Why have Disney (and Pixar) had so much success in their movies? In part, it’s because they never really broach the subject of religion. While movies like Frozen can be twisted to suggest Christian themes, the only supernatural ideas you’ll see in their movies involve magic, not God.
In an interview on “Fresh Air” recently, host Terry Gross spoke with Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez, the husband/wife team who wrote the songs in Frozen (seen below, with their kids), and they alluded to the lack of religiosity in Disney movies:
Lopez: … I don’t think Disney has any problem with employing people who have, you know, done off color stuff in the past.
Anderson-Lopez: It’s funny. One of the only places you have to draw the line at Disney is with religious things, the word God.
Lopez: Yeah. You just can’t…
Gross: You can’t say the word God?
Lopez: There was even a – well, you can say it in Disney but you can’t put it in the movie.
Anderson-Lopez: You can’t put it in the movies.
What’s really amazing about that unwritten rule is that the universal themes of those movies come through loud and clear without religion. We love the movies because we empathize with the characters and root for good to win out over evil. Sticking religion where it doesn’t belong would only serve to alienate a segment of the population.
It’s also one of the key reasons heavy-handed Christian movies rarely go mainstream. Even if you have good acting and a good story, to suggest that God needs to be a part of that automatically excludes a chunk of the viewing audience who can’t connect. There are always exceptions, but the point is that “Christian movies” are watched by Christians while Disney movies are watched by everyone. Still, they’re pretty similar: The storylines aren’t very different, the characters are good or evil with little ambiguity, and there’s almost always a happy ending… but you don’t need religion to showcase those themes. Throwing Jesus at the audience is unnecessary. Just let people read into the film whatever they want.
Disney knows that. They tell a story knowing the audience will interpret it however they want. Christian filmmakers don’t trust the audience to make those connections, so they hammer home the fact that it’s all about Jesus/God/the Bible/etc. It’s insulting, really, and an awful way to reach a larger audience.