Disney seems to think it’s found a failsafe formula: Combine “”exotic”" settings and situations, carefully scrubbed of annoying cultural disconnects, with “”familiar”" characters and relationships. Aim for a “”We Are the World”" flavor with light-brown-skinned human characters whose facial features are vaguely, not too obviously, third-worldish, but give them lines right out of a TV sitcom.
Make sure you have at least two of the following: a misfit but lovable youth; a venerable, all-knowing elder; and a generic, new-agey Higher Power, preferably with elements of magic. Use animals, aliens, and/or supernatural creatures for wacky humor. What the heck, the characters can even be animals if they’re human enough. Sometimes it still works in spite of the formulaic elements and the Ethnic Lite approach. “”The Lion King”" and “”Mulan”" had good stories. “”Lilo and Stitch”" had sly humor. “”Brother Bear”" has Phil Collins songs. It also seems to want to have a message, but it’s a little tougher to spot than the usual “”Be true to yourself”" or “”Face up to your destiny.”" Maybe it’s “”All species are one”" or “”Brothers should love one another.”" It’s hard to tell. Kenai (voice of Joaquin Phoenix), a young Native American in what is now Canada, sometime after the last ice age, has no parents, but he does have two older brothers