warning and losing track of the time, Cinderella fulfills the third function 
(Propp, 1968).  This is the second function to appear out of order.  
suddenly, the clock begins to chime midnight.  Cinderella remembers that 
the spell is about to end and flees away.  In her hurry, she loses one of 
her glass slippers.  As Cinderella speeds away in her coach, the final 
strike of midnight occurs and the spell ends.  However, one of 
Cinderella's glass slippers remains with her.  The slipper is proof of the 
evening, and therefore acts as a brand given to the hero.  This represents 
the seventeenth function (Propp, 1968).
    The next day there is news of a royal proclamation.  The prince has 
fallen in love with the maid in the glass slipper.  An order has been given 
that every maid must try on the slipper and the prince will marry the girl 
whose foot fits.  Cinderella is elated by the news and the queen realizes 
that Cinderella was the mysterious girl at the ball.
    In order to prevent Cinderella's discovery, the step-mother locks 
Cinderella in her room.  This difficult task that is proposed to the her 
represents the twenty-fifth function (Propp, 1968).  Yet, Cinderella's 
animal friends refuse to see Cinderella denied the opportunity to try on the 
slipper.  They work together, with Cinderella's guidance to steal the key, 
eliminate the obstacles, and free Cinderella. "The task is resolved" and the 
twenty-sixth function has taken place (Propp, 1968, p. 62).
    Just as the royal visitors are about to leave, Cinderella runs downstairs 
and asks to try on the slipper shoe.  The step-mother, in a final act of 
desperation, trips the man who holds the glass slipper.  He falls and the 
glass shatters. Cinderella then shows them the slipper's mate.  She is 
recognized as the prince's love and Propp's twenty-seventh function is 
fulfilled (1968).
    Cinderella is taken to the palace and marries the prince.  The final 
Propp functions in the movie, "the hero is given a new appearance" 
(Propp, 1968, p. 62) and "the hero is married and ascends the 
throne"(Propp, 1968, p.63) take place.
    Sixteen Propp function are apparent in Cinderella.  However, two of 
these functions appear out of their proper order.  Therefore, it cannot be 
determined that Cinderella follows Propp's theory.
Peter Pan
  Peter Pan was released on February 5, 1953 after over a decade of 
contemplation and ideas.  Disney had long wanted to create a Peter Pan.  
the story of the boy who would never grow up seemed particularly 
applicable to the company that could bring out the child in every adult. 
Yet, because the story, based on the famous play by James Barrie, was so 
well known, Walt Disney was worried that any changes he made would 
not be accepted by audiences.  He also feared that his interpretation would 
not be the definitive version of the tale (Maltin, 1973).
  Despite his fears, Disney went ahead with the production, and a 
evolutionary version of the classic tale was the result.  The Disney Peter 
Pan was the first version that gave the pixie, Tinker Bell, a human form.  
previously, she had just been a beam of light. It was also the first to 
actually show the crocodile.  In previous interpretations, his presence was 
only known by the ticking of a clock, which is said to be in his stomach. 
the biggest, and riskiest, change that Disney made on the tale was the 
elimination of Peter Pan's plea to the audience to clap their hands in order 
to save Tinker Bell's life (Bailey, 1984).
    While it is impossible to say that Disney's Peter Pan is the definitive 
version of the story, it is unquestionable that the movie was a success. 
Peter Pan was one of Disney's highest grossing pictures of all time 
Maltin, 1973).  The pixie, Tinker Bell, became an icon for the Disney 
enterprise (Bailey, 1984), and the Magic Kingdom ride, "The Adventures 
of Peter Pan" is one of the most popular attractions in the park.
