Disney followed through with a promise to censor some of its controverisal content from eras past, now available on its Disney+ streaming platform, but added a disclaimer to certain “outdated” material rather than fully edit films like “Dumbo” and “Lady and the Tramp.”
Back in April, when Disney first announced that its entire catalog of animated films would be available on its streaming service, Disney+, which launched this week, it was careful to note that a number of older movies, like “Song of the South,” would not be available because of content now considered racist.
“Disney’s 1946 film Song of the South is criticized for portraying the lives of former slaves on a plantation as idyllic after the civil war. It’s never been released in the U.S. on DVD, and the company has decided not to release it on its streaming service when it launches later this year,” ABC reported.
“Song of the South,” which is based on “Uncle Remus” stories, is a partially live film that was controversial from its inception. According to Disney lore, Disney Studios knew the film would be considered racist when it premiered in 1946 but persisted anyway, making some changes to the script, and to the title of the film (originally named “Uncle Remus”) before it was given a wide release.
Disney has never released a home version of the movie, though it does acknowledge that it is part of company history. It has released excerpts of the film and the film’s most famous song, “Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah” appears on Disney compilation soundtracks. The film is the basis for the “Splash Mountain” ride at the Walt Disney World theme park.
But while “Song of the South” is not available on the Disney+ streaming platform, it seems that’s where Disney drew the line. “Dumbo,” which features a “Jim Crow-like character” and “Lady and the Tramp,” which features two Siamese cats who sing one of the film’s key songs in a bizarre “Chinese” accent, are both available in their entirety and unedited, as are other “controversial” films, like the Legend of Zorro.
Instead, those films now carry a disclaimer describing their embrace of “outdated content.”
Gamespot reports that Dumbo features a warning for “tobacco content” (because several characters smoke cigarettes on screen) and for “outdated cultural depictions.”
“While the disclaimers don’t get into details about these ‘outdated cultural depictions,'” Gamespot adds, “it’s not hard to guess what they are if you’ve seen these movies. Peter Pan features the notorious song ‘What Makes the Red Man Red,’ while the crows in Dumbo, the chopstick-playing Siamese cat in The Aristocats, and King Louis in The Jungle Book have all been accused of perpetuating racial stereotypes over the years.”
The lone exception to this rule is “Fantasia,” which does not feature “Sunflower the centaur.” The character was removed from the film decades ago for some very clear reasons and hasn’t been in any released version since 1969.
The change to Disney’s original policy on their “controversial” content does show that Disney is concerned with the impression — at least from critics in the United States — that it gives into requests for censorship regularly and that it has openly embraced “wokeness” as company policy. Content viewed overseas is still censorsed, however.