Disney has dropped the Oscar-winning song Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah from its Magic Happens parade at Disneyland. The move comes amid the company's ongoing initiative to remove traces of the 1946 film Song of the South from its parks and streaming service.
In 2020, Disney’s Bob Iger told company shareholders that Walt Disney’s controversial live action-animated film from 1946 will not be made available to watch on Disney+, the entertainment giant’s streaming platform.
Iger, Disney’s executive chairman and chairman of the board, made the statement at the annual meeting of shareholders of The Walt Disney Company.
He was responding to a question from a shareholder who identified himself as Matthew Hansen from Salt Lake City, who asked whether the entire Disney back catalogue would be made available on Disney+, specifically referencing the 1946 film which is set after the end of the American Civil War and the abolition of slavery.
The film, which bore the popular song Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah, has been criticised for its outdated portrayal of African Americans, with some labelling the film as “racist”.
It was not available on the service when it launched in North America in 2019, and the shareholder asked whether it might be added in the future with a disclaimer attached about outdated cultural depictions, similarly to the ones that appear with eleven titles on the service including Dumbo (1941), Peter Pan (1953), The Jungle Book (1967).
“I’ve felt, for as long as I’ve been CEO, that Song of the South – even with a disclaimer – was just not appropriate in today’s world,” Iger responded.
“Given the depictions in some of those films, to bring them out today without some form or another, without offending people. So we’ve decided not to do that.”
Splash Mountain at Disney World, Orlando was recently closed as the company reimagines the popular attraction as a Princess and the Frog ride. References to Song of the South are being removed from the ride which is set to reopen in 2024. Disney also revamped its Jungle Cruise ride to remove "negative portrayals" of native people.
Hansen also asked about other “absences from the catalogue” on Disney+ citing “some short films, Victory Through Air Power, Follow Me Boys”, and “Michael Eisner’s Disney Sunday Movies intros”, and Iger explained that the digitisation of some of the studio’s older catalogue had proved more difficult than expected.
He subsequently rowed back his previous claim that “the entire Disney library” would be made available on Disney+, saying “we couldn’t get everything on” and that “not everything” would be on there.