Friday, December 30, 2016

Ultra Rare Flix: Disney's Song of the South

What a lovely piece of History...that Disney refuses to release.  Today's Film is Song of the South, a 1946 Disney Film that is notorious for a number of reasons, most of which are warranted.  Why do an old Disney Film on a site that normally covers Horror Films, weird Sci-Fi and Asylum Films?  Well, this one has earned its reputation and is very rare.  Simply put, there is no U.S. Release for the Film as a whole, something that has even been addressed as recently as 2010!  Roger Ebert actually supported the non-release of this Film- to protect the children.  How bad could this be?!?  The Film is based loosely on the Uncle Remus Books from the 1880s, which tell the Tale of Remus telling Tales to Children.  Like its more famous counterpart- Uncle Tom's Cabin-, it was written by a white person.  Don't get me wrong- we're generally nice people, but maybe we should write what we know.  The Film tells the Tale of a young man who befriend Remus and learns life lessons through roughly-related Cartoon Segments.  By the third time, you'll immediately know that EVERY situation reminds Remus of a Br'er Rabbit Story.  Is this the horrible, Racist Film that everyone makes it out to be, something innocent or something in-between?  To find out, read on...
In an undisclosed time (theoretically in the 1880s, if it is accurate to the Books), a kid is taken to his Grandmother's Plantation...only to find out that his Dad is now leaving.  Awkward.

By the way, I have no control of the Aspect Ratio, since the only Version of this is based on a PAL Tape.
He's sad, but fortunately finds a new friend in Uncle Remus, a long-time worker that he's never met.  I guess that throwaway line about Grandma 'always coming to see them' is supposed to explain how this makes sense.
The Film is littered with Brer Rabbit Shorts that fill up about a third of the runtime.  Lesson #1: Don't try to run away from your troubles.

Remember, this is in no way an allegory of Slaves that wanted to run away.  No sir!
These two kids serve as our primary Antagonists, as the Film constantly presents them as bullies and talks about how they want to 'drown the puppy.'

Another thing: if they are supposed to be parallels to Br'er Fox and Bear to the kid, why do they appear AFTER the first short with said Cartoon Characters?
The 2nd Short is more infamous for using the Tar Baby than anything else.  The lesson: use your head.

Also don't use Blackface.  That's just MY take-away though.
This Hattie McDaniels.  She won an Oscar in 1940 for Gone with the Wind.  She plays a Maid as a glorified Extra.  Yea.
The final Short has a very odd lesson- 'find your laughing place.'  That's...good?
After lots of silly melodrama, the kid is accidentally attacked by a bull (!!!), but survives when Remus and his Dad show up.

I'm going to push the theory that the kid actually died here from now on.  You'll see why...
The kid is next seen celebrating with his two friends and they run into...Br'er Rabbit.  Yes, him and his friends are now 'real' or something as Remus looks like he's about to say 'f#%k me'...before joining them.  The End.
Weird, melodramatic and more than a little Racist.  Is it that out there to suggest that this Film that didn't even bother to clarify that it takes place *after* Slavery has ended is Racist?  Granted- there are parts that are worse than others.  This one definitely has earned its reputation, although is still not the worst stuff I've seen.  That would probably still be most of Mantan Moreland's stuff (made around this time) and the Character in The Killer Shrews that acts like he came out of an Uncle Tom Play (even though the Film was made in 1959!!!).  To note, Disney could have avoided *some* issues with a simple Time Stamp, but instead let the NAACP say that it was 'set in the Antebellum Era.'  Why not deal with this?  If the idea is that everyone knows the Books, that is hard to say when it has been over 60 Years (and you're marketing to kids)!  The actual Film is still not *that* interesting aside from the obviously-Racist stuff.  It is chock full of the Melodrama you expect from the Era.  Incidentally, I think the Dad (who is a Newspaper Editor) is based on the Writer of the Books (who was also a Newspaper Editor).  How META is that?!?  The thing is a bit repetitive and not good with establishing how much time is passing at any given point.  You get no hint of the kid's Birthday being soon at the beginning, but it happens before the Third Act in the Film, so...has it been weeks?  To give the Film some credit, the integration of Animation and Live-Action is generally pretty good, especially for being made so long ago.  Should the Film be released?  Hell yes.  Don't be ashamed of your Racist and/or dark Past, Disney.  Besides, you were still using Br'er Rabbit and Fox as recently as 2011 (in a Kinect Game)!  Besides, how else can people tolerate the less-awful stuff like this if you don't?
Next time, I start the Year off with something good.  That doesn't mean that it is a good Film- when has it ever?!?  Stay tuned...

1 comment:

  1. 'Gone With The Wind' was released in 1939, not 1943. So Hattie McDaniel won the Oscar in that year.