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The Most Controversial Disney Classic You Probably Forgot

A review of Jim Korkis's fascinating new book Who's Afraid of the Song of the South? And Other Forbidden Disney Stories.

by
Chris Queen

Bio

April 8, 2013 - 4:00 pm

Writer Jim Korkis, who began his career as a teenager interviewing legendary Disney animators, chronicles the history of this provocative classic in his newest book Who’s Afraid of the Song of the South? And Other Forbidden Disney Stories (available for Kindle as well). Korkis tells how Walt Disney struggled to make a motion picture he was passionate about, and he writes of the ensuing controversy, which has gone on for over 65 years.

In the book’s foreword, Disney Legend Floyd “Mr. Fun” Norman, the company’s first African-American animator and a fine storyteller in his own right, recalls showing Song of the South at a black church in Los Angeles in the ’80s:

The screening of the Disney film proved insightful. the completely African-American audience absolutely loved the movie and even requested a second screening.

[...]

Yet even today the film continues to be mired on controversy, and that’s a shame. I often remind people that the Disney movie is not a documentary on the American South.

Korkis’ book documents how Song of the South found itself mired in controversy from the start. Walt Disney long admired the folk wisdom and clever stories of Joel Chandler Harris’ tales, and he saw an adaptation of the Uncle Remus canon as an opportunity to right the studio’s ship after the financially difficult war years, as well as a chance to innovate by blending live action and animation.

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In an era of Southern segregation and the already churning waters of race relations, Disney took pains to craft the film as carefully as he could. When a first draft by Louisiana writer Dalton Reymond proved so racist as to be beyond the pale, Walt turned to author Maurice Rapf, a communist-leaning (gasp!) Yankee (double gasp!) — who would later find himself blacklisted — to fix the script, and other writers helped whip an acceptable screenplay into shape. The filmmakers chose to set the film after the Civil War, though they were not always clear about the setting. For example, the screenplay presents a greater level of interaction between blacks and whites than during the antebellum era, and Uncle Remus threatens to leave the farmstead of his own accord, whereas he would have had to escape had he still been a slave.

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Top Rated Comments   
How is Uncle Remus "racist?" The "wise servant" has been a staple of Western literature since Aesop---Shakespeare made much use of wise, and comic, servants.

Uncle Remus is merely Aesop tricked out in blackface. But blackface is nothing more than a mask, which is again a device that goes back to the Greeks. In the US, certainly for some 75 years after the Civil War, black people---like it or not---still were the primary members of America's servant class.

The thing to understand is that while there are relationships in the Remus stories which are racial, they are not "racist." The two are not synonyms.

1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
It probably wouldn't be deemed appropriate to show "Song of the South" to young audiences today. To expose young impressionable kids to Uncle Remus smoking a pipe - and bumming a light from a frog no less - would be more than our fragile society could bear.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Controversy over "Song of the South" is another example of revolutionaries eating their own---just like the destruction of WPA murals in schools. The murals, usually painted by far-left artists, exemplified the far-left PC of their own day---and they are now often removed and destroyed on the grounds that they "depict racist stereotypes."

"Song of the South" is based on the Uncle Remus stories, which were wildly popular from the time they were introduced in the 1880s until the 1960s destroyed American history and culture. So far from being "racist," the Uncle Remus stories are intended to show reconciliation and amity between the races. Remus is not a slave; he is a FORMER slave, who is valued as a man for his wisdom. Were he not, he would not have had the opportunity the stories record to tell a white child the stories he does.

The "ban" on "Song of the South" is a last holdover of the late '60s-early '70s period when TV stations which showed vintage films routinely cut the "black sequences" out of them. This supposed act of "racial sensitivity" merely ensured that several generations of Americans, white and black, grew up wholly ignorant of some of the greatest performers America ever produced---and in thrall to the clumsy, stupid, oafish view of race relations which now dominates places like MSNBC.

1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
All Comments   (26)
All Comments   (26)
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This politically-correct sensitivity makes me sick.

I bought the long-awaited DVD release of Victory Through Air Power after Disney had hidden it from view for several decades. It is a fantastic film with breathtaking animation, yet to ensure that we know that Disney does not condone aerial bombardment, the viewer is subjected to an extremely lengthy intro by Leonard Maltin.

