SUSPENDED ANIMATION #258
With Disney+ not including Song of the South (1946) in its offerings, it once again ignited the controversies about the film that are often based on a mixture of misunderstandings and urban legends – because, for the most part, it has been tightly locked away unavailable in the Disney vaults for decades.
It was definitely with a naïve unawareness of the racial situation in America at the time that Walt intended to diversify into live action by producing a film about American folklore just as he had made films of European fairy tales. His contract with distributor RKO required his films feature a significant portion of animation, even though Walt’s resources in that area were severely strained after World War II.
Animator Marc Davis recalled that, “Walt had been interested in getting into live action for some time. Here was a way he could do that and have his cartoon, too. I think almost all the animators who worked on it would have to say that they never did anything that was more fun than that film. We, as a group, never liked the live action film particularly. But maybe we’re jealous, too.”
The film does not take place during the era of slavery but during the time of Reconstruction after the Civil War. At one point, Uncle Remus decides to pack up and leave which he would not have been able to do as a slave because he would have been considered the property of the plantation.
He is a free man and the others working on the plantation are sharecroppers and in the original script by Maurice Rapf, one of the reasons the father has to go to Atlanta is to raise money to pay them. That reference by Rapf and others like a title card stating the year were removed by writer Dalton Reymond after Rapf left the studio.
A clear indication that Walt considered the entire film a fantasy was that in October of 1944, he sent color stylist Mary Blair to Atlanta, Georgia for ten days of conferences and field trips with a local artist and historian “to collect historical and scenic background”.
The intent was to make the live action so unrealistically colorful as to blend seamlessly with the animation. Her color schemes used for the live action set and costume designs helped transform an Arizona location where the movie was filmed into a post Civil War Georgia that never was. Walt was aiming at an emotional fantasy authenticity rather than an accurate historical documentary.
Thirty-six animators took two years to do the animation that accounts for only about one-third of the film. The first release of the film emphasized the live action in the hopes that this would be the beginning of the Disney Studio producing live action films but later re-releases prominently focused on the animation in all publicity.
Storyboarding the animated sequences was the assignment given to Bill Peet. While several of the fables were developed as possible animated segments, supposedly it was Walt himself who selected Running Away, Tar Baby, and Laughing Place as the three to expand into the ones that appear in the final film.
Bill Peet wrote in his autobiography. “Developing the characters of the rabbit, the fox, and the bear and working with the quaint old fables was the most fun I’d had since Dumbo.”
“Bill Peet’s great story work seemed to lend itself to this type of casting …which could have only been done by one person handling both the characters and completely controlling every single bit of action, timing and cutting. He had developed strong character delineation, and the design of the characters inspired the animators to get a very loose handling of their work,” stated animators Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston in their book Disney Animation: The Illusion of Life.
Disney storymen Ralph Wright and George Stallings also contributed to the gags and story. Six of Disney’s fabled Nine Old Men (Marc Davis, Ollie Johnston, Milt Kahl, Eric Larson, Les Clark and John Lounsbery) were given credit as directing animators. Wilfred Jackson was overall supervising cartoon director.
After the constraints of working on military training films with limited animation and mundane stories, Disney’s animation staff was very excited about working on this new project. Actually, the short length of the three segments was an advantage as the artists could spend more time on their animation without the budget limitations that would have been enforced on a full length animated feature to produce more animation footage and at a quicker rate.
Ken Anderson remembered, “This was the most fun I ever had on a Disney picture. I think that’s true for most of the animators who worked on it too. To me, the perfect culmination of layout, animation, and art direction happened in Song of the South.
“Every scene was thumb-nailed before it went to layout, checked with the director Wilfred Jackson and storyman Bill Peet. Then the scene was cast for an animator and the animator could redraw the thumbnails if he wanted and we would thrash it out. We pasted all the thumbnails in a large book so we knew exactly where we were at any given time. There was never that degree of coordination again.”
Ollie Johnston animated on all three primary characters: “It was one of the most exciting pictures I ever worked on. Each fable was full of action, and with those three great characters you had quite a wonderful triangle there. I really liked the character relationships that developed between the rabbit, fox and bear.”
