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Christian faith embedded in Disney's foundation, former producer says

by Will Hobbs

A former Disney television producer says Christian values have been 'embedded' in the company and that film animations can be used 'all the time' to aid in communicating the gospel.

October 16, 2023, marks 100 years since Disney's launch.

Martin Poole, who heads the 'Beyond Church' initiative in Brighton - combining public art with Christian spirituality, told Premier that while the media world should always be met with caution by Christians, Disney has always been significantly shaped by an ethos that involves Christian faith.

"I think Disney, right from its foundation, was always based on a kind of a wholesome ethic. The Disney family were very avid churchgoers. Walt Disney's father actually built the Congregational Church in their local town and served as a deacon. As a family, they all went to church.

"Walt Disney himself wrote, 'deeds, rather than words, expressed my concept of the part religion should play in everyday life.'"

As a clergy member at St. Luke's Church, Brighton, Poole says he uses film references 'all the time' to help explain the gospel in sermons.

"If our faith is not engaging with the real world around us, then what does it mean? There are so many good things that we can use to help illustrate things of God that are around us.

"Soul (released by Pixar in 2020) was a fantastic exploration of life after death. Whether you agree with the underlying principles or not, there are some interesting concepts there.

"A friend recently asked me if I could recommend some movies to them to play with our youth group and get a conversation going about spiritual themes, and that's a really good one to start with."

Although Walt Disney isn't around to ensure those values himself, Poole told Premier that, in his experience, the corporations within Disney are still imbued with Christian influence.

Poole's first professional contact with Disney was when he took the funeral of one of the high-level senior management executives who had sadly died very suddenly. While working at Disney, Poole says he was invited to be 'a kind of pastor to his department.'

Poole describes art in all its different forms, be it a painting, a piece of music, or poetry, as 'telling some kind of story,' saying that Christians involved in art are inherently linked to Jesus, who also chose to communicate through stories.

"He told parables and often didn't explain them, left them with people and just kind of said, 'That's my story. You interpret it the way you want. There's something about God in there, and it's up to you to find it.' Really good art does the same thing. It doesn't preach at people, but it says something about God that people can find if they're looking.

"Also, I believe that people who are involved in creating art are involved in a divine activity because God is a creator. So when we're creating something, we're reflecting something of His nature, and that's why we create because we're made in His image."


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