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Disney+ subtracts the studio’s racist movie history

The infamous Jim Crow scene in “Dumbo” and the highly controversial “Song of the South” will not be on Disney+. But what about all the other racist content?

Disney+ subtracts the studio’s racist movie history

As Disney+ prepares to open the studio’s lauded vault of classics to fill its digital streaming platform, there are a few movies and scenes that won’t find a home on Disney+, namely Song of the South and Dumbo‘s Jim Crow scene.

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Even though Song of the South inspired Disneyland’s iconic Splash Mountain, and “Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah” won an Oscar for best original song in 1947, Disney has tried to distance itself from the film’s overt stereotypes of African Americans post-Civil War. The company has never released Song of the South on home video or DVD in the U.S. As Disney’s CEO Bob Iger said in 2011 on a call with shareholders, “I just don’t feel that it’s right for us to use company resources to make it available.”

And now, Disney is reportedly nixing the infamous Jim Crow scene from 1941’s Dumbo before it goes to Disney+.

If you’ll recall–or not, because it would be totally understandable if you blocked this from your memory–the musical number “When I See an Elephant Fly” features Jim Crow, an animated crow version of the black caricature propagated during slavery, and his friends teasing Dumbo. The scene has long been criticized for its racist overtones, evident in how the birds speak and dress, as well as the simple fact that they are indeed jet-black crows.

Disney choosing to omit this scene is a wise move, but it’s also a slippery slope of censorship. Animation as a whole has a disturbingly racist past. Aside from Song of the South and Jim Crow, people have raised valid concerns about the portrayal of Native Americans in Peter Pan, problematic “Asian” cats in Lady and the Tramp and The Aristocats, the depiction of the Middle East in Aladdin, and so much more. WatchMojo.com has a great roundup of films that Disney has already edited and others that, quite frankly, should be edited now.

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About the author

KC covers entertainment and pop culture for Fast Company. Previously, KC was part of the Emmy Award-winning team at "Good Morning America," where he was the social media producer.

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