Date of Award

Fall 12-2016

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Communications Media

First Advisor

Zachary Stiegler, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Jay Start, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Mark Piwinsky, Ph.D.


With the proliferation of mobile devices and wireless Internet, mediated content continues to become a large part of every child’s emotional and social experiences. Content such as this becomes moral teachers as children grow and learn how to live and act in society. Noting that media texts can serve as one source of such modeling, this study questions the manner in which children’s media model ethical behavior to young audiences. Specifically, this dissertation employs Vogler’s 12-step Hero’s Journey to identify the portrayal and development of ethical perspectives in lead male characters of Disney animation films during the company’s Renaissance Era (1989-1999). Examination of these portrayals occurs to uncover an understanding of the ethical modeling Disney conveys to young boys as they develop their own codes of ethics. This study uncovered three categorical themes in Disney animation films produced during the corporation’s renaissance era: virtuous heroes, anthropomorphic deontologists, and supporting roles of virtue. These thematic categories provide three types of ethical modeling via social learning to young male viewers. According to the results, Disney provides children with good natured programming. This allows Disney to become a positive “teaching machine” used to shape a child’s perception of reality.