Walt O’Disney and the Little People: Playing to the Irish-American Diaspora

Research output: Contributions to collected editions/worksChapterpeer-review


Darby O’Gill and The Little People, Disney’s 1959 live-action Irish-themed family film, features Irish folklore in the shape of leprechauns, banshees and other supernatural figures. The company had their eye firmly on the market of twenty million Irish Americans, and the extensive pre-publicity for this transatlantic ethnotypical film included Walt Disney embracing a diasporic Irish identity by presenting himself as ‘half Irish.’ He also claimed to have deployed actual leprechauns in the film. Through an imagological, cultural discourse analysis lens, this paper examines the paratextual and textual performances and representations of Irishness in Darby O’Gill in the context of Irish-American culture and its popular traditions. It asks why, contrary to Disney’s hopes, it did not enjoy the success of other notable US Irish-themed films of the era, and probes the Irish involvement in and reception of Disney’s ‘Irish’ film.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationOn Disney : Deconstructing Images, Tropes and Narratives
EditorsUte Dettmar, Ingrid Tomkowiak
Number of pages15
Place of PublicationBerlin, Heidelberg
PublisherJ.B. Metzler
Publication date01.01.2022
ISBN (print)978-3-662-64624-3, 978-3-662-64626-7
ISBN (electronic)978-3-662-64625-0
Publication statusPublished - 01.01.2022

Bibliographical note

© The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer-Verlag GmbH, DE, part of
Springer Nature 2022

    Research areas

  • Literature studies - Walt Disney, Irishness, Leprechauns, Imagology, Darby O’Gill and the Little People