I should add, the DVD is programmed so that Maltin’s introduction/disclaimer cannot be skipped.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
It's available in China. I know 'cause I bought it at a bookstore here. It's charming and speaks of love, caring, unity and forgiveness.

So... "Holiday Inn" (Bing Crosby in blackface) is okay but "Song of the South" is taboo?
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Next up, somebody will try to retroactively ban "In the Heat of the Night" and "To Kill a Mockingbird"...
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
How is Uncle Remus "racist?" The "wise servant" has been a staple of Western literature since Aesop---Shakespeare made much use of wise, and comic, servants.

Uncle Remus is merely Aesop tricked out in blackface. But blackface is nothing more than a mask, which is again a device that goes back to the Greeks. In the US, certainly for some 75 years after the Civil War, black people---like it or not---still were the primary members of America's servant class.

The thing to understand is that while there are relationships in the Remus stories which are racial, they are not "racist." The two are not synonyms.

1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Very well put!
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Liberals could find something bad in " The Sound of Music."
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Well, for one thing, it's terribly speciesist that the Lonely Goatherd gets the girl instead of finding happiness with one on his herd...
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
It probably wouldn't be deemed appropriate to show "Song of the South" to young audiences today. To expose young impressionable kids to Uncle Remus smoking a pipe - and bumming a light from a frog no less - would be more than our fragile society could bear.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Doc, I would give your statement a thousand likes if I could! Made me chuckle. Bless you my brother!
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
This movie has been a perenial top contender in the most wanted DVD Master release.

Zip i doo da zip it e a, my oh my what a wonderful day! Plenty of sunshine heading my way! Mr. Bluebirds on my shoulder.

Suppression of history, same as it ever was.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Just like it is anti-PC to show or listen to either version of Amos & Andy. Both the radio version and the TV one. In it's day A&A on the radio was the biggest thing in Broadcasting. Now you can't even mention the names without being branded as a racist.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
America is committing suicide, victim by victim, day by day. The DWL in charge are zealots to a secular morality of pathological altruism, deploying their black shock troops engaged in a racist intifada, as well as cultural Marxist tactics culled from the Frankfurt School and Saul Alinsky.

But the tragedy of this is far deeper than you might suppose, because simultaneously whites have been inculcated with learned helplessness, i.e., the boiling frog syndrome, which has been pounded into them incessantly by the leftstream media, entertainment, and the educational propaganda machine. Thus whites will never do anything except talk.

Each of us has three choices: emigrate to a neutral country, fight on your feet, or submit forever on your knees. Unfortunately or otherwise, since I am older I took option #1. I could never move back to the US; as for the rest of you, I wish you the best of luck.

Please see the following:
Pathological altruism [http://www.amren.com/features/2012/07/pathological-altruism/]

Learned helplessness [http://psychology.about.com/od/lindex/f/earned-helplessness.htm]
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Controversy over "Song of the South" is another example of revolutionaries eating their own---just like the destruction of WPA murals in schools. The murals, usually painted by far-left artists, exemplified the far-left PC of their own day---and they are now often removed and destroyed on the grounds that they "depict racist stereotypes."

"Song of the South" is based on the Uncle Remus stories, which were wildly popular from the time they were introduced in the 1880s until the 1960s destroyed American history and culture. So far from being "racist," the Uncle Remus stories are intended to show reconciliation and amity between the races. Remus is not a slave; he is a FORMER slave, who is valued as a man for his wisdom. Were he not, he would not have had the opportunity the stories record to tell a white child the stories he does.

The "ban" on "Song of the South" is a last holdover of the late '60s-early '70s period when TV stations which showed vintage films routinely cut the "black sequences" out of them. This supposed act of "racial sensitivity" merely ensured that several generations of Americans, white and black, grew up wholly ignorant of some of the greatest performers America ever produced---and in thrall to the clumsy, stupid, oafish view of race relations which now dominates places like MSNBC.

1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I remember Song of the South. One thing you never see is the slaves actually working in the field. You see them coming or going but not actually picking cotton or other work. What you did see was a kind of distance between the races but also a respect, that is both saw each other as human.

I will post a warning as well: you might find copies of Song of the South for sale on Ebay or the like. Don't be fooled. You'll likely get a box with the right cover and a blank VHS tape inside.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Black laborers and sharecroppers, maybe, but not slaves.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Shouldn't see any slaves, since it's takes place during Reconstruction.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
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