Magic mirror on the wall, is Walt the author of them all? Walt Disney as a posthumous author
Disney Brothers Cartoon Studio was founded in 1923 by brothers Roy and Walt Disney, and although it has undergone many changes over its nearly 100-year transformation into the media conglomerate The Walt Disney Company, animation still remains an important part of its business. The influence Walt Disney had as a producer on his studio’s early films has resulted in some theorists considering him to be their author using auteur theory, which is most frequently applied to live-action film directors. The use of Disney’s name in the branding of these films has also been used to construct him as an auteur during his lifetime, with it also noted that this is as equally applicable to the films released after his death in 1966. However, rarely in literature has the continued influence of Walt Disney on the feature-length animated films released by his studio after his death been investigated beyond the use of his name in their branding. Consequently, this thesis will use auteur theory in combination with other film studies approaches to explore Walt Disney as a posthumous author of Robin Hood (1973), The Lion King (1994), Atlantis: The Lost Empire (2001) and Frozen II (2019). By looking at the production of these films and their contents, including their story, animation, music, production design and use of technology, it will be shown the filmmaking practices shaped by Walt Disney during his lifetime have been adhered to in various ways by Walt Disney Animation Studios after 1966. As a result, a new framework for posthumous authorship in film will be proposed which suggests the adherence to a filmmaker’s approach after they have died situates them as a posthumous auteur, having implications for current conceptions of posthumous authorship in cinema as the completion of a film after its originator has died.