“You can’t run away from trouble” | Song of the South (1946)

Please note that some quotes included in this essay contain outdated and potentially offensive language. They have been included to reflect the language and culture of the time.

There is no argument that, in 1937, the film producer Walt Disney made history with his animated feature film Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Scornfully referred to as “Walt’s folly” during its production, it was an unprecedented achievement in the screen arts and a runaway commercial success. Follow-up works soon followed, from Pinocchio and Fantasia (1940) to Dumbo (1941), each produced with growing ambition. Then that rising success was dealt a significant setback: the USA entered the Second World War.

It is not simply that a growing number of artists and animators left the company to join the war effort; rationing led to shortages of basic animation supplies including paper and ink. Disney was soon roped into producing propaganda shorts and features, most notably with Saludos Amigos (1942) – a film underwritten by the State Department and intended to dissuade South American countries from siding with Nazi Germany.

Walt Disney Productions was facing a significant financial crisis. Profits from Snow White had been funnelled into new productions, and Fantasia in particular had suffered cost overruns and weak box office returns. When war broke out in Europe, revenue was cut for Pinocchio and Dumbo. Inside this difficult and volatile context, Disney was finding it more and more challenging to produce feature animation.

One solution was to focus on portmanteau films, combining a series of shorter and less expensive animated segments into feature-length works. Saludos Amigos was one such work, and was joined by The Three Caballeros (1944) as well as a string of subsequent films during the immediate post-war years.

Another was to combine animation with live-action, since the latter was much cheaper and faster to produce. This technique proved successful in both 1941’s The Reluctant Dragon and the 1943 propaganda feature Victory Through Air Power, and Walt Disney personally was keen to repeat the strategy.

The result of that plan was Song of the South (1946), a live-action/animated hybrid that remains the single-most contentious production in the history of Walt Disney.

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Song of the South takes place in post-civil war Georgia; the film is maddeningly vague over precisely when, although a calendar is very briefly glimpsed showing the year is 1901.

Seven-year-old white child Johnny is despondent to learn he is to be shipped out to a rural cotton plantation with his mother, while his father remains behind in Atlanta to edit a city newspaper. When Johnny tries to run away from the plantation one night, he meets the kindly old black man Uncle Remus. Their growing friendship convinces Johnny to remain on the plantation, hearing Remus’ folk stories of the animals Br’er Rabbit, Br’er Fox, and Br’er Bear, and befriended local girl Ginny.

Song of the South adapts the folksy children’s stories of author Joel Chandler Harris. As a journalist in Confederate America, he appropriated oral folk stories from black slaves and rewrote them as an ongoing newspaper serial. Short moral tales would feature a range of animal characters – Brer Rabbit, Brer Bear, and so on – and be ostensibly narrated by a fictional old black man known as Uncle Remus. The stories were written in a crude colloquialization of black slang.

The stories were first collected into a book in 1881, and soon became enormously popular with American readers. Having read the Uncle Remus stories as a child, Walt considered them the ‘greatest American folk stuff there is. Came in print when I was a kid, and I read every one.’[1] He had kept an eye for adapting the stories in animation as early as 1939, when he first approached Harris’ estate over purchasing the film rights.

Song of the South was actively developed from June 1944. It premiered in American cinemas in 1946, and received two Academy Awards.

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You cannot legally watch Song of the South today. It is not screened in cinemas. It is not available to stream on Disney+. It has never been released on DVD or bluray, and the last time it was available to audiences in any form was a British VHS release more than 20 years ago. Always careful with its brand profile, today’s Walt Disney Company would clearly prefer Song of the South had never existed.

There is a popular myth that Song of the South was widely seen as appropriate and straightforward in its time, and later fell under criticism for the manner in which it treats race – specifically African Americans in post-war southern USA. It is a belief that suggests modern audiences cannot take the film in the manner it was intended. ‘So politically correct,’ goes the line, ‘how “woke”.’

