Anyone who has experienced Vernon Chatman's pop culture impact knows he's not one to tiptoe past sensitive and controversial subject matter. Having spent 20+ years as a South Park writer and producer, Chatman is also known for the dark absurdist comedies Wonder Showzen, Xavier: Renegade Angel and Adult Swim's hyper-brilliant The Shivering Truth, which is currently airing its excellent second season. When CinemaBlend recently spoke with Chatman about Season 2, I hypothetically asked the animation-friendly which classic Disney film he'd be interesting in remaking through the Shivering Truth lens, and his answer was almost painfully on brand.
Perhaps unexpectedly to anyone but Vernon Chatman's most diehard followers, the Shivering Truth writer and co-director chose the highly contentious (and Oscar-winning) Song of the South as the Disney film he'd most like to tackle for today's audiences. Check out Chatman's answer and explanation below:
I can't imagine how baffled Vernon Chatman's parents must have been during that rare Disney-infused trip to the theater. Granted, Song of the South's was re-released back in 1986 to coincide with both the film's 40th anniversary and the pre-construction phase of Disneyland's Splash Mountain, so it's not like the Internet was around to quickly research how problematic the film's Uncle Remus depiction really was.
Plus, Vernon Chatman's parents wouldn't have been able to watch the movie on VHS or Betamax, since Disney has famously avoided home video releases of Song of the South here in the U.S. He did correctly note the film's ongoing availability in Japan, though it's also in other countries where Disney decided slavery wasn't such a controversial part of those cultures.
Song of the South is most certainly on the opposite end of the racial spectrum as the Roots miniseries and Alex Haley's novel, even if it might outwardly appear to be an aw-shucks tale about a white boy, an older black man, and some animated animals. A lot of the controversy surrounding the film stems from Disney not specifying the post-Civil War timeline of Joel Chandler Harris' original tales, making it seem like Uncle Remus and other black characters were perfectly happy with life on the plantation. Definitely not the only troubling issue, mind you, but it's a big reason why you won't ever find the movie streaming on Disney+, even with the content warnings.
Vernon Chatman continued, bringing up how his age at the time affected this mindset, and the movie's specific appeal to younger age groups.
Obviously, there are many black comedians and creators in Hollywood and beyond who would be ideal to tackle an envelope-pushing Song of the South remake, from Key & Peele's Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele to Phoebe Robinson to W Kamau Bell to Sasheer Zamata, just to name a few. But you can bet that Vernon Chatman (who voices South Park's fan-favorite Towelie) would deliver the most unique and unencumbered version of all, for better or worse. Especially if he utilized the warped stop-motion animation that makes The Shivering Truth such a standout series or, alternately, the human/puppetry mix of Wonder Showzen.
To be sure, the world absolutely does NOT need anyone to bring a Song of the South remake into the cultural zeitgeist, regardless of what comedic intent would be involved. But if the project ended up happening anyway, it would be surreally poetic it it got tackled by such a big part of South Park's creative team for two decades. Still, here's hoping Adult Swim keeps renewing The Shivering Truth to the point where Chatman would be too busy to craft any legitimate Uncle Remus-centric pitches for Disney, or any other studios for that matter.
Below, Vernon Chatman talks about how he approaches The Shivering Truth's storytelling structure, which offers some insight into why the Adult Swim hit is able to crawl around inside viewers' psyches so effectively.
That's how you get episodes like last week's "Nesslessness," in which The Good Place's Jason Mantzoukas plays a paranoia-stricken first responder who romances a sentient car that purposefully set up its own crash. Or the previous episode, in which a man takes home a sex doll modeled after his mother, which he spends more time with than his real mother. (Non-sexually, probably.) Suffice to say, any Disney movie that got re-envisioned by Vernon Chatman would be one of the most disturbing projects in whatever year/decade/century it got released.
With no sign of Song of the South getting released anytime soon, either in its original format or as a remake, fans of Vernon Chatman can definitely tune into new episodes of The Shivering Truth on Adult Swim every Sunday night/Monday morning at 12:00 a.m. ET, right after Rick and Morty.
Your Daily Blend of Entertainment News
Nick is a Cajun Country native and an Assistant Managing Editor with a focus on TV and features. His humble origin story with CinemaBlend began all the way back in the pre-streaming era, circa 2009, as a freelancing DVD reviewer and TV recapper. Nick leapfrogged over to the small screen to cover more and more television news and interviews, eventually taking over the section for the current era and covering topics like Yellowstone, The Walking Dead and horror. Born in Louisiana and currently living in Texas — Who Dat Nation over America’s Team all day, all night — Nick spent several years in the hospitality industry, and also worked as a 911 operator. If you ever happened to hear his music or read his comics/short stories, you have his sympathy.