    Peter Pan begins in London, in the home of the Darling family.  The 
children, Wendy, John, and Michael are getting ready for bed. The boys 
are acting out the adventures of Peter Pan, who is the hero of all of 
Wendy's bedtime stories.  The telling of these tales represents Propp's 
exposition (Propp, 1968). Mr. and Mrs. Darling are preparing to go out 
for the night. Before they leave, Mr. Darling announces that Wendy is 
now old enough to have her own room and that night will be her last in 
the nursery. The children are devastated, but Mr. Darling is insistent.  He 
and Mrs. Darling then leave for the night (Peter Pan, 1951).  Family 
members have now left home, and Propp's first function has occurred 
(Propp, 1968).
    Soon, a strange form becomes apparent in the darkness.  It is Peter 
Pan, who has come to retrieve his lost shadow.  He is accompanied by 
the pixie, Tinker Bell.  Wendy, who had found the shadow earlier, was 
expecting him.  Peter tells Wendy that in his home, Never Land, children 
never grow up. He invites Wendy to join him there.  Fueled by her desire 
to stay young, and consistent with Propp's function Eight-A (1968), 
Wendy agrees to join him. The possessive Tinker Bell, however, is 
    Wendy wakes her brothers, and the three children "acquire the use of a 
magical agent"(Propp, 1968, p.43) when sprinkled with pixie dust. They 
can now fly, and they take off for Never Land with Peter Pan and Tinker 
    The children have many adventures in Never Land.  They meet 
mermaids, have battles with Indians, and go on exciting explorations. 
nothing is more exciting, though, than the encounters with Peter Pan's 
rival, Captain Hook.
   Captain Hook kidnaps Wendy, her brother, and Peter Pan's tribe, the 
Lost Boys.  Peter saves them, and engages in "direct combat"(Propp, 
1968, p.51) with Captain Hook. "The villain is defeated" (Propp, 1968, 
p.53) and the children are free. Captain Hook flees into the distance with 
 hungry crocodile in pursuit, and Peter and his friends take control of 
Captain Hook's pirate ship.
    Wendy, John, and Michael begin to feel homesick. Peter and the Lost 
Boys agree to take them home.  Tinker Bell covers the ship with golden 
pixie dust, and the shimmering boat flies the children back to London.
Disney and Propp 16
    Once the children are safely home, Wendy tells her parents about their 
adventures in Never Land.  She then announces that she is ready to grow 
up.  As Wendy and her parents look out the window at the clouds, 
Wendy points out Peter's ship to her parents.  Her father looks thoughtful 
and then comments that the ship looks familiar to him; from a very long 
time ago.  It is a reminder that a child lives within the heart of every adult.
    Similar to several of Disney's films, Peter Pan contains several of 
Propp's functions.  However, there are not enough to consider it true to 
Propp's theory.
Lady and the Tramp
    Lady and the Tramp was released in July of 1955 (Maltin, 1973).  The 
inspiration for the tale came from a combination of Walt Disney's 
imagination and a story by Ward Greene.  Walt Disney began toying with 
the idea of a picture about a high class cocker spaniel.  He then found 
Greene's story " about a dog with a much coarser temperance and 
pedigree" ( Sinyard, 1988, p.82).  Disney encouraged Greene to write a 
tale in which the two dogs came together.  'Happy Dan, the Whistling 
dog and Miss Patsy, the Beautiful Spaniel' was the result.  The product 
was revised and dropped several times before it finally emerged as Lady 
and the Tramp.  Greene, as well as many others, had reservations about 
the title.  Disney, however over-rode the objections.  The movie, after all, 
was his brainchild (Sinyard, 1988).
    Critical reactions to Lady and the Tramp were mixed.  The public, 
however, made the film a substantial success. In fact, Lady and the 
Tramp is one of Disney's only works that almost posses a greater appeal 
to its older audiences (Maltin, 1973).  
