Isabelle Torres, Staff Writer |
Disney announced that some of their movies will now begin with a 12-second, unskippable disclaimer regarding racist content. The announcement video went live on Friday Oct. 16 to viewers and subscribers of the company’s streaming service, Disney Plus. The disclaimer warns audiences “these stereotypes were wrong then and are wrong now. Rather than remove the content, we want to acknowledge its harmful impact, learn from it and spark conversation to create a more inclusive culture.” The video ends by including a website viewers can visit that explains the problematic scenes in more depth.
Movies like “Peter Pan” (1953), “Dumbo” (1941), “The Aristocrats” (1970), “Aladdin” (1992) and “Swiss Family Robinson” (1960) and more all include the new disclaimer at the start of the films.
In Nov. of 2019 Disney put out a less detailed disclaimer that wrote, “This program is presented as originally created. It may contain outdated depictions.”
The website that Disney provided explains the scenes that are marked as racially offensive. The Aristocrats’ character of a Siamese Cat Shun Gon is a “racist caricature” of East Asian People that includes exaggerated slanted eyes and buck teeth. The character is voiced by a white actor who sings with a heavy accent and plays the piano with chopsticks. The website also explains that Peter Pan portrays Native People in a mocking and racist way as well. The movie characterizes Native People “in a stereotypical manner that reflects neither the diversity of Native peoples nor their authentic cultural traditions,” Disney said.
In June, Disney announced they would remake its Splash Mountain theme park ride, which included music and characters from the 1946 musical “Song of the South.” The musical has not been available for over three decades because of the racist imagery it includes. The film has never been released on DVD in the United States because of its highly racist and controversial plots. In the movie, a plantation worker eludes to the idea that slaves were happy working in the cotton fields. Renovation plans for the new Splash Mountain confirm that it will now be based on the movie “The Princess and the Frog” (2009).
Organizations such as the African American Film Critics Association and the Coalition of Asian Pacifics in Entertainment advised Disney according to the site. Disney is reviewing their library with a group of experts in an “advisory council” who provides Disney with “ongoing guidance and thought leadership on critical and shifting perceptions.” The group is advocating for stronger media portrayals of the underrepresented, including women, people with disabilities, people of color and the LGBTQ+ community.
Following the death of George Floyd in May, many media companies like Sky or HBO Max have pulled or also attached a message to shows with prejudice or racial depictions. Quaker Oats announced they would rebrand their pancake box which infamously depicted Aunt Jemima. Uncle Ben’s Rice is also among the companies that will go forth in rebranding while racial injustice and tension grow in the U.S.
Disney’s efforts to bring awareness to the controversial scenes is to spark conversations at home instead of erasing history. In a closing statement, the company says they are “committed to representing communities authentically.”