Children as young as three years old are scared of the idea of growing old, and negative stereotypes about older people have started to develop by the time children enter elementary school. Negative stereotyping of older characters has been found to be prevalent in all forms of media. Because children use media to figure out who they are and what the world is like, this study looks at some of the most popular films of the past two decades aimed toward children. This study is a content analysis of older major and minor characters from the 60 top grossing Disney live action films in the 1990s and 2000s. This study is a continuation of an earlier study conducted analyzing the same subject in Disney animated films. The two studies will be compared throughout in order to identify trends in Disney's portrayal of older characters. The results of this study found an even more disparate underrepresentation of women and minorities than previous studies. However, this study found a majority of positive portrayals of older people. The majority of older characters in Disney live action films were identified with: the personality traits of “friendly” and “intelligent”; the primary roles of “friend” and “boss”; the health status of “active” or “very active” and in good health; and the stereotypes of “Perfect Grandparent”, “John Wayne Conservative”, and “Golden Ager”. These positive portrayals in all areas are in sharp contrast to many previous studies conducted concerning the portrayal of older characters in the media and are even more positive than the results from the previous study conducted on Disney animated films. As children interpret their social reality based on the media they watch, including Disney live action films, this research postulates that children will cultivate a more positive image of older people as they are portrayed in these films.



College and Department

Fine Arts and Communications; Communications



Date Submitted


Document Type





older people, Disney, media effects, films



Included in

Communication Commons