Zip a Dee Doo Dah

While celebrating my 20th wedding anniversary at Walt Disney World a couple of weeks ago, I had occasion to think about racist content in family movies.

No, no–hold on, bear with me. I was having a great time and was fully immersed in the magical world of Disney like I was supposed to, but I ran across an interesting paradox that got me thinking. You see, over the years, Disney has retired some rides because their source material was deemed too obscure (bye bye Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride), and even some that didn’t seem all that obscure got the axe to make way for attractions based on the latest releases (bye bye 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea).

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Given this policy, the enduring popularity of Splash Mountain at the Magic Kingdom is something to marvel at, since the ride is based on perhaps the most obscure work in the entire Disney canon, Song of the South. Weirder still, Splash Mountain debuted in 1989, a few years after its source material Song of the South was decommissioned and mothballed. It would have been easier to just forget Song of the South ever existed–but there’s something about this film that is not so easily forgotten.

Since the film is unavailable, a little background is in order. In the 1940s, Walt Disney set out on a deeply personal and quixotic venture to produce a live-action/animation hybrid adaptation of the Uncle Remus stories by (white) author Joel Chandler Harris. This was no B-picture throwaway–it was a decade-long project with significant technical innovations and commercial risks.

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Recognizing the inherently sensitive racial content, Disney contracted leftist writer Maurice Rapf to serve as the film’s “conscience.” The idea was that Rapf would prevent any objectionable material from making it into the screenplay, and as long as he signed off on it, the film should be OK. In practice, Rapf ended up continually revising and rewriting to the point that the other writers were unable to make any progress at all, and Rapf was removed from the project–but it’s worth giving Disney high marks for effort, for recognizing the problem and trying to ameliorate it.

And let’s also take note of the fact that out of the entire history of classic Disney, the role of Uncle Remus is the one and only major role for a black actor. It’s not like there was any particular reason why black actors needed to be suppressed at Disney–they mostly made cartoons, whose voice actors were by definition unseen. But Song of the South was the first time, and for decades the only time, where a black man got center stage in a Disney film–and the suppression of Song of the South has pushed that trailblazing accomplishment to the margins.

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Disney personally championed actor James Baskett. He called Baskett “the best actor to be discovered in years.” That’s not Disney angling for PR–that’s what he said privately, to his own family. Disney lobbied–successfully–to get Baskett an honorary Oscar, and stayed in touch with him personally after the film wrapped. Meanwhile, Baskett’s performance of “Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah” became one of the studio’s signature songs.

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In other words, there’s a decent case to be made that Song of the South is a landmark moment of civil equality at Disney, a high water mark of racial inclusiveness at the nation’s most influential producer of family entertainment.

So what is it about this movie that’s so objectionable?

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The plot concerns a young boy (Bobby Driscoll–whom we last saw in a pre-Hitchcock variant on Rear Window). The boy is struggling with what he perceives as parental neglect. Enter a kindly and somewhat magical figure, Uncle Remus, who becomes a sort of surrogate parent, enthralling the boy with fanciful parables of the wily Brer Rabbit, a Bugs Bunny-like trickster hero. Inspired by these stories, the boy takes charge of his problems and takes an essential step towards growing up.

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OK–it’s a Magical Negro story, yes. But surely that’s not the problem. American pop culture is crammed with Magical Negro stories–and as tired as that cliche is, nobody’s clamoring to ban Forrest Gump, The Green Mile, or The Legend of Bagger Vance.

For that matter, pegging this as a Magical Negro story misses the fact that Disney came back and redid this theme (neglected kids, magical surrogate parent, whimsical adventures that serve as life-coaching teaching moments) with a white woman in the Uncle Remus role and called it Mary Poppins. If the goal of colorblind casting is to have characters not defined by racial essentialism, then this is it–the character of Uncle Remus doesn’t have to be black.

