The Academy of Management has published a new study that finds an overwhelming number of animated Disney movies portray managers, leaders, and everyday work life in a negative way.

The authors believe the influence of Disney films likely shapes the way children view the working world long before they enter the workforce.

The study published by the Academy of Management Learning & Education, "Organizational Readiness: Culturally Mediated Learning Through Disney Animation," was conducted by professors Martyn Griffin of Leeds University, Mark Learmonth of Durham University, and Nick Piper of Leeds University.

Drawing from the findings, the coauthors conclude Disney animations are likely to significantly shape children's learning about organizations.

Negative Themes

An overwhelming number of the films carried several negative workplace-related themes.

The study authors believe these themes can drive young employees, especially in their first jobs, to have negative ideas about the workplace.

Disney animated films, have created negative views about workplace managers among generations of children for nearly 80 years.
They analyzed 56 feature-length animated films, from "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" in 1937 to "Moana" in 2016 and identified which workplace-related themes were portrayed by each film. The themes included:

  • Subjection to dangerous, dirty, or unfulfilling work
  • Manipulation and/or deception by managers or overseers
  • Staying positive in the face of adversity and abuse
  • Being rescued and returned to a non-working environment
  • Leaving unrewarding work and renewing identity in a new working role

"Our research suggests one of the most powerful cultural influences in western society, Disney animated films, have created negative views about workplace managers among generations of children for nearly 80 years," says Griffin.

"While common knowledge might suggest new entrants to the workforce are blank slates ready to be molded by their organizations, our research shows managers and organizations will need to take into account the ideas about organizational life that began as soon as they were old enough to watch their first Disney movie."