Monday, March 26, 2007

DVD Release For Song of the South?

Disney fans were hopeful SONG OF THE SOUTH might receive a DVD release last year for its 60th anniversary, but it didn't happen, apparently due to fears on Disney's part that there would be a politically correct backlash.

Song of the has the latest news, which is that Disney President Robert Iger has indicated a willingness to revisit whether or not to release SONG OF THE SOUTH. Iger recently stated: "We've decided to take a look at it again because we've had numerous requests about bringing it out. Our concern was that a film that was made so many decades ago being brought out today perhaps could be either misinterpreted or that it would be somewhat challenging in terms of providing the appropriate context."

The Disney Treasures set ON THE FRONT LINES did a good job placing some of the more "controversial" cartoons in historical context, and I'm sure that they could do the same for SONG OF THE SOUTH if they feel it is necessary.

I saw a reissue of SONG OF THE SOUTH in a movie theater as a young child and the mix of live action and animation made quite an impression on me, along with the famed Oscar-winning song "Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah." I also remember what a positive impact the Uncle Remus character had on the young children in the film. Indeed, a reviewer at IMDb suggests that the film's politically incorrect reputation is unfair.

It's a shame that to date Disney has prevented my children from seeing anything more than a scene in a sing-a-long video. The movie is very significant in terms of both animation and Disney history, and hiding it in the vaults because some portions of the film may seem dated or make current audiences uncomfortable is wrong. I don't believe it's appropriate for Disney to make those kind of judgments on behalf of its audience. Today's audiences should have the right to view this classic and make their own assessments.

You can sign an online petition to help campaign for the movie's release at the Song of the South site linked above.

(Hat tip for the Orlando Sentinel article at the subject link: Holy Coast.)

Wednesday Update: Here is an AP article which is a much longer version of the article at the subject link.


Blogger Irene said...

As I know you are aware, this has been a discussion item on many Disney boards over the years. I also agree that it is unfairly labeled. I have a copy of Song Of The South from Japan because it is available there (which brings up a whole 'nother subject of why is it available there and not here)which a friend got for me. It is in English, no subtitles except for the songs which are sung in English with the lyrics in Japanese under them. I see nothing offensive in this movie at all. If nothing, it shows things that occurred in the time frame of slavery in historical context. We should not be rewriting history. These things happened. Remember that movie you reviewed awhile back and I got from the library? The depiction of the black butler in that movie was more offensive than anything in Song Of The South. And something else that has always bothered me at Disneyland. They have a whole ride, Splash Mountain, based on the characters of Uncle Remus and this movie and yet most people have no idea this is where those characters came from.

OK. Off my soapbox. You can tell I'd like to see this released :)

P.S. I have to laugh because the last three letters in word verification are "duh".

8:41 PM  
Blogger Dana said...

Interesting comments, Irene. Its a shame Disney doesn't trust the commonsense of the common people. The movie is reflective of a different time period and certainly the majority of viewers would no doubt be cognizant of this. However Disney must be fearful of what would no doubt be a small number of hyper-sensitve p.c.ers who might threaten to take legal action against them for releasing what they would perceive as racist material.

9:58 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Enjoyed your comments very much, Irene and Dana.

Irene, you bring up an excellent point when you mention the butler from REMEMBER THE NIGHT. An even more stereotypical depiction of a black person occurred near the end of MERRILY WE LIVE. I was really cringing when I watched that scene. However, as you and Dana both point out, not only can we not rewrite history as depicted in the films, but on another level we also can't rewrite the attitudes of the day which sometimes crept into filmmaking.

Another great example is Disney's attempt to whitewash smoking out of its old cartoons -- I believe it was the Pecos Bill cartoon in MELODY TIME in which Disney went in and digitally removed cigarettes from the cowboys' hands. Thus Disney erased two pieces of history: 1) that cowboys sometimes smoked; and 2) that smoking was viewed differently in the '40s, when the film was made, than it is now.

As both a film buff and a college history major, this kind of revising of the past really bothers me. How can we tell what the past was like if we try to rewrite it -- or hide it?

However, I know I'm preaching to the choir here! :)

Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts. Let's hope that Disney does the right thing and releases it soon -- without editing anything out.

Best wishes, Laura

10:11 PM  
Blogger UGN said...

I don't think Disney is "making those kinds of judgements on behalf of their audience," but making those judgements to protect themselves. It seems silly to kow-tow to the PC police, but if you are a multi-billion dollar company, you have to take the shrill rantings of the media-mongering minority seriously or it will cost you some big coin. I find it is easy for me to say that somebody else should be tougher than they are in the face of such threats, but I am not the one standing to lose. Heck, I don't even put my own name on my blogs for fear that as a public school teacher I will be misunderstood and labled unfairly--or worse.

8:13 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Hi there,

What kind of money do you envision Disney losing? All I could honestly see happening is some over-the-top group attempting to set up a boycott or something, and I honestly don't think it would have much success. Certain evangelical groups have boycotted Disney because of their policy for benefits for "domestic partners" and looking the other way during "gay days" (which Disney probably couldn't do anything about or face lawsuits), and I suspect that those boycotts haven't made much of a dent in Disney's bottom line. Would the NAACP or another group have more power? (I don't know, I'm just raising the issue.) And to balance that possible problem out, what would Disney stand to profit from the many people who would rush out to buy the movie?

Another question: Is it maybe possible that a multi-billion dollar company could afford to say, "This 60-year-old movie is part of our collective American cultural heritage and should be available to the public to examine," just as great and/or controversial books and music are available to all? *Eventually* they will lose the copyright, due to the passage of time, and it will have to become available, but it would sure be nice if it were available sooner rather than later, especially given the creative ways Disney has been extending copyrights on its properties (by re-using characters in direct-to-video movies, etc.).

I have some sympathy for your argument that it's easy for us to complain if we're not footing the bill or bearing the brunt of bad publicity due to the P.C. police, but the combination of Disney's financial wherewithal and their cultural responsibility weighs more heavily on the scale in my book.

Thanks for adding some thought-provoking ideas to the discussion!

8:41 PM  
Blogger UGN said...

I am wondering if there's a difference between boycotts by Evangelical Christian groups and those by groups on the other side of the political spectrum. I don't know what kind of numbers are behind the Christian boycotts, but I'm a Christian and I'm not happy about the domestic partner thing, but I don't bother boycotting because without the full weight of the media drumbeat adding the real pressure to Disney, nothing's going to change.

On the other hand, one Hollywood knucklehead can dominate headlines, youtube, Access Hollywood, et al for weeks. Eventually, regardless of the actual merit of the arguement, no one dares to disagree with said knucklehead and the company caves in or loses money.

It's possible that no matter how much context and logic Disney puts into this discussion, it won't make any difference. We both know of many situations where common-sense logical arguements never get a hearing in the mass media and the non-sensical non-logical minority viewpoint wins the day--and the lawsuits.

I agree that it is silly for Disney to withhold the movie, but the possible media-supported Jackson/Sharpton tantrum has them running scared and wondering if it is worth it.

Thanks for the best discussion I have had online in months.

10:08 PM  

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