Culture

Some of Your Favourite Disney Classics Are Now Getting Disclaimers About Racism

"These stereotypes were wrong then and are wrong now."
October 20, 2020, 12:07pm
peter pan dumbo disney
Left: Screenshot of Peter Pan. Right: Screenshot of Dumbo. Both from Walt Disney's website

Older Disney films streaming on Disney+ including Peter Pan, Dumbo  and The Aristocats will now carry a content advisory notice for racism. The viewers will be warned about the stereotypes, negative descriptions and mistreatment of other cultures. 

The announcement appeared on Disney’s official website on October 16 with the details and listings for other titles such as Swiss Family Robinson. A 12-second announcement will be played in case of Peter Pan, Dumbo and The Aristocats

This unskippable disclaimer tells viewers: “These stereotypes were wrong then and are wrong now. Rather than remove this content, we want to acknowledge its harmful impact, learn from it and spark conversation to create a more inclusive future together.”

The disclaimer sounds quite like what Warner Bros used for highlighting the racism in Tom and Jerry. Previously, Disney has added a brief warning on these films calling it “outdated cultural depictions”.

The new warning also includes a link to Disney’s official website section “Stories Matter” which further explains the issue and the problematic content. 

Other movies such as Lady and the Tramp, which has several instances of racism and cultural stereotyping, also carries a warning.

Some other instances of racism in Disney movies can be seen in Jungle Book (1968), in which the character of King Louie, sings in a Dixieland jazz style and is shown as a lazy ape with poor linguistic skills. The character has been called out for being a racist caricature of African-Americans.

In the movie Aristocrats, the character of the cat is depicted as a racist caricature of East Asian peoples with exaggerated stereotypical traits such as slanted eyes and buck teeth. In the movie Dumbo, the crows and the musical numbers are shown paying homage to racist minstrel shows. In Peter Pan, the portrayal of native people is depicted in a problematic manner; it doesn’t reflect diversity nor their authentic culture. The word “redskins” is used for them which is offensive. Later, Peter and the lost Boys are also shown dancing and wearing headdresses which is a form of mockery.

This isn’t the first time Disney has taken such initiatives to highlight such issues. Earlier this year, in June, they also announced that they would recreate their popular Splash Mountain ride in Disneyland by removing all references to Song of the South, one of Disney’s most controversial movies. Its depiction of plantation worker Uncle Remus shows an old racist myth that slaves were happy in the cotton fields. The movie is currently unavailable on Disney+. 

Disney said the decision is a part of its “ongoing commitment to diversity and inclusion.” Rather than removing the problematic and the offensive content, the company wants to acknowledge its harmful impact, learn from it and spark conversation to create a more inclusive future together and hopes to “spark conversation and open dialogue on history that affects us all."

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