This myth is inaccurate: Song of the South’s original 1946 release was met with spontaneous condemnation and controversy. A telegram campaign by the NAACP sent to the country’s major newspapers urged them to recommend audiences not see or support the film. The Harlem congressman Adam Clayton Powell Jr begged the New York commissioner of licences to close down theatres that dared exhibit it. Protests were held outside of theatres not only in New York but Los Angeles and San Francisco as well. Writing in the Afro-American, Richard B. Dier called it ‘as vicious a piece of propaganda for white supremacy as Hollywood has ever produced.’

Unsurprisingly, Song of the South received a much more enthused response in the South and within conservative publications. The right-wing Los Angeles Criterion went as far as to suggest any anti-Disney picketers in California were likely communists.

Poor Song of the South star James Baskett, stuck in the middle, said: ‘I believe that certain groups are doing my race more harm in seeking to create dissension than can ever possibly come out of Song of the South’.[2]

There is no evidence that Walt Disney intended Song of the South to be a racist work, although that does not stop it from being one. Walt Disney Productions was hardly free of releasing racist content in general, thanks to a string of ill-advised cartoon shorts in the 1930s and unfortunate grace notes like the black centaur servant in Fantasia. (The crows at the end of Dumbo (1941) remain a more ambivalent case.) Racist terminology and language was also commonplace in the workplace – sadly in keeping with the bulk of mid-1940s America.

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What there is considerable evidence about is an awareness within the production company of the potential for the film to be unintentionally racist. Internal memos discussed what they called ‘the Negro question’; resolving to avoid using the word ‘negro’ itself throughout the film, to avoid stereotypical and negative depictions of black characters, and so on.

Disney’s publicists were, not surprisingly, the first to identify potential problems with adapting the Uncle Remus stories for the screen. One of them, Vern Caldwell, warned Song of the South’s producer Perce Pearce that: ‘between the negro haters and the negro lovers there are many chances to run afoul of situations that could run the gamut all the way from the nasty to the controversial’.[3] The publicity department liaised with their peers at 20th Century Fox, which had produced Andrew L. Stone’s African-American musical Stormy Weather in 1943. One warning that Fox staff made was that a primarily black-focused feature would be costly to release in the South: separate theatres would be required since the black audience was legally segregated from the white one.

Leon Hartwick, editor of the black newspaper Los Angeles Sentinel, reported that Disney had consulted with black actor Clarence Muse to – in Hartwick’s words – ‘render an expert opinion on the contemplated picture’.[4] Muse claimed to have been unimpressed with the materials that he was given, and urged all black newspapers to protest Song of the South’s release. Walt insisted Muse had campaigned for the starring role of Uncle Remus, and when he was rebuffed tried to stir discontent in the black community as revenge.

Despite ongoing concerns, Song of the South was put into active production in June 1944 with an estimated production budget of around US$1 million dollars. For cost reasons, one-third of the finished film was expected to comprise animation; the remaining two-thirds would be produced in live action.

Disney hired Southern-born writer Dalton Reymond to write the screenplay. While his 51-page screen treatment pushed the film into production, it also fell afoul of the censorious Hays Office – which objected to some of the offensive terminology used within. Seeing that Reymond’s work was not going to hit the populist, uncontroversial take he was looking for, Walt hired Maurice Rapf to undertake rewrites.

Walt’s choice to hire Rapf is an odd one. Disney was a staunch anti-communist. He had violently resisted an animator’s strike in his own company in 1941 to the point of being physically restrained from a fist-fight with the union leader. He openly considered the nascent Screen Actors Guild a communist plot to infiltrate the USA. He was an enthused supporter of the House Un-American Activities Committee, and had testified there himself to accuse and name his own former animators. Maurice Rapf, meanwhile, was a 30 year-old Jewish co-founder of the Screen Writers Guild (later absorbed into WGA West). He was a member of the Communist Party USA and had even visited the Soviet Union on student exchange in 1934.

