About a week ago, The Boardwalk Times broke the news that the Disney+ streaming platform would be excluding the film Song of the South as well as scenes from the original Dumbo featuring the crow characters. You can see the original story here.
I was instantly intrigued by this story, but I was hoping it would either be refuted or given a more credible source. In the days since the original report surfaced, however, sites like The Hollywood Reporter have been citing The Boardwalk Times as the story’s source. I still consider these claims to be unsubstantiated, but I’d like to take a look at their implications nonetheless.
I find it quite easy to believe that Disney would want to keep Song of the South off of Disney+; they’ve refused to print the film for home viewing in the United States for decades as is. The film isn’t any more offensive or racist than Gone with the Wind or some of the Looney Toons cartoons, but Disney is particularly dishonest when it comes to history. We could talk about their take on the true story of Pocahontas or the fact that they hide all images of Walt smoking, which he did a lot, in fact. In every way possible, the Disney company seems intent on replacing the past with a happy fairy tale where racism, smoking, and anything else bad never existed. I think this goes beyond being dishonest and raises ethical questions about integrity and the importance of world history. As a corporation, Disney doesn’t have the ability (yet) to eradicate our shared past completely, but they do have an awful lot of influence over how current and future generations will view it.
Pretending that racism and other bad ideas and people simply never existed doesn’t protect or help anyone. In fact, being shielded from the very idea of any past events or stereotypes that might be confusing or offensive will only make things more difficult in the long run. It may be harder to know how to combat these ideas later, when any person is liable to be exposed to them. One might argue that it’s not Disney or any other media conglomerate’s job to inform children of such topics, and they’d be exactly right. However, it’s undeniable that children – and all of us, for that matter – get a lot of our ideas and worldview from the media we consume, whether consciously or not. Wouldn’t it be better for Disney to confront the past they’re so afraid of, rather than to deny that it ever existed/happened? Disney hasn’t previously removed the crows from Dumbo to my knowledge, but that doesn’t make it difficult to imagine them doing so. They’ve edited other films, such as Melody Time (removing Pecos Bill’s cigarette) and Make Mine Music( removing all of the “The Martins and the Coys” segment for violence, and parts of “All the Cats Join In” for provocative content), in the past. They also make some of their older shorts more difficult to find than Warner Bros. does, for example. I find all of this editing and lying about the past to be irksome, to say the least, and the prospect of taking it even further, in addition to continuing to pretend that one of their more embarrassing films simply doesn’t exist, seems nigh indefensible. As a Disney fan, I really wish they would take a page from Warner Bros.’s book; they release their old cartoons and movies for mass consumption with a tasteful disclaimer at the beginning. Disney might even learn something from one of their own films, The Lion King, which deals with the past and the dangers of hiding from it.
What do you think of studios editing or hiding their old films? Would this have any bearing on your interest in the Disney+ streaming service? Let us know in the comments below!