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crazy4wdw
03-24-2007, 07:46 AM
Despite controversy, Disney could unlock 'Song of the South'

Travis Reed | The Associated Press
Posted March 24, 2007

Walt Disney Co.'s 1946 film "Song of the South" was historic. It was Disney's first big live-action picture and produced one of the company's most famous songs -- the Oscar-winning "Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah." It also carries the story line of the Splash Mountain rides at its theme parks.

But the movie remains hidden in the Disney archives -- never released on video in the United States and criticized as racist for its depiction of Southern plantation blacks. The film's 60th anniversary passed last year without a whisper of official rerelease, which is unusual for Disney, but President and CEO Bob Iger recently said the company was reconsidering.

The film's reissue would surely spark debate, but it could also sell big. Nearly 115,000 people have signed an online petition urging Disney to make the movie available, and out-of-print international copies routinely sell online for $50-$90, some even more than $100.

Iger was answering a shareholder's inquiry about the movie for the second year in a row at Disney's annual meeting in New Orleans. This month the Disney chief made a rerelease sound more possible.

"The question of 'Song of the South' comes up periodically, in fact it was raised at last year's annual meeting ..." Iger said. "And since that time, we've decided to take a look at it again because we've had numerous requests about bringing it out. Our concern was that a film that was made so many decades ago being brought out today perhaps could be either misinterpreted or that it would be somewhat challenging in terms of providing the appropriate context."

"Song of the South" was re-shown in theaters in 1956, 1972 and 1986. Both animated and live-action, it tells the story of a young white boy, Johnny, who goes to live on his grandparents' Georgia plantation when his parents split up. Johnny is charmed by Uncle Remus -- a popular black servant -- and his fables of Brer Rabbit, Brer Bear and Brer Fox, which are actual black folk tales.

Remus' stories include the famous "tar baby," a phrase Republican presidential hopefuls John McCain and Mitt Romney were recently criticized for using to describe difficult situations. In "Song of the South," it was a trick Brer Fox and Brer Bear used to catch the rabbit -- dressing a lump of hot tar as a person to ensnare their prey. To some, it is now a derogatory term for blacks, regardless of context.

The movie doesn't reveal whether it takes place before or after the Civil War, and never refers to blacks on the plantation as slaves. It makes clear they work for the family, living down dirt roads in wood shacks while the white characters stay in a mansion. Remus and other black characters' dialogue is full of "ain't nevers," "ain't nobodys," "you tells," and "dem days's."

"In today's environment, 'Song of the South' probably doesn't have a lot of meaning, especially to the younger audiences," said James Pappas, associate professor of African-American Studies at the University of New York at Buffalo. "Older audiences probably would have more of a connection with the stereotypes, which were considered harmless at the time."

Pappas said it's not clear that the movie is intentionally racist, but it inappropriately projects Remus as a happy, laughing storyteller even though he's a plantation worker.

"Gone with the Wind," produced seven years earlier, endured the same criticism and even shares a common actress (Hattie McDaniel, who won an Oscar for "Gone" for playing the house slave "Mammy").

However, Pappas said he thinks the movie should be rereleased because of its historical significance. He said it should be prefaced, and closed, with present-day statements.

"I think it's important that these images are shown today so that especially young people can understand this historical context for some of the blatant stereotyping that's done today," Pappas said.

From a financial standpoint, Iger acknowledged last year that Disney stood to gain from rereleasing "Song." The company's movies are popular with collectors, and Disney has kept sales strong by tightly controlling when they're available.

Christian Willis, a 26-year-old IT administrator in San Juan Capistrano, Calif., started a "Song" fan site in 1999 to showcase memorabilia. He soon expanded it into a clearinghouse for information on the movie that now averages more than 800 hits a day and manages the online petition.

Willis said he doesn't think the movie is racist, just from a different time.

"Stereotypes did exist on the screen," he said. "But if you look at other films of that time period, I think 'Song of the South' was really quite tame in that regard. I think Disney did make an effort to show African Americans in a more positive light."

Though Willis is hopeful, there's still no telling when -- or if -- the movie could come out (beyond its copyright lapsing decades from now).

For this story, Buena Vista Home Entertainment, Disney's distribution arm, issued a statement: "Song of the South is one of a handful of titles that has not seen a home distribution window. To this point, we have not discounted nor committed to any distribution window concerning this title."

DisInsider
03-24-2007, 07:28 PM
If Disney is trully concerned about the potential backlash a release like "Song of the South" could generate, I have a couple of ideas.

They could create an animated short exclusively for the film that address intolerance or some of the other social issues that this release might address.

or

Partner with an organization like the NAACP or another one, release the film with a disclaimer at the beginning and end. They could also donate a large portion of the proceeds from the DVD to charity.

There are many ways that Disney can do the right thing.

Disneybag
03-26-2007, 09:40 AM
I'm not sure why they don't preface it with present-day statements as Pappas said. That's what they did with Leonard Maltin and the Front Line Treasures set. The thousands of people who ride Splash Mountain everyday and have no clue where the concept came from... It's really sad.

