Walt Disney Animation Studios has been around for nearly a century, and as you know, our society’s depictions of the many rich cultures of the world has shifted quite a bit within the past 100 years. Heck, it's continued to even in the last year alone. Now that over 60 million families have access to a Disney+ subscription, which gives them access to the studio’s vast library of classics, they also have the keys to some dated content that is racially insensitive by today’s standards.
Upon rewatching early classics of Disney films, viewers may be caught off guard by The Aristocats’ caricature of East Asian people through The Siamese Song, or Peter Pan’s stereotypical depiction of Native American people. In response, Disney has now added the following content warning that will appear before each of their culturally insensitive films:
This program includes negative depictions and/or mistreatment of people or cultures. These stereotypes were wrong then and are wrong now. Rather than remove this content, we want to acknowledge its harmful impact, learn from it and spark conversation to create a more inclusive future together. Disney is committed to creating stories with inspirational and aspirational themes that reflect the rich diversity of the human experience around the globe.
This message appears for 12 seconds before 1941’s Dumbo, 1953’s Peter Pan, 1960’s Swiss Family Robinson and 1970’s The Aristocats without the ability for viewers to skip over it. At the bottom of the message, Disney+ also encourages audiences to visit a section of the Disney site called “Stories Matter,” which is devoted to discussing its intentions about delving into its harmful past and improving in the future. If users click on the link, it will direct you to the following video as well:
In the video, Thelma & Louise actress Geena Davis of the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media speaks about the negative impact movies such as these have on a young audience if they are not addressed and discussed. On the Stories Matter page, Disney explains that rather than removing these offensive films from its library altogether, the company would like to use them as an opportunity to spark conversations about the history with racism these films depict.
Disney has sought out an advisory council comprising of diversity organizations, such as the African American Critics Association, the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) Media Institute and the Coalition of Asian Pacifics in Entertainment (CAPE). The new resource goes on to specifically detail damaging depictions, such as the original Dumbo including a group of crows (one of whom is actually named Jim Crow) that ridicules African-Americans who lived on Southern plantations during U.S. history.
Now there is one film that has been deemed too controversial to be placed on Disney+ at all. 1946’s The Song of the South has basically been erased from the Disney library and will continue to be once Disney officially re-themes Splash Mountain into a tribute to Princess and the Frog, as announced by the company earlier this year.
Disney is centering itself on streaming more than ever before, with Pixar’s latest film Soul now premiering exclusively on Disney+ on December 25 instead of getting a traditional theatrical run. Check out what else is new to the streaming platform this month with CinemaBlend’s list of Disney+ October releases.