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