Rapf’s participation on Song of the South lasted about seven weeks, at which point conflict between him and conservative co-writer Dalton Reymond became untenable. He continued to work with Walt Disney, however, co-writing another live-action/animated blend So Dear to My Heart (1948). In 1946 Rapf was named in a Hollywood Reporter list of alleged communists. Ill health excused him from testifying in person; at the time he was blacklisted from Hollywood he was attempting to introduce a sense of class struggle into the screenplay of Disney’s Cinderella (1950).

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While the screenplay was being written, studio colour artist Mary Blair was sent on a 10-day scouting trip to Georgia to develop an authentic palette for the film. The intention was to make the live-action parts of the film particularly colourful, so as to match the brightness of the animation.

Walt approached popular director King Vidor to consult on the live-action process, with an eye to convincing the filmmaker to take on directing duties himself. When this proved unsuccessful, he hired 37-year-old Harve Foster instead.

Walt Disney Production had worked in live-action before, but it was part of Walt’s long-term strategy to introduce a schedule of non-animated features that could both increase company revenue and stabilise it as well. Animation was both slow and costly, whereas a live-action feature could be more rapidly produced and released into theatres to keep money coming in annually. While it would take until Treasure Island in 1950 for Disney’s plan to come to fruition, the process began in earnest with Song of the South.

Juvenile actors Bobby Driscoll and Luana Patten were cast for the film’s live-action scenes; Driscoll as protagonist Johnny and Patten as Ginny Favors. Both actors were the first ever signed to Walt Disney Productions on contract, with Disney himself eager to expand into live-action features as soon as possible.

The nine-year-old Driscoll was born in Iowa before his family moved to California. A small cameo in Roy Rowland’s 1943 drama Lost Angel led to a much larger role in Lloyd Bacon’s The Fighting Sullivans (1944) at 20th Century Fox. From there he appeared in a number of films before being picked up by Disney.

Both Driscoll and Patten were reunited for So Dear to My Heart (1948), which was intended as Disney’s first fully live-action feature before distributor RKO insisted on including animated content. They also appeared together in a live-action segment of Disney’s Melody Time that same year, opposite star Roy Rogers.

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In 1950, while shooting Disney’s Treasure Island in the United Kingdom, Driscoll was found to be working without a valid permit. Given six weeks to present an appeal to the UK’s home office, Driscoll had all of his scenes completed in a rush before he was deported. The incident had a catastrophic effect on Driscoll’s career, since Disney was unable to use him on subsequent British film shoots including The Story of Robin Hood and his Merrie Men (1952). His last Disney production was the animated film Peter Pan (1953), for which he voiced the title character and provided live-action reference for the artists.

Subsequent to his Disney contract, Driscoll struggled to find regular acting work and became addicted to heroin and marijuana. In 1961, at the age of 24, he was sent to California’s Narcotic Rehabilitation Center via court order. Upon his release he moved to New York, and joined Andy Warhol’s art community in Greenwich Village. In 1968 his dead body was discovered in an abandoned building in the East Village. Unidentified at the time, he was found by post-mortem to have died of atherosclerosis – the result of a lifetime of drug abuse. His death was not publicly announced for another three years.

Patten thankfully enjoyed a more upbeat and productive career. In addition to her Disney appearances with Driscoll she performed opposite ventriloquist Edgar Bergen in Fun and Fancy Free (1947) and later played Priscilla Lapham in Johnny Tremain (1957). Over the course of a 30 year career she performed in almost 20 different feature films and numerous TV series including Bonanza, F-Troop, Perry Mason, and The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet. She died of respiratory failure in 1996, aged 57.

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Disney scored a coup with the casting of Hattie McDaniel for the role of Aunt Tempy. McDaniel was the first African-American winner of an Academy Award, which she had scored for her supporting performance in Victor Fleming’s Gone With the Wind (1939). She was the film’s highest-profile actor.