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But, of course he is. And he’s a black man in a story set in the South sometime around the Civil War. Harris’ original stories were set post-War, but the film doesn’t clarify this for viewers unfamiliar with the books. Many viewers–myself included–assumed the story takes place prior to the War, which would make Remus a slave. The NAACP drew this conclusion on the original release, too, and objected that the film depicted a sanitized, distorted, happy view of slavery.

This might be a misreading of the film, but it’s a misreading the film takes no pains to avert. And that’s really the problem–so what if the events are set after the Civil War? How exactly does that change the fact that this is set squarely in the location and time period where racial prejudice tore our country apart, resulting in massive casualties and a presidential assassination, yet seems to believe that as long as it never directly broaches any of those incendiary topics that everything is OK? Maybe, if Disney was going to go playing with this iconography, he needed to do something a little more proactive than just hire, and then fire, a leftist radical from the production team.

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The animated sequences get into trouble, too. Brer Rabbit is a wonderful character–a true Disney rival to the snarky pranky cartoon heroes rampaging through Looney Tunes and the works of Tex Avery. He is pitted against some Wiley Coyote-wanna bes, whom he outwits in an escalating series of encounters. These are wonderful sequences, clever and funny and good in so many ways… and then Brer Rabbit gets caught by the tar baby.

A tar baby? Are you kidding me?

(That must’ve slipped through after Rapf got the boot)

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When the Disney company released The Three Little Pigs on DVD, they faced a similar dilemma–here was a landmark Oscar-winning short of overwhelming historical significance, but it included a horrifying anti-Semitic joke. The solution was to animate some new footage, more or less in the style of the original, and splice that in as a substitute. It angered purists, of course, but if I was a Disney exec weighing the choice of angering the niche market of film preservationist purists vs. one of the world’s major religions, I wouldn’t think twice about throwing the film preservationists under the bus.

No analogue is available for Song of the South. The live-action footage is built around Baskett’s performance as Remus, and the cartoon footage depends on the tar baby scene. Short of remaking the film without any black people in it (see Mary Poppins) the problems are baked in.

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Song of the South is not formally banned. No censor body has ruled on this one way or the other. The NAACP gave up their objection long ago. The last commercial release was a 1986 theatrical reissue, which was attended by zero protests. But the Disney Company, perhaps wisely, has quietly sequestered it on the logic that whatever minor revenue might be generated by a niche-market DVD release is easily surrendered to avoid the risk of angering any genuine constituencies. The risk isn’t worth the reward.

But, three years after that 1986 theatrical run, Disney Imagineers turned Song of the South into a theme park ride, which thrills thousands of people a day–millions a year. Maybe the audience is there after all.

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28 Responses Zip a Dee Doo Dah
Posted By LD : August 17, 2013 8:35 am

A few years ago I visited the Laura Plantation in Louisiana where the slaves were given credit for the Brer Rabbit stories. The tales originated from African, Native American and other cultures. I always assumed the term Tar Baby was pejorative and was surprised to learn the original meaning was a sticky situation which becomes worse when you try to solve it. Regardless of the historical meaning, it is still perceived as racist but so are so many of the classic movies. What should Disney do about Song of the South? Change it? Preserve it? Keep it vaulted? It’s a sticky situation.

Posted By swac44 : August 17, 2013 9:12 am

Saw Song of the South as a kid in the ’70s, and again in the ’80s, and even had a 1970s Disneyland Records book-and-record set called “Br’er Rabbit & the Tar Baby” that recounted that particular episode in detail. It does seem astonishing that they would put that out at that late date, since I believe the term had become a racial epithet by that point, but that’s Disney marketing for you.

One story about Splash Mountain I’ve heard is that the ride is especially popular with foreign tourists, since Song of the South was long available on home video overseas (VHS and laserdisc, anyway), where apparently Disney wasn’t so worried about the racial stigma that afflicts the film in North America (haven’t heard about it surfacing on an official DVD though). When I was there, I picked up a Splash Mountain beach towel as a keepsake, just because it seemed so strange to have such a commercial item commemorating a film that is, for all intents and purposes, banned, at least by its owner.

