Neoteny in Disneyland

Published on November 26th, 2014 by Jess McPhillips. Filed under Advertising, Animation



The ad above is for the Tokyo Disneyland Resort in Japan.  It uses the Japanese animation style called “anime,” which features neotenous character models.  Neoteny is an art design that places childlike features on adults.  These features include puffy and/or rosy cheeks, a button nose, and large eyes.  Neoteny is often associated with “cuteness” and is very popular in Japan’s contemporary culture.


This ad shows one main character visiting the park at different stages in her life.  Her face shows strong examples of neoteny- her cheeks are always tinted pink and are puffy from childhood through adolescence, she has a small nose and big eyes with large pupils.  It is interesting to note, however, that once the character is married her face loses its neoteny; her cheeks become more angular and her eyes narrow slightly.  This seems to be a design choice based on reality, as humans lose their childlike proportions as they grow older.  The degree of childlike qualities on the character before marriage, however, is exaggerated enough that the switch from neoteny to realistic is slightly jarring.


Although audiences generally prefer realistic images over unrealistic, they also enjoy neoteny on animated images.  The ad, therefore, could have kept the character’s neotenous features without upsetting the audience.  The ad is cute enough that the loss of neoteny is not detrimental to the message, but I would have preferred to see the character keep her neotenous features both for design continuity and to eliminate the jump between real and unreal imagery.


Copyright © 2019 visualinquiry