All the ingredients for a happy-go-lucky kid flick are there: The rabbits are cute, the foxes are adorable. You and your kids could watch the whole thing and sleep an undisturbed sleep. But later, maybe days later, it strikes you: "My sweet Jemima, that movie was racist!" I don't mean kinda offensive, but so racist it will make your eyes sting. Realizing that you and your kids consumed nearly radioactive amounts of antiquated stereotypes hidden in the Trojan Horse of fluffy anthropomorphized Disney animals — now that's scary.
While you let that sink in, I'm going to give you my personal Song of the South history. I first saw Song of the South during the 1986 re-release, I was four years old.
What I remember of the screening was that I was in Florida at the time visiting my grandparents, the theater was full, and Bobby Driscoll's character was hit by a bull (spoiler alert). Six years later Splash Mountain opened and all the memories of seeing the film in theaters came back to me. I wanted to see it again, but where was it?
We had just come back from a recent Disney trip and I was telling one of my Mom's friends about Splash Mountain. I said I wanted to see the movie again and she told me that was impossible. Why, I asked? She said Disney would never release it because of its repeated use of the N-word and other racist scenarios. Since I had very little recollection of the film aside from the bull and Brer Rabbit, I took her word for it. I believed this for almost the next 10 years. During that time the only access I had to Song of the South was a VHS tape of Disney sing-a-long songs that featured the final Zip-a-dee-doo-dah sequence.
I became obsessed with trying to find a copy of the film to see if it was really as bad as I had heard. I would look on ebay for PAL versions (British VHS) but they were almost $80. Then finally after almost 10 years of wanting to see the film again a friend of mine bought me a PAL version for Christmas. I had to take it to a video tape copy company and have them transfer it to VHS. The picture was awful and the sound was even worse, but I finally had a copy.
I popped the tape in and started watching. When it was over I was confused, did I have an edited copy? Where were the N-bombs, where was the racism? I would consider the film more boring than it was racist. The animated scenes are some of the best Disney ever made, but the story itself is lacking, it is really just a vehicle to get you to the animated sequences. I would show it to my friends and they had the same reaction.
So, back to the description above, did this reviewer even watch the film? I know the standard response now is "The film is insensitive" and thats why Disney will not release it. Instead of defending the film, Disney refuses to show it to the (uninformed) public which only make it seems worse than it actually is. Uncle Remis is the hero of the story, he is not a slave because the film takes place after the civil war. The black characters are the most likable ones in the film. What is so racist about that?
We live in a very strange time where an album like Tha Carter IV will sell over 1 million copies in a week while simultaneously being one of the most vulgar and offensive records I have ever heard. films that depict gratuitous sex and violence make hundreds of millions of dollars, but Song of the South will sit on a shelf collecting dust forever. I can guarantee you that if it was not made by Walt Disney it would be just another film no one gave a second thought about.