Eric Larson who worked on Brer Bear remembered that “The charm of animation is simplicity and pantomime. Where could you find three more clearly defined characters getting into strange predicaments than in Song of the South? The characters were especially fun to animate because they showed a lot of thinking going on behind them.
“We were so happy to be working on this film after so many years of making those dull government films. Also, it was so different from our previous animated feature, Bambi (1942). Here we could give the animals human traits and then exaggerate all the movements whereas with Bambi, everything had to be animated true-to-life and very exact.”
Marc Davis animated on Brer Fox and Brer Bear constructing the tar baby. He also contributed story sketches to the live action-animation combination sequences with Uncle Remus and Brer Rabbit. He was always quick to praise Bill Peet for “a tremendous job” in developing the film’s highly “animate-able cartoon situations and vivid personalities”. Marc Davis said, “Bill Peet is the one who deserves the credit for that conception…absolutely an incredible thing’”.
The original negatives for the Song of the South are stored in a climate-controlled vault at the Library of Congress’ audiovisual preservation facility in Culpeper, Virginia.
In 2011, Disney began a program to preserve their entire library of volatile nitrate film negatives by making 4K digital scans of the films as well as making new black and white successive exposure negatives designed to preserve the films for another hundred years. Song of the South was one of the films preserved even though there were no plans for a re-release.
EDITORS NOTE: For more information about Song of the South, read Jim Korkis’ book Who’s Afraid of The Song of the South? And Other Forbidden Disney Stories (2014).
I first watched “Song Of The South” multiple times at matinee screenings when it was released theatrically locally in 1982.
I saw an only child, who loved his father deeply, going through the trauma of his father going away.
And the boy going to a strange place where his mother was cold, his grandmother distant, and the local boys bullying.
The only people who offered him friendship was Ginny (his only white friend), Toby, the plantation workers who he socialised with at night, and Uncle Remus.
When the mother ordered around Uncle Remus and other workers and spoke to them like dogs I was disgusted with her character – I saw her as the film’s villain. My depiction of the mother was similar to my feelings of Cinderella’s stepmother.
Similarly when the mother picked the “friends” she wanted him to associate with at the birthday party, rather than the people who were his real friends.
I certainly do not see the sequences as validating that it was OK for white people to treat non-whites in that fashion post Civil war.
Same as I do not see Stromboli as representing all puppeteers.
When Johnny was lying unconscious after the bull attack, the workers were singing in mourning.
(and in each cinema screening I attended, audiences were crying and blowing their noses)
This sequence reminds me of Pollyanna’s illness where all the people she had befriended and Aunt Polly had not, such as the Agnes Moorehead character, came to wish Pollyanna well, before “getting off Aunt Polly’s property”.
If the mother or the grandmother had been hit by the bull, it would be insulting for the workers to mourn.
But Johnny joined in with them and tried to be their friend, resulting in his friends being naturally upset.
And the conclusion of the movie when parties of both races were singing and celebrating together is something that can only assist racial harmony.
(As well as more tears of joy and blowing noses from audiences)
I do have some quibbles e.g. I have never been a fan of “yes massa” dialogue.
But if the mother is viewed as the villain of the film (not “defending the white honor of the South”) , and we all treat each other in the same way as Johnny & Uncle Remus, then the world would surely be a better place.
“This sequence reminds me of Pollyanna’s illness where all the people she had befriended and Aunt Polly had not, such as the Agnes Moorehead character, came to wish Pollyanna well, before “getting off Aunt Polly’s property”.”
That’s another reason SONG OF THE SOUTH has historical significance that cannot be denied: it had as much influence on subsequent Disney live-action features as SNOW WHITE did on subsequent animated features. In fact, it and SO DEAR TO MY HEART (which is a good movie in its own right) also seems structurally the most similar to the early animated features compared the later 60s/70s hybrids which were basically Broadway-style musicals with animation in them.