DancingBear
03-26-2007, 09:59 AM
Here's the Christian Willis site, which is full of information:

http://www.songofthesouth.net/

Disney Doll
04-01-2007, 09:22 PM
You know, I have never understood why things from 60 or 70 years ago, when the world was quite different, would be considered anything less than historical information.

annie1995
04-01-2007, 09:57 PM
I for one wish they would unlock it. With every thing under the sun on TV now and in the movies, why would this one really bother anybody today? There is far worse out there to be watching.

lamagique
04-03-2007, 08:04 AM
I saw "Song of the South." Yes, there were some definite racist things in there, but I understood Splash Mountain so much more after it. Hmm. But about it being released officially? I am still not sure. I don't think it's the right time QUITE yet.

djm99
04-03-2007, 07:16 PM
I just watched SOTS for the first time last week. I personally didn't see the movie as racist as I did stereotypical of that time. The stereotypes that the south of that era LOVED to put out there about blacks as slaves/servants and quit happy in that place. It appears that this film takes place after slavery had ended (only because I remember Mr. Remus could leave if he'd like) – the whole Uncle thing gets me too. Anyway, I have to say, I didn't like it. It just wasn't my kind of movie. But to be truthful, I'm not a fan of ANY of the classics, they just don't appeal to me in anyway. I think Disney has come a long way in diversity, and I appreciate that in the Disney executives. I was elated to read that Disney was adding a black princess, but still not so happy (and to be honest disappointed) that Disney has once again decided to add a non-black prince to a black princess (remember Cinderella w/Asian Price). At the very least I’m hoping that Disney makes this prince Creole (French and Indian/Native American, French and African, French and something) – it would fit perfect into the New Orleans theme.

This is a perfect example of why so many feel that Disney has been diverse in many respects, but not so in regards to black males. As a matter of fact, the last black male that had a major role in the film was Song of the South – 1946. Not including Eddie as a dragon in Mulan – I'm talking black male humans – in cartoons or real life. - I stand corrected, my DD just said "The Proud Family", and the new movie, "Jump In" - which I loved by the way. BTW, I strongly believe that NO movie/book, etc. should be locked away. Locking a movie up only hides away what is truly a part of American History. My grandmother (an 82 year old) 2nd generation educated women would be HIGHLY offended by this film. She “hates” to see these stereotypes and well let’s just say - she doesn’t watch a lot of modern TV shows.

MassJester
04-03-2007, 07:45 PM
If we can stand Gone With the Wind and Al Jolson movies, I imagine SOTS should be ok in distribution.

2Xited4Disney
04-03-2007, 08:44 PM
Great post DJM!!!


but "(remember Cinderella w/Asian Price)".... The prince was asian????

ASilmser
04-03-2007, 08:56 PM
Great post DJM!!!


but "(remember Cinderella w/Asian Price)".... The prince was asian????

He was talking about the Wonderful World of Disney produciton of the Musical--with Whitney Houston.

thefirebuilds
04-04-2007, 04:23 PM
As Ronnie B and Fez Whatley point out, if they can put Dukes of Hazard on the TV there's no reason Disney they can't put this movie out.

djm99
04-04-2007, 05:33 PM
Great post DJM!!!


but "(remember Cinderella w/Asian Price)".... The prince was asian????

I apologize he was born in the Philippines. And to make this whole thing so much funnier the Prince had a black mother and a white father. Cinderella had two step sisters (one white and one black) - now this is multicultural at its best - but still not ONE black male.

miss missy
04-05-2007, 11:56 PM
Here's the Christian Willis site, which is full of information:

http://www.songofthesouth.net/

site not working

TheRustyScupper
04-06-2007, 09:40 AM
1) I am not a Politically Correct type of guy.
2) I see no reason for not releasing it.
3) A disclaimer or statement of fact should be good enough.


NOTE: The political correctness or sensitivity issues are more "imagined" than "real". There has NEVER been any organized or unorganized display of protest against SotS or any portion of it.

huge mickey fan
04-06-2007, 09:49 PM
I have been waiting a long time for this movie. I hope it comes out! As far as the whole racist concept, we as a country have to understand history so we don't repeat it. As sad as it is, in the late 1800's the African American population weren't highly educated and for the most part were slaves or workers on southern plantations. So Uncle Remus was based on historical fact. It isn't racism but history. I don't really see how this is anymore racist than Peter Pan. I mean think about the lost boys "hunting the red man". Then when the boys are caught and they are being held by the chief and they sing "What makes the red man red?" "What makes them say how?" Obvisicously this isn't how Native Americans talk or act. I would say that is more racist than Song of the South. Don't get me wrong I love Peter Pan but I am teaching my son that isn't real Indian culture just like I would teach him about history.

djm99
04-07-2007, 06:07 PM
I have been waiting a long time for this movie. I hope it comes out! As far as the whole racist concept, we as a country have to understand history so we don't repeat it. As sad as it is, in the late 1800's the African American population weren't highly educated and for the most part were slaves or workers on southern plantations. So Uncle Remus was based on historical fact. It isn't racism but history. I don't really see how this is anymore racist than Peter Pan. I mean think about the lost boys "hunting the red man". Then when the boys are caught and they are being held by the chief and they sing "What makes the red man red?" "What makes them say how?" Obvisicously this isn't how Native Americans talk or act. I would say that is more racist than Song of the South. Don't get me wrong I love Peter Pan but I am teaching my son that isn't real Indian culture just like I would teach him about history.