There are a number of intriguing posts about the film over at Jerry Beck’s Cartoon Brew site, I seem to recall reading there that the folks at Disney had had a new digital master made of the film in recent years. To what purpose, who knows, perhaps solely for archival reasons, but there’s always hope it’ll turn up in some form, with the usual disclaimers and apologies that grace these kinds of films from our past.

Then there’s the whole issue of Warner Bros.’ “Banned 11″ cartoons, which seem even less likely to see the light of day in legitimate form.

Posted By robbushblog : August 17, 2013 12:40 pm

The eternal vaulting of this movie gets my dander up more than nearly anything I can think of. I know. My priorities are screwed up, but I love this movie. I saw it in the theater in 1986 and have loved it ever since. I have a pirated Israeli copy on VHS that I haven’t watched in a long time, due to its age.

I don’t consider it a “magical negro” story like the others based on the fact that Uncle Remus is not actually magical. The characters from The Green Mile and The Legend of Bagger Vance were actually magical. Uncle Remus was just a sweet, old man who taught the kids valuable moral lessons through his stories. That is the crux of the film. That was what Joel Chandler Harris took away from the stories he gathered and it’s what he tried to communicate in his book. The stories transcend all races. It’s valuable folklore and the film is a valuable piece of American culture because of that. It’s made even more so by James Baskett’s performance. He is absolutely wonderful in it. And the songs are some of the best from that period of Disney’s filmology.

I used to work at Blockbuster years ago. I’ve told this story on this page before, I’m sure, but when I worked at Blockbuster I would get the occasional request for Song of the South, and not once was that request made by a white person. It was always made by older black people who grew up loving the movie. They wanted to show it to their grandkids. They saw no problem with it, just as they saw no problem with The Green Pastures, which was regularly checked out from my store. This film is not locked away out of fear for upsetting any black people. Heck, so much of popular entertainment made by and targeted towards blacks these days is extremely stereo-typed. This film is locked away due to the white guilt of certain Disney executives who think they know what’s best for the rest of us and want to, if you’ll pardon the expression, whitewash the film from existence.

The appropriate, and I suppose the responsible thing to do, would be to release the film with disclaimers about the attitudes of the time the film was released, just as many other vintage releases have done, so that people can be entertained by this wonderful movie and so they can make up their own minds about it. It would have been perfect for a Walt Disney Treasures release, but alas, that series was discontinued. Okay. Rant over. Sorry to take up so much time.

Posted By Doug : August 17, 2013 11:20 pm

We’re finally arriving at the point where skin color doesn’t mean a thing-people are people. May this film find a proper release.
And Rob-rant all you like,friend, no apology necessary. I’d rather read one impassioned honest rant than a hundred yammerers who yammer just to take up space on blogs.

Posted By Jeffrey Ford : August 18, 2013 8:13 am

As someone who also say the film way back when (70′s re-release) and always remembered it, I’d like to make just a couple of points:

While I agree with nearly everything that robbushblog wrote, I don’t think that “white guilt” has anything to do with why Disney keeps the film under lock ad key (I’d probably feel better if it was). They keep it locked away for simple reasons of perceived “political correctness” and business expiediency. They believe the film would cause them “embarrassment” and “trouble” and so they avoid the problem by keeping the film under wraps. Don’t forget this is the same company that re-framed parts of the FANTASIA DVD (to remove a racist shot) and removed a whole sequence from the MAKE MINE MUSIC DVD (“The Martins and the Coys” sequence) because they apparently did not want to offend hillbillies. (I never heard the story about the THREE LITTLE PIGS, but it does not surprise me.) But robbushblog is absolutly correct in his final observation that Disney wants to “whitewash” the film from existence. They do, and the sad bottom line is that they have probably succeeded; SONG OF THE SOUTH has been suppressed for so long now that only those who saw it way back when and the film buffs even remember it. I’m surprised Disney hasn’t paid Leonard Maltin to remove all references to the film from his book on the Disney films and his Movie Guide.