    Perhaps surprisingly, Lady and the Tramp follows Propp's theory 
quite well.  The story begins on Christmas at the turn of the century.  Jim 
Dear gives his wife, Darling a cocker spaniel puppy as a gift.  The puppy 
is named 'Lady'.  As she grows, the attachment between Lady and her 
owners is apparent.  One day, however, Lady cannot understand Jim 
Dear and Darling's strange behavior.  Jock and Trusty, the neighborhood 
dogs, explain to Lady that Darling is expecting a baby.  They tell her that 
having a baby around will be wonderful. At this point, a mongrel named 
Tramp arrives on the scene.  He tells Lady about terrible things that will 
happen once the baby is born.  Jock and Trusty insist that he leaves (Lady 
and the Tramp, 1955).
    The baby's birth is a source of great happiness for Lady.  She watches 
over and protects the child. However, when Jim Dear and Darling leave 
for a trip, problems begin occurring.  This is consistent with Propp's 
function, a family member leaves home (1968).  Jim Dear's Aunt Sarah 
comes to watch the baby in their absence.  With her are her two cats Si 
and Am.  The cats cause havoc in the house, however all of the blame is 
laced on Lady.
      Aunt Sarah takes the dog out and puts a muzzle on her.  This is 
representative of  the interdiction, which can be through the use of a 
stronghold, being addressed to the hero (Propp, 1968).  A panicked Lady 
flees out into the streets.
    Soon Lady finds herself on the wrong side of town. To her relief, 
Tramp finds her and saves her from some menacing dogs.  Tramp then 
takes Lady to the zoo.  There they find a beaver who bites Lady's muzzle 
off of her face.  The interdiction has been violated (Propp, 1968).
    Lady now has new feelings towards Tramp.  She spends the rest of 
the day with him and learns about his world.  They share a romantic 
dinner and a moonlight walk in the park.  At this point, Lady had left 
home according to Propp's eleventh function (1968). All seems well 
between Lady and Tramp.
    Morning comes, and the spell is broken.  While following Tramp on 
one of his adventures, Lady nearly gets killed.  As the two dogs run away 
from the danger, Lady gets caught by the dog-catcher.  Tramp is unaware 
of her capture and continues running to safety.
    While in the dog pound, Lady meets several dogs who are friends with 
Tramp.  She also hears about Tramp's history with the women.  Lady 
feels humiliated, scared, and used.
    Aunt Sarah retrieves Lady from the pound and punishes her by tying 
the dog to her doghouse.  Lady is embarrassed and miserable.  Even her 
friends, Jock and Trusty are unable to console her.  Tramp then appears 
on the scene. Lady argues with him and the dejected Tramp leaves.
    Lady is left alone with her unhappiness.  Suddenly, she notices a rat 
sneaking across the yard.  Lady tries to attack, but she is chained to her 
house.  The rat climbs through the window and enters the baby's room.  
Lady begins to bark frantically, and Tramp comes to her aid.  Lady tells 
him what has happened and Tramp runs to the baby's room in order to 
    Once in the room, Tramp and the rat "join in direct combat" according 
to the sixteenth function (Propp, 1968, p.51). Although Tramp is 
founded, Propp's seventeenth function (Propp, 1968), he succeeds in 
killing the rat.  This fulfills the eighteenth function (Propp, 1968).  
unfortunately, while attacking the rat, Tramp accidentally knocks over the 
baby's crib.  Aunt Sarah sees Tramp and assumes that he attacked the 
baby.  She chases Tramp, forces him into a closet, and calls the dog 
pound.  Here, Propp's twenty-first function, "The hero is pursued" 
(Propp, 1968, p. 56) occurs.  The dog catcher comes and takes Tramp 
away, announcing that they have been after him for a while.
    Jim Dear and Darling return home shortly after. Aunt Sarah tells them 
that has been going on.  Lady begins barking in an attempt to show them 
the rat.  Aunt Sarah insists that Lady is going to hurt the baby, but Jim 
Dear knows differently.  He releases Lady, who runs upstairs.  The 
family follow her, and the rat is discovered.
    Jock and Trusty overhear that a rat has been found.  They realize that 
Tramp has been wronged and the are determined to save him.  They 
follow Tramp's scent until they find the dog-catcher's carriage.  The two 
dogs run around the carriage until it is stopped and Tramp is released.  
