Emotional Portrayal in Popular Children's Movies: Coding Basic and Complex Emotion in Aladdin (1992) and Aladdin (2019)
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Facial expression, specifically during early childhood, might significantly contribute to how children interpret the television, movies, and other media they watch. In the last decade, the largest producer of children's movies in the world, Walt Disney Studios, has remade a number of their animated classics with positive reception. For instance, the live-action Aladdin (2019) grossed $1,050,693,953 in its worldwide theatrical release, making it one of the 50 highest grossing movies of all time (Top Lifetime Grosses, 2020). Instead of children experiencing Disney stories for the first time through animation, they might now experience them through live-action or life-like computer generated imagery. This could have many implications for their emotional development. The present study analyzed the facial expressions of Aladdin (1992) and Aladdin (2019) with a focus on investigating how young children might respond to the emotional content of each film version. Descriptive statistics about the basic and complex emotions depicted across multiple characters were compared. Results revealed several differences across the animated and live-action characters and films overall. Most notably, characters in Aladdin (1992) portrayed more than twice as much basic emotion than their live-action counterparts in Aladdin (2019). Implications are discussed within the context of early childhood and socioemotional development.