Saturday, November 21, 2009

Re the Disney Anti-Black Thing ...


The main evidence for Walt's racial insensitivity ... is "Song of the South," his 1946 combination of live action and animation based on the Southern folk tales of Joel Chandler Harris, known as Uncle Remus, which, though set in the Reconstruction era, makes the black former slaves seem dependent upon and excessively grateful to their former owners. From any modern racial perspective, the film is cringe-inducing

The constant harping on South and its racism gives me a stomach ache. Is it "cringe inducing" by today's standards? Probably. But compare it to the perennial favorite Gone With the Wind (now in Blu-ray!), and it come across as ninety minutes of enlightened sensitivity.

Part of the problem, of course, is that Walt Disney is a national and corporate icon, while David O. Selznick is a long-dead Hollywood producer. Then there is the other minor detail:


In its time, Song of the South was a tidy little money spinner. But Wind? Factoring for inflation, it's the highest grossing film of all time, and in Freedom's Land, big bucks trump everything else.

So if you think that Time Warner is going to ban GWTW from the public marketplace because some of the supporting players are a tad ... uh ... stereotypical, you don't know how conglomerates work. Nothing stands in the way of a smooth, crisp (and ever shrinking) dollar bill.

So let us heap praise on Gone With the Wind's swell Technicolor, and Vivien Leigh's riveting performance, and remember that cash flow is the reason that the 1939 epic is available in the latest digital technology, while Song of the South has vanished.


Anonymous said...

No. The reason Gone With The Wind has done so well is because it's a masterpiece of film making, storytelling, drama, and character.

Song of the South has, in my opinion, the best animation ever from the Disney studios.

BUT--overall, the film itself is trite, boring, and not particularly well written or produced (even if Greg Toland shot the live action). It's just not very good.

Disney did restore the film a few years ago, and it's been available this way on dvd in Europe (including at Disneyland Paris--on a region free DVD, which is where I got my copy).

I made a digital copy, cut out all the live action, and keep the animated sequences handy for a good laugh.

And I just finished watching, on blu-ray, and for the umpteenth time, "Gone With The Wind." They finally got the print right. What a great film.

Anonymous said...

I saw "Song of the South" in re-release when I was a kid. I have very fond memories of it. Uncle Remus himself left a great impression on me; he was kind, wise, compassionate, and told great stories! If anything, that movie made me think more highly of black Americans rather than otherwise. How could it be termed "racist" for portraying things much as they were in the time in which the film's story was set? The idea that the film is racially insensitive is pure nonsense. And it's a VERY good film.

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Nonsense. Bobby Driscoll's performance WAS childlike, yes, but you fail to observe the nuance and subtext that he carefully layered into his racially postmodern interaction with Remus.

Furthermore, your idea that the public option is 'socialist' is just you regurgitating typical rightwing talking points you heard from Rush. Try forming an original thought, moron.

Sheriff Woody said...

Wow, even a comment about racism on this blog has people defending socialism and calling people morons and rightwingers?

No matter what the post, someone here always has to vire off the left of the road.

Let's just all hope that Princess and the Frog does great so we can see more hand drawn animation and the hiring of more animators. K?

Anonymous said...

Sheriff Woody!! He was joking!





Anonymous said...

Sheriff Woody sounds like a lot of fun at parties.

Floyd Norman said...

I continue to be amused at all the opinions about Walt Disney. Naturally, those with the most strident attitudes are those who never even met the man.

For the record, I love “Song of the South,” while both my wife and I think “Gone with the Wind” sucks. Just an African American view from a crazy cartoonist. And, while I love Hattie McDaniel, her acceptance speech before the Motion Picture Academy still makes me cringe. The old credit to my race stuff! Man, I hate that B.S.

David O. Selznick? I’ll take Walt Disney over him any day.

Anonymous said...

Seen in it's historic context, Song of the South is not a very good film. As an early step into live action for Disney, it's an interesting artifact. But Disney was pushing the boundaries with animation (and indeed, continued this in the animated sequences in Song of the South). But compared to other live action films of the time, it is one of the weakest from Hollywood. The writing of the live action is insipid, the acting strictly amateur, save James Baskett, who carries the film (although he's only in it relatively briefly--in live action. His storyteller/character turn in the animated sequences is brilliant). Although I don't understand why Disney hasn't issued it on DVD lately in the U.S., it's hardly the true masterpiece that Gone with the Wind was. Selznick made some great films, and was a very good friend of Walt's. And while Selznick made some great movies, Walt created a legacy. Walt's overall output beats Selznick, but between Song of the South and Gone with the Wind, GWTW wins--hands down.

Anonymous said...

A few years back, Bob Iger said that Disney was not going to re-release Song of the South on DVD. Around that time, I heard from a different source that SOTS was going to be released on home video as a double feature with Princess and the Frog sometime in 2010. Does anybody know what the true story is?

Anonymous said...