Tramp is rescued according to the twenty-second function (Propp, 1968).
    Jim Dear and Darling take Tramp home and buy him a collar and 
license of his own. This symbolizes respectability in the dog community. 
It also indicates that he is now part of the family. The twenty-ninth 
function, "The hero is given a new appearance" (Propp, 1968, p. 62) has 
occurred.  He and Lady "marry" (Propp, 1968, p. 63) and have puppies 
of their own .
    Lady and the Tramp contains eleven of Propp's functions in their 
proper order.  Therefore, the structure of the movie is consistent with 
Propp's theory.
Robin Hood
    Robin Hood, which was released in 1973, was the first Disney 
animated feature that Walt Disney had no part in creating.  Although The 
aristocats, which was released in 1970, came after his death on December 
15, 1966, Walt Disney had already given the go-ahead for it on the basis 
of some of sketches.  Robin Hood, however, was entirely the brainchild 
of Ken Anderson, one of Disney's most experienced art directors 
(Sinyard, 1988).
    Robin Hood was a very popular movie. Audiences were afraid that the 
quality of Disney films would diminish greatly after Walt Disney's death. 
however, Robin Hood  was an indication that the art would continue, 
even after the death of the master.  The combination of humor and 
adventure made the film popular with both the younger and older 
audiences (Bailey, 1984).  
    Robin Hood takes place in England.  Good King Richard is away on 
the crusades, and his younger brother, Prince John is left in charge of the 
kingdom.  Propp's first 
function has therefore occurred. A family member has absented himself 
(Propp, 1968).  The greedy prince cruelly over taxes the poor people of 
Nottingham.  Fortunately, for the populace,  the rogue Robin Hood 
decides to intervene.  Robin, assisted by his friend, Little John, makes it 
his duty to steal money from the government and return it to the people 
(Robin Hood, 1973).
    Prince John is outraged.  A warrant is issued for Robin Hood's arrest.  
This, however, does not deter him.  Robin Hood and Prince John 
continue stealing from the rich to feed the poor.  The warrant, and Robin 
Hood's dismissal of it, represent the interdiction that is issued and 
violated according to Propp's second and third functions (Propp, 1968).
   In an attempt to capture Robin Hood, Prince John holds an archery 
tournament.  The prizes that will be awarded to the winner include a 
golden arrow and a kiss from Maid Marian, Robin Hood's childhood 
sweetheart.  John is aware that Robin Hood, a champion
archer, will be lured into attending.  This constitutes function six, in 
which the villain attempts to deceive his victim (Propp, 1968).
    Robin Hood goes to the tournament in disguise.  His arrival fulfills 
function, seven in which the victim submits to the deception and 
unwittingly helps the villain (Propp, 1968)
Prince John discovers him and orders his death.
    Little John intervenes and Robin Hood escapes from his chains.  He 
then battles with Prince John and his troops.  The conflict represents 
Propp's sixteenth function (Propp, 1968).  Prince John is defeated 
according to the eighteenth function (Propp, 1968) and Robin Hood and 
his friends escape into Sherwood Forest.
    Prince John does not react well to his defeat.  In retribution for his 
humiliation, taxes are continuously raised higher.  Those who cannot pay 
are imprisoned.  Although the taxes keep coming in and many members 
of the town are imprisoned, Prince John is still unhappy.  He desires 
revenge on Robin Hood.