What’s especially sad for me is that what gets lost in all this garbage is (to me, anyway) a very important point (touched on by Mr. Kalat) that the film does make: that problems between a husband and wife will inevitable effect the children; that any child with a rotten home-life will inevitably “escape” into a world of fantasy; that sometimes a child living in a fantasy world can lead to family tragedy… But no one seems to consider these type of things important any more, at least when they are put up against the race thing. To me, at least, it’s a pity.

In closing, let me say that I got my DVD copy of the film several years ago from a vendor at Indiana’s Covered Bridge Festival. I’m pretty certain (hell, I know) that it was bootlegged from an English VHS tape, but my joy of just getting ahold of the film at that time outwieghed all of the legalities. But it once again underlines the hypocracy of the Disney organization, that believes that a film which would be “way too offensive” to release to American audiences is absolutely fine to release overseas (at least if there’s money to be made from it). The last time that I checked, a “legitimate” Japanese laserdisc of the film had gotten very pricy too. In any case, when I bought my DVD, other people were buying up copies of the film like hotcakes (at $20 a copy). If the executives at Disney had ever seen that, I can’t help but think that they would have a very quick and (not very surprising) change of heart in regard to releasing the film. But maybe not. Perhaps they are the ones who are living in a fantasy world.

Posted By Arthur : August 18, 2013 5:01 pm

David, thanks for this very informative post. It’s stimulated a fascinating discussion. . . Yes, the whole controversy is, let’s call it a “hot potato.” Essentially, it is over how to tell, and not tell, American history and how to tell, and not tell, American film history. . . Take a good look at the original Mickey Mouse, is he not a minstrel-like figure?

Posted By Richard Behmer : August 19, 2013 2:12 pm

Song of the South is a fine, well done movie, that is worthy of not only full release, but uncensored release as well. Most of that argument is made by others here. The Disney company admits to being willing to sacrifice profits and not release the movie on DVD. Thus, a vaccuum was formed in the market and some excellent bootleg copies have been produced at marvelous prices. I saw them listed on google a few times; in high definition even! Nobody likes to support a bootleg company, but when the original studio caves in and becomes cowardly, they deserve to lose profits to the courageous and bright smaller production companies out there. By the way, I, for one, really resent the fact that Disney has taken “Walt” off the trademark for their movies. Now it’s just “Disney”. Walt started it all; he should stay on the company logo forever. Maybe if they put Walt back in there, Disney will somehow find a way to produce outstanding movies again; that is, if they even care about that anymore.

Posted By George : August 19, 2013 10:11 pm

Check out the 1930 Disney short “Cannibal Capers.” It can be seen on YouTube, and it makes “Song of the South” look enlightened.

I don’t believe any movie should be suppressed for any reason short of child pornography. Older movies with racial, ethnic and gender stereotypes should be put in their historical context. You can’t watch a lot of movies made before 1960 without running into material that is definitely un-P.C. But that doesn’t make them bad movies.

Posted By swac44 : August 20, 2013 8:37 am

At least they included the long-desired short Mother Goose Goes Hollywood in one of their Disney Treasures editions of Silly Symphony shorts. The series of stars in the cartoon includes Cab Calloway, Fats Waller and Stepin Fetchit, portrayed in a manner which to many today would be offensive, but because they’re recognizable celebrity caricatures they don’t hit quite as hard as something like the repugnant Walter Lantz musical short Scrub Me Mama With a Boogie Beat, which truly has no redeeming value.

Cannibal Capers is also included on the second Silly Symphonies collection, with the original ending which was cut from prints at some point in the 1940s according to the authorities at disneyshorts.org. According to some sources, the U.S. version of the Silly Symphonies collection includes the altered version of The Three Little Pigs, but the U.K. edition includes the version with the Jewish peddler caricature. Haven’t come across a copy myself, and since it’s way out of print, I doubt I’ll be looking for a copy any time soon. (Song of the South also had a VHS release in the UK early on, but it wasn’t sought out much on these shores due to the inability of most viewers to watch PAL tapes from England on our NTSC VCRs.)

