As the world celebrates the 100th anniversary of Disney, former Disney television producer Martin Poole sheds light on the company’s deep-rooted Christian values and its potential to convey gospel messages through animated films.
Martin Poole, now heading the ‘Beyond Church’ initiative in Brighton, which combines public art with Christian spirituality, shared his insights in an interview with Premier. Poole emphasized that while Christians should approach the media world with caution, Disney’s ethos has been significantly influenced by Christian faith from its very beginning.
“I think Disney, right from its foundation, was always based on a kind of a wholesome ethic. The Disney family were very avid churchgoers. Walt Disney’s father actually built the Congregational Church in their local town and served as a deacon. As a family, they all went to church. Walt Disney himself wrote, ‘deeds, rather than words, expressed my concept of the part religion should play in everyday life.'”
As a clergy member at St. Luke’s Church in Brighton, Poole uses film references regularly to help convey the gospel in his sermons, highlighting the importance of connecting faith to the real world. He explained, “If our faith is not engaging with the real world around us, then what does it mean? There are so many good things that we can use to help illustrate things of God that are around us.”
Poole also pointed out the 2020 Pixar film “Soul” as a great example of exploring spiritual themes. “Soul was a fantastic exploration of life after death. Whether you agree with the underlying principles or not, there are some interesting concepts there. A friend recently asked me if I could recommend some movies to them to play with our youth group and get a conversation going about spiritual themes, and that’s a really good one to start with.”
While Walt Disney himself is no longer around to ensure the continuation of these values, Poole believes that Disney corporations still retain Christian influences. He recalled a personal connection with Disney when he took the funeral of a high-level senior management executive during his time with the company, and he was invited to be “a kind of pastor to his department.”
In discussing art in its various forms, Poole highlighted the power of storytelling, asserting that Christians involved in art are inherently connected to Jesus, who frequently communicated through stories. “He told parables and often didn’t explain them, left them with people and just kind of said, ‘That’s my story. You interpret it the way you want. There’s something about God in there, and it’s up to you to find it.’ Really good art does the same thing. It doesn’t preach at people, but it says something about God that people can find if they’re looking.”
He also emphasized the divine aspect of creating art, linking it to God’s creative nature. “Also, I believe that people who are involved in creating art are involved in a divine activity because God is a creator. So when we’re creating something, we’re reflecting something of His nature, and that’s why we create because we’re made in His image.”
Martin Poole’s perspective offers a unique insight into the role of Christian values in Disney’s history and how these values can continue to be conveyed through their films. As Disney marks its centennial, it remains clear that the legacy of faith and storytelling continues to be intertwined within the company’s DNA, making it a source of inspiration for those seeking to communicate spiritual messages in the modern world.