   The imprisonment of Friar Tuck is a source of great satisfaction for the 
Prince.  He orders the execution of the friar, knowing that Robin Hood 
will attempt to save him.  True to Prince John's predictions, Robin Hood 
and Little John initiate a jailbreak.  While the prince and sheriff sleep, all 
of the prisoners escape from jail. Robin Hood breaks into the royal 
treasury and steals back the people's money.  This represents the difficult 
task proposed to the hero in Propp's twenty-fifth function and the 
completion of the task in the twenty-sixth function (Propp, 1968).  
although he is nearly killed, Robin Hood successfully escapes from the 
    Thankfully, King Richard returns from the crusades.  He pardons 
Pobin Hood, thereby giving him the new appearance stated in the twenty-
ninth function (Propp, 1968).  Prince John and his aides are imprisoned 
according to the thirtieth function (Propp, 1968) and Robin Hood and 
Maid Marian are married, function thirty-one (Propp, 1968).  The irony is 
stated that King Richard now has an outlaw for an in-law.
  Twelve of Propp's functions are apparent in Robin Hood.  
additionally, all functions are in order.  Robin Hood is considered true to 
Propp's theory.
Beauty and the Beast
    Beauty and the Beast, which was released in 1991, is often considered 
to be one of Disney's finest creations.  With the assistance of computers, 
the animators were able to achieve a level of picture quality that surpassed 
anything previously accomplished. Furthermore, the soundtrack won 
Academy Awards, and the picture itself was the first animated feature ever 
to be nominated for "Best Picture" (Disney Animation Tour, 1996).
    Beauty and the Beast, which took its inspiration from the French tale, 
tells the story of a beautiful girl named Belle.  Although Belle is the most 
attractive girl in the village, she is an outsider.  The provincial 
townspeople do not understand her love for literature and her dreams of 
adventures.  Only Belle's father, the eccentric inventor, understands her .
   Although their interests are vastly different, the vain Gaston seeks 
Belle's hand in marriage. He is determined to win over Belle solely 
because of her looks.  Belle is not interested and she rejects his proposal. 
Gaston vows to win Belle's affections.  This part of the film represents 
the expositional period (Propp, 1968).
    Propp's first function occurs when Belle's father, Maurice, takes his 
invention to the fair in another town (Propp, 1968). Belle is left alone to 
contend with the determined Gaston. While traveling, Maurice becomes 
lost in the woods.  Wolves chase him into the courtyard of a castle.  His 
horse, Phillepe escapes and flees into the darkness.
    Maurice ventures into the castle and discovers that it is ruled by a 
monstrous beast.  The beast throws Maurice into the dungeon for 
trespassing.  It is learned that the Beast was once a handsome, yet selfish 
Prince.  Because of his cruelty, a spell was cast on him and all those who 
lived in his castle.  If the Beast does not learn to love, and earn someone's 
love in return, by his twenty-first birthday, he will remain a beast forever. 
    Phillepe returns home without Maurice.  Belle realizes that something 
has happened to her father and she sets out to find him. These actions are 
Propp's ninth and eleventh functions, in which the misfortune is made 
known and the hero leaves home in order to correct the problem(Propp, 
    Phillepe leads Belle to the whereabouts of her search (Propp, 1968) 
and she discovers her father.  In order to save her father, Belle sacrifices 
her freedom for his.  Maurice attempts to argue, but the Beast throws him 
into a carriage and sends him home before the father and daughter can 
exchange farewells.
    Belle is heartbroken. The Beast is touched by the fact that Belle has 
given up her freedom for her father and he offers her better 
accommodations. Although he attempts to be a gentleman, his temper 
soon gets the best of him.  Belle flees from the castle and is 
attacked by wolves.  The Beast appears and saves Belle.  He is gravely 
wounded from the encounter.  Belle takes him home and nurses his 
injuries.  This begins the friendship between Belle and the Beast.
    Belle and the Beast continue to grow closer.  They share special 
moments and begin to understand each other.  At a formal dinner, in 
which the beast prepares to admit his love for Belle, he notices that Belle 
looks sad.  Upon questioning her, he discovers that Belle misses her 
rather deeply.  Because he loves her, he releases her and allows her to 
return home according to Propp's twentieth function (1968).
    Belle does not return home alone, though.  She is unknowingly 
pursued" (Propp, 1968, p. 56) by Chip, one of the castle's inhabitants.