I totally agree with your description of the film. I am 80 years old and grew up in SE GA. I grew up associated with wonderful black people who loved me and whom I dearly loved. I saw a similar relationship between Johnny and Uncle Remus that occurred between our dear maid Belle and myself. She was the person I could run to with my problems when my mother didn’t understand. She was the person who took me crabbing so many times, and made wonderful meals for our family. There were many others like her in my life, as well as children and their families that when I taught school, both in FL and MI. In my home town in GA I NEVER heard or saw any of our black help or those in my family or of our community treated without respect, and that is God’s truth.
I’ve always felt the harsh judgment against this film was unfair. The question that needs to be asked is–which characters in the film are intelligent, good, kind, and human, and which characters are the nasty ones–short-sighted, bigoted, ill-informed, and uncompromising? It is no contest when you look at the film in that light.
Today, even the animated sequences are off limits. I’ve often thought that a good compromise with the Powers that Be at Disney might be to create new live-action framing sequences for the stories that would be free of the taint of the charges laid against Disney’s original version, and thus the animation could be re-released. But I guess totally scrapping the entire film is the only option that anyone is willing to give it. Strange, because “Splash Mountain” is such a popular attraction in the theme parks. As it stands, unlike most other Disney attractions, there is now no film (that anybody is allowed to see) on which it is based. So exactly what Disney experience is being re-lived in waiting in the long lines for this ride? And if the film is so terrible, why is the ride so incredibly popular?
I greatly enjoyed the book “Who’s Afraid of Song of the South?”. But I expected that it would be a harbinger of a re-release of the film, which never happened. I have read the book over several times now, and find it well-researched and a great read. I just wonder why it didn’t change anybody’s mind.
I’ve heard the same accusations made against TV shows that are still in reruns and on DVD today.
“…[N]o folk tales are better loved than Joel Chandler Harris’s ‘Uncle Remus’ stories…. And if, now, in ‘Song of the South’ we have succeeded in a measure to help perpetuate a priceless literary treasure — my co-workers and I shall, indeed, be very happy.” — Walt Disney
Sorry, Walt and company, but today the Uncle Remus stories are of only marginal interest to folklore scholars, and none at all to anyone else. A couple of them were in an anthology I had for an undergraduate English course, and I had great difficulty deciphering the old-fashioned dialect writing. It’s hard to imagine anybody reading them aloud to their children in this day and age.
I saw SotS in 2003, by the simple expedient of hiring it at the local video shop, and I watched it twice over the weekend. I now wish I had had the foresight to purchase it at the time, so that I could have had copies made for friends in America. The reason I didn’t is simply that, despite the first-rate animation and fine music, I just didn’t care for it enough to pay $50-60 to include it in my personal library. On the whole I considered it on a par with (or maybe a little better than) Bedknobs and Broomsticks, but not nearly in the same league as Mary Poppins. Since it has never been released on DVD in Australia, I’m now sorry I didn’t buy the VHS. Not being able to get something makes you want it all the more. When I first came to Australia I used to crave things that I couldn’t get here, like Reese’s peanut butter cups and Pop-Tarts. Now that they’re available (not universally, but in specialty shops), I never want them.
I think all of us who follow Cartoon Research would agree that every animated film should be available to anyone who wants to see it. That said, I kind of understand why Disney persists in keeping SotS under wraps. As the world’s preeminent entertainment conglomerate, Disney takes a lot of heat for everything that’s wrong with society. Nobody would praise them for releasing the film on home video or their streaming service; people would either slam them for doing so, or castigate them for not having done so earlier. The term “Tar-baby” would be revived as a racial epithet — you can count on it — and Disney would get flak for that as well. It’s just easier, and safer, for them to maintain the status quo. But the longer they do, the more people will want it.
That’s an excellent book you’ve written on the subject, Jim. Bravo!
I couldn’t disagree more. SONG OF THE SOUTH is so much better than the last Walt-era hybrid that it’s shameful that one is put on a pedestal and the other is vilified when it ought to be the reverse. Not just in terms of the animation being better, but the acting and music as well. Honestly, the later film is the more racist of the two, and if Disney thinks suppressing the work of black actors to prop up inferior and derivative work by white actors in a number that not only looks like blackface, but whose staging is shamelessly derivative of the “America” number from WEST SIDE STORY: brown people singing about the pros and cons of American culture.
