Subscribe To Disney+ Features A Warning On Some Of Its Older Content With 'Outdated Cultural Depictions' Updates
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The Walt Disney Company has been making entertainment products for almost 100 years. A lot has changed in that time, and while animation would be barely recognizable today compared to what it was like back when the first Mickey Mouse short, Plane Crazy, was produced, the other thing that has changed a lot in the last century is the culture itself, and that's one place where Disney's history has occasionally caused problems for the company.
Certain cultural depictions that were viewed as entirely normal at the time when they were created, can be seen with a modern eye as being quite inappropriate. Disney's most famous example of a piece of media aging badly is Song of the South, a movie deemed so inappropriate today, that it hasn't been released on the new Disney+ streaming service, and likely won't ever be. There are, however, some other, potentially lesser examples of this insensitivity have made it on to Disney+. Disney has addressed this issue by adding a disclaimer to the descriptions of some early films and animated shorts. Check out the last line of Dumbo's description below.
Dumbo has more that one potentially problematic sequence in it. The Song of the Roustabouts sees several clearly African-American workers putting up the circus tent while singing about their lack of education and penchant for drink. The end of the film sees a collection of crows that speak in a jive-like dialect, the leader of which is actually known as Jim Crow, which is, just, just awful. There had been early reports that this infamous sequence would actually be removed from the Disney+ version of Dumbo but the movie on the service right now is unedited. Instead, this disclaimer prepares the audience for what they're going to see.
The disclaimer also exists on several of the early Mickey Mouse shorts that being spotlighted on Disney+. Many of them don't really have any problematic material in them, but still contain the note. It appears that Disney has simply decided to add the disclaimer to all of the service's early material in order to cover all bases.
This is probably the best way to go. While simply not broadcasting the problematic material, you prevent re-offending the parties who are being improperly characterized. At the same time, wiping it from history has the potential to make it appear that the wrong decision was never made in the first place, and if we don't embrace mistakes, we don't learn from them.
It's also certainly true that outside of the contentious areas, there is a lot of other value in some of these classic animated features and cartoons. These are artifacts of animation history which should be preserved if only for that reason.