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Where on the Shelf Is...Song of the South?

09.27.2012
Welcome to "Where on the Shelf Is..." In this column, I look at great TV shows and movies that have never been on DVD and/or Blu-ray. For your pleasure and out of all of our frustrations, this column examines the Where, When and, of course, WHY?! of these non-releases.

Up this week is...SONG OF THE SOUTH!

What Is It?:

Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah, zip-a-dee-ay, My oh my what a wonderful day...

Disney's SONG OF THE SOUTH was quite a feat for 1946. And sixty-six years after its release, it's remembered for a splendid blend of live action and colorful animation, an Oscar-winning/American Film Institute-ranked song and a cast of characters lively enough to support a popular Disneyland/Magic Kingdom ride.

Oh, and this:

For the uninformed, that is a black man. His name is Uncle Remus, and he's smiling and happy to be alive in post-Civil War America, that glorious time when all blacks were able to shed horrible stereotypes, were offered immediate reparations by Whitey and given full access to any water fountain they darn well pleased.

Where Is It?:

That’s right. Despite several theatrical re-releases and a petition with nearly 35,000 signatures, the movie has never been given an official DVD release.

The reason is, Disney couldn't be more ashamed of what's presented in SONG OF THE SOUTH. The studio, like so many, recognizes its inarguable insensitivity to and ho-hum portrayal of African-American life after the abolition of slavery. (It's something of a documented fact that recently freed slaves weren't followed around by whistling bluebirds.)

The Tar Baby sequence doesn’t help much, either...

So for now, SONG OF THE SOUTH remains just where Disney suits want it: stashed in the bakery on Main Street, U.S.A., located three miles above the tombs which hold Walt's Nazi rally towels and the bones of Mortimer Mouse's numerous victims.

When Will We See It?:

At this point, Disney seems more prideful of Flash Mountain than they are of Tar Baby and the gang.

CEO Robert Iger has been openly against SONG OF THE SOUTH being on DVD for some time now. Meanwhile, Dave Bossert, creative director at Walt Disney Animation Studios, is in full support of it, stating, "At some point we're going to do something about it...We realize it's a big piece of company history, and we want to do it the right way."

So hope isn't exactly lost on SONG OF THE SOUTH. On top of Bossert's vote, Disney has partnered with the Library of Congress to complete 4K digital scans and restorations on some of their classic titles, including SONG OF THE SOUTH. That means that a potential home video debut could be on the horizon.

When that is remains a mystery, but at least there's discussion.

And that's just it. Movies like SONG OF THE SOUTH should be forever preserved and discussed, available to audiences of all ages. Iger seems to think that putting the movie on shelves is akin to burning a cross inside the Africa portion of It's a Small World. It may be host to some seriously questionable images and depictions, but so was THE BIRTH OF A NATION, which showed the KKK as saints and then-president Woodrow Wilson called "terribly true." And yet it was given the Blu-ray treatment from Kino in 2011.

The emphasis on such films shouldn't be the racism, but the historical significance. And it's not like Disney doesn’t understand the importance of their library. Why else would they be prepping THE HAUNTED MANSION for Blu-ray?

Where Can We See It?:

Turner Classic Movies may not be lining up a primetime slot for SONG OF THE SOUTH anytime soon, but it's widely available elsewhere. It's hosted on YouTube at the cost of nothing but a click. Or you can grab an $85 VHS off of Amazon today if you still have a machine.

Or, if you want it on disc and can't stand Netflix's dreaded green "Save" button any longer, the website SongoftheSouth.org sells an unauthorized DVD for just $19.95. That's just half the price of a used copy of "The Grand Wizard's Guide to the Galaxy"!

Source: JoBlo.com

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12:32PM on 09/27/2012

bernie?

Am i the only one who thinks the old black guy in that pic looks like bernie mac?
Am i the only one who thinks the old black guy in that pic looks like bernie mac?
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11:38AM on 09/27/2012

Am I missing something here?

I just watched it in its entirety for the first time. I really enjoyed the character of Uncle Remus. I found him to be extremely likeable. Maybe I'm missing something or am completely ignorant, but not once did I consider this a racist film. The movie did show a difference in luxury of living between the plantation owners and the plantation workers, but that in itself isn't racist.

There is, of course, the whole crazy notion of their complete blissfulness when a look back at history
I just watched it in its entirety for the first time. I really enjoyed the character of Uncle Remus. I found him to be extremely likeable. Maybe I'm missing something or am completely ignorant, but not once did I consider this a racist film. The movie did show a difference in luxury of living between the plantation owners and the plantation workers, but that in itself isn't racist.

There is, of course, the whole crazy notion of their complete blissfulness when a look back at history shows it was a difficult time for them. However, doesn't Disney always plaster smiles on its characters' faces and have them all join in joyful song?
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11:42AM on 09/27/2012
Amen!
Amen!
10:40AM on 09/27/2012
Actually, that whole Tar Baby thing, while highly symbolic, is based in folk-tales about the adventures of Br'er Rabbit. I grew up with those stories. That Walt Disney decided to use them in Song of the South is just incidental. And here I was hoping to hear Br'er Rabit yell "BORN AND BRED IN THE BRIAR PATCH!"
Actually, that whole Tar Baby thing, while highly symbolic, is based in folk-tales about the adventures of Br'er Rabbit. I grew up with those stories. That Walt Disney decided to use them in Song of the South is just incidental. And here I was hoping to hear Br'er Rabit yell "BORN AND BRED IN THE BRIAR PATCH!"
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10:46AM on 09/27/2012
Thank you!
Thank you!
+3
10:35AM on 09/27/2012

