The Walt Disney Company has been in the business of making films for almost 100 years, and in an effort to address the harmful cultural depictions evident in some of their early titles, the company added a content warning to several of its animated films on Disney+. As the new streaming platform launched on Tuesday, subscribers took note that the company added disclaimers to several animated films, including Dumbo, The Jungle Book, and Lady and the Tramp, warning of “outdated cultural depictions."
Look at #DisneyPlus letting the people know early that their old films were racist and culturally insensitive.
Accountability is key, and historical context is important. pic.twitter.com/JvHVYMxBsk— Ernest Owens (@MrErnestOwens) November 12, 2019
In the past, several Disney films have been criticized for their cultural depictions. Dumbo, for example, has long faced backlash over the “Song of the Roustabouts,” during which black workers put up circus tents as they sing of their lack of education. The appearance of a crow named Jim Crow, a reference to an offensive slang term for a man of color as well as state and local laws that enforced racial segregation in the U.S, has also been a topic of backlash.
Meanwhile, the infamous “We Are Siamese” song in Lady and the Tramp has been criticized for mocking Asian stereotypes. The song has been updated and replaced for the film’s live-action remake, which debuted on Disney+ Tuesday.
As subscribers browsed the catalogue of offerings on Tuesday, many took to social media to react to the disclaimer.
“Checking everything out and wanted to point out that movies like Dumbo, The Aristocats, Jungle Book, and Lady and the Tramp have a disclaimer about outdated cultural depictions. This is good,” one person wrote.
“I'm actually glad they have chosen not to edit the original content and I think the warnings are a step in the right direction,” another commented.
Although widely praised, some felt that the disclaimer didn’t go far enough, pointing to a similar statement in re-releases of old Warner Bros. cartoons.
“The cartoons you are about to see are products of their time. They may depict some of the ethnic and racial prejudices that were commonplace in American society. These depictions were wrong then and they are wrong today," the studio wrote. "These cartoons are being presented as they were originally created, because to do otherwise would be the same as claiming these prejudices never existed."
compare wb’a statement to racism in their old cartoons to disney’s. lol pic.twitter.com/VKu2fi5jAh— 🎀💒🎀 @ wont change my dn til siegfried is in ssb (@twilightsthorn) November 13, 2019
Several more pointed out that some titles deserving of the warning were missing it, including Aladdin.
Along with issuing the content warning, Disney has also opted to not include the highly controversial 1946 film Song of the South in its expansive Disney+ catalog, according to The Hollywood Reporter. The film faced criticism for its portrayal of African-American characters in the Civil War era South. The film has also not been released on home video in the U.S.