McDaniel’s career had been met with some criticism, not from racist whites but from some corners of the black community. Her willingness to play a variety of old aunts and domestic servants led to accusations that she was capitulating to negative stereotypes. ‘Why should I complain about making $700 a week playing a maid?’ she allegedly said, ‘If I didn’t, I’d be making $7 a week being one.’[5]

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The most important role of the film, however, was that of Uncle Remus himself. As early as 1941 Walt had courted the popular actor and singer Paul Robeson, however by the time it came to actually cast the part Robeson was no longer under consideration. It is not difficult to assume that Walt’s staunch anti-communist attitude – and Robeson’s own left-wing politics – were a factor in his no longer being considered.

After an exhaustive search, the radio actor James Baskett was signed on to play the role. He lacked screen experience, but seemed to have charisma in spades. He had also briefly worked for Disney before, providing uncredited voice work for Dumbo (1941). Baskett’s original audition was to voice the animated character of Br’er Fox, which he also played in the film. While, like Hattie McDaniel, Baskett faced some criticism for playing a racially stereotypical role, praise for his performance was near-unanimous.

Sadly Song of the South proved to be Baskett’s final screen role. Health complications due to diabetes put his acting career to an end. In January 1948, Walt personally wrote to Jean Hersholt, president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Scientist, urging the Academy to award Baskett with an honorary Oscar. The suggestion was eagerly accepted, and on 20 March 1948 he received an Academy Award for ‘for his able and heart-warming characterization of Uncle Remus, friend and storyteller to the children of the world in Walt Disney’s Song of the South’. He was the first male black actor to receive an Academy Award. He died four months after receiving it.

Filming of the live-action portion of Song of the South commenced in December 1944, utilising an outdoor cotton plantation that had been planted by the studio early in the year. Studio work was undertaken in Disney’s own Soundstage 1, having been refitted for recording at a cost of more than US$200,000. To ensure the fit-out was fit for purpose, and to guide the studio’s permanent staff in live-action filmmaking, Disney signed on producer Samuel Goldwyn and cinematographer Gregg Toland for an additional US$350,000. Toland, best known for his work on Orson Welles’ Citizen Kane, worked as director of photography.

Animation took longer to produce, since the company was still contracted to produce propaganda for the US government. It caused a significant gap between the end of principal photography in early 1945 and Song of the South’s theatrical release the following November. In total, 36 artists worked for two years to complete the required half-hour of animation. The three short sequences, each relating one of the Uncle Remus stories, were directed by Wilfred Jackson.

Film and Television

In contrast to the studio’s by-then well-established tradition, in which key animators would handle one character throughout the whole film, Song of the South allocated key animators to supervise whole scenes instead. Animator Ollie Johnson said: ‘We each did all the characters in the scene because they all related so closely, and they were always in contact with each other. The character relationship was really the top of the creative art. It’s the two characters working together, who really communicate with the audience. They define each other’s personalities.’[6]

Working on Song of the South was a source of great enthusiasm for many of the Disney animators; the majority had been working on propaganda animation since 1942. Animator Ken Anderson said: ‘It was the most fun I ever had on a Disney picture. Walt insisted on pioneering the possibilities of combining animation and live action. He wanted to try the most difficult actions and interplay between live and cartoon characters to enhance the illusion that truly existed in one world.’[7] Similarly, colleague Marc Davis said, ‘I think almost all the animators who worked on it would have to say that they never did anything that was more fun than that film.’[8]

For what it is worth, these animators were correct. Song of the South is a masterpiece in terms of its hand-drawn animation, its integration of live-action film and animation, and its superb character design.

