Thursday, March 11, 2010

The Chief Still Dislikes Song of the South

Another Disney Stockholder meeting, but the same old question:

“Thank you for not disappointing me,” Iger said Wednesday after an attendee of the meeting in San Antonio asked about the 1946 film [Song of the South] ...

Calling the movie “antiquated” and “fairly offensive,” Iger said there are no plans for releasing “Song of the South” on DVD. ...

So that settles that, yes? You want to see SOTS on your flat screen Tee Vee, purchase a Japanese disk.

Or if you want a lyrical homage to the Land of Cotton and Magnolias that's way less P.C. than South, buy yourself a BluRay of Gone With the Wind. Time-Warner will be delighted to sell you one ...

And apparently Disney Resort hotel workers are bent out of shape about their less-than-fab health coverage, and asked Mr. Iger about it.

... One said Iger’s salary is 1,395 times that of a hotel housekeeper and asked why top execs get fat bonuses while other cast members get “takeaways.”

Mr. Iger declined to jump in with an answer, although something along the lines of "If God had meant you to have good health care, he would have made you President of CAP Cities-ABC and a friend of Michael Eisner" would have been appropriate.

I only wish I could have been there.


Anonymous said...

“Thank you for not disappointing me,” Iger said Wednesday after an attendee of the meeting in San Antonio asked about the 1946 film.

Bob...dude...NEVER corporate-stonewall the Disney Fanboys, and do not be stupid enough as to think a smug press-conference quip will do the trick.
They're used to twenty years of Eisner, and that's not what historically makes them go away.

anonymous coward said...

You know, Bob Iger is right. The movie is antiquated and offensive. I wouldn't want my kids to see it until they are old enough to understand the historical context, and even then - it isn't a very good movie.

What it does have going for it is the wonderful, WONDERFUL animated sequences. They are simply sublime in every way. Great voices, great design, amazing animation, wonderful animation/live action combos and some great songs. Surely someone at Disney could figure out a way to package these parts alone in a way that leaves the controversial live action parts behind. The animated sequences are all anyone wants to see anyway, right?

They managed to make Splash Mountain out of the property without upsetting anyone. With some judicious trimming the best parts of Song of the South could be in homes again.

P.S. To Bob Iger: People would pay actual money for this.

Will Hays said...

Ok, then Bob, show us what you're really made of and go all the way: burn the negative and any release prints.

Be a total book-burning/film destroying censor if you really have the courage of your convictions.

I find Hanna Montana and Jonas Bros. and "Disney Princesses™" offensive and those are going to be "antiquated" some day too, but I'm not suggesting they be censored.

Film collectors, hang on to your 16mm and 35mm prints of Song of the South. Other films have outlasted censors like Bob Iger. Film history is bigger than his limousine liberal political correctness.

Anonymous said...

While the live-action parts are slow, they put the animated scenes in context:
Yes, James Baskett chuckles a little TOO disturbingly much--But he also shows a personal supportive interest in our obnoxious and neglected little hero that goes beyond race or class. Remus isn't a slave, but he's no Uncle Tom either.
To brush Baskett's character back to the Servant's entrance, just because he might embarrass the rich-folks, takes away from the basic heart of the movie, which had always the bee in Walt's period-live-action bonnet to begin with.

Yes, the live scenes may take forever to build, but then, a half-hour retooled "Tales of Splash Mountain" would look like utterly disposable Disney-marketing product as well...And Br'er Rabbit doesn't deserve to be Tinkerbell.

Anonymous said...

I disagree. Song of the South is a wonderful movie, not just because of the animation, but because of the performances of its human cast, in particular Bobby Driscoll and especially James Baskett as Uncle Remus. His portrayal is dignified and delightful. How do you think Mr. Baskett would feel if he knew his film was forever imprisoned in the Disney vault because of political correctness?

