Have you noticed anything different about Disney+ when watching popular classics like “The Aristocats” and “The Jungle Book”? Back in October, Disney+ added a disclaimer to six of their vintage films, warning viewers that they depict offensive racial stereotypes.
Now, Disney is taking even stronger action by actually removing films that feature racist caricatures from children‘s profiles on Disney+ so they cannot be freely accessed by those under age 7, including “Peter Pan,” “The Aristocats,” “Swiss Family Robinson,” “Lady and the Tramp,” “Fantasia” and “Dumbo.” These film release dates span from the 1940s to the 1970s, but they each have one thing in common: They feature very negative portrayals of people of color and their culture.
For example, in 1953’s “Peter Pan,” Indigenous culture is mocked and crudely exaggerated, with offensive slurs like “redface” and “savages” appearing throughout the script. The Indigenous peoples are portrayed as ignorant, superstitious and needlessly violent.
In 1970’s “The Aristocats,” a Siamese cat is shown playing the piano with chopsticks while singing lyrics like “egg foo young” and “fortune cookie always wrong” in the “Everybody Wants to Be a Cat” number.
Meanwhile, in 1941’s “Dumbo,” a group of singing crows is based on historical minstrel shows in which people used blackface and other forms of racist imagery to mock and degrade Black people for the sake of humor and entertainment.
These films can still be accessed by adults who have a Disney+ account, if they first bypass the warning about racist material that prefaces these films. A short timer appears that gives viewers time to click away from the content if they so desire. In addition, viewers are also directed to the “Stories Matter” section of Disney’s website, where they can learn more about why diverse representation matters and why harmful media stereotypes of people of color and vulnerable populations can be so dangerous.
In part, the Stories Matter page states:
“As part of our ongoing commitment to diversity and inclusion, we are in the process of reviewing our library and adding advisories to content that includes negative depictions or mistreatment of people or cultures. Rather than removing this content, we see an opportunity to spark conversation and open dialogue on history that affects us all. We also want to acknowledge that some communities have been erased or forgotten altogether, and we’re committed to giving voice to their stories as well.”
Again, you can still access these films if you bypass the Disney+ warning. If you’d rather watch some of the more diverse films on Disney+, which feature positive representations, try “Hidden Figures,” “A Wrinkle in Time” or the just-released “Raya and the Last Dragon,” which is currently being offered with Premium Access.