BEDKNOBS AND BROOMSTICKS is better than either of them or any movie ever made or that ever will be made. Angela Lansbury is 100 times the actress Blake Edwards’ widow ever was. I wish Disney could be legally punished for the extent to which they cut it only to cut it again after putting the redacted material back, especially when all the scenes explaining Roddy McDowall’s presence and third billing were among the casualties.
Sorry if I struck a nerve there, Matthew. But we all have our opinions, and I respect those whose views are out of the mainstream. If you really think the greatest movie of all time is “Bedknobs and Broomsticks”, more power to you!
Two things about the article: 1. I don’t think the scene was intentional. 2. I feel like NYTimes has been WAY overly sensitive in recent years.
It gets better: I consider PETE’S DRAGON and TRON superior as well, never mind BEDKNOBS.
None of them would have happened without SONG OF THE SOUTH so it is disingenuous for the studio to withhold it on those grounds alone.
“a naïve unawareness of the racial situation in America at the time”🤔
Great piece of writing here.
The best thing Disney can do is give this picture a proper release as there are so many good things that can come from it.
Certainly withholding it is not working. There are a plethora pf bootleg copies plus legitimate VHS copies (I have one of those).
The day will come when the title enters the public domain. Then the underground copies will surface.
Nothing is easier than finding an amateur-restored version of the film online these days. It’s sufficient to go to archive.org and type “Song of the South”, and you immediately get five different versions of the film, all of them in good quality.
As a white kid growing up in the late 1950s, I was indoctrinated by stories of hate and bigotry against the black population and many other social and religious groups. Yet, when I saw Song of the South, I wanted a person like Uncle Remus in my life: happy, kind, wise, firm. It was at this point I started suspecting that the stories total to me were lies. I saw the behavior of my white peers as being despicable. Song of the South was a turning point in my young world. It taught me to break away from stereotypes and to start making my own opinions. I would love to see this movie once again. I’m beginning to wonder if this movie is being repressed because in a around about way, Uncle Remus in actually is far better person than the common man.
The film’s biggest flaw isn’t what they do show. It’s what they don’t. Remember the scene where Johnny and Uncle Remus were crying because of his mother trying to drive a wedge between them? Multiply that by infinity and that’s slavery. Unfortunately, a film showing the true extent of the horrors of slavery wouldn’t have passed the Production Code or played in Southern movie houses in 1946. And that might have made the dichotomy of the colorful animated fantasy world and the bucolic “reality” of the live-action scenes even more jarring.
ditto….and amen!! THank you!!
Paul Groh’s comments are on-point. SotS is slowly fading from public consciousness. Not just SotS, but any number of vintage art and media productions. And, aside from the relative importance of film preservation, maybe it’s just as well.
One and a half centuries has passed after the Civil War, time enough to learn and expand our consciousness, and the racial divide never goes away somehow. It’s as though there is always a path to blame “other people” for perceived problems, most of which have to do with money, power, control.
Meanwhile, SotS’s release to home video really does seem like a lose-lose proposition. Yes, Birth Of A Nation was broadcast on cable without issue, but an ostensibly family-oriented movie from Disney has considerably more potential for controversy.
While it’s comforting that SotS has been preserved, maybe it’s best to let it lie. Animation fans and historians can see the film with a little effort; it’s not as though the world is entitled to have a deluxe Bluray publicly served up for everyone on social media to go to war over.
It’s not like I’ve bothered to look at my laserdisc copy in umpteen years.
I actually own a legal copy of this film as it was released by Disney in the UK and Japan during the VHS era. I have a friend who lives overseas who purchased a copy for me.
I agree with most of the comments here. Anyone viewing the film would have to come to the conclusion that most of the adult white characters are the bad guys in the film and Remus is clearly the wisest, best human.
My own kids never understood “Splash Mountain” (they grew up in Orlando and went to the park quite often) until I showed them “Song of the South,” so I can’t imagine what most kids make of the ride today.
It has always amazed me that “Gone With the Wind,” a film that portrays the southern slave-owners as the heroes and has a much more demeaning picture of African-Americans has been on home video for decades with nary a peep of protest, but a howl goes up every time someone suggests released SOTS.