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Song of the South received its world premiere in Atlanta, Georgia. It was an event intended to celebrate the film’s southern heritage, albeit with unintended consequences: James Baskett and his black co-stars found themselves unable to participate in any of the activities within the segregated city. ‘I was absolutely horrified,’ recalled co-star Ruth Warrick, ‘when I came to the first showing and found Jim Baskett was not there.’[9]

It is notable that, despite being well aware of the film’s racist reputation from the start, Disney re-released Song of the South with about as much frequency as any of their animated features. It was returned to cinemas in 1956 for its 10th anniversary, in 1972 for the company’s 50th, then in 1973 as part of a double bill with The Aristocats. A newspaper comic strip launched in 1945 to promote the film, Uncle Remus and his Tales of Br’er Rabbit, was popular enough to run continuously via the King Features Syndicate until the end of 1972. Song of the South was re-released one final time in 1986 – to both celebrate its 40th anniversary and to launch promotions for Disneyland’s “Splash Mountain”.

The “Splash Mountain” ride, which made extensive use of Song’s animated characters, was developed as late as 1983 with the ride premiering in mid-1989. It cost US$80 million to develop and construct; at the time easily the most expensive Disney park ride ever made. It took until 2020 for Disney to announce that the Song of the South links in the ride would be retired, replaced with a theme inspired by 2009’s The Princess and the Frog.

It is somewhat telling that Song of the South never received a re-release in the 1960s; the growing civil rights movement had too much potential to spark protests against the film and damage Disney’s family-friendly reputation. By 1972, with Richard Nixon’s Republican administration firmly ensconced in government, such a risk had abated.

While Song of the South was never released on any home video format in the USA, it did get released several times across Europe and Asia. In the United Kingdom, the film was available on VHS up until a final 2000 release. It has been unavailable globally since then, and has never been granted any kind of release on DVD or bluray. While there have been internal discussions within Disney over developing some form of limited release – the Walt Disney Treasures range of limited edition DVDs seemed a potential outlet during the early 2000s – for now it is safe to assume Song of the South will remain locked within the studio vault well into the future.

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The obvious question is ‘is that a good thing?’ Racist or otherwise, Song of the South represents a work of art; not only that but a historically significant work of art at that. By blocking legal access to the film, Disney is denying a mass audience’s opportunity to see a performance deemed worthy of an honorary Oscar and animation considered career-best by many of those artists that made it.

Obviously there are far more actively racist films from cinema history that are available. A quick Internet search, for example, reveals that it is a simple matter to purchase a DVD boxed set of Leni Riefenstahl’s greatest hits – literally Nazi propaganda. Some appallingly racist Warner Bros animated shorts have been released more than once, albeit accompanied and framed by documentary material analysing their place in history.

Of course, it seems highly unlikely that a child would stumble upon Riefenstahl’s Triumph of the Will (1935) in their living room and mistake it for wholesome family entertainment – or indeed mistake an 85-year-old black and white German documentary as particularly watchable to them. The same probably cannot be said of Song of the South, which is colourful, cheerful, and – it must be said – still very charmingly and attractively animated. Perhaps there is a price to be paid for keeping unsuitable material out of children’s hands. Perhaps we are better off with Song of the South sealed in a vault.

Just how racist is the film? It is obviously difficult to tell with the film rendered commercially unavailable for two decades. That said, commercially unavailable is not actually unavailable, as Internet criminals of a seafaring persuasion might tell you. It is also still possible to purchase second-hand VHS copies of the film, although by now the picture quality will be fading as the asking prices increase.

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It is important to note up-front that there is no doubt Song of the South is a racist work, and to a significant extent. The film’s live-action portions take place in and around a southern plantation house. The rich white landowners live in the house, and a group of black employees work the fields outside. They are not described as slaves, but critically they are not not described as slaves either. Either way, these African American characters act and speak in a subservient manner to the adult white characters, and they speak in a stereotypical vernacular akin to 19th century slaves. Where they are rural and folksy, their white employers are presented as civilised and genteel. One can debate the intentions of the film’s creatives, but it is next-to-impossible to deny the effect.

