Disney has added “Racist Content” warnings and disclaimers to some of their classic animated films on its streaming service to warn viewers that they believe that some scenes contain “negative depictions” and “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,” says the 12-second disclaimer, which cannot be skipped.
The films include 1941’s “Dumbo,”, 1953’s “Peter Pan,” 1960’s “Swiss Family Robinson,” and “The Aristocats” from 1970. The disclaimer then directs viewers to a website titled “Stories Matter,” which tells readers, “happily ever after doesn’t just happen…”
“As part of our ongoing commitment to diversity and inclusion, we are in the process of reviewing our library and adding advisories to content that includes negative depictions or mistreatment of people or cultures. We can’t change the past, but we can acknowledge it, learn from it and move forward together to create a tomorrow that today can only dream of.”
Disney explains why they have decided put disclaimers on these particular movies:
“The crows and musical number pay homage to racist minstrel shows, where white performers with blackened faces and tattered clothing imitated and ridiculed enslaved Africans on Southern plantations. The leader of the group in Dumbo is Jim Crow, which shares the name of laws that enforced racial segregation in the Southern United States. In “The Song of the Roustabouts,” faceless Black workers toil away to offensive lyrics like ‘When we get our pay, we throw our money all away.’”
“The film portrays Native people in a stereotypical manner that reflects neither the diversity of Native peoples nor their authentic cultural traditions. It shows them speaking in an unintelligible language and repeatedly refers to them as ‘redskins,’ an offensive term. Peter and the Lost Boys engage in dancing, wearing headdresses and other exaggerated tropes, a form of mockery and appropriation of Native peoples’ culture and imagery.”
“The cat is depicted as a racist caricature of East Asian peoples with exaggerated stereotypical traits such as slanted eyes and buck teeth. He sings in poorly accented English voiced by a white actor and plays the piano with chopsticks. This portrayal reinforces the ‘perpetual foreigner’ stereotype, while the film also features lyrics that mock the Chinese language and culture such as ‘Shanghai, Hong Kong, Egg Foo Young. Fortune cookie always wrong.’”
Lady and the Tramp (1955), receives a similar warning for its Siamese cat characters Si and Am (voiced by Peggy Lee, who sings the film’s “The Siamese Cat Song,” a musical number that was cut from the 2019 live-action remake), as well as secondary canine characters each depicted with exaggerated ethnic stereotypes.
Swiss Family Robinson
“The pirates who antagonize the Robinson family are portrayed as a stereotypical foreign menace. Many appear in ‘yellow face’ or ‘brown face’ and are costumed in an exaggerated and inaccurate manner with top knot hairstyles, queues, robes and overdone facial make-up and jewelry, reinforcing their barbarism and ‘otherness.’ They speak in an indecipherable language, presenting a singular and racist representation of Asian and Middle Eastern peoples.”
The Jungle Book from 1967 also makes their ‘racist’ list due to its King Louie character (voiced by Louis Prima), a jazz-singing, be-bopping ape long considered an offensive caricature that utilizes racist stereotypes of African Americans.
Does this mean we can finally expect Song of the South to finally be available on Disney+ any time soon, but with racism warning disclaimers of course? The film still has its own theme park ride at Walt Disney World, but possibly not for long.