There are nice restorated versions of this movie in a well-known “archive” site on the internet. One of my favorite pre-Little Mermaid Disney feature films, alongside Pinocchio and Victory Through Air Power.
I originally penned a six-paragraph response to Korkis’ apologetic line: “a naive unawareness of the racial situation in America at the time” — (i.e. ‘We forgive you Walt’), but decided not to post it. What would be the point? For many cartoon enthusiasts Disney will always be an animation god, who when it comes to issues of race in his films, he was either apparently [naively unaware] or simply rolling with the racist attitudes of the times like so many other of his contemporaries. So no matter what I write it will never alter their unconditional worship and love for the “great” Walt Disney.
Note: The notion that any white or black man in the 1940s, or for that matter anytime in American history from 1776-present, could be [unaware] of America’s centuries-long, hostile racial dynamic is not believable. Walt was not a simpleton nor did he live in a make believe bubble isolated from reality.
Maybe when Walt’s thawed out, He can explain it all to us.😁
Ugh, that post reminds me of those guys that were interviewed in that rather disappointed “American Masters” documentary. Why not pick on Termite Terrance while we’re at it with the Censored 11 and all?
For what it’s worth, Jazzman, I think you should go ahead and post your original comment. You might not change any minds if you do, but you definitely won’t if you don’t.
Rather than a general release, Disney should give the movie to Criterion so they can do a special limited time release for serious movie buffs. They could have supplementary materials that put Song of the South in proper context.
I don’t see why not. I mean early on, they licensed some Touchstone films to Criterion as part of their official series such as “Rushmore” and “Armageddon” (believe it or not). Plus, it seems they still have a deal with Criterion on releasing special editions of the 20th Century (Fox) films. They just released one for “Leave Her to Heaven”.
Just as a note, the first animated sequence — Uncle Remus singing “Zipadee Doo Dah” and Brer Rabbit running away from home — is part of “One Hour in Wonderland”, a 1950 television special included with the bonus features on the two-disc “Alice in Wonderland”. The special was filmed in B&W, but for the DVD they replaced all the animated segments with the original color versions, even in the shots where the animation appears within the B&W magic mirror frame.
“The Disneyland Story”, first episode of the weekly Disney hour, included the Laughing Place segment. It’s in the first of the Walt Disney Treasures Disneyland tins, but there it’s in B&W with the rest of show.
Disney did a follow-up Christmas special that spotlighted Peter Pan, and that may have included the tar baby segment. Don’t think that special has been released anywhere.
Is it at ALL possible get a full length black and white copy of One Hour In Wonderland? All anyone has uploaded on you tube is a 20 minute version with all animated segments removed.
Compared to other movies set in post Civil War/ post slavery America. SONG OF THE SOUTH is tame. A much more offensive movie in my own opinion is the Shirley Temple film THE LITTLE COLONEL from 1935. It features much more demeaning and disturbing stereotypes of Afro American characters than the Brer Rabbit movie could ever claim.
And yet “Colonel” still gets TV broadcasts, and home video releases, while SOTS remains hidden.
THE JOLSON STORY also came out in 1946 and that got VHS, Laserdisc, and DVD releases. So a blackface performer’s fictionalized life story is more acceptable than actual black actors.
As a matter of fact, Chris, “The Little Colonel” was banned in much of the South for showing a black man dancing with a white girl — the first interracial dance sequence in a Hollywood film.
Making matter worse (I saw this movie MANY times in both the theater and on TV as a kid in the 1970’s) is the inevitable advent of social-media abuse in recent years, primarily on the part of people too young to remember Roots’ original run in the late 1970’s. Young African Americans weaned on gangsta rap as well as Tyler Perry (and much worse) since the end of the 1990’s wouldn’t know a racial stereotype if it had been a drive-by shooting at this point.
Plus, those rap songs keep using the racial slur in nearly half of them.
How I feel about today’s world and how mixed-up it is.
