Culture and cultural objects influence every aspect of our daily lives. In fact, cultures can be “understood as systems of symbols and meanings that even their creators contest, that lack fixed boundaries, that are constantly in flux, and that interact and compete with one another. ” (Vaughn and Rotney, 2006) A very important aspect of our cultural lives lies within music, literature, sculpture and other arts, traditions, cinema, and theater.
UNESCO (2002) described culture as “…set of distinctive spiritual, material, intellectual and emotional features of society or a social group, and that it encompasses, in addition to art and literature, lifestyles, ways of living together, value systems, traditions and beliefs. ” This leads us to conclusion that culture, in its ultimate form, is a set of theoretical and physical objects which symbolize and thus influence every aspect of our daily lives. I have long thought about what these objects might be in the United States of America.
As we are a very diverse society and pretty much a melting pot of other nations, there was a wide variety of cultural objects from comic strips to hip hop music that came to my mind. However, I have chosen the cinema of the United States as the topic of my paper. Inmy opinion, our cinema has not only a local but also a global cultural impact which can not be ignored. I will research the history of cinema in the United States and provide specific information in reference to that industry and some of the people who made it a cultural phenomenom in the United States and worldwide. The focus will be on the work of Walt Disney.
History of American Cinema American filmmakers have a huge domestic and international audience. As a matter of fact, the United States of America are considered to be a film-making superpower along with a very few other countries worldwide. The main segments in film-making history in United States include the silent film era, the Classical Hollywood era, and the New Hollywood era. In the United States first films were made in New York City, which very fast developed into a movie production center. However, due to relatively high expanses associated with that geographical area, many movie producers began moving west.
Due to the fact that sunlight was available almost all year, many of them chose Soutern California as their final destination. During this period movie production peaked and the American public could view the first movies by ways of traveling theaters and storefornt teaters. Only later was the concept of a commercial movie theater as we know it today developed. The first movies were basically low quality pictures with no sound, as the sound was not introduced to the motion picture business until the 1920’s. In the 1920’s began the golden age of motion picture.
This is a period of time when movie production peaked and when some of the most famous movies ever have been shot. This happened especially during World War II. Motion Picture studios of that time began creating patriotic movies which had a bonding effect on Americans. This was very usefull during those dangerous and challenging times. One such movie is the now famous picture “Sargeant York” which presents a typical american farm boy who is called to service and consequently becomes a war hero. The positive conclusions of these movies left the audiances in good mood, longing for more of the same.
At the same time, these movies formed a culture which identified itself with the main characters of the particular movie by believing in the patriotic message that they sent. Following World War II many technological developments ensured that the quality and sound of the motion picture became significantly better. The fact that the United States became a global power with military and civilians stationed all over the world also helped with exporting and introducing into new cultures some of the movie products which were produced.
Very fast, the United States began developing into an entertainment superpower. American movies and music were sought after all over the world. Over the next few decades we would see movies which had huge impact on culture in United States and elsewhere. Characters such as John Wayne and music stars like Elvis Presley became famous and idolized mainly because of how they were portrayed in the motion picture. Perhaps one of the best known examples is the Star Wars collection of movies. These films are considered to have set the largest cultural bench mark in the film industry.
“Star Wars references are deeply embedded in popular culture; references to the main characters and themes of Star Wars are casually made in American society with the assumption that others will understand the reference. ” (Brooker, 2002) Star Wars was one of the productions which entered lives of their fans on an unpresedented scale and in unpresedented ways. It went as far as becoming a religion to some fans in the United Kingdom. In addition to Star Wars and similar movies, people like Walt Disney have created characters and whole industries which affect our culture on a daily basis.
Recent history and current developments in the American film industry continue to reinforce the fact that this is one of the most influental industries in respect to the development and expension of American culture. Going to the theater with the whole family still remains one of the most popular activities and a variety of productions ranging from comedies to drama and action movies are available. This implies that this form of entertainment will continue to grow and prosper in United States. But, who are the people who made all this possible and how do they think? The famous and and their effect on culture
One of the most famous people in the entertainment world is Walt Disney. Many kids know the names of his characters long before they learn the names of their extended family members. “Walt Disney was born to Elias Disney an Irish-Canadian, and his mother, Flora Call Disney, who was of German-American descent. His father moved to the United States from Canada after his parents failed at farming there. ” (Thomas, 1976) He began his career in Kansas City as an independent cartoonist. Following a fairly successful start he moved to Hollywood where he and his brother opened up a studio and began producing motion pictures.