Although we might not agree on everything, hopefully we can agree that just because something is based off of historical fact it’s not racist. The mere facts of slavery are racist in general. Now before I start my rant, let me say, that I'm in total agreement on releasing this movie. I personal believe that the only way we can get past racism is to deal with it - confront it. Of course I don't speak for all black people, but I personally believe that in order to neutralize a stereotype it has to be reclaimed. Many are trying to hard to lock these things away, forget them away, not sharing our experiences with our kids, and trying to desperately to shut down anything that reminds us of this history. This (IMO) is why our youth is in such disarray – many have not clue where we’ve been, or where we come from, so they have no clue where to go (this is a whole new topic). Anyway, let me explain why I think this Movie will not make its way on DVD any time soon.
It’s a few scenes in this movie that often takes the “racist” blame. It’s that “tar baby” scene. That scene along is a mess in many ways. Remember when Tony snow made that comment at his first press briefing Snow was asked about the NSA program that has allowed the federal government to spy on thousands of Americans. In his response Snow said, “I don't want to hug the tar baby of trying to comment on the program – the alleged program – the existence of which I can neither confirm nor deny.” Yes he used that term in a way to explain a sticky situation, but WE all know that is has been used as a racial slur.

Although I’ve heard and read that Walt himself was racist (not saying it was true, but I’ve read he was), I think the Disney Execs today have jumped extra hoops to be culturally diverse and as I stated in an earlier post, I appreciate that. If they care to continue that cultural respect, this DVD will not see the plastic that makes DVD’s. It will continue to sell bootlegs copies on Ebay for ridiculous amounts of money, but to put it on DVD when they are trying to hard to build great bridges would be a slap in the face. As long as my grandmother is alive (don’t wish death on my grandmother either) this DVD will not happen – I know some of ya’ll (yeah ya’ll) love Disney that much! Give it 20-25 more years.

huge mickey fan
04-07-2007, 08:46 PM
Although we might not agree on everything, hopefully we can agree that just because something is based off of historical fact it’s not racist. The mere facts of slavery are racist in general. Now before I start my rant, let me say, that I'm in total agreement on releasing this movie. I personal believe that the only way we can get past racism is to deal with it - confront it. Of course I don't speak for all black people, but I personally believe that in order to neutralize a stereotype it has to be reclaimed. Many are trying to hard to lock these things away, forget them away, not sharing our experiences with our kids, and trying to desperately to shut down anything that reminds us of this history. This (IMO) is why our youth is in such disarray – many have not clue where we’ve been, or where we come from, so they have no clue where to go (this is a whole new topic). .

I was trying to make this point but you said it so much better!!! I guess I am not a writer!! I agree that to break stereotypes we need to confront and not hide from it. Again I hope I didn't offend anyone, that was not my intent. I belive strongly in history and by this I mean know it, learn from it and make the future better because of it. If we don't we are doomed to repeat it and I personally hope that never happens in my lifetime!

djm99
04-07-2007, 08:52 PM
I was trying to make this point but you said it so much better!!! I guess I am not a writer!! I agree that to break stereotypes we need to confront and not hide from it. Again I hope I didn't offend anyone, that was not my intent. I belive strongly in history and by this I mean know it, learn from it and make the future better because of it. If we don't we are doomed to repeat it and I personally hope that never happens in my lifetime!

I'm not offended - I don't offend that easily - :thumbsup2

tink2020
04-09-2007, 03:43 PM
Good point about the Lost Boys hunting "the Red Man". My favorite example going along with that is always Si and Am from Lady & the Tramp. "Maybe we can reaching in and make it drown ... / Where we finding baby there is milk nearby". Certainly all people of Asian descent don't have hideous grammar, and all Americans and/or all Caucasians do not have an innate grasp of the English language from birth! :confused3

It would be a sad day if they stopped production of Peter Pan and/or Lady & the Tramp!

micknpluto
04-12-2007, 11:23 AM
I'm not sure why they don't preface it with present-day statements as Pappas said. That's what they did with Leonard Maltin and the Front Line Treasures set. The thousands of people who ride Splash Mountain everyday and have no clue where the concept came from... It's really sad.


right on!
:thumbsup2

OLT2004
04-15-2007, 07:58 AM
I"ll be wearing my old Dixie Landings polo shirt as I pop the newly released SOTS dvd in the player............

Or maybe I'll wear my white "Fletch" suit....