    Belle intends to return to the castle, however, Gaston learns of her 
relationship with the Beast.  He traps Belle and Maurice in their basement 
and then starts a mob against the Beast.  This represents function twenty-
four, "A false hero presents unfounded claims" (Propp, 1968, p.60). 
Belle and Maurice escape, however, the mob has already left for the 
    Gaston and his mob attack the castle.  Most of the men are frightened 
by the enchanted objects in the castle. Gaston, however, remains 
determined to hunt down the Beast and kill him.  Finally, Gaston locates 
the Beast in the West Wing.  He attacks, yet the Beast does not fight 
back.  He is too heartbroken over the loss of Belle.  Then, the Beast looks 
out of his window and sees Belle coming to help.  His faith and strength 
are restored and he battles with Gaston.  This is the difficult task that is 
proposed to the hero (Propp, 1968).  The Beast has Gaston at a 
disadvantage, yet when the opportunity comes, the Beast spares his life.  
Gaston is told to leave the castle and never return.  The Beast turns to 
Belle, but when he back is turned, Gaston attacks. Gaston then falls to his 
death, but not before he mortally wounds the Beast.  Gaston's death 
brings about the resolution to the task (Propp, 1968).
    Belle is at the Beast's side as he dies.  She admits that she loves him 
and cries on her 
chest.  Suddenly, the Beast is transformed back into the prince.  His new 
appearance fulfills the twenty-ninth function(Propp, 1968).  He and Belle 
are "married and ascend the throne" (Propp, 1968, p.63)
    Beauty and the Beast is true to Propp's theory.  Eleven functions are 
apparent and they all follow in the proper order.
    Pocahantas is Disney's most recent release.  It tells the legendary story 
of the Native American girl and British explorer who are able to prevent a 
war through their love and understanding. It also sends a powerful 
message on the dangers of  prejudice.
    The story takes place in the Virginia settlement of Jamestown.  The 
British have arrived to claim the land in the name of the king.  They also 
plan to dig up vast gold and riches. One of the members of the crew is the 
famous, John Smith.  Smith has been on dozens of expeditions, and has 
earned the reputation of being a powerful Indian killer.  He plans to find 
adventures and riches in the New World (Pocahantas, 1995).
    In contrast to the British explorers, the Native Americans of Virginia 
live simply.  They are in touch with the land and the spirit of nature.  
Pocahantas, the daughter of the chief, lives happily amounts them, yet, 
he yearns for adventure. This desire is Propp's function Eight-A.  Her 
father informs her that she is to be married to the great warrior, Kokoum.  
Pocahantas, however, feels that her future will lead her in a different 
direction.  She confides to Grandmother Willow, a tree who is alive with 
the spirit of nature, that she has been having a recurring dream with 
spinning arrows.  She believes that those arrows will point her to her 
    John Smith and Pocahantas meet.  They become friends, and soon that 
friendship develops into something more.  However, their two cultures 
are highly suspicious of one another.  Their love is therefore forbidden.  
both Pocahantas and John Smith realize that they cannot be together until 
their respective sides can form a truce.
    At the British settlement, the evil Governor Radcliff attempts to keep 
control over his men by telling them untruths about the Native Americans.  
He continues with his lies until a great hatred is built toward the natives.  
this represents Propp's fourteenth function, "A false hero presents 
unfounded claims" (Propp, 1968, p.60)
    One night, when John Smith sneaks off to meet Pocahantas, he is 
followed by Thomas, a young British explorer.  Pocahantas is followed 
by Kokoum.  When Pocahantas and John Smith embrace, Kokoum leaps 
from the bushes and attacks Smith.  In order to protect Smith, Thomas 
fires his gun and kills the Indian warrior.
     John Smith is taken prisoner and is scheduled to be executed.  
