Meagan Phillips

By William & Mary

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Animating Animals: Exploring Anthropomorphism in Animated Children’s Films 

For my honors research, I will explore the role of the anthropomorphism (attributing animals or other entities with human characteristics) of nonhuman animal characters in animated children’s films. Anthropomorphism is currently a controversial topic in science and medicine, and I want to carry the debate into the realm of literature and art. I will analyze classic Disney films such as Bambi, where anthropomorphism is used to generate empathy with animal subjects, and more recent films like DreamWorks’ Madagascar, in which the animal characters often serve as vessels for human identities, beliefs, and desires. These examples present two extremes (empathy and exploitation) on a spectrum of anthropomorphism, which is the framework I will use to critically discuss a variety of films. I will also examine how animation as a medium impacts the representation of animals. Ultimately, I will connect this to historical and contemporary discussions about the ethical relationship between humans and animals, and I will argue whether or not animated films have the potential to challenge traditional beliefs and introduce more radical and empathetic ways of seeing animals.

All William & Mary Honors Fellowships fundraising supports the Charles Center Honors Fellowships Fund. Direct support for individual undergraduate research projects is distributed by the Roy R. Charles Center for Academic Excellence. To learn more about Honors Fellowships, please visit our About page. If you have questions, please visit our FAQ page.


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