The new Disney+ streaming service, which debuted this week already has more than 10 million users clamoring to get access to its infinite catalog of fan faves, but the company is also aware of contemporary social narratives when it comes to race and has issued warnings that certain parts of their most popular films would today be seen as problematic.
Before watching animated movies like Dumbo (1941), Lady and the Tramp (1955) and The Jungle Book (1967) viewers are first that shown a disclaimer that reads: “This program is presented as originally created. It may contain outdated cultural depictions.”
Dumbo has widely been called out for the film’s “vocal blackface,” Lady and the Tramp relies heavily on Asian stereotypes for the song “We Are Siamese,” and some of the animals in The Jungle Book would be seen as blatantly racist caricatures.
Although the company is apparently trying to be inclusive and sensitive when it comes to the images presented in these films, Whoopi Goldberg, who co-hosts daytime talk show The View on Disney-owned ABC, believes that it’s time they face up to their problematic past,” according to Yahoo.
“I’m trying to find a way to get people to start having conservations about bringing Song of the South back,” she said at the 2017 D23 Expo where she was being honored as a Disney Legend for her work in The Lion King, Sister Act movies and The View. “So we can talk about what it was and where it came from and why it came out.”
Released in 1946, Song of the South, features one-dimensional and stereotypical portrayals of African Americans during the Reconstruction era.
The film is based on the “Uncle Remus” folk tales, which were compiled from enslaved Blacks by folklorist Joel Chandler Harris, who grew up in Georgia during the Civil War. It won an Oscar for the song “Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah,” but execs have refused to take the chance of re-releasing it to what they believe would be public backlash.
When it first came out, African Americans rejected it then as well. Then-Harlem congressmen Rep. Adam Clayton Powell Jr. blasted the film as an “insult to American minorities,” according to Screencrush. Demand among some film buffs to re-release it has surfaced from time to time, but others said it was better off vaulted.
But in her opening commentary on Looney Tunes Golden Collection: Volume 3, released in 2005, Goldberg explains her perspective and why she feels the films should be seen.
“Some of the cartoons here reflect some of the prejudices that were commonplace in American society, especially when it came to the treatment of racial and ethnic minorities,” she said. “These jokes were wrong then and they are wrong today, but removing these inexcusable images and jokes would be the same as saying they never existed, so they are presented here to accurately reflect a part of our history that cannot and should not be ignored.”