A new exhibit at Rotterdam's Het Nieuwe Instituut looks at Walt Disney and his impact on identity and the built environment, as well as other topics. “The Architecture of Staged Realities,” curated by Saskia van Stein, seeks to address the influence Disney has had on generations of children's worldviews.

It's now widely acknowledged that many of Disney's early films were linked to racism and prejudice. Through un-skippable warning prompts that are played before traditional movies, such as Dumbo (1941) and Peter Pan (1953), the center recognizes it so strongly that it now includes them in its un-skippable warning prompts.

The exhibition poses a striking question: “What makes the enjoyment of Disney’s world-famous productions still possible after all these years? How can we find pleasure in a story that seems to be a thin veil for racism and discrimination? Where do we see our own desires reflected back at us? And what does this reflection say about us?”

Through a series of films and installations, the exhibition explores how Disney’s films have influenced our built environment. The tendency to embellish has been central to all of Disney’s films, from the studio logo morphing into an ornate castle over a starry night, to Fantasia (1940), which was Disney’s first foray into the realm of pure animation.

The exhibit also features work by contemporary artists who use Disney influence in their practice; for example, one installation includes a series of rooms that are modeled after scenes from Disney films, while another includes immaculate recreations of scenes like Cinderella’s (1950) castle and Tarzan’s (1999) treehouse.

Disney's early films were tied to racism and discrimination. The exhibit explores how Disney's films have influenced our built environment.

The tendency to embellish has been central to all of Disney’s films, from the studio logo morphing into an ornate castle over a starry night, to Fantasia (1940), which was Disney’s first foray into the realm of pure animation.

The exhibition poses a stark and challenging question: “What if we could build the Disney universe in real life?”