Disney accused of 'whitewashing' its 'troubling past' for omitting racially insensitive classics from streaming service

Suzy Byrne
Editor, Yahoo Entertainment

Disney+ promises to be the hub for the iconic brand’s past and present on-demand content — but not all oldies will be streaming.

The 1946 film Song of the South will not be offered on the $7-per-month service and the Jim Crow scene in 1941’s Dumbo will be edited out, Boardwalk Times reports and The Hollywood Reporter confirms. That’s because both have been deemed racist — Song of the South for its portrayal of African-Americans working on a plantation and serving their white masters and the Doo-wop singing crows, one of which was actually named Jim Crow, a reference to the racist laws that allowed segregation.

"Song of the South" won't be part of Disney+, the company's upcoming streaming service. (Image: Disney)

Disney’s stance on both of these has been clear. While Song of the South inspired the Disneyland ride Splash Mountain, it was taken out of circulation and never released on home video in the U.S. Disney CEO Bob Iger addressed the decision in 2011, saying, “It was made in a different time... I just felt that there are elements to the film, while it was a relatively good film, that wouldn’t necessarily sit right or feel right to a number of people today.” And while the company could profit from the film’s release, he added, “Sometimes you make sacrifices on the financial side to do what you believe is right.”

The crow scene is the most notorious part of the animated Dumbo. (Photo: Everett Collection)

In Dumbo’s recent live-action remake with Tim Burton at the helm, the crow scene was completely deleted, explaining it was the “animated equivalent of performing in blackface.”

The reaction to this decision has been controversial for a litany of reasons. First, of course, some people don’t think it’s fair that Disney is throwing away history — despite the fact that it’s clearly offensive.

That comes with the typical argument that our country has become too politically correct.

And there are the people who don’t see anything wrong with either film.

Perhaps the more surprising reaction, and one that is strong, is from people who want Song of the South released — and the crows left in Dumbo and the Siamese Cats in Lady and The Tramp (which are seen as mocking Asians). “I want that,” wrote one commenter. “As a reminder.” To take it out is a “white wash.”

There are also people who think this move is an effort on Disney’s part to “pretend that racism in their past doesn’t exist” and believe not releasing it is a form of white-washing.

Additionally, there are those, like the one suggesting a disclaimer be put on the films, who think that — instead of omitting — it could be a “teachable moment.”

Disney+ is set to launch on Nov. 12. It will have 25 original series in its first year, including Star Wars and Marvel spinoffs. However, it will be capitalizing on nostalgia by streaming classics like The Little Mermaid and Toy Story.

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