Some older films and cartoons with challenging depictions have made it onto the Disney+, but with a clear upfront warning.
It wasn’t difficult to predict that Disney’s new streaming platform would a giant success; after all, the company possess such a wide breadth of popular entertainment titles that the package will be attractive to many. It’s no surprise then, that the service had already topped the 10 million subscribers mark within its first 24 hours of release (and that being in only three countries).
What is more surprising perhaps, is the company’s decision on how to deal with the challenging nature of some of their material. After all, Disney have been releasing films, cartoons and shorts for over a century and some of their older fare reflects a view of the world that is very different to the one that exists today, containing imagery that many may find offensive.
Before the service’s release, there was plenty of chatter about how the Mouse House might deal with this sensitive issue, a thorny problem that would most likely see them face criticism whichever option they plumped for. In the sensitive climate of today’s world, remove material of a challenging nature and you find yourself open to accusations of ‘airbrushing’ history and pandering to political correctness. Allow the controversial and outdated depictions to remain and you could at the very least be accused of cultural insensitivity or recriminations of a harsher nature, disaster for a family-friendly, image-conscious company like Disney.
As it stands then, the platform has opted largely for the latter option, choosing to exhibit the bulk of its older films and cartoons with objectionable material. It has, however, included a warning preceding each one. This includes 1941’s Dumbo with its outdated depiction of race, and according to Deadline, The Jungle Book (1967), Fantasia (1940), Swiss Family Robinson (1940, 1960), The Aristocats (1970). Peter Pan (1953), Lady and the Tramp (1955) and The Sign of Zorro (1958).’ Several older Mickey Mouse cartoons have reportedly received the same treatment.
The warning itself reads as such:
“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 are wrong today. While these cartoons do not represent today’s society, they are being presented as they were originally created, because to do otherwise would be the same as claiming these prejudices never existed.”
It’s a bold choice from Disney and as suggested earlier, one that would have most likely drawn criticism whichever way they chose to go. By choosing to air the bulk of their challenging older material (with the notable exceptions of 1946’s Song of the South and the Michael Jackson-featuring episode of The Simpsons), the company is choosing to acknowledge its own flawed history by placing it in the context of being created in an equally flawed world.
Choosing to leave the material unaltered is more than can be said for the latest cuts to the original Star Wars trilogy, also featuring on Disney+, which has continued to be tinkered with by its creator, George Lucas. You can read more about that here.
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