Yesterday, Tomorrow, and Fantasy: Disney's Cartoon West 1948-1962

Following Richard Slotkin's reading of the mythology of the West in American culture, I argue that Frederick Jackson Turner's 1893 thesis "The Significance of the Frontier in American History" was a critical moment in defining the West as a primarily psychical space distinct from an actual American past and experience. This mythic space has been, and continues to be, monumental in defining a dominant white American identity. Viewing Western mythology as originating from an intersection of folklore, politics, and popular performance, this thesis analyzes four short Western cartoons produced by Walt Disney Pictures in the Cold War era (1948-1961) as a primary source through which to examine Disney's particular manifestation and manipulation of the American West, ultimately presented as a microcosm of a national phenomenon. An American Gothic discourse, informed by scholars such as Toni Morrison and D.H Lawrence, is the theoretical context through which Disney's cartoon West is invoked as a visual map of the constructed, malleable, and powerful nature of the Cowboy and his mythic space in American culture and politics.