Some readers may know that Song of the South has always been one of my favorite Disney films. Originally released in 1946, I remember seeing it at some point in my childhood and hearing about it often, as it was one of my Dad’s favorites as well. The lessons illustrated by Brer Rabbit and his pals are similar to what he grew up hearing . As a child, I never took on or felt any racist effects from the film, as many critics have stated could be an adverse effect of re-releasing the controversial movie. To a child, Uncle Remus is just a story teller. The tar baby is just that, a baby made out of tar. I realize I am speaking from a white girl raised in a white world perspective but I stand by the fact that most negative views of the film are based on adult connotations of innocent subject matter. Is Gone With the Wind banned due to its portrayal of African-Americans during civil war time? Critics fear the master-slave relationship is a little too optimistic in Song of the South but again, this is a children’s film and the purpose is to share the lessons taught by Uncle Remus, not make a social commentary. Further, I have always maintained the personal opinion that animated films like Peter Pan with its “What Made the Red Man Red” or The Aristocats portrayal of a Siamese cat brimming with Asian stereotypes are actually much worse as far as blatant racism go. Of course these are just my opinions, I am no film critic or historian.
Disney has seen the value of the content within the film, crafting its Splash Mountain storyline and characters around the Song of the South anthropomorphic animals we’ve come to know and love: Brer Rabbit, Brer Bear and Brer Fox among them. However Disney has shied away from making concrete plans to release the film simply because it is so controversial. Most likely any attempt to release it would meet with discord no matter how it was approached. So what’s the answer? Perhaps a prologue explaining that as with any history, time casts the proper light on lessons to learn and not repeat. I can’t in good conscience support a cut or censored version, so hopefully a way can be found to properly bring this film to a new generation, with the caveat that times change and hopefully so do people.
That said, I was just sent a link to an interview by Boston area movie reviewer and pod caster Steve Head. Steve recently interviewed Dave Bossert, the artistic supervisor for Disney’s restoration team as he was covering the D23 event – Fantasia: A 70th Anniversary Celebration at Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts. Dave Bossert gave an encouraging quote regarding the potential for Song of the South’s re-release: “I can say there’s been a lot of internal discussion about [Song of the South]. And at some point we’re going to do something about it. I don’t know when, but we will. We know we want people to see Song of the South because we realize it’s a big piece of company history, and we want to do it the right way.”
Certainly that gives fans of preserving Disney classics some hope, yes? To read the rest of Steve’s wonderful article, head over to The Post-Movie Podcast. Many thanks to Steve for sending this link over and helping to build the excitement for the possible future of Disney’s past. It’s important to note that this is not a definite “yes” as far as a release and certainly no date has been mentioned, however as Steve comments in his article, the optimism comes from the fact that this quote is coming from the supervisor of the restoration team at Disney Animation, which is who should be making the decisions about the release and support of Song of the South.