Posted By Bonnie Callahan : August 21, 2013 12:23 am

I want to buy this movie for my mom. It was her favorite movie as a child and I have never seen it. If anyone knows where I can get a copy please feel free to email me with the details. Thanks

Posted By DBenson : August 21, 2013 6:37 pm

The Big Bad Wolf as a creepy caricature of a Jewish peddler vanished long before DVD. Sometime in the 1940s he was redone as a 1920s college student (still wearing the fur coat). This is rare but not unheard of. MGM went into a few cartoons to replace dated gags in otherwise re-releasable films: A wolf tempts Red with a carton of cigarettes during wartime rationing; that becomes an outsized bejeweled necklace for postwar release. A Mickey Mouse originally produced to promote Nabisco cookies re-appeared with all the brand names replaced by fake generics.

Two big problems with “Song of the South”:

One, it plays as a commercial for happy, happy plantation days. The only clear sign it’s post-Civil War is when the owner fires Remus and orders him to leave his beloved shack and the service of his beloved masters. Also Remus, the cook and the one boy are the only black characters with any identity at all — the rest just work and sing merrily. One could argue that some old Shirley Temple movies are at least as bad, but they seem to have faded from the airwaves on their own.

Two, it’s become a lightning rod for both sides of the debate. Do I think concerns are overblown? Maybe. Do I really want to align myself with people with a litany of complaints about “oversensitive” minorities and “political correctness”? I know they’re a fringe of pro-release posters, but I don’t like the idea of a talk show sleaze waving a Disney DVD as a victory for “us over them.” It’s like defending a release of “Lolita” while the guy next to you is saying the films vindicates him.

I thought it might be interesting if they packaged it with “Nightjohn”, a Disney television film about a slave girl who learns to read. It manages to get some strong stuff into a “family friendly” story. Carl Lumbly is a slave who teaches reading at great risk (they hack off the thumb and index finger off literate slaves). Beau Bridges is the struggling plantation owner you sort of feel for until the closing minutes.

Posted By robbushblog : August 22, 2013 9:26 am

DBenson- “us over them”? Really? It has nothing to do with that. It has to do with allowing people to see and make up their own minds a movie that some may find offensive. I’ve never heard about anyone on any talk show even discussing the movie. While I do complain about political correctness, I don’t know that anyone in this discussion has blamed oversensitive minorities. In fact, I illustrated that the larger number of people I had requests for the movie from were black, and that it was indeed white people who did not want to release it over feelings of white guilt. That white guilt, I feel, leads them to be ashamed of the movie.

Posted By swac44 : August 22, 2013 10:05 am

For the person who was looking for a copy, your best bet is to visit a local movie memorabilia convention and look for a “grey market” (a.k.a. bootleg) version. It’s pretty much guaranteed that any table selling homemade DVD-R copies of rare films (and some films that are legitimately available, which always gets my goat) will have it, in reasonably watchable form (probably sourced from one of the Asian laserdiscs). You could probably also find one for sale online somewhere, but in that case, caveat emptor.

Wary of Disney watchdogs, eBay only allows legitimately issued versions to appear in its listings, but unless you have a laserdisc player or a multi-format VCR, you’re out of luck. The Japanese laserdisc will run you at least $100 (wish I’d snapped one up when I saw it for $50), but PAL VHS copies are plentiful, mostly from the UK, although there are also copies from France (Le Chanson de Sud), Spain (Cancion del Sur), Germany (Onkel Remus’ Wunderland) and even Israel (פימױלהק). The only NTSC VHS copies (playable on North American VCRs) I know of are from Japan, and perhaps South America (although those would probably be dubbed in Spanish or Portuguese).

