NEW YORK, March 15, 2016 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The Italic Institute of America (IIA), a national educational think tank, is accusing the new animated film "Zootopia" of "polluting the minds of impressionable young viewers with a rancid ethnic stereotype," says Bill Dal Cerro, the Institute's national president.
Specifically, the Institute refers to the character of Mr. Big, an Arctic Shrew clearly modeled on Don Vito Corleone, the fictional mob boss in 1972's gangster film "The Godfather." Although ostensibly an homage to an American movie, the character of Mr. Big is given obvious ethnic trappings such as cannoli, espresso, crucifixes, gold chains, and a CD of Italian singer "Jerry Vole" (Jerry Vale).
Says Dal Cerro: "There is no difference between Mr. Big and the black crows in 1942's 'Dumbo.' None. Both images are crude caricatures of an entire people."
Continues Dal Cerro: "If Mr. Big had been an homage to Tony Montana in 'Scarface,' would there be references to Cuban cigars, cocaine, presidential candidates Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz, or the Buena Vista Social Club musical group? Of course not, and rightly so. The filmmakers would have been chided for being insensitive. And yet, no one thinks twice when it comes to promoting Italian Americans as criminals or buffoons, particularly to vulnerable young children. Such blatant racism insults the wholesome legacy of Walt Disney."
Dal Cerro notes that, unlike the trend in modern animation to promote positive images of American ethnic groups ("Lion King," "Mulan," "Pocohantas," "American Tail"), images of Italians are routinely denigrated. "Zootopia" follows 2004's "Shark Tale," with its evil killer shark gangsters, a trend first started on television in the 1990s with "The Goodfeathers," a pigeon parody of "Goodfellas."
Concludes Dal Cerro: "Despite the success of Italian Americans in every aspect of American society---including show business---the notion still exists that they, and their culture, are unworthy of respect. Sadly, this disdain and ridicule has infected childrens' cartoons. Walt Disney must be turning over in his grave."
Founded in Floral Park, New York in 1987, the Italic Institute of America promotes the legacy of Italy both in the U.S. and worldwide: www.italic.org
SOURCE Italic Institute of America