As for Iger, I have lost a great deal of my hopes of him being a better CEO than Eisner. He's just as bean-counting, wrong-headed and narrowly-focused as Eisner was. Changing the Rapunzel movie's title to "Tangled", greenlighting a Muppet movie (wanna bet it'll be in 3D?) and creating PatF according to marketing experts instead of in service to a good story is all too Eisnerish.

I wish I'd been at that meeting too. But that would mean I'd have to actually own Disney stock, and there's no way I'd invest in the company the way it's being run now.

anonymous coward said...

No, it's not a great movie. Yes, it is racist. Also racist: trivializing the issue of the horrible treatment of Africans in American history by also being "offended" by Hannah Montana, Tinkerbell etc (which I'm sure you're not) and comparing the two.

Anonymous said...

For years, parents and civic groups have been protesting the teaching of Huckleberry Finn in schools, on the grounds of its racism and historical inaccuracies. Some school districts have knuckled under and stopped teaching the book (and in some cases, they don't teach Mark Twain at all.) Other districts teach HF in a curriculum that puts it in its historical context.

Why doesn't Disney release a Song of the South DVD in an equivalent package? Iger has publicly said he thinks the movie is racist. Regardless of whether you agree with his opinion, why doesn't Disney offer educational materials to inform why the movie is considered inaccurate and offensive? Perhaps it's because Disney remains reluctant to allow its founder to be viewed in anything less than a shining positive light?

Iger's failure to address these issues speaks more to the company's attitudes than the film's.

Anonymous said...

The word "racist" has been used in such a way lately it's lost any meaning.

SOTS is a period drama with animated sequences based on a beloved character from folklore. For its time it addresses the racism and mores of 80 years prior in an intelligent and all-embracing way. Walt was racially liberal based on that film. It's the 40s looking back at the 1870s for god's sake!
"Racist"?-what bullshit!

Anonymous said...

Regardless of whether you agree with his opinion, why doesn't Disney offer educational materials to inform why the movie is considered inaccurate and offensive?

One of the reasons the "John Henry" short was produced was to accompany an aborted 50th-anniversary theatrical re-issue with "black historical" intro to put Joel Chandler Harris in context. (Yes, Disney was strategically spinning black-proactive images long before Tiana.)
Why didn't we get that one in theaters?...Three guesses. (Two of them named Maya and Sidney.)

Another good question is: Just WHAT exact "inaccuracies" are we fighting, apart from popular urban-legend prejudices about the movie?
"Happy slaves"? They're not slaves. "Happy sharecroppers"? As with misunderstanding over Hattie McDaniel's GWTW character, that's debatable. Black southerners singing house-written spirituals?--Okay, that did bother some studio folks at the time, but I don't see any watermelon onscreen. That low-echelon post-Bellum blacks might not have had perfect diction?...Heaven FORBID such lies.

If Walt didn't happen to be making a historical screed against sharecropping that resembled Roots, well, excuse him--He thought he was making a movie about a storyteller (real or folk-legend), and pasting on a sentimental fictional plot about the teller's cross-class interest in one of his best listeners.
Walt might have grumbled about public reaction, but passed it off with good word for the actors' performances, and brushed the concerns under "story comes first".

Anonymous said...

song of the south is a beautiful film and not racist. Remus is a fantastic character and my kids love watching it. there is a lot of heart in that movie.

Anonymous said...

I wonder how many of those who declare with absolute certainty that the film is racist have actually seen it. If they had, they'd know that the black characters in the film come off as more compassionate and wise than the white characters do.

As Steve pointed out, GWTW is far less politically correct, very racist, and not nearly as good a movie to boot.

Anonymous said...

What planet are you guys inhabiting where GWTW is "not near as good a movie" as Song of the South?

Anonymous said...

All I ever here at SOTS is that it is racist, to who and why? People are just way to PC and touchy nowadays. So is the book of the stories that are portrayed in the film racist as well? So was James Baskett an idiot who did not know he was being poked fun at? All the bad talk about the movie is based on a small group stating it is racist. Disney needs to stop letting a small minority controlling what they release. You cannot please everyone.