Absolutely not. Disney doesn't want any controversy (real or imagined) near their Princess franchise. Forget it.

Steve Hulett said...

Look. GWTW is a slick piece of Hollywood filmmaking, top notch in every department.

But despite all that, Butterfly McQueen is like fingernails down a blackboard, straight out of the Stepin Fetchit school of 1930s stereotypes.

But let's be clear: this is mainstream filmmaking from 70 years ago. I fully understand that to yank a film out of the context of its time is a little unfair, but I hold to my original point, separate from the quality of each of the films.

GWTW is far more racist -- by today's standards than Song of the South -- yet South stays off the market.

This is an ECONOMIC decision, not an artistic or moral one. Disney has determined that it's more beneficial to keep South away from the American marketplace, Why? Because it's in Disney's overall economic self-interest.

Which is fine. I'm not saying that's wrong, just identifying what it actually is.

Anonymous said...


Are comments being moderated now?

Steve Hulett said...

I delete comments as I see fit ... and when I get around to looking at them.

I'm not glued to my computer, so iffy things often get through on a temporary basis.

Steve Hulett said...

One more thing: Older posts get moderated, newer posts don't.

I like having a life away from LCD screens.

Anonymous said...

So for the people saying that it is NOT a racially insensitive movie... The thing that makes the movie offensive is that people used African Americans lack of education, way of life, and broken dialect as an amusement factor. This also why black face was used so that audiences could be entertained by more educated people who could put an even more intense stereotype on characters. That is why African American people get upset at these kinds of movies. Even though things were that way in some areas of the country it is not something the black race is proud of and for someone to use it as an entertainment piece IS OFFENSIVE (to me anyway and a lot of the other black animators I know that work in features). We don't dwell on it or talk about it. It is what it is so... leave it at that. Song of the South, Scrub Me Mamma, Lil Sambo, and MANY other crazy "black" animated cartoons were made but we all want to move forward and create animation that EVERYONE can enjoy and not be offended by.

Anonymous said...

Or better yet, make films like don bluth, so bland and boring with nothing to offend EVERYONE.

Anonymous said...

You know what, I'm a white female, and while I find some aspects of the show "I Love Lucy" incredibly sexist (Ricky's refusal to let his wife have a career), I can still watch it and marvel at the actors' artistry and genius. "The Dick Van Dyke Show" has some mild elements of sexism as well, but it's still brilliantly funny. I would hate to feel that in order to be a 21st-century liberated female, I would have to censor those shows and thus deprive other people's enjoyment of them just because they reflect the attitudes of their time. So I think that those who want to repress "Song of the South" ought to consider their own objections. Should the Uncle Remus books be pulled out of libraries? Should Joel Chandler Harris be labeled a racist and his tales censored for all time? (Wouldn't surprise me if that actually happened; Mark Twain's "Huckleberry Finn" has already been banned from some libraries because it contains the "N" word...)

Anonymous said...

Joel Chandler Harris took the stories from slaves who passed them down from generations. He transcribed the stories into "slave dialect" and published it. The stories are so hard to read that many people had to change so much to make them universal...hence Song of the South (part of my thesis is on this subject). The stories were not his to begin with so no need to take them away. Most of the main stories are from Africa. (look it up)

Anonymous said...

I know! They can release a special edition packaged with a Tar-Baby doll.

Anonymous said...

I think in that last post (intended as humor, I assume) the real reason is pointed to as to why SotS will never be released in America. Sure there's offensive dialect and acting as well as general treatment of Blacks in the film, but no worse (and often less as Steve pointed out) than many other films. It's the use of the 'Tar Baby' as a gag and plot device. And since Tar baby has become an offensive racial slur it's almost like watching the N word used as a gag in the film.

Floyd Norman said...

I think Disney's "Song of the South" reveals more about America than we're willing to admit. That's why this harmless little film continues to freak people out even today.

I find the whole discussion of this Disney film fascinating and insightful. I never had a chance to discuss this with the "Old Man," but I did speak with some of the other old codgers before they passed on.

By the way. I love the Tar Baby.

Anonymous said...

Again, Disney's not releasing this because of racism. They're not releasing it because it would cost them more to make and market a dvd than it would ever bring in returns. It's just not a very good film, and they wouldn't make money re-issuing it. As a direct download, I don't see why they don't, though. Warner Brothers Archives is terrific, and smart business model for this sort of thing.

Anonymous said...

"Again, Disney's not releasing this because of racism. They're not releasing it because it would cost them more to make and market a dvd than it would ever bring in returns."

And that's why it had VHS and Laserdisc releases previously, and is apparently available in Europe on DVD?

Anonymous said...

Disney doesn't distribute those films overseas. If they'd sold very well, they'd have probably allowed distribution here. They didn't pay for them.

That's why.

The early VHS release were part trial, and even then, it didn't sell well.

Anonymous said...

They may not distribute them themselves, but they have to provide the film for release for those who do, no? I just don't think it's as cut and dried as you'd like us to believe.

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