There was a non-Disney ‘Song of the South’ direct-to video release on Netflix several years ago. It was The Adventures of Brer Rabbit (2006), directed by Byron Vaughns from Universal Cartoon Studios. I was well animated and had Nick Cannon, Wayne Brady, Danny Glover, D.L. Hughley and Wanda Sykes and several other high profile African American actors doing voices. It didn’t really seem to go that differently from the Disney version. But there was no cry of outrage anywhere for that one. I don’t see why that one would get a ‘pass’ and not the Disney one.
Song of the South is 74 years old. Only older movie buffs watch films from this era. As long as a DVD is packaged with a design intended for an older collector, there is very little chance of the DVD being purchased for a child. Generally children watch current, not ancient entertainment. There is no reason to not keep this film in release. Even though “Gone with the Wind” is readily available, I doubt that many kids are begging their parents to buy them a copy!
About twenty years ago I read that Disney was planning to release a special edition of SotS on home video, and they asked poet Maya Angelou if she would record an introduction for it. She had never seen the movie, and she asked if she could watch it before making her decision. Afterward, she said that not only would she NOT record the introduction, but she would lead a protest against Disney if they went ahead with the release. The project was scrapped in short order.
There seems to be a distinct lack of African-American voices in this discussion, so I hope I’m not out of line if I take the liberty of summarising the major misgivings about the Uncle Remus character as I understand them. This is not necessarily my opinion, but I consider it a matter of legitimate concern.
Uncle Remus’s chief function in the story is to help the white boy, Johnny. He never acts on his own behalf. As such he is an early representative of what Spike Lee has termed the “magical Negro” trope, exemplified by Michael Clarke Duncan in “The Green Mile”, Will Smith in “Bagger Vance”, and any number of roles played by Morgan Freeman.
It is one thing to advise a child not to run away, but to stay and make the best of a bad situation. It is quite another when that advice comes from a sharecropper who still lives on the plantation where he was once a slave. (In my own experience I have found that there’s much to be said for making a fresh start in a new location. There are some problems you really can run away from.)
Another aspect of Uncle Remus is his powerlessness. When Johnny’s mother forbids him from ever seeing her son, he has no choice but to submit, as much as it hurts him. Imagine if he had said something like: “With all due respect, ma’am, not even you can force me to be so rude as to turn away a guest who comes to my house.” Yet that tepid gesture of defiance — asserting that, in his own home at least, he alone is master — would have been enough to have the film banned all over the South.
So that’s Uncle Remus: (1) he exists to serve white people; (2) he knows his place and stays in it; and (3) he is utterly powerless. This is a view with which any Southern white segregationist of the Jim Crow era would have been comfortable. Even though he is portrayed in a positive light, he is portrayed as subservient; and this is presented as normal, natural and entirely satisfactual.
Obviously “Song of the South” is not a racist movie in the sense that “The Turner Diaries” is a racist novel. The comments here are ample proof that watching it does not inculcate white children with racist attitudes. But I can see why this idyllic representation of the Old South — a colourful fantasy concocted by white people — might be affronting to African-Americans.
I absolutely agree that the film is indefensible for the reasons you stated. The Disney company’s error was trying to defend it with the approval of contemporary artists. The Disney company would never make this film today. They know they can’t defend it. But there is no reason not to release it for animation and old film fans.
Reading the replies it is quite obvious to me who will be voting for Donald Trump in the upcoming presidential election.
Okay, that’s enough. Don’t judge people’s opinion of this film and think they will all vote for that ugly stupid man. Please stop trolling.
I did not say “all” Nic Kramer. Your need to respond says it all. #LOL. I’m done here, dude.
I really pity those who put politics above the just appreciation of art and entertainment. Victory Through Air Power inspired the mass killings in Germany and Japan via bombardments (Dresden and Tokyo anyone?), and I still think it’s one of the Disney’s masterpieces, technique and animation-wise. Well, I’m not an “estadounidense”, so I can’t really understand the racial and historical roots of this hatred against SotS. To my eyes it’s a fine family movie that disrespects anyone, preaches against nobody, and have some of the finest Disney animation ever. Has the movie changed, or have the people changed? I don’t think the movie has changed.
