Imagination Connoisseur, Chris Wriglesworth, provides an insightful breakdown of SONG OF THE SOUTH, a Disney movie that is no longer available to the general public, and asks if we aren’t missing a “teachable moment” as a result.
Let us know what you think below …
(Letter has been edited for clarity)
Dear Mr. Burnett,
Please allow me to start by pulling a quote from one of my all-time favorite movies, “I’m hoping that this letter finds you and finds you well.”
I’ve watched you since the days of Sci-Fi Vortex (my how I miss the War Room) and then Collider Heroes and am so glad that you are still putting out such great content. I truly feel that you have brought together a wonderful community in the Post Geek Singularity and want to thank you for all the time, hard work and care you and the moderators give to it. Now, on to the reason that I write to you today.
Just prior to the awesome excitement that has been brought to us by Avengers Endgame, Game of Thrones and Season 2 of Cobra Kai, etc. you were having some very good letters, thoughts and discussions (many with John Campea) regarding censorship with in movies, specifically the Dumbo animated movie and Song of the South. If I remember correctly, John leans toward censorship and repression.
I totally agreed with you that these movies should be allowed access by the general public as originally produced. I’ve heard the criticisms and accusations of racism, etc. leveled at them and while I personally don’t agree with those conclusions, they are valid opinions and reactions, though I feel misguided. I believe this is because many who are saying such things haven’t actually seen these movies, especially SOTS as it has never seen an official home video release from Disney. I saw it during it’s 1980 theatrical release and after that I didn’t think too much of it until years later I learned that Disney refused to release the movie on home video in the U.S. I was intrigued, and as an adult desperately wanted to see what was so horrible about this movie when I couldn’t remember anything terrible about it.
I was finally able to track down a copy of the Japanese laserdisc and view it again. I was going to do an in-depth personal analysis of this movie. However it became quite large so I had to abandon that idea and will just offer my reaction instead. Perhaps I’ll complete the full review and offer it sometime in the future should anyone ever care to hear it.
In conclusion, Song of the South, at its heart, is the story of a kind old man who befriends and tells stories to a lonely little boy. It attempts to show that in spite of age, socio-economic, racial and cultural differences, people are people. It is clearly set during the post-Civil War reconstruction era. The three children, Johnny, Toby and Ginny benefit from childhood innocence which allows them to look beyond physical differences and past atrocities and befriend each other. Johnny’s grandmother, Miss Doshy, and Uncle Remus have the wisdom of age and also can look past such things as they clearly had a long standing friendship and respect for each other.
I don’t think this is one of Disney’s best movies or even my favorite but it is still good. More than that, it has special meaning to me. Song of the South is the first movie that my Mom ever saw. When she grew up, seeing a movie in a theater was a rare treat and this just happened to be the one playing when she went the first time. Needless to say when it got its 1980 theatrical release, she took me to share the experience of her first movie with me.
I could go into many reasons why I feel that Disney not giving an official release is a poor decision but the fact that I can’t add a Blu-ray to the collection or stream it on Disney plus to share it with my children is the biggest. Yet shouldn’t the fact that positivity can be found in the film be a factor? Playing devil’s advocate, let’s say I had found SOTS to be every horrible and vile thing I’ve ever read about it.
I still don’t think it should remain repressed because we do ourselves a disservice if we ignore what was wrong in our past and don’t gain wisdom and understanding from it. I would see it as a teaching moment, an example of how far we as a society have come and how far we still have to go. Fortunately I find it to be uplifting and inclusive instead.
I thank you for reading my letter, if you are so inclined do feel free to share it on your show as it would be nice to know if anyone else had a positive experience from it.