Anonymous said...

Most of SOTS was tailoring its shtick to capitalize on the name talent from the radio Amos & Andy (Baskett, Johnny Lee), who were big stars at the time--
And speaking as an old-radio fan, the mid-40's A&A is another example of a show a lot of people seek their cultural identity by picking on without ever having seen in their entire life.
These were talented performers. (And for those who've seen Lee in the 50's TV A&A, he was the perfect comic performer for Br'er Rabbit.)

Floyd Norman said...

This is why knowing history is so important. If you don’t know what actually happened, then all we have are conjecture and opinions. Most based on scant knowledge at that.

It is not my intention to debate Disney’s “Song of the South” on this blog. However, I’m willing to talk about it should you have a few hours to spare.

Steve Hulett said...

To be clear:

I think Gone with the Wind is a better live-action film than Song of the South is.

But SOTS is a hybrid with chunks of terrific animation, so we're comparing apples to pears.

I find GWTW far more cringe-inducing from a racial point of view. Prissy is far worse than any character in South. By a country mile.

Yet you will note that Time-Warner doesn't withhold the Selznick film from the public, doesn't apologize for it in any way. And you'll have to look long and hard to find any large protests against it.

This is all about corporate decision-making. Diz Co. has made the decision that the costs of putting Uncle Remus out in the U.S. are greater than the profits from releasing him.

That's all this is about, friends and neighbors: Cost to Benefit. Because from any number of objective standards, there is product out in the movie marketplace worse than Song of the South, and you'll hear little talk from other corporate entities about pulling that product back.

And if the film is "racist and antiquated," wouldn't it be racist and antiquated in other countries, too? But the Mouse House is okay with accepting cash in other venues, is it not?

This is a commercial decision, not a philosophical one.

Anonymous said...

Disney remastered the film 8 years ago, and it's available for sale at Disneyland, Paris on DVD (region free!). It's beautiful (and it's FAR better than the Japanese ld). I picked up a copy a few years back. I was at Disneyland, Paris in November, and it was still for sale there.

It's not a very good film. Great songs, James Baskett is very good. The kids are horrible. And the animation is FANTASTIC. It's hardly "racist."

Anonymous said...

LAME.. Outta sight outta mind, since we dont see it, doesnt mean it never happened( get over it already, just a part of history), one of the best movies, and cant even release it. The Animated parts is one of the best work too. Iger has his own issues. Please release the DVD already make it rated R or something :)

Anonymous said...

I think US of A is too busy to split the racism hair in way too many pieces....while the rest of the world would only like to see the movie just as a movie,not as a racial struggle.

From an European POV, all this tail chase is really funny.

Floyd Norman said...

That’s a nice comment from our European colleague. “Tail Chase.” Very funny.

I had to become a world traveler to fully realize America’s “head trip” on race. Of course, I should have known better after producing educational films on Black History and Slavery back in the sixties and seventies.

Naturally, no nation can boast of having perfect racial relations. It’s a world wide problem. However, America with its legacy of slavery seems to struggle with this issue in a very unique way. It’s interesting that this charming little Disney movie still makes people squirm.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, those Europeans are so much more refined when it comes to racism---Anti-semitism is their historical albatross

Anonymous said...

I'm European and I'm shocked by just how much casual racism is allowed in this country. It seems okay on KROQ in the morning to make fun of Mexican Americans and African Americans constantly. If a UK radio host made fun of someone for being black or Indian or Pakistani it would make the news and he would be fired. And rightly so.

I HIGHLY doubt what you're hearing is "racism". It's called a sense of humor.
We're the country of immigrants--lots of everyones from everywhere. Our attitudes have always been different than yours in Europe. Does prejudice exist? Sure does. Is a big city like Los Angeles as insular and white bread/ "racist" as any EU metropolis? Um, no.