Posted By swac44 : August 22, 2013 10:18 am

In further SotS news, as of a year ago, the Uncle Remus Museum in Eatonton, Georgia was selling an unauthorized DVD of Song of the South on its premises, with professional-looking packaging, and even some bonus extras. They don’t sell it on their website (although they do have other Uncle Remus and Br’er Rabbit related books and memorabilia). So far, Disney hasn’t lowered the boom on them, but they may have removed the discs from their shelves due to the following media attention.

Having said that, I just spotted the same copy of SotS that the museum was selling for $10 plus shipping on Amazon.com marketplace, and the seller has a good satisfaction rating, so make of that what you will.

Posted By robbushblog : August 23, 2013 9:10 am

Hey, swac- Was that on the Canadian Amazon?

Posted By swac44 : August 23, 2013 3:08 pm

Nope, U.S., but I see it’s now listed as “Currently Unavailable.” I’m assuming it sold, unless Amazon cancelled the listing, but the title is still there, which makes me think the former is the case.

And you’ve gotta love the listing for a VHS copy that describes it as “a digital version.”

Posted By swac44 : August 23, 2013 3:09 pm

But if you’re torrent savvy, there are quite a few listings for SotS over at Pirate Bay.

Posted By GregR : August 24, 2013 9:38 pm

I have Song of the South on Japanese laserdisc. I love it. It isn’t racist, but it does depict the slaves as being sort of happy and content with being slaves. I see it as they’re just making the best of the situation.

Posted By Uncle Remus : August 24, 2013 9:56 pm

Get your Song of the South from here

Posted By Sarah Jane : August 25, 2013 9:55 am

I like animation in Disney’s song of the south. And splash mountain is my favorite ride at walt disney world and Disneyland, and listening to uncle Remus album at kiddierecords.com.

Posted By Stephen Disney : August 25, 2013 1:16 pm

There are a lot of details to the live action story that no one seems to notice… people who have watched the film and own bootleg copies. There is NOTHING racist about this film. There are NO SLAVES in the movie, only freed slaves who stay on as share croppers. The African Americans in the film are depicted in a tremendously positive fashion… (including their animated counterparts). Their family wasn’t falling apart! The father was a writer/editor for an Atlanta newspaper and was getting DEATH THREATS for his pro-black publishing. So he took his wife and son to HIS mother’s house so that they would be safe while he returned to work. The child mistakes this for a separation of his parents, and Uncle Remus steps in as a surrogate father (much as he had for the boy’s father as well). Yes, the blacks in the film are happy to be there. It may be unrealistic to show a plantation where the mistress of the house was good to her slaves and was equally good to them as sharecroppers (even if she could have a strict side… she fired Uncle Remus, for example). But assuming there was at least one plantation in the south like this and we happen to be at that one, I’d like to think it wasn’t impossible. This film only “fails” in being an amalgam of positives in a landscape of negatives. (All this is in there, not making it up…)
S

Posted By nico : August 26, 2013 4:13 pm

This movie has a lot of racism which justifies the controversy around it, but the tar baby scene isn’t one of them as it was made before the term had racist connotations

