Disney+ launched this week giving us a streaming TV service with a frankly scary amount of content from across the Mouse House’s long history. And because that history is so long, it covers eras where political attitudes weren’t quite as progressive as they are today. So surprising no one, there sure is some racism in certain corners of Disney+. What’s interesting though is how Disney has chosen to address it.
Disney+ isn’t entirely comprehensive. Some material that the company finds totally unacceptable just isn’t here. That includes the episode of The Simpsons guest-starring Michael Jackson as well as infamous slavery apologia Song of the South. Remember, Splash Mountain absolutely isn’t based on a movie where characters sing about how cool plantations are.
However, there are other films on Disney+ that should be and are here for the sake of completeness but that do have issues of cultural representation too problematic to not be addressed. You can draw a direct line between the earliest Mickey Mouse cartoons and blackface performances. But even someone without that context can see the racism in, say, the crows in Dumbo or the indigenous people in Peter Pan. And don’t even get us started on Jungle Book author Rudyard Kipling.
So in the descriptions of certain films, Disney+ includes the disclaimer “This program is presented as originally created. It may contain outdated cultural depictions.” That’s not an awful solution. And we’re glad Disney is acknowledging the issue as opposed to pretending it never happened out of shame.
But as far as preservation and presentation of prejudiced material goes, The Washington Post reports that many have noticed Warner Bros.’ treatment of old racist Looney Tunes cartoons was done with far more care. Not only was the rejection of racism far more full-throated, the warning was placed into the video itself, not in a text box that can be easily ignored.
Hate to nitpick a sensitivity warning but Disney+’s feels so brief and kind of dismissive by calling it “outdated cultural depictions” vs Warner Brothers actually calling it racial prejudice pic.twitter.com/98uYEBLyZK
— give Rise 3 seasons or we fight (@unicornmantis) November 12, 2019
Funny enough, one of the original movies on Disney+ is a live-action remake of Lady and the Tramp. Thanks to its Siamese Cats, the original cartoon also needed a disclaimer. And the remake just re-imagines the characters entirely.
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