Date of Award


Document Type

Undergraduate Honors Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts (BA)



Advisor/Committee Chair

Mitch Aso

Committee Member

Kori Graves


The 1950s was a revolutionary period for American youth culture. The Walt Disney Company played an important role in forming and conveying a new image and set of ideals associated with childhood. My paper examines the Disney Company’s messages about growing up, in particular, the gendered expectations surrounding love that revolutionized the way Americans viewed family life. For both ideological and business reasons, Disney promoted an idealized concept of the nuclear family to children. My paper pays close attention to the conversation occurring between Disney and the American public by analyzing both 1950s Disney storylines, disseminated in multiple mediums such as movies, toys, and books, and the public’s reactions to them. My paper presents its findings in three main sections: parenting, growing up, and building a family. In each section, I look at the marketing strategies and public’s reactions. Previous scholarship about Disney has tended to focus only on Disney movies. By comparing multiple media for their message, my paper allows for a greater understanding of the reciprocal impact of Disney and the American public. And, as anyone with children, or who was one in the twenty-first century knows, the conversation between Disney and the American public is still going strong.

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