Lighten up, Disney

Good column! The film isn't really all that bad. It is a delightful technical marvel, and any "racism" is clearly being labeled by over-sensitives who probably also leap to accuse racism when someone so much as innocently points out a difference in race between two people. Uncle Remus is a folk character passed down through generations, and whose stories are based on even older versions from long, long, long ago. They were translated to American literature by a journalist who spent much time
Good column! The film isn't really all that bad. It is a delightful technical marvel, and any "racism" is clearly being labeled by over-sensitives who probably also leap to accuse racism when someone so much as innocently points out a difference in race between two people. Uncle Remus is a folk character passed down through generations, and whose stories are based on even older versions from long, long, long ago. They were translated to American literature by a journalist who spent much time studying the style of life specifically on post-Civil War plantations. "Song of the South" is not supposed to be a universal representation of blacks after the Civil War. In fact, if you watch the film the only negative portrayals of characters are of white characters, but really that is entirely incidental - the film comes from a place where race doesn't matter. It is never pointed out and does not play in to the disposition of the characters but in roundabout ways. Their circumstances are just that - circumstantial. Throw out 'Uncle Tom' and 'Jolly Slave' all you want, but that's what the journalist saw and for my money Disney translated the material boldly, particularly considering the times. Racist? On the contrary! I suggest watching the film in conjunction with research of the era to garner better appreciation for the dramatization of one man's perspective.
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10:16AM on 09/27/2012
I remember seeing this re-release in the theater waaaaayyyy back in '86(I was only four at the time, but it's my first memory of going to the movies), so it holds a special place in my heart. When ebay first started getting popular I searched high and low to find a copy and I ended up getting one, it was a japanese vhs transferred to DVD—so the quality was shitty at best, but it was well worth it to relive those memories of going to the cinema for the first time. It's definitely racy, but
I remember seeing this re-release in the theater waaaaayyyy back in '86(I was only four at the time, but it's my first memory of going to the movies), so it holds a special place in my heart. When ebay first started getting popular I searched high and low to find a copy and I ended up getting one, it was a japanese vhs transferred to DVD—so the quality was shitty at best, but it was well worth it to relive those memories of going to the cinema for the first time. It's definitely racy, but it's a product of the times and part of our history as a country—if "Gone with the Wind" still gets played on TV and released in whatever the format of the month is, I see no reason why this shouldn't as well.
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7:59AM on 09/27/2012
While I agree consumers can make up their own mind and this isnt the only animated feature not for kids, Disney is synonymous with acceptable child fare. Most parents dont think they need to screen Disney animated films. A kid sees singing animals and shouts "I want that" and the less informed parent buys it. Now when I saw this as a small black child, I sang along and delighted at the antics of the characters. But when I watched it again as a more informed black teenager, I paused. I dont
While I agree consumers can make up their own mind and this isnt the only animated feature not for kids, Disney is synonymous with acceptable child fare. Most parents dont think they need to screen Disney animated films. A kid sees singing animals and shouts "I want that" and the less informed parent buys it. Now when I saw this as a small black child, I sang along and delighted at the antics of the characters. But when I watched it again as a more informed black teenager, I paused. I dont think I would let my kids watch it now. Theres just too much joy in the cotton fields and too much grinning and knee slapping for my tastes. Its not Birth of a Nation, but its more akin to putting a golliwog in a happy meal. [link]
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6:29AM on 09/27/2012
What's also of interest to me is that one of Disney's most popular attractions 'Splash Mountain' is based off of this movie. I have never seen Song of the South. I don't really know my point, just saying... I also love this idea for a column.
What's also of interest to me is that one of Disney's most popular attractions 'Splash Mountain' is based off of this movie. I have never seen Song of the South. I don't really know my point, just saying... I also love this idea for a column.
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5:22AM on 09/27/2012
Yes, Song of the South belongs on store shelves. DVD retailers offer plenty of potentially offensive titles. Those titles offer racial stereotypes, revisionist history, and all sorts of potentially shocking material. However, consumers are not particularly stupid and unsophisticated, and most are not children. Therefore, as with ANY film releases, people can decide whether to view a film or not. And, if they do watch a certain film, they can do so critically. For example, they might understand
Yes, Song of the South belongs on store shelves. DVD retailers offer plenty of potentially offensive titles. Those titles offer racial stereotypes, revisionist history, and all sorts of potentially shocking material. However, consumers are not particularly stupid and unsophisticated, and most are not children. Therefore, as with ANY film releases, people can decide whether to view a film or not. And, if they do watch a certain film, they can do so critically. For example, they might understand that a film is a shoot 'em up, but the film-viewers should not go out and shoot anyone. They might understand that some stories are FICTIONAL and that responsible citizens study and know REAL history along with exploring and knowing their literature.
Why ban Song of the South from Amazon's on-line store and Target's store shelf? Kids are not going to purchase this title without their parents' involvement. Sorry, but kids rebel in other ways mostly. Really smart kids might rebel by reading banned books and seeing banned movies, but the average little fucker does not. Furthermore, a person can already buy a copy of such animated fare as Coonskin, El Superbeasto, Fire & Ice, uncensored Looney Tunes, Heavy Metal, and other older cartoons (e.g. Popeye contains racial stereotypes too). And, do I even need to point out that plenty of non-PC live-action cinema is available?
Please, Disney, just release Song of the South already. Copies are readily available on-line and from other countries already (BTW, why do other countries have such ready copies? Those aren't official releases, are they, Disney?). And, we the American public can handle our movie-watching and run our own lives. Thanks.
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1:20AM on 09/27/2012
I love the idea of this column. Though, I actually own a copy of Song of the South on DVD. :) It might not be official, but damned if it isn't still majorly racist. Boy howdy!
I love the idea of this column. Though, I actually own a copy of Song of the South on DVD. :) It might not be official, but damned if it isn't still majorly racist. Boy howdy!
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