While there may be some precedents, Uncle Remus marks the first significant example of what director Spike Lee later described as the ‘magical negro’. Lee used it to refer to that black supporting character in predominantly white narratives, who has no purpose bar stepping in to assist and uplift a white protagonist. That is their ostensible purpose at any rate; in the context of a broader cultural dialogue, the magical negro is a tonic to white audiences to side-step difficult conversations about race, hegemony, and history.

Despite the character’s structural role, James Baskett does deliver a dignified and warm performance. He is likeable and, in his way, a responsible father figure to the film’s juvenile characters. It is commendable that he was recognised by the Academy for his work, but also somewhat offensive that he was only recognised in an honorary sense without being allowed to compete against the all-white Best Actor nominees.

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One of the most regularly cited examples of Song of the South is an animated sequence in which the villainous Br’er Fox successfully captures Br’er Rabbit using a ‘tar baby’; a faked-up humanoid doll made from tar and turpentine. Shake its hand, and your own hand gets stuck to it. Attempt to remove one hand, and you become entangled with the other. The concept of the tar baby originated in the African folk stories that Joel Chandler Harris appropriated for his own fiction, and was simply recycled by him. It subsequently became a colloquial term for any situation made worse by attempting to interfere with it, and was used as such as recently as the 2000s by American politicians including John McCain and Mitt Romney. The term has also over time become a racist slur: literally a case of a term originating in reference to black culture, and then being appropriated by racists because regardless of anything else it sounds racist.

By 1976 the term was in enough use as a racist slur to feature in a deliberately incendiary Saturday Night Live sketch between Richard Pryor and Chevy Chase. When McCain and Romney used it in their respective speeches they both faced significant criticism for doing so. Joel Chandler Harris never used the tar baby to specifically be racist, and neither did the production team of Song of the South. Nobody gets to control language, however, and times change. It is a sad fact that, rightfully or otherwise, time has simply made Song of the South even more racist than it was.

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Here’s the thing: Song of the South is liberally soaked in racist assumptions, but significantly it does not actively insult or abuse African-American people or culture. While the film is written by white people, the Br’er characters are firmly connected to a black identity via Uncle Remus. No character of colour is actively demeaned: caricatured, yes, and presented through a lens of sanitised white supremacy, but never actively ridiculed. There is no Jar-Jar Binks on this plantation. At its worst the film represents a white privileged attempt to profit from black culture, and while that is absolutely harmful, it is not necessarily hostile. Compare this to the stereotypical Native Americans in Peter Pan (1953), the Siamese cats in Lady and the Tramp (1955, and notably excised from the 2019 live-action/CGI remake), or the superficial use of Native American and Chinese culture in Pocahontas (1995) and Mulan (1998). It can be argued that by self-censoring Song of the South, the vast Disney commercial machine can paper over the multiple infractions in other animated shorts and features by comparison. Perhaps audiences can be convinced to overlook the offensive Chinese cat in The Aristocats (1970) or not to dwell on whether or not King Louis in The Jungle Book (1967) is a racist caricature. A considered assessment of Aladdin (1992) would be right out. We could consider any of these things to be racist on one level or another, but are they as racist as Song of the South – a film Disney itself tells us is so offensive that they cannot possibly release it to the public? If one assumes Song of the South does belong in a vault, there are quite a lot of films that likely deserve a shelf next to it.

Audiences and film studios alike could learn a lot from Song of the South. A quick survey of American popular cinema as a whole suggests that we have not learned a great deal without it. I write this from a highly privileged position as a white person – and am keenly aware of that privilege while writing this – but I do wonder what black audiences think of magical negroes like “Bubba” Blue (Mykelti Williamson) in Forrest Gump (1994), Boyd “Red” Redding (Morgan Freeman) in The Shawshank Redemption, and particularly literally magical black characters like Dick Halloran (Scatman Crothers) in The Shining (1981) and John Coffey (Michael Clarke Duncan) in The Green Mile (1999).