Pocahantas knows that if Smith is killed, it will lead to a great war.  Many 
will be killed on both sides.  Pocahantas knows that she must stop the 
execution, and subsequently prevent the battle.  This is representative of 
the difficult task that is proposed to the hero (Propp, 1968).  As her father 
is about to kill Smith, Pocahantas throws herself on his body.  Here the 
chief recognizes her strength and wisdom.  He refuses to contribute to 
anymore bloodshed.  The British also lower their weapons.  The task is 
resolved and function twenty-six occurs (Propp, 1968).
   Radcliff, however, wants the battle to continue.  He aims his gun at the 
Indian chief.  Smith sees this and pushes him out of the way.  Smith is 
shot, instead.  This branding represents Propp's seventeen function 
(Propp, 1968).
    The British capture Radcliff and "the villain is punished" (Propp, 
1968, p.63).  He is brought back to England in chains.
    Because of his wounds, Smith must also return to England. This 
represents the hero's return home in function twenty (Propp, 1995)  He 
asks Pocahantas to join him, but she declines.  Pocahantas knows that she 
just take her place among her own people.  As the ship sails of into the 
distance, Pocahantas watches it go.  She knows that her life has been 
permanently affected by Smith and that she will never forget him. 
   The functions of Propp that are represented in Pocahantas are few.  
They are also drastically out of order.  Therefore, "Pocahantas" does not 
accurately represent Propp's theory.

Discussion and Conclusions
     Although a great many of Propp's functions appear in Disney films, it 
does not appear that a majority of the features actually follow Propp's 
theory closely.  Over half of the sampled movies are not considered true 
to theory.
    This study has shown that "Fairy Tales" tend to posses the greatest 
number of Propp's functions, however these functions are not always in 
order.  In two of the three fairy tales that were analyzed, the functions 
appeared out of their sequential order.  Therefore, they were not 
considered true to Propp's theory.  Not only fairy tales contained a 
significant amount of functions.   Both a "Legend" and a "Disney 
creation" contained enough of Propp's functions, in order, to be 
considered accurate to Propp's theory.
    Therefore, it seems that the movie's type is irrelevant to whether or not 
the plot follows Propp's theory.  Additionally, the year of release also 
seems immaterial.  The only pertinency is the material within the film 
itself.  Comparing one film to another is pointless.
    This study has not proven that the success of Disney's films can be 
attributed to the structure established by Vladimir Propp.  This does not 
mean, however, that Disney movies do not follow a particular structure.  
it is entirely possible that the films do follow a uniform structure that is 
different from the one analyzed here.  Later studies can possibly re-
analyze Disney's films in order to find a different pattern.
    This researcher feels, however, that such a search would be futile.  
the data that have been found in this study do not point to such a pattern.  
in fact, the diversity of the films leads the researcher to feel that no pattern 
could possibly exist.
    A  more worthwhile project could possibly be to analyze other reasons 
for the success of the films. The music, animation, and characters could 
be more closely analyzed.  Public relations and advertising skills of the 
Disney company  could also be explored. 
   After experiencing the Disney movies multiple times and analyzing their 
contents, this researcher strongly feels that a singular reason for the 
success of Disney animation will never be pinpointed.  Instead, the 
success comes from a combination of all of the  discussed elements.  
Most importantly, though, the success comes from a feeling that 
encompasses the audience of a Disney animated feature.  This feeling was 
summed up by Leonard Maltin.  He wrote, "But most of all the film 
exudes a feeling of joy, a radiant glow of happiness that is so persuasive 
what, at the end of the film, you're ready to believe that somewhere in this 
world there must be happy endings such as this-they've just got to be 
real" (1973).  Maltin was describing "Snow White and the Seven 
dwarfs", but that description could be applicable to so many of Disney's 
animated features.  It is this feeling of joy and magic that has kept Disney 
animation alive over the decades.  The researcher also has no doubt that 
Disney's future releases, including "The Hunchback of Notre Dame" in 
the summer of 1996, will continue the tradition of excellence that was 
started by Walt Disney so many years ago.

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