I’m old enough to remember seeing a re-release of Disney’s Song of the South. I don’t remember where or when, but I’m pretty sure it was in Thailand in the 1970s. The memories I’ve had of it are the Br’er Bear, Br’er Fox, and Br’er Rabbit animated sequences. A few years ago, I decided to watch all of the Disney animated feature movies in sequence, so I rented them or checked them out at the local library. I didn’t realize at first that Song of the South wasn’t part of that canon since it had live action scenes, but decided to go find it anyway since it was a part of my childhood.
I was really surprised that I couldn’t find it on video or DVD except for snippets on Sing-Along-Songs. I got online to do a little research and found out that it was never released on video in the United States. Curious. So I did a little more digging and found out that Disney had decided it wasn’t a good idea given the possible backlash due to concerns about its racist nature. Apparently, Uncle Remus and the live action scenes were rife with stereotypes along the lines of Gone with the Wind.
I didn’t remember any of those themes and figured it couldn’t be any worse than most of the films that glorified the slave period. Besides, all I cared about was seeing Br’er Rabbit hanging out in his Laughin’ Place. I found out that Disney had released the movie to video in the UK, so I got on eBay and bought a rather expensive copy of it from over yonder. Since our friends across the pond are ass-backwards on most things (driving on the left? drinking warm tea? a monarchy?), I guess racism wasn’t a problem for them. I felt a little guilty about it, but well, I guess not guilty enough. Of course, our pals in the UK use the PAL video format, so it’s not compatible with VHS. That means I had to shell out some additional dough to get it converted.
Anyway, that’s the background on how I got a hold of the video. And here’s my review:
It sucked. I was right. It wasn’t any more racist than Gone with the Wind and much less so than Birth of a Nation, so that didn’t bother me. Of course, I’m white, so what the hell do I know. But what it is … is really boring. The live action scenes were the most tedious and felt like it should have been called Uncle Tom Visits Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood. The animated sequences were typical Disney and I did enjoy the songs and some of the Br’er animals antics. But, the veneer of fond memory had worn off and even those scenes were somewhat droll, especially since they weren’t the main focus of the film.
I don’t know what else to say about it. If you’re sensitive to Uncle Tom racism, steer clear. If you thought Disney’s 1944 The Three Caballeros was annoying, this is along those lines. I wouldn’t bother buying it. Having said that, mine is for sale $40 in the U.S. including shipping. I’m sure there are some of you that might enjoy it for it’s collectibility.
Here are some stills from the movie.