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"South" to Sing Again?

One of the most popular rides at the Disney theme parks, Splash Mountain, is based on it. Folks can, to this day, sing and whistle "Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah." And though Penguin Classics publishes three (count 'em) anthologies of Joel Chandler Harris's Uncle Remus stories, the Walt Disney Company has never seen fit to release "Song of the South" on video in any form in the United States (it has formerly been available overseas).

The last time the film has been seen at all was during a 1986 re-release to theaters. Since that time it has been locked up tight in the Disney "vault," where they keep properties until such a time as the stockholders decide money can be made from suitably hungry consumers.

Has the time come at last for "Song of the South" to see a video release? Maybe. Seems for the second year in a row, Disney honcho Bob Iger has fielded questions from stockholders at their annual meeting, regarding an eventual release of "Song of the South." So, Iger is now quoted as saying: "We've decided to take a look at it again because we've had numerous requests about bringing it out."

The reason for this movie's absence from the Disney release stable is easily explainable, though has long gone unspoken--Disney, ever mindful of its squeaky-clean image, is afraid this film now contains "politically incorrect" (i.e. racist) content. Originally made in 1946, "South" is a lighthearted mix of animation and live-action based on the children's stories of Joel Chandler Harris, including those about the Briar Patch, the Tar Baby, and Brer Rabbit's "Laughing Place." Uncle Remus, played by James Baskett, tells these tales to two youngsters who have come to live on the plantation where he lives. The social implications of this arrangement are never explored--kids these days who watch the film are likely to ignore them in favor of the wacky antics of Brers Fox, Bear, and Rabbit, and adults who fondly remember the movie are old enough not to take any such unspoken context seriously.

And really, it isn't as if the film has any agenda other than entertainment--no more than those equally "offensive" Bugs Bunny cartoons featuring the grossly stereotypical white Southern plantation owner (the one always hollering for his dog Belvedere). Or Speedy Gonzales, for that matter. And Warner Brothers had the cajones to release those films to DVD a while back.


Posted by on April 1, 2007 8:28 PM
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