I wonder how Japanese viewers felt to see their culture misrepresented in Ron Howard’s Gung Ho (aka Working Class Man, 1986) or Philip Kaufman’s Rising Sun (1993), or to see Sean Connery masquerading in yellowface in You Only Live Twice (1967). Or, for that matter, Mickey Rooney in Breakfast at Tiffanys (1961)? I wonder how Somalis felt to see their entire nation essentially represented as zombies in Ridley Scott’s Black Hawk Down (2001), or the people of Burkina Faso as literally zombies in the Ford Brothers’ The Dead (2010). Do Indian viewers appreciate having their culture and identity ravaged by Steven Spielberg’s Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984); and I swear you would need an atlas to fully cover the viewers offended by George Lucas’ Star Wars: Episode I: The Phantom Menace (1999).

One could claim that Hollywood was getting better, but it would be a difficult claim to back up with the reverse-Driving Miss Daisy drama Green Book (2018) winning the Best Picture Oscar in a year where its competition included both Black Panther and BlacKkKlansman.

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There is so much racism in popular entertainment, because there is so much racism in popular culture. Some may disagree with this assessment, but they should probably know that disagreeing is exactly what racists would say. As the saying goes, the first step in solving a problem is admitting that we have a problem. Keeping Song of the South out of the public’s hands does seem a little futile.

People, especially ardent fans of Star Wars, James Bond and – let’s face it – Walt Disney, can often bristle at seeing the objects of their affection criticised in such a fashion. It is important to remind these people that it is okay to enjoy problematic things. The Walt Disney Animation Studios have produced some of the world’s most enchanting and accomplished films. They have also presented audiences with examples of institutional and active racism, sexist portrayals of characters, and opportunistic manglings of global cultures. The one does not discount the other, but neither can it be ignored. The way to improve matters is for the audience to have the difficult conversations, and to acknowledge and accept when minorities – whether racial, cultural, sexual, and so on – find fault, hurt and offence in cultural artefacts.

Speaking personally, I believe that Song of the South should be available to watch in some form and by some means. At the same time, I categorically do not believe that such a choice should be my call. After all, I am not someone that the film hurts. My life is not overly inconvenienced by not being able to stream Song of the South on Disney+. I also note that despite its historical significance and high-quality animation, Song of the South’s live-action sections have a tendency to drag; we are not losing out on a Fantasia or a Bambi here. Having researched the film’s production, considered its merits and drawbacks, and considered its position among American cinema as a whole, what I really want to do now is listen.

We have time. When the Walt Disney Company restored and preserved their catalogue of shorts and features from 2011, cleaning each negative and transferring them to digital 4K scans, Song of the South was included in the process. That 4K restoration is yet to be viewed by a public audience, but it is there whether Disney chooses to re-distribute it or not.

[1] Steven Watts, The Magic Kingdom: Walt Disney and the American Way of Life. Houghton Mifflin, New York, 1997.

[2] Steven Watts, The Magic Kingdom: Walt Disney and the American Way of Life. Houghton Mifflin, New York, 1997.

[3] Neal Gabler, Walt Disney: The Triumph of the American Imagination, Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 2006.

[4] Neal Gabler, Walt Disney: The Triumph of the American Imagination, Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 2006.

[5] Quoted in “First black Oscar winner honored with stamp”, CBS News, 14 May 2008.

[6] Dan Scaperrotti, “Zip-a-dee-do-don’t: Disney’s missing Song of the South”, Animefantastique Vol 1 No 2, 1999.

[7] David Hutchison, “Splash mountain”, Starlog No 156, July 1990.

[8] Jim Korkis, “Song of the South animation”, Cartoon Research, 13 March 2020.

[9] Bill Lohmann, “Popularity of Song of the South has weathered racial tempests”, Orlando Sentinel, 30 November 1986.

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