It seems as though Disney are working their way through the film archives finding classic properties which they can remake, update, live-action or put photorealistic lions into.
However, there’s one Disney film which won’t be getting a modern remake, though. And that is 1946’s Song of the South.
Because it’s pretty goddamn racist.
Defenders exist, of course. The film is set in the 1870s, when slavery was no longer a thing (although it in no way makes that clear); it has a black actor in the lead (James Baskett as Uncle Remus), and the live action plot focusses on adorable tow-headed tyke Johnny who reveres Remus and immediately befriends Toby (the ur-example of “I have a black friend!”); and so HOW IS THAT RACIST?
It’s arguably well intentioned for its time, but even so: all the black characters are cartoonishly happy with their lot as economically inferior to their white bosses on the plantation, all the while remaining cheerfully deferential to the white characters, speaking in broken ebonics and a strong message about there being a Way Things Should Be where everyone is happy with their lot.
It even has the Magical Black Person trope, when Uncle Remus’ sonorous tones are what awakens Johnny from his post bull-attack coma. There’s a lot going on.
As it happens, Baskett didn’t get to attend the Atlanta premiere of the film in which he starred: not because he wasn’t invited by Disney, but because no local hotel would let him stay.
In the wake of all this Disney have quietly disowned the film. it won’t be on the Disney+ service, it’s the only Disney film never to get a blu-ray or DVD release, and it last saw a cinema for its controversial 40th anniversary screening in 1986.
Still, the film lives on as the Splash Mountain ride (based on the Brer Rabbit sections of the film) and in the Oscar winning song ‘Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah’, which is now forever ruined for you.
And it could be argued that the far-more-on-tone Disney film Zootopia is kinda-sorta a remake of the film, taking the rabbit and fox characters and explicitly addressing the issue of race.
Oh god. If that Cats movie is successful we’re going to see a live action Zootopia, aren’t we? Sexy rabbits and all.