Here’s what this post is about, in a nutshell: Disney seems to support getting you out of your clothes. No, I don’t mean that now you can go naked at Disney parks (Imagine!) or on Disney cruises. Not yet, anyway. But, way beyond Donald Duck-ing (also known as Winnie the Pooh-ing – when you wear a shirt but no pants), Disney seems to be sending out pop culture messages about the benefits of nudity.
Yes, I know – this is the company that insists on loincloths for Mowgli and Tarzan, and a shell-bra contraption for the Little Mermaid. And yet… especially in the past few years, they seem to be suggesting that, well, we should all be more at home with nudity.
Proof #1: Frozen. I’ve already written about how Frozen, the film, has a strong body-positive message. There’s a very brief sauna scene, and then at a different point the trolls say and sing some supporting messages about body acceptance. I wrote that five years ago. Earlier this summer, I had the opportunity to see Frozen on Broadway. Same story, same characters, BUT a big difference is that the sauna scene becomes an entire production number, with a chorus line of some twelve or fifteen cast members, male and female, dancing in a row all the way across the stage. They appear to be naked, but it was evident enough that they were wearing body suits. Even so, their dance is one of those peek-a-boo choreographies where each dancer blocks the groin of the dancer to the left with a branch (they’re holding aromatic branches from the sauna, I guess) and then switches to the other side, etc., all while singing about the joys of the sauna and other wintertime comforts. I thought it was great, but of course, some media outlets generated controversy:
“Some are questioning whether or not Disney went too far when it comes to the opening of the second act. Set in Oaken’s famous sauna the audience was surprised by a rather “risque number” that had the cast members appearing naked.”
“It ‘was a little risque,’ as one of the audience members, Adam Kaufman, 43, described the scene. His friend Jean Mante, 36, said: ‘There was more nudity than expected from Disney.’ CET News reports that the kids attending the show found the scene funny, but some adults were a little taken back by this.”
No surprise that children thought it was fun while some of the uptight adults were concerned. Sigh.
The song is called “Hygge,” a word that the character Oaken translates with examples such as “Hygge means you’re friendly / You stop wanting to be rude / Join us for some super duper hygge / In the sauna in the nude!” Oaken also delivers lines like, “Don’t worry about your body / it’s nothing I haven’t seen” and “Go get in the sauna / Come on, you know you wanna!” The only perhaps slightly problematic reference in the song is to alcohol: “We always have each other / The gloog is brewed / We’re here, we’re nude / And so let’s have another!” Maybe nudists, here in the US anyway, don’t associate saunas with alcoholic beverages, but plenty do associate such beverages with hot tubs or pools. My verdict: It’s an entertaining song with a strong message about the cozy comfort of nudity with friends and loved ones.
Proof #2: Mary Poppins Returns. This film, even though it features an elaborate underwater sequence in which everybody’s wearing ridiculous bathing costumes of the era, nonetheless includes a production-number pro-nudity message. In the song “A Cover is Not the Book,” performed by Emily Blunt as Mary Poppins and Lin-Manuel Miranda as Jack, there are examples of how appearances can deceive, how things are not always as they seem. One such example is a verse about “the wealthy widow”:
Lady Hyacinth Macaw
Brought all her treasures to a reef
Where she only wore a smile
Plus two feathers, and a leaf
So no one tried to rob her
‘Cause she barely wore a stitch
For when you’re in your birthday suit
[MARY POPPINS & JACK:]
There ain’t much there to show you’re rich!
In the video (the verse starts at 2’19”), you can see the slapstick use of their hats to cover the body on the line “two feathers, and a leaf” – this is followed by a cut to the children laughing. Obviously, the kids get it, and think it’s great fun. And the message is one we nudists often proclaim: When you’re naked, your social status is invisible. The song even functions as a metaphor for its own message: here we are dancing around, elaborately costumed, in a Disney film, but we are singing about what you might not expect. The cover is not the book, indeed. My verdict: Another fun song with a quick wink at the egalitarian nature of being nude.
(For another look at the relationships between books, covers, and nudity, as well as a review of a fabulous animated film in which there is a lot of natural nudity, see this post.)
In the end, while these might be only a few examples (there are probably more), they are enough to show that the Mouse House is conflicted. Disney films and shows seem to work like this: They will not show nudity visibly (although they might tease it, as with the body-suited branch-covered chorus line), but they will include messages about nudity being social, comfortable, and egalitarian. It’s like they’re trying to be pro-nudist but have to censor themselves. I think they should just “Let It Go” and use their massive power to show the world nonchalant nudity in appropriate scenes, helping everybody become more acclimated to nudity. Do it, Disney!