A young boy arrives on his grandmother's plantation and befriends kindly
old storyteller Uncle Remus, who teaches him life lessons using old stories.
Song of the South (1946)
Directed by Harve Foster and Wilfred Jackson
Written by Dalton S. Reymond, Morton Grant, Maurice Rapf
Starring James Baskett, Bobby Driscoll, Luana Patten,
Ruth Warrick, Lucile Watson, Hattie McDaniel, Erik Rolf
Based on the stories compiled by Joel Chandler Harris
Oscar Wins - Best Original Song (Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah),
Honorary Award (James Baskett)
Oscar Nominations - Best Original Score (Daniele Amfitheatrof, Paul J. Smith, Charles Wolcott)
Song of the South is such a taboo film that Disney has all but erased it from existence. It was released on VHS in the 80's, but that was it. It's since been sealed in the vault for good. No DVD, no Blu-Ray, no Disney Plus. It's just gone, apart from the occasional archived link online, which is how I stumbled onto a copy. I've wanted to watch this supposed train wreck for years. If Peter Pan, Lady and the Tramp, Dumbo, and Fantasia all contained an acceptable amount of racism for Disney, then Song of the South had to have been something really bad. Frankly, it's far tamer than I expected, with a lot of stuff taken out of context from people who haven't seen it in decades. It's biggest sin is how tone deaf it is with its approach to slavery, and that's pretty unforgiveable.
Disney films, for most of us, are the first films we ever see. Therefore, we are introduced to a lot of worldly concepts through these films. This is the Disney film that introduced a whole generation of children to slavery and the Antebellum South. And holy shit, is it insincere. Every black character in this film is a stereotype of some sort, even the cartoon characters voiced by black actors. It's not hard to understand why Disney locked it away. It's an uncomfortable setting and the entire concept comes from a century of white racist storytellers stealing stories from slaves and profiting from them. This is a film that's ultimately a product of human suffering, and it tries to hide that with cartoon whimsy.
For what it is, Song of the South isn't a terrible film. It's just a terribly conceived film. Back in '46, nobody in Hollywood would've batted an eye. But now, it's shameful. With all that said, James Baskett does a great job, "Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah" is an infectious tune, and the film really isn't trying to be racist. It just is. On top of that, the story is pretty boring and most of the characters are flat.