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Disney’s Bob Iger has told company shareholders that Song of the South, 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 on Wednesday, 11 March.
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.
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The film, which bore the popular song ‘Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah’, has been criticised for its outdated portrayal of African Americans, with some labelling the film as “racist”.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 November last year, and the shareholder asked whether it might be added in the future with a disclaimer attached about outdated cultural depictions, similarly to the ones that appear with eleven titles on the service including Dumbo (1941), Peter Pan (1953), The Jungle Book (1967).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.”
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.
Elsewhere in the shareholder conference, attendees were treated to exclusive looks at Steven Spielberg’s West Side Story, Jungle Cruise, and a clip from Marvel Studios’ forthcoming Disney+ show The Falcon and The Winter Soldier.