Also, the frankly kind of horrificly BS PC-overweening attitude you suggest would get someone fired on the air on London...O rly? Seems to me there's plenty of racial satire everywhere there. If anything it's edgier than our comedians.

Floyd Norman said...

So... Will Disney let us have "Song of the South?"

After all, it's only satire, right?

Anonymous said...

I'm completely aware that this is an animation blog, so this will be the last you'll hear from me as we're hopelessly off-topic.

"Because America has never had any history of anti-semitism, of course..."

Comparitively? No.

You know, Europe is a collection of countries. Don't lump everyone else in with Germany and Austria's crimes during WW2. Most of us were fighting facism.

I HIGHLY doubt what you're hearing is "racism". It's called a sense of humor.

Yeah. Racist humor.

Our attitudes have always been different than yours in Europe. Does prejudice exist? Sure does. Is a big city like Los Angeles as insular and white bread/ "racist" as any EU metropolis? Um, no.

Um, yes. Los Angeles is hopelessly segregated. Entire communities living in racial enclaves that often barely mix with their neighbors. When I moved here I was shocked by how much races put each other down. Race is a HUGE DEAL in LA. Try living in London if you want to experience a real cultural melting pot.

Also, the frankly kind of horrificly BS PC-overweening attitude you suggest would get someone fired on the air on London...O rly? Seems to me there's plenty of racial satire everywhere there. If anything it's edgier than our comedians.

Not since the 1970s. Comedians may talk about race, being black or Indian for example, and draw upon their experiences, but never at the expense of another race. They wouldn't have a career.

Keep enjoying your race jokes though!

Steve Hulett said...

See, the root of the problem isn't national.

It's your good, old-fashioned human being. And the shifting sands of Time.

One example: America used to prosecute guvmint workers -- both our own and others -- for water-boarding (then defined as torture.)

Now, not so much.

In fact, in some quarters, you are not a true and patriotic American if you DON'T advocate torture in the public square.

But national standards and national sensibilities change all the time. Nobody should get on their high horse about their team's superiority, because team rules get rewritten continually.

Steven said...

Not one poster in this stream has been specific or explicit about the "racism" in SotS. Is it a vague sense of nostalgia for a South in which the whites are characterized as an aristocratic ruling class, "naturally" ruling over a black underclass? What are the odds that Disney intended the film as a sociological manifesto? Slim to none, I think.

The white parents in the movie seem stiff, distant and clueless; hardly "superior." I would prefer to believe that Disney had a more typical Disney-like point in mind; that relationship trumps class and race differences. The point was that the bond between Uncle Remus and the boy was stronger and deeper than the one between the boy and his parents because of the quality of their relationship. The boy needed the caring grandfather/teacher/guru relationship he had with Remus more than he needed the trappings of the mansion or a sense of white privilege. Clearly the boy had zero energy on the color of Remus' skin. If anything, it was an ANTI-racist movie.

yahweh said...

But, Steve, you must remember that even Huck Finn is considered racist these days and it is actually an anti-racism book. People have a hard time looking past the surface veneer of illiterate dialects and the use of the n-word.

Anonymous said...

STEVEN---your comments are a BLAST of fresh air, honesty, and truthfulness against the litany of wingnut political correctness.

Steve Hulett said...

Not one poster in this stream has been specific or explicit about the "racism" in SotS.

I have. There really isn't any. Oh, there's a few scenes that lean a little toward stereotype circa 1946. But racism?


You have to go to to "Gone With the Wind" for that.

Anonymous said...

While Gone With The Wind is a far superior film (and one of the greatest), it, too, is more a product of it's time. And as far as it being racist, well--the backdrop WAS the Civil War. And we're on our upteenth video reissue of that film. The Blu-Ray disc is spectacular, and the closest to the final Selznick approved print.

I'm always surprised, it being the highest grossing film of all time, how few people have experienced it. The storytelling, acting, entertainment, and most especially the CRAFT of the film is still quite astonishing 70 years on. Aside from the wonderful animation sequences, Song of the South is very dated.

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