It’s interesting to remember that “Song of the South” played theatrically in the 1970s, the height of the black power movement. Of course then it was about empowerment, not victimization and knee-jerk outrage like today. Since the film hasn’t been widely available for nearly three decades, its alleged offense is based more on reputation and assumption than on genuine experience. If people who profess horror over the film’s very existence actually saw it, I doubt they’d be awake by the end title: except for the wonderful animated sequences, it’s an incredibly dull movie. It’s also sad that the historic significance of James Baskett being the first black male Oscar winner is lost in the wayside of the righteous indignation; not to mention the fact that Uncle Remus, far from being a racist stereotype, is clearly portrayed as smarter than all the white characters put together. (I’d rather have him on the Supreme Court than Clarence Thomas.) If Disney still had been interested in short cartoons at that time, Br’er Rabbit as a series could gave given Bug Bunny a run for his money. As you probably know, the wily rabbit who outsmarts his predator has its origins in African folklore. But by all means, let’s overlook those details because it’s so much fun calling people and movies and things racist.
I did see the movie in the movie in the 1970’s and was bored out of my skull with the live action portions. If Disney ever did a DVD re-release, an option to see the animated scenes only would be my choice. The live action scenes are terrible from my memory of them. The cartoon portions are brilliant. As an animation fan, those scenes are all I need in my DVD collection.
I was not only not bored by the live-action portions, but I was also actually kind of touched by them. The kind of teasing Johnny received still goes on to this day, especially in the South. I should know, I got it, Ruth Warrick, in particular, deserves credit for not letting her thankless role turn into a one-dimensional monster.
Ruth Warrick even talked Unca Walt into hiring her then-husband Erik Rolfe (who turned out to be gay) as her screen husband.
I highly recommend Karina Longworth ‘s excellentd six-part (and four hour long) podcast dedicated to this film. http://www.youmustrememberthispodcast.com/episodes/2019/10/21/six-degrees-of-song-of-the-south-episode-1-disneys-most-controversial-film
It gives a very thorough and extremely well researched look at the film, what motivated its production, the history of its source material, reactions to film at the time of its release, how it affected the careers of those involved, and the decisions around when it was rereleased and when it wasn’t.
It takes less time to actually watch the movie and, in the words of Golden Girl Sophia Petrillo, “draw your own conclusions.”
I think I was still in grade school (around 1972 or so?) when SONG OF THE SOUTH played at the old Adelphi Theater in Chicago. There were no riots, no protesting. I don’t remember seeing anything on TV news or in Chicago newspapers criticizing the showing of the film. The Adelphi was a great place to see old movies. There were only a few theaters in Chicago that did that in those days: The Biograph Theater was one. Another was a long-gone theater in downtown Evanston, Ill. Those were the days!
As a youngster, the live-axion stuff was just so-so. The great stuff was the animation segments of the film!
I have to tell you that when I worked for the City of Chicago – this is a good 20 years ago – friends of mine (black included) who knew of my love of cartoon animation, would complain to me and ask why Disney would not put this film out in VHS? A lot of black co-workers I worked with at the time loved that movie!
“I have to tell you that when I worked for the City of Chicago – this is a good 20 years ago – friends of mine (black included) who knew of my love of cartoon animation, would complain to me and ask why Disney would not put this film out in VHS? A lot of black co-workers I worked with at the time loved that movie!”
Disney did put it out on video, just not in the US. But this is what gets me: when the likes of Whoopi Goldberg and Floyd Norman came to the film’s defense, yet it’s white men such as Michael Eisner and Bob Iger that are the ones saying no and doing so publicly. It reeks of because-I-said-so-ism.
Disney needs to do what Norman Lear did with ALL IN THE FAMILY for its 20th anniversary: do a documentary about it getting blacks and whites to talk frankly about their feelings about it. I know Disney wants everything to be satisfactual all the time and can’t even take constructive criticism in the interest of a greater good, but this time they have to take their critics head on. They got what they wanted for a generation: the right to decide what people can and cannot watch. They have the unique position to be able to use it as a teaching moment to examine why we feel the way we feel about media imagery, and how Hollywood movies have shaped our view of history, culture, and ourselves. And in the words of Snow White, “uh uh uh uh, not under the rug!”