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Disney Plus Adds Warning To Classic Films For “Outdated Cultural Depictions”

Disney has finally launched their much anticipated streaming service Disney Plus this week. The service includes a multitude of Disney originals, Marvel, Star Wars, and National Geographic specials. Additionally, Disney is launching the service with a bunch of exclusive content such as a live action remake of “Lady And The Tramp,” a “High School Musical” TV Series, a reboot of beloved Disney Channel original “Lizzie McGuire”, and so much more. Along with all of these reboots, many classic Disney films from the 20th Century are also available, and with that comes some outdated references and allusions. 

Disney has placed a warning at the beginning of a lot of their classic animated features, giving the audience a heads up that many of the references within the films are outdated, offensive, and play off archaic stereotypes that, at the time, weren’t viewed as harshly as it would be today. Movies such as “Dumbo” (1941), the original “Lady and the Tramp” (1955), and “The Jungle Book (1967), are just a few examples of the films that contain the warning at the end of their descriptions. It’s a cautionary measure so Disney can ensure fans that they no longer agree with the portrayals, however, in true Disney fashion they wanted to upload the movies in their original and classic form to stay authentic. 

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“This program is presented as originally created, it may contain outdated cultural depictions,” the warning at the end of each description reads, according to IGN

The biggest concern from Disney is in regard to offensive racial depictions, as there are quite a few instances in old Disney movies where the characters either act, or perform musical numbers as hyper-exaggerated stereotypes of certain cultures. For example, in the movie “Dumbo” there are two crow characters, one of which is literally named Jim Crow, that speak in heavily stereotypical African accents, despite being voiced by white actors. Beyond that, “The Jungle Book” also contains similar African stereotypes within all of the monkey characters, which also is offensive in itself. “Lady and the Tramp” features the widely recognized “We Are Siamese” song performed in the movie by a group of Siamese Cats all singing in stereotypical Asian accents and animated with large buck teeth, need I say more?

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Disney has been a lot more careful in the newer films they’ve made within the past decades, however, the original films still hold a strong cultural value to many, so the warnings stand. It’s difficult to make the argument that these aspects of the film should simply be removed, when there’s multiple instances that these characters, songs, and scenes are crucial to certain plot points in the movies, and the removal of them would make the films confusing. Many are criticizing that the warning is too short and not apparent enough, however, it is on the viewer to know and understand how outdated some of these films really are. Dumbo was made in the 1940’s, which was before the Civil Rights Movement, it’s absolutely not an excuse for the stereotyping and offensive depictions within the film, but it does allow for some context. 

Disney is also known for their many remakes of their classic animated films, all of which don’t contain any of the old stereotypes or characterizations as their original predecessors. In the live action “Dumbo” released this year, the crows aren’t even present. In the live action “Lady and the Tramp” now streaming on the platform, the Siamese cats are replaced with another animal duo that perform a completely different song, this time without the racial stereotypes. 

Disney Plus has now launched and is available for $6.99 a month, or if you are a member of Verizon, you are eligible for a full year of streaming, completely free.