ENTERTAINMENT
10/17/2020 15:01 EDT

Unskippable Disclaimers For Racism Appear On Several Old Films On Disney+

Disney annotated "Dumbo" and other movies for including "negative depictions and/or mistreatment of people or cultures."

A variety of older films on the Disney+ streaming service — including “Dumbo,” “Peter Pan” and “The Aristocats” — now carry strongly worded and unskippable disclaimers alerting audiences to racist imagery. 

The messages appeared as of Friday on the details page of each film and can also be found on the listings for other titles, including “Aladdin” and “Fantasia.”

In the case of “Dumbo,” “Peter Pan” and “The Aristocrats,” the message runs as a 12-second announcement prior to the movie’s start. 

Disney previously included a brief warning of “outdated cultural depictions” on these films on Disney+. The language of the new disclaimers is significantly stronger.

It reads: “This program includes negative depictions and/or mistreatment of people or cultures. These stereotypes were wrong then and are wrong now. Rather than remove this content, we want to acknowledge its harmful impact, learn from it and spark conversation to create a more inclusive future together. Disney is committed to creating stories with inspirational and aspirational themes that reflect the rich diversity of the human experience around the globe.”

The message is similar to a disclaimer that rival Warner Bros. uses on old material. Disney’s also includes a link to a section of a Disney website entitled “Stories Matter,” which explains that the company hired third-party sensitivity experts from a variety of organizations, including the African American Film Critics Association and the Coalition of Asian Pacifics in Entertainment. The experts were tasked with going through Disney’s back catalog and adding advisories to “content that includes negative depictions or mistreatment of people or cultures.”

The site outlines the rationale behind highlighting titles such as “Dumbo,” which features a cadre of crow characters based on minstrel show stereotypes and led by a leader named Jim Crow.

“Peter Pan” was singled out for its portrayal of “Native people in a stereotypical manner that reflects neither the diversity of Native peoples nor their authentic cultural traditions.” 

Disney annotated “The Aristocats” for its depiction of a cat that sings a musical number in accented English, plays the piano with chopsticks and is “depicted as a racist caricature of East Asian peoples with exaggerated stereotypical traits such as slanted eyes and buck teeth.”

Disney has taken pains to highlight problematic material in its archives this year. In June, the company announced that its popular Splash Mountain ride in Disneyland would be redone to remove all references to “Song of the South,” a film that was criticized for sugarcoating life on a Southern plantation. The movie is currently unavailable for viewing on Disney+.

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