Posted By michael mcgee : August 27, 2013 7:07 pm

This is just plain greed! Disney is not serving the film consumer first in which money is a means to an end.the real reason for not reusing song of the south is greed .Look at turner classic movie they show racist g.w.t.w ,1939 and birth of a nation.Imagine if Disney owned birth of a nation and g.w.t.w.We never see it ,or the scene in which Scarlet is slapping Prissy and the field hand sequence would be cut.Imagine if time Warner owned Song of the south.It Would of already been seen .Nop Disney corporations reflect the greed of Disney brother ,who controlled the financial strings of the company .This company does not serve classic film fans.Just five year old.While Time Warner will release Mammy ,with pride Disney won’t release song of the south ,Why ? They are more greedier and believe in history denial for their profit .The cor prate acting film making biz was not created to serve consumers with art in which the money was a means to an end ,nope!but to exploit consumer to get rich quick over night and control us economically.Disney is run by prostitutes as much as the other studios.This is why the industry has always believe in censorship for their greedy profit .Song of the south would make as much money as g.w.t.w ,if they put it out .But they don’t serve classic film fans.They exploit phony liberal mail valued as an excuse to spend less money on consumers.this calls for government regulations.But that doesn’t mean time Warner is being open history 100 percent.They stopped showing third reich cinema on t.c.m ,except for the repeats.Hypocritically time Warner sells some of the film of the third Reich ,in the German markets d.v.d. with star like Jope Heesters ,who sang at Dachau in 41.T.c.m and Warner home video wont’ sell in u.s.a or broadcast any of Douglas Sirks German melodramas or Ingrid Bergman only film she in German neither,out of possible fear of loosing the Jewish audience and the families of veteran of world war two relatives who bombed Berlin and Dresden,possibly .This is typical of greed .This is why bad history become specialty .Worst smaller companies will exploit this way.Hollywood doesn’t want you to look at this film as it offend the Jews ,and so forth .People like to rebel and buy things they are being told not to buy ,this included the families of world war 2 veterans and the Jewish consumer and black too and Asians.There’s no more controversy about song of the south than the 1958 Band of angels.as long as they are stubborn it will be sold in the black market ,just a Ingrid Bergman film is sold under ground too,but legally .Disney prefers money over respect.This is not Walt’s legacy ,but Roy’s!since the late 80′s and early nineties ,Hollywood has been promoting censorship in the name of tolerance,boy exploit overly sensitive groups,as an excuse to save money against consumers.Disney need to sell the rights of this film to a company who will sell it,if they can’t deal with it .i would have it guess out of a few and majority of black citizens want to see this film on home video.Since they saw it in 72 and 86 like me

Posted By llyncoch : August 28, 2013 9:20 am

The Tar Baby is not racist in origin. Its origin is said to be African myth brought America by slaves (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anansi#Relationship_between_Anansi_and_Br.27er_Rabbit). Seems doubtful there were any racist overtones to the term when the film was made.

Posted By Dukey Flyswatter : August 28, 2013 10:54 am

Some years ago (20?) Disney released a nice looking laser disc version of Song Of The South in Japan where it was immensely popular. From those sources Song Of The South has become one of the most sought after and popular items on the underground film market.At one point I even knew somebody that had a copy made off of a technicolor 16mm print used for TV. THat of course was about 30 years ago and before DVD when film pirates lurked in the shadows getting big bucks to supply people with their movie treasures.

Posted By vbartilucci : August 28, 2013 10:57 am

There was a show on PBS years back called Juba. I’ve no idea if there’s more than one episode of the thing. But it discussed the connection between Br’er rabbit and co to folk tales brought over by slaves, and their source, a character known as Kalunda (no idea of the spelling) Rabbit in African folk tales.

This is one of those films that everyone “knows all about”, but so few have seen, they’re almost all wrong. And odds are the ones who have made up their mind about how evil and racist it is will not lower themselves to watch it. Likely cause they’re afraid they’ll be proven wrong.

Posted By WAPotter : August 29, 2013 1:52 pm

In a time when we are remembering Martin Luther King, Jr, for his “I Have a Dream” speech, it is a sad epitaph on our time that we can (apparently) never see the time when a man will be recognized for his character instead of the color of his skin. If we look beyond the racial issues and then see the poverty and wealth and how the poor are more willing to look after the welfare of the children than the wealthy landowner, this story becomes more meaningful. Also, if I remember correctly, the children do not see the racial or class differences. They enjoy one another and the stories told by the old man (Remus). These themes and the characteristics they promote should absolve the Disney consciences of the political “correctness” issues involved.

Posted By Dutch : May 8, 2014 6:47 pm

Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride retired? I rode Mr. Toad *last week* at Disneyland. What are you talking about?

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