For over 90 years, the Walt Disney Company has brought joy to audiences young and old with its original animated classics, enchanting fantasies and live-action remakes. Its newly debuted streaming service, Disney Plus, has content galore, offering fans unlimited access to their Disney favorites.
The studio’s deep library warrants a bit of caution, however, prompting Disney to preview some of the platform’s films with a warning that older titles might contain offensive, “outdated cultural depictions.”
“This program is presented as originally created,” the disclaimer reads. “It may contain outdated cultural depictions.”
Disney is perhaps best known for its kid-friendly storytelling, but the racist stereotypes depicted in some of its films is far from innocent. Since its 1941 release, the movie “Dumbo” has faced criticisms for including a version of vocal black face in the form of crows who use jive slag.
The lead crow was aptly dubbed “Jim Crow,” a reference to racial segregation in the Deep South.
Look at #DisneyPlus letting the people know early that their old films were racist and culturally insensitive.
Accountability is key, and historical context is important. pic.twitter.com/JvHVYMxBsk
— Ernest Owens (@MrErnestOwens) November 12, 2019
A Black centaur in the film “Fantasia” is portrayed as a piccaninny who waits hand and foot on her white counterparts. “The Jungle Book” has also been accused of promoting negative stereotypes of Blacks. The movie is based on a children’s classic novel that is set in India, not Africa.
Classics like “Lady and the Tramp” and “Peter Pan” have come under scrutiny for its racist depictions of Asian and Indigenous characters. A pair of Siamese cats are sketched with slanted eyes and exaggerated accents, while “Peter Pan” features a musical number titled “What Made the Red Man Red.”
One film from the Disney archive was omitted from the streaming platform completely. The company opted to exclude the controversial 1946 flick “Song of the South,” which features popular song “Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah,” due to its portrayal of emancipated Blacks in the post-Civil War South.
While many lauded Disney for holding itself accountable, others wondered if the studio should scrub offensive titles from the platform altogether.
“That’s that bullshit Disney,” one Twitter user wrote. “You want us to buy into your Disney+ but don’t care that you have racist content on there. I definitely will not be spending my money on that. Old racist content my ass.”
“How about @Disney @disneyplus just remove them?” another chimed in. “Who wants to watch old, racist cartoons?”
Others decried that fact that the platform omitted a “Simpson’s” episode about pop star Michael Jackson but chose to keep its racially insensitive content.
— Anneke_Jackson (@Anneke_Jackson) November 15, 2019
Disney Plus currently offers more than 500 movies and TV shows from Disney, Pixar, Marvel, Star Wars, ESPN and more. Since launching Tuesday, the platform has amassed over 10 million subscribers.