Disney’s upcoming streaming service Disney+ launches in November and in addition to new original content, the streaming platform is going to go deep into the vaults and release some of the studios most beloved projects of all time. However, there will be a few exceptions when everything is said and done, which isn’t too surprising.
Disney+ will not stream Song of the South and it will cut a controversial scene from Dumbo.
Disney released Song of the South in 1946 and it won an Academy Award for best song in 1948 with “Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah.” The movie even inspired the always-busy Splash Mountain ride at the Disney theme parks. With that being said, the complete movie has not been released on home video in the United States and has been locked in the vaults since the early 1980s.
Song of the South has been criticised for its handling of race and glamorising the post-Civil War plantation era. The movie painted a picture where the African-Americans working on the plantation were happy to serve their white masters.
Disney CEO Bob Iger spoke about Song of the South at an annual shareholders meeting in 2011, noting that the movie did not age very well and it “wouldn’t necessarily sit right or feel right to a number of people today,” which is a pretty severe understatement.
Cultural historian Jason Sperb has previously described the film as “one of Hollywood’s most resiliently offensive racist texts” with other critics calling it “thoroughly disgusting” and “as vicious a piece of propaganda for white supremacy as Hollywood ever produced.”
Disney is also cutting a scene from 1941’s original Dumbo movie.
The movie which was recently remade by director Tim Burton, though he chose to omit the scene in question too.
The aforementioned scene involves the group of crows Dumbo meets up with who give him a feather, allowing him to fly. The leader of the crows is named Jim, as in Jim Crow, which is a not-so-subtle reference to the racist laws that allowed segregation until 1965. Jim even makes some of the same movements and poses as the 19th century blackface character.
Unlike Song of the South, Dumbo has been available unedited for a number of years.
Disney+ is moving forward with these edits so far, but it is unclear if they will be altering or omitting any more projects from the vault as the launch date nears. Elements of the original Peter Pan, The Jungle Book, Fantasia, The Aristocats, The Little Mermaid, and Aladdin have all been criticised for racist themes over the years, so Disney could very well go in and do some further edits in the near future.