Some of his work from that era includes Alice Comedies and Mickey Mouse. During his career he received multiple Academy Awards as a recognition for his work and dedication. Walt Disney and his work are one of the prime examples of how film (in this case cartoons) can have cultural impact on a domestic as well as international level. The geniality behind Disney’s characters has made them popular all over the world. Even during the hights of cold war, when any contact with the West was forbidden, the children and grown ups in the eastern countries such as Russia knew and enjoyed Walt Disney’s work.
“The popularity of Disney’s products and characters was instantaneous and unmistakable, not only in the U. S. but in other countries. Because of the international distribution of Disney films and the merchandising efforts that accompanied them, the Disney Company developed a reputation that was magnified far beyond the relatively small company’s resources. And that reputation has continued. ” (Wasko, 2000) Thanks to motion picture, Disney Company has grown and developed into a giant that operates in several industries including theme parks, hotels, travel, film productions, and TV.
Even today, many years after his death, we can see the impacts of his work. Literally everybody know about Mickey Mouse and other of his characters and it is very common that today’s grand parents have enjoyed the same cartoons when they were children as their grandchildren today. This is the extent of cultural impact and legacy that people like Walt Disney have left us through filmmaking. This is visible through his companies’ success. “As of 2007, the company has annual revenue of over U. S. $35 billion. ” (Walt Disney Company, 2008)
The ability to effectively tell stories is one of the most crucial gifts that a film producer has to have. Depending what kind of film is being produced, the message can be different. This is why it becomes increasingly important to understand what this message and convey through picture to the public. This is equally important to success of comedies such as Shreck or to success of more serious movies portraying accurate historical facts. In addition to being an effective story teller, technology plays a huge role in todays movies. We can see plane crashes, car accidents, war scenes, as well as animated movies which appear extremely real.
This is largely possible due to significant advances which were achieved in computer technology and robotics. Many of these innovations can be seen and reviewed in various theme parks and movie studios. In recent years a new form of film has been breaking through – and that fairly successfully. Movies such as Shreck, Cars, and other animated features are setting new standards. “Relevant data show that the annual output value of animation products and their derivative products in the United States, the largest exporter of entertainment products in the world at present, has amounted to over US$5 billion.
” (Fang, 2008) However, not only new movies are popular. Thanks to animation, we have seen the rebirth of old classics in ways that are hard to believe. Conclusion Film making industry in the United States of America has left a lasting cultural impact, not only on the United States but also on the rest of the world. As a main exporter of entertainment we have created a cuture that feeds and grows on excellent made movies of all genres as well as traditional cartoons such as those of Walt Disney.
As a matter of fact, people with visions, such as Walt Disney, have created a cultural revolution in the United States and worldwide. Children and grown ups across the world are familiar with American characters such as Mickey Mouse to the point that they have adopted this amerian icon as their own. The characters of these movies are having huge impacts on other industruies as well. It is a well known fact that once apopular movie such as for example “Spiderman” comes out, T-shirts, shoes, lunch boxes, bysicles, and other items with character imprints will follow in order to profit from the popularity of the movie characters.
This also indiactes that film has as much impact on our overall economy as it had on our culture. Today’s trends are indicating tha this will continue. We hear almost on a monthly basis about new blockbusters which bring in hundreds of millions of dollars in the offices. Another indirect impact that the movie-making industry has on us is through the actors. Some of the actors are extremely popular and many people lkisten tow hat they have to say in reference to current politics and all other issues worldwide.
This has created a very powerfull tool for the film industry as the owners and actors can have significant effect on public opinion. This has been demonstrated very recently in San Francisco, California during the demonstrations against the Chinese human rights violations in Tibet. The famous actor Rishard Gere was one of the initiators of the very successful protests. Other examples include many actors such as Arnold Swarzeneger who entered public service after Hollywood and became quite succesful, largely thanks to their fame.
One could easily say that by being part of the film-making industry in United States, one becomes a part of the most powerful propaganda machine in the world. References Findley, Carther Vaughn and John Alexander Rothney (2006). Twentieth-century World. Sixth edition, p. 14. UNESCO. 2002. Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity. Information retrieved on April, 25th 2008 from http://portal. unesco. org/ Brooker, Will (2002). Using the Force: Creativity, Community, and Star Wars Fans, Continuum International Publishing Group Wasko, Jean (2000).
How Mickey Converged on America. Information retrieved on April, 25th 2008 from http://flash. uoregon. edu/W00/mickey. html Thomas, Bob (1976,1994). Walt Disney: An American Original. New York: Hyperion Walt Disney Company (2008). Financial Information. Walt Disney Corporate Website. Information retrieved on April 25th, 2008 from http://corporate. disney. go. com Ai Fang and Wang Xiao (2008). China making breakthrough advances in animation industry. Information retrieved from China Economic Net Website http://en. ce. cn/